MLB.com’s 30 team reporters voted for their Comeback Players of the Year this week, and Cliff Lee and Brad Lidge emerged as winners in their respective leads. Mike Mussina was the AL’s runner up, winning 20 games a year after getting yanked from the rotation en route to a 5.15 ERA and an 11-10 season. Had Cliff Lee – demoted to AAA last year — not emerged as the AL’s presumptive Cy Young winner, this recognition would have belonged to Mussina. · (19) ·
Since I’ve never played Major League Baseball, I’m not quite sure how important the coaching staff really is to a team’s success. Nevertheless, there has been some banter on the topic since the season ended. PeteAbe thinks the team should hire former Yank Don Baylor to sit beside Joe Girardi. I’ve heard people mention Willie Randolph, which makes plenty of sense — unless, of course, he’d rather sit on his couch and collect his Mets paychecks rather than getting back into the game.
What are your thoughts? Does it matter? If so, cast your vote below. If not, well, you can vote anyway. If you have any write-in suggestions, leave ‘em in the comments.
Just caught this over at Baseball Think Factory. While many assumed that Joe Girardi pulled Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning of Sunday’s early game because he was trying to protect Mike Mussina’s 20th win, that might not be the whole truth. “Several people” said that Joba admitted his shoulder felt tight. This, of course, comes with the “anonymous source” caveat. One scout speculated that a tight shoulder could have been the reason for Joba’s diminished velocity in September, as well as the reason for his throwing more sliders.
Thankfully, Joba won’t be pitching again until mid-February, so if this is an issue he has plenty of time to deal with it. This winter should be all about conditioning and building strength in that shoulder. Hopefully, Joba can get to the point where he can become a full-time starter in 2009.
In the ongoing effort to track Brian Cashman’s every move, Ed Price tells us that the Yanks’ GM has yet to decide on his future. Cashman is “intrigued” by the open GM spot in Seattle but feels a deep sense of loyalty to the Yankees. Why anyone would want to go from New York to Seattle is beyond me. Are the Steinbrenners really that bad? · (19) ·
Andy Pettitte will forever be remembered as the last winning pitcher at Yankee Stadium. A week and a half ago, he threw five solid inning to earn himself the W against the Orioles in the Yankee Stadium finale. While the fans gave Pettitte, in potentially his last start, a huge ovation, the last few months of the season were not kind to Pettitte, supposedly one of the anchors of the Yankee rotation.
After the Yanks and Joba Chamberlain downed the Orioles 13-3 on Wednesday, July 30, everything was coming up roses for the Yankees. Counted out in May, the Yanks were four games behind Tampa Bay and just one game the Red Sox for the Wild Card lead. That tantalizing glimpse of postseason hopes would fade the next day.
Andy Pettitte, 12-7 with a 3.76 ERA, would draw the start against Jon Garland and the Angels. While the Yanks would plate eight, Pettitte gave up nine. Over the next few weeks, the Yanks would slip in the standings, and Andy Pettitte couldn’t buy an out.
From that July start until he shut it down early due a sore shoulder, Pettitte would make 11 starts and win just two of them. He would go 2-7; the Yanks would go 2-9. Pettitte threw 65 innings to the tune of a 6.23 ERA. He allowed 87 hits and 22 walks while striking out 51. Opponents hit .323/.374/.461 against him.
On the surface, Pettitte’s numbers didn’t change that much during that 11-start run. Over his first 139 innings, he had a K/9 IP of 6.92 and a K/BB of 3.24. Over those final 65 innings, he would strike out just over 7 per 9 innings, but he would strike out just 2.31 per walk. With the worse walk rate and the higher hit rate, Pettitte’s overall numbers slumped.
Watching the games, it seemed as though Pettitte just ran out of steam in August. The velocity on his fastball was down, and he couldn’t locate his pitches as well as he had been earlier in the year. While Mike Mussina adjusted to a new physical reality, Pettitte was trying to pitch as he always had but with little success.
Had Pettitte and the Yanks won three more of his 11 starts — or even four more — the Yanks would have been that much closer to the playoffs by mid-September. But it was not to be, and as the Yankees face a tough off-season, Andy Pettitte’s status, if he choose not to retire, will be front and center on the agenda. If the Yanks can find a way to ensure that first-half Pettitte shows up for a full year, they’ll be set. If not, I’m not sure for how much they should rely on Pettitte next year.
Upon further consideration, I’m taking the last post off the main page. No need to 1) link to a tabloid and 2) take down a guy just because he used poor logic. No need to point that out if we ourselves are using sound logic, right?
Anyway, if you must read it, it’s here. · (12) ·
The Yankees finished this season with the fourth best record in the American League, but a strong September wouldn’t be enough to catapult them into the playoffs. Dealing with both the demands of high expectations and the need to focus on the farm system, 2008 was a quasi-rebuilding year in which the Yanks were expected to compete. But somewhere along the way, things went wrong, and the Yankees will be home on Wednesday while four other AL teams begin their quests for the World Series title.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll delve into what went wrong with the Yankees. From injuries to unmet expectations, this season had its fare share of problems. Today, the catchers take center stage.
In 2007, the Yankee catchers, led by a career year from Jorge Posada, were the league’s best. In 689 plate appearances, Yankee catchers hit .323/.396/.502 with 19 home runs and 100 RBIs. While Wil Nieves had little to contribute, Posada was an MVP candidate and midseason back-up replacement Jose Molina hit .323/.338/.446 in limited playing time.
From the start, though, 2008 would prove to be a far cry from 2007 for Yankee backstops. Jorge Posada injured his throwing arm on a throw on Opening Day, and he wouldn’t be able to shoulder the catching duties this year. While he attempted a mid-June comeback, Posada wasn’t up to the task. In July, he opted for season-ending surgery.
His replacements, while adequate as backups, were abysmal as starters. On the season, Yankee catchers hit .230/.290/.335 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs. In 2007, Yankee catchers were tops in the AL in OPS; in 2008, they were ranked 14th out of 14 teams, dead last in the Junior Circuit. None of the five other catchers the Yanks used this year could do much of anything, and it cost the team dearly.
From a statistical perspective, the Yanks’ playoff hopes were severely damaged by Jorge’s shoulder. He nailed down 26 win shares in 2007 and just five in 2008. Overall, Yankee catchers contributed 13 win shares in 2008 after putting up 29 in 2007. At three win shares per victory, that swing of 16 nearly accounts for the Yanks’ missing the playoffs by itself.
To drive the point home, none of the replacements for Jorge Posada put up a positive VORP this year. Of course, this begs the question of replacement level because the Yanks were, in effect, using replacement level players all year with little to no success.
Of course, we can’t expect a healthy Posada to have enjoyed yet another career year in 2008. He probably wasn’t going to duplicate that .338/.426/.543 line, but had Posada produced in line with his career .277/.380/.477 line, the Yanks still would have had the top-producing backstop in the AL. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been enough by itself to bring the Yanks to October, but it would have gone a long way toward closing that six-game gap.
In the end, we all love Jorge Posada, and in 2008, we saw firsthand what would happen if Posada were to miss a part of the season. Derek might be the leader of the team and A-Rod, for better or worse, its offensive heart, but when Jorge Posada went down with a season-ending injury, the Yanks’ October dreams went down with him.
During packing day at the Stadium today, Andy Pettitte stopped for a chat with the reporters. Pettitte hasn’t made a decision yet on 2009 and is still firmly on the fence. It sounds, however, that Mike Mussina may be retiring. I never thought I would want to welcome back Mussina over Pettitte, but after their respective 2008 campaigns, if I had to pick one, Moose would be my guy. For all this, the Yanks still plan to, somehow, add some experienced pitchers this off-season. Who those will be is anyone’s guess. · (24) ·
Baseball America‘s look into each league’s top 20 prospects continued today with the FSL. Tigers’ uberstud Rick Porcello predictably topped the list, and the only Yankees’ farmhand to make the cut was Zach McAllister at #20. High-A Tampa a prospect wasteland for most of the year, so it’s no surprise the list is short on Yanks’ prospects.
The Eastern League comes out tomorrow, however the list was already leaked. Austin Jackson comes it at #10 if the list is correct. We’ll find out tomorrow. · (7) ·