Now that the holidays are over, we would like to take a post to wrap up December, by far the most successful month in RAB’s 22-month history. With Mike and Joe in Vegas and the Yanks’ signings of A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, traffic boomed in December. We received nearly 460,000 unique visitors and over 700,000 page views, eclipsing our previous high by nearly 275,000 page views. We’ve had a lot of great conversations and a lot of baseball debate. As the Yanks look to finalize their roster and prepare for the 2009 season, we’ll be here for every step of the ride. So thanks for visiting, and keep on coming back for more. · (71) ·
Over the past few weeks I’ve been taking a lighthearted look at what sabermetric sage Bill James has projected for various parts of the Yanks’ squad, starting with the rotation. Next I jumped to the lineup, and then last week I sorted out the bullpen. Now it’s time to wrap up this little series of posts by tying up the loose ends.
The Yanks’ bench was pretty brutal last year, as injuries forced several guys into more playing time then designed. Jose Molina did his best as Jorge Posada‘s injury fill-in, and poor Wilson Betemit was ripped endlessly for being a two true outcomes bench player (extra base hit or strikeout). The latter was eventually jettisoned off in favor of the older but cheaper Cody Ransom, a career minor league journeyman who whacked a couple of meaningless longballs when the team was basically out of it.
Jose Molina, C
Projection: .232-.274-.333, 20 R, 12 2B, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 45-9 K/BB, .271 wOBP
Offense is definitely not Molina’s calling card. The middle Molina brother owns a career 61 OPS+, and actually underperformed it last year (51 OPS+). Luckily James sees a little bit of a “rebound” in Molina, who projects to raise his OPS back up over the .600 level. We love Hava Molina here at RAB, but the less he plays the better.
In those 30 years, 20 different teams have won World Series titles, and it would likely be 21 without the 1994 strike that cost the sport’s best team — the Montreal Expos — a chance to win it all. In those 30 years, 14 different teams have won the Super Bowl, 13 have won the Stanley Cup, nine have won the NBA championship.
PA asks, “Does the three tier playoff system create parity in baseball, or do the short series create the illusion of parity?”
Now, assessing parity is a dangerous exercise. If you go back in time too far, as Gammons did, you run the risk of heading from one economic era to the next. In baseball, the past 30 years has been an eternity. The average salary in 1978 was just under $100,000. That’s just $325,000 in 2008 or less than the current MLB minimum.
So let’s start in 1995, the year after the strike and arguably the beginning of current economic era in baseball. We’ve witnessed 14 seasons of baseball and nine different World Series champions. More impressively, 26 different teams have made the playoffs since 1995.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. In the AL, five teams — the Yanks, Red Sox, Indians, A’s and Angels — have made the playoffs five or more times, and in the NL, that numer is four (Braves, Dodgers, Cardinals, Astros). Is that parity? It’s hard to say.
I think jscape’s question is tougher to answer than with raw numbers. By having a field of eight head into October, MLB guarantees that 26.6 percent of its teams will make it to the postseason. That’s enforced parity. But if the same teams return on a near-annual basis, are different World Series victors simply illustrative of the fact that in a short series anything can happen? Perhaps so.
What I do know is that of the 2007 playoff teams, just two — the Cubs and Red Sox — made encore appearances in 2008. Money may give teams a natural advantage, but in the end, I’d say that baseball has done an admirable job of creating parity. Most teams have a shot at the playoffs each year, and any team can win in October. That’s good for the game no matter how you slice or dice it.
One of my causes célèbres on this blog has long been some vocal opposition to way the Yankees have gone about seeking and securing money for the new stadium. While at this point, there is very little anyone can do about the way the stadium has been funding, I believe that it is important to understand why the funding process has been so flawed.
To that end, allow me to introduce a Daily News column by Paul Weinstein about the Yanks’ latest request for tax-exempt bonds. He writes:
According to an estimate by the New York City Independent Budget Office, the request for more bond authority will cost city, state and federal governments more than $80 million in lost revenues. This is happening, remember, at a time when the city can ill-afford to waste a single dollar.
It’s not just the literal dollars being spent that hurts; it’s the opportunity cost. New York City will lose $259 million in tax-exempt debt that could be used to fund other important projects – such as building more affordable rental housing or a new Moynihan Station. In 2009, according to the IRS, New York State will receive roughly $1.7 billion in tax-exempt bond authority for joint public and private ventures. If the Yankees’ request is approved, it will use about 15% of that allotment…
Worst of all, that $259 million in extra bonds will not create a significant number of new jobs at a time when New York is facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Weinstein goes on to talk about how public support and financing for stadiums and arenas can be efficient as long as the proposed buildings are multiple-purpose venues anchoring distressed areas that serve as an integral part of the community. Considering that the Yanks have shouldered a significant portion of the construction costs, this is a prime example, he writes, of when public financing for a stadium should not be frowned upon.
Put he then takes the city to task for allowing the Yanks to return to the trough of public, tax-free bonds. “It is never a good idea to use public funds to cover costs not projected in the initial plan,” he writes. Doing so encourages government officials and sports franchises to hide the true cost of the projects and contractors to overcharge for their work.” That is, by the way, why New York has now changed its laws concerning the public financing of major construction projects.
I do take an issue with Weinstein’s central thesis. He claims that the Yanks’ spending on players — he throws out that misleading $420 million figure journalists love to throw around — means that they have the money to spend on stadium construction. That’s just a faulty claim though. The Yanks’ 2009 payroll should be marginally higher or the same as the one they had in 2008. That’s the number that counts, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they have $200 million lying around to cover stadium construction cost overruns.
In the end, I clearly do not support more public financing for the stadium. The City is already funding important infrastructure projects in the South Bronx area, and the team has received enough in tax-exempt bonds. The city has too many other important projects and not enough money to continue to dole out funding to the Yankees.
The Yankees are making plans for a press conference to fete new first baseman Mark Teixeira, perhaps as early as Tuesday, according to baseball sources.
The holidays pushed back any announcement – the Yankee offices have been closed since Christmas and are slated to reopen Monday. Multiple team bigwigs, including GM Brian Cashman and co-owner Hal Steinbrenner, have been on vacation. The Teixeira press conference could take place at the old Yankee Stadium.
Tex still has to take and pass a physical first, and that could be accomplished Monday. Once the deal is official, the only pieces of the offseason puzzle left are Andy Pettitte and/or another back-end arm, and maybe a bench player or two. Forty days until pitchers and catchers baby …
Use this as your open thread for the evening. The Ravens already took down The Fightin’ Penningtons this afternoon, while the Iggles and Vikes are locked in a back-and-forth affair. The Knickerbockers are taking on Bahston at home, and 24: Redemption is rerunning on FOX. Is it just me, or do the major Bowl games seem really late this year? Oh, and make sure you check me out at Blueseat Blogs. Dave will be back from vacation soon, so my days covering for him are numbered, but make sure you peep it anyway. He’s a way better hockey blogger than I’ll ever be.
You know the deal, talk about whatever, just be nice about it.
When talking about Ben Sheets, the subject of his health inevitably arises. He’s missed significant time in 2005 through 2007, and ended last year with a torn muscle in his elbow. This has raised a red flag of sorts with other teams. There’s been very little chatter about Sheets this off-season, save for a couple of stories from the Winter Meetings involving the Yankees, and some interest from the Rangers. It appears, according to Buster Olney, that teams are concerned “about his shoulder, and not his elbow.” If there is indeed damage in the righty’s shoulder, it certainly explains the lack of interest. I have to wonder, though, why Sheets would decline arbitration if his shoulder was cause for concern. · (64) ·
I’ve gotten about a million emails about this (give or take a few hundred thousand), so I figured it was time to address it on the site. From Jim Callis’ chat over at ESPN last week (sub. req’d):
M Kantar (Marlborough, MA): Hi Jim, I have actually pre ordered a copy of the 2009 Prospect Handbook. I did have one question about where would the Red Sox farm system rank in MLB, about #9 overall?
Jim Callis: The Handbook is off at the printer’s and should be back in mid-January. I won’t give away all of our farm system rankings–and we will update them again in spring training after more trades are made–but I will tell you that the Red Sox system ranked 13th.
. . .
Doug (NY): Since you can’t give away the Sox ranking without their heated rivals, yankees please. thanks!
Jim Callis: OK, that seems fair enough. The Yankees ranked 15th.
Most of them emails asked the same thing: a) I thought the Red Sox had such a great system, and b) are the Yanks ranked too low? Let’s get the BoSox portion out of the way first.
The Sox had a great system coming into ’08, ranked #2 overall by Baseball America. During the season they graduated Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Masterson and Jed Lowrie to the big league club, who were ranked their #1, 2, 4 and 5 prospects, respectively. Graduating four Top 100 prospects will take the huge bite out of any system, and that’s the main reason for their drop. Ryan Kalish struggled as he returned from a wrist problem, and Nick Hagadone had Tommy John surgery after 10 innings. Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss were dealt away, also contributing to their slide. The Sox have four legit prospects at or above the Double-A level, and one of those is a fastball-only reliever who walked 3.46 batters per nine innings last year. The rest of their talent is in the lower minors, and Junichi Tazawa is just a hyped up question mark at this point. Their ranking did seem a bit low, but it’s reasonable.
As far as the Yanks go, it’s a similar situation. Right at the top, Joba and Ian Kennedy graduated to the bigs a year after being Top 100 guys. Jose Tabata, Jeff Marquez, Ross Ohlendorf and Dan McCutchen were traded away after ranking amongst the Yanks’ top 14 prospect coming into the year. Alan Horne blew out his shoulder , Frankie Cervelli had his wrist broken, and JB Cox struggled in his return from TJ. Carmen Angelini had a bad year, and Humberto Sanchez’s return from TJ wasn’t so glorious. Of the guys that did take a big step forward, two of them will start next year as 26 year olds who project as back-end starters/relievers (Phil Coke & Al Aceves). Outside of Austin Jackson, all of their high end talent is in A-ball or lower. Then, of course, you have to factor in the unsigned first and second round picks from the draft. All that adds up to a middle of pack ranking.
Ranking fifteenth overall isn’t terrible, but it’s definitely a step down from the past two or three years. The Yanks will have picks in every round but the third next year (assuming they don’t sign another Type-A free agent), so they’ll have a chance to replenish the system a bit.
While we don’t often link to the New York Post around here — for good reason, I might add — every now and then, something so outlandish comes along that to pass it up would be a shame. Coming to us via BBTF, then, is Kevin Kernan’s latest on one final move the Yanks should make. That move? Sign Oliver Perez. And the rationale? To be able to move Joba Chamberlain — you guessed it — back to the bullpen. Feel free to insert a facepalm here.
Anyway, Kernan writes:
The Yankees are waiting on Andy Pettitte, but there is another lefty available at basically Pettitte dollars and that’s Oliver Perez. Signing Perez would cement the Yankees’ rotation for years to come and would give them flexibility with Joba Chamberlain.
“Putting Perez on the Yankees would be a great move,” says one top pitching evaluator. “That would be the perfect environment for him. He would be more focused there. He needs strong leadership around him, and pitching in front of a packed house, he would not be complacent.”
Perez is represented by Scott Boras, who also represents Mark Teixeira. Cashman has a good working relationship with Boras. The GM would have to take a leap of faith with Perez, but the upside could be tremendous. In Pettitte, the Yankees will get a pitcher they hope has one good season left in his cranky left shoulder.
Opponents batted .290 last season against Pettitte, 56 points higher than they did against Perez, who allowed 66 fewer hits. Perez also had a lower ERA (4.22 to 4.54) and more strikeouts (180 to 158). Perez is 10 years younger, too, which fits Cashman’s plan of making the Yankees younger.
By signing so many quality free agents this season, it gives the Yankees a window to develop their own talent, and that is still the basis of what Cashman is trying to do. The bottom line, however, is the David Prices of the world can only be drafted when you have the top pick, something the Yankees never have. Teixeira was the fifth pick of the 2001 draft; the Yankees selected 23rd that season. And Sabathia was the 20th pick of the 1998 draft; the Yankees selected 24th that year.
I don’t even know where to begin. The idea that Oliver Perez helps “cement” any rotation is mind-boggling. This is a 27-year-old lefty who has already been on three teams and has a career WHIP in the National League of 1.43. His career BB/9 IP is 4.76. If Perez needs every game to be Game 7 of the World Series as the scout contends, then I worry for his place in any rotation.
Meanwhile, Kernan’s logic about draft picks is completely backwards as well. By signing another top-tier free agent, the Yanks would be surrendering yet another draft pick in 2009. Thus, they wouldn’t be anywhere close to a position to draft the Teixeira’s and Sabathia’s of the world. Meanwhile, losing out on Sabathia by four draft slots is hardly a crime. That year, the Yanks drafted Andy Brown in the first round (who?) and tried to take Mark Prior as a supplemental draft. The ability to pay overslot and the drive to draft smart can be just as important as a team’s position in the first round.
Additionally, a first round draft pick nets a team one whole player for development. While that player could be a huge impact player, the odds are against that happening. It’s far more important for the Yankees to keep open international scouting avenues as well.
Oliver Perez, in the end, is a mediocre pitcher masquerading as a lefty. He’ll always be in demand, and someone will always see him as a reclamation project because he throws hard. But he’s enjoyed limited success in the NL and would cost most teams more dollars and years than he is worth. Tying up a rotation spot with Oliver Perez is no way to commit to developing your own pitchers, and this is one avenue the Yanks have not seemed eager to pursue.
Oftentimes, when BBWAA voters release their Hall of Fame ballot choices, they do with little regard for common-sense analysis or even baseball reality. Ken Davidoff, however, offers up an exception. In a thorough blog post about his ballot, Davidoff explores how he has come to understand statistical tools and how he arrived at his ballot choices. If only every voter was so enlightened… · (30) ·