Yesterday, Dave Pinto looked at the PMR for defense behind pitchers. For those unfamiliar with PMR, it stands for Probabilistic Model of Range, and it compares the number of balls in play and compares it to predicted outs and actual outs. Read the link above for a better explanation and past PMR ratings. The defense behind pitchers is a neat one, because we’re supposed to see how a defense benefitted or hurt a pitcher.

The Yankees kind of stick out on this list. First is Chien-Ming Wang, who seems to be the pitcher most helped by his defense. On the other end of the spectrum are Andy Pettitte and Darrell Rasner, who are among the most hurt by the defense behind them. So what gives? Can the Yankees defense be like eight Omar Vizquels when Wang pitches, but turn into eight Jason Giambis when Pettitte and Rasner take the hill?

Clearly, I think this has something to do with the pitcher himself. One thing I’ve noticed over the years with Wang is not only his ability to induce groundballs, but also his ability to induce poor contact. Even balls in the air don’t have much under them. Yeah, you might make Johnny move a few steps, but it’s not like he’s giving up many screamers into the gap. That’s the beauty of Chien-Ming Wang.

On the other end, with Pettitte, I’m not sure what to think. It’s comforting, I suppose, to think that the defense behind Andy, which we know isn’t among the best in the league, played a role in his poor second half. But what if he was just giving up a lot of hard-hit balls, ones that the defense had no shot at? That’s going to show in these defensive numbers, even though it’s not necessarily the defense’s fault.

Another interesting note: Dice-K was second on the list. So he gave up the fourth most walks in baseball — most in the American League — and had his defense convert the second most balls in play into outs? I’m really interested to see how next year turns out.

Categories : Defense
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A year ago, we turned Melky Cabrera into the Yankee whipping boy. While many fans were high on the youngster with the good arm, we weren’t impressed with his hitting and didn’t feel he could be the Yanks’ center fielder of the present, let alone the future.

This time around, the Yanks don’t even have a center fielder upon whom we could dump. It seems that barring a trade, the Yanks will head into 2009 with some combination of Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon patrolling the home where Bernie Williams, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio once roamed.

To that end, some names keep popping up in low-level trade speculation. Some Yankee fans like Ichiro; rumors have linked the team to both Mike Cameron and Aaron Rowand. The Yanks, after all, could be the salary dump team of choice for NL teams looking to off-load their high-priced outfielders.

While the center field market is hardly robust, last week’s trade of Coco Crisp from the Red Sox to the Royals may open Kansas City up for a deal with the Yanks. The Royals now have too many outfielders and could look to trade David DeJesus. Enter John Perrotto. In this week’s Any Given Sunday column (subscription required), Perrotto drops in this piece of idle speculation:

The Royals would at least consider trading outfielder David DeJesus after acquiring center fielder Coco Crisp from the Red Sox in a trade, and there has been talk of a swap with the Yankees for second baseman Robinson Cano.

Robinson Cano, of course, remains the Yankee Major League most likely to be traded this off-season despite the team’s obvious commitment to straightening out his swing. They didn’t send Kevin Long down to the Caribbean for Winter League work with Cano just to fix the Royals’ future second baseman.

That said, DeJesus is an interesting candidate for CF. A soon-to-be 29-year-old Brooklyn native, DeJesus has had his ups and downs over the last few years. He’s a career .287/.360/.422, and while fast, he doesn’t seem to be a very effective base stealer. He’s just 40 for 71 in his career on the base paths.

I wouldn’t trade Cano for him, but I could see why the Yanks would think DeJesus to be a good fit for the Bronx. Can they pull the trigger on this one? Or will Brett and Melky and Johnny become the de facto center field trifecta next season?

As always, use this open thread for, well, an open thread. Feel free to comment on anything. The Jets beat the Titans. That was impressive. The Red Sox seem willing to wave good bye to the man with a giant red C on his chest, and the Lugo-for-Willis rumors persist.

Categories : Open Thread
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AzFL wraps up

By in Down on the Farm. · Comments (38) ·

Thursday’s AzFL Peoria Game (13-6 win over Phoenix) the Javelinas finished the season at 16-22, 3.0 GB of a playoff spot … the Phoenix Desert Dogs won their fifth straight league title
Kevin Russo: 0 or 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K – finished at .309-.377-.464 while playing at least four positions (SS, 3B, LF, RF) … he may have played more, but that’s all I can remember
Austin Jackson: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K – finished at .246-.298-.377 with 30 K (7 BB) in 114 at-bats … not what we would have liked to see, but eh, it’s only the fall league
Juan Miranda: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 2 K – finished at .301-.378-.658 with 14 XBH & 20 RBI in 73 at-bats
Kevin Whelan: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 B, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 18 of 33 pitches were strikes (54.5%) … finished with a 21-14 K/BB ratio & a .175 AVG against in 17.1 IP … his reward, exposured to the Rule 5 draft
Humberto Sanchez: 0.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 12 of 21 pitches were strikes (57.1%) … finished with 4-11 K/BB ratio (that’s not a typo) & a .389 AVG against in 12 IP … ouch

The Hawaii Winter Baseball season is over, Waikiki took home the league title.

Other notables:

  • Melky Cabrera: 8 for 19 (.421), 4 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB in 5 games
  • Robbie Cano: 2 for 9 (.222), 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB in 2 games
  • Frankie Cervelli: 8 for 31 (.258), 7 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 6 BB, 6 K in 15 games
  • Justin Christian: 33 for 116 (.284), 18 R, 5 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 11 BB, 21 K, 9 SB, 1 CS in 28 games
  • Reegie Corona: 15 for 49 (.306), 9 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 SB, 1 CS in 19 games
  • Walt Ibarra: 12 for 52 (.231), 3 R, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 12 K, 2 SB, 1 CS in 23 games
  • Ramiro Pena: 11 for 43 (.256), 4 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 CS in 12 games
  • Jon Albaladejo: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP in 4 appearances
  • Wilkins Arias: 6.1 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 5 BB, 8 K, 2 WP in 10 appearances

Ian Kennedy might be starting Mayaguez’s game today, but I’m not sure. There was a suspended game at the end of the week, and I’m not sure how it effected the rotation. I’ll update this post when I find out if he’s pitching. Here’s the scoreboard.

Update (4:27pm): Oh, and one more thing. J! E! T! S! JETS JETS JETS!!!

Categories : Down on the Farm
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While yesterday I suggested that Yankee Stadium demolition could begin as early as March, PeteAbe has a different take on it. In a post chock full o’ goodies, the LoHud beat writer drops in a note about the stadium:

— We’re hearing that the old Stadium won’t be torn down until next fall. A movie will be filming there in the spring and summer, it seems. It’s going to be a while before fans get to purchase seats and other memorabilia. Will the long delay reduce the value? I’m hardly a marketing guy, but it seems to me that the best time to sell that stuff would be now when the experience was fresh in people’s minds.

To respond to the latter point, the delay isn’t going to reduce the value of anything. Yankee Stadium memorabilia will always be Yankee Stadium memorabilia. They could sell it today, tomorrow or five years from now when people will, hopefully, have more disposable income, and the seats would sell like hot cakes.

It will, however, be odd to see the old stadium looming over the subway tracks while fans pour into the new park. The old and new will face off until the day comes when the city starts dismantling the House that Ruth Built, one piece at a time.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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We know there’s plenty of big news to come in the baseball world. Nearly every free agent is still in play, so we’re not only going to get news of their signings, but we’re also going to get news from teams of interest. Who’s in on whom; who just made a mega-offer; where does Player X really want to play? It’s what makes the Hot Stove so damn exciting.

However, we shouldn’t expect anything huge to happen over the next few weeks. There’s going to be a lull this week because of the holiday, and then next week because it’s the week before the biggest event of the off-season, the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. You might hear some rumblings, but it’s doubtful that anything gets done before December 8.

Writers, of course, still need to file material. You’ll probably see some regurgitated news here at RAB over the next two weeks. It’s just the nature of the beast. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t make fun of the kind of news that’s popping up. Perhaps that’s the best way to deal with the dearth of activity to come.

Today we first turn to Buster Olney, who riffs on the idea of CC Sabathia and LeBron James playing in New York. This on the heels of the Knicks recent trades, which gives them significant cap relief in the 2010 off-season, when James will be a free agent. Olney notes the friendship between the two:

Sabathia developed a friendship, through his years in Cleveland, with LeBron James, as the two became the biggest stars in a small town. They have bopped around New York together in the past, and on Friday, the Knicks made trades that are being viewed as precursors to their pursuit, in another 20 months, of James.

Presumably, at some point, Sabathia and James have shared a conversation about living and playing in New York at the same time — Sabathia for the Yankees, James for the Knicks. James, as the world famously learned in the playoffs of 2007, is a Yankees fan.

Olney makes the conclusion that this could potentially be one of the intangibles which attracts CC to the Yanks. You come into California and conquer, yeah, big whoop. You come to New York and conquer, man, that’s something else. It’s not like it’s easy to do, even for the most elite athlete. Just ask A-Rod.

Then we have Randy Youngman, columnist for the Orange County Register. His Saturday article features the headline “Angels likely not on Teixeira’s wish list,” and the subhead is “The free-agent first baseman seems to be leaning towards and East Coast team.” The key word in that header is “seems.” Because what follows is nothing more than an ill-informed opinion.

Knowing agent Scott Boras’ affinity for the big stage, I’m guessing Teixeira’s headline-grabbing signing will be announced during baseball’s winter meetings Dec. 8-11 in Las Vegas. What better place for the rich to get richer?

But I don’t think it will be with the Angels. If he were going to re-sign in Anaheim, I think it already would have happened. Just a gut feeling. Even the people I talk to in the organization don’t seem optimistic.

Has Youngman never experienced a hot stove season before? Thing like this take time to develop. If Scott Boras is your agent, you probably aren’t going to give a hometown discount (there was apparently a lot of strife between the agent and Andruw Jones after he took a discount to stay in Atlanta a few years ago). The Angels will surely make an offer, and it could very well be competitive enough to keep him. If the rumblings have any merit — eight years, $160 million — you can probably pencil Tex into the Angels’ starting line up for 2009 and beyond.

These are just some examples of what you can expect to see in the coming weeks. We’ll try to be on our best behavior, but sometimes you just gotta point these things out.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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Over the last few days, Hall of Fame talk has inevitably followed Mike Mussina’s decision to retire.

Some writers favor his induction; others don’t. But the debate is more of the same old, same old. The people who will not vote for him can’t get over the fact that Mussina didn’t win 300 games. The people who will smartly vote for him will look at the teams he was on, the teams he pitched against and the general success he enjoyed both relative to the time in which he pitched and to other comparable players.

In my opinion, Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer. But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to King Kaufman dismiss wins on Many argue, writes Kaufman, that “the Hall of Fame is getting too big. It’s meant to honor the great, not the very good.”

He continues:

Much as I hate to say nice things about a Stanford guy, I think Mussina’s a Hall of Famer, but I understand and respect those arguments. But the real argument against Mussina going to Cooperstown is going to be dumber than that. It’s going to be about how he didn’t win 300 games…

Mussina got his 270 wins in 536 starts, meaning he got a W in 50.4 percent of them. Sutton got 321 wins — he won three as a reliever — in 756 starts, which was 42.4 percent. Tom Seaver, who pitched on a lot of bad teams and a few good ones, got 310 wins in 647 starts, 47.9 percent. Perry won 44.2 percent of his starts.

If Mussina had won at the same rate in Seaver’s 647 starts, he’d have retired with 326 wins. That would have tied him with Eddie Plank for 13th all time, and not only would no one have suggested he didn’t belong in the Hall, no one would have dismissed the gaudy win total because he played on a lot of winners. With Sutton’s 756 starts — including the one during the Battle of Bunker Hill — Mussina would have won 381, more than anyone but Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

Of course, pitching every fourth day, he might have blown out his arm in 1992 and retired with 11 wins. We’re talking about silly stuff here.

But so is talking about 300 wins. Today’s starters only get the ball a little more than 80 percent as often as yesterday’s. Yeah, they have better medical care and aren’t asked to complete games anymore, but they also have to face real hitters from the top to the bottom of opposing lineups, which was not true in earlier eras.

If 300 wins used to be your magic Hall of Fame number, you need to lower it.

This is, of course, but one reason why Mussina deserves a spot in Cooperstown, but it’s a relevant one nonetheless. Maybe someday, the voters will understand that. I guess we’ll find out in five years.

Categories : Pitching
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Unless some big happens, use this as the thread to discuss whatever you want on Saturday. We’ll update with new content about Mike Mussina and the Hall of Fame at midnight tonight.

What if? That’s always the big question in sports. What if the Yanks had played the infield back in 2001? What if David Roberts is out at second base in 2004? What if the Yanks had traded for Johan Santana a year ago?

This offseason, as the Yanks look to retool via free agency, what if’s still hover over the team. Specifically, as Phil Rogers discussed today in the Chicago Tribune, the Yanks don’t sign CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe or A.J. Burnett? Do they even have a Plan B?

I’ll admit it; the thought has crossed my mind but in a slightly different vein. I’m not particularly enamored of the ideas of Derek Lowe or A.J. Burnett. But if the Yanks don’t sign Sabathia, I’m not really sure what happens.

They may feel increased pressure to trade for Jake Peavy. They may just stick it out with the young pitchers and go hard after Mark Teixeira. Had they scored a few more runs last year, they would have made the playoffs without top pitching. It’s not a recipe for post-season success, but at least, they’d get there.

So as Saturday night arrives and baseball is dormant, what do you think the Yanks’ back-up plans are? Do they take a mulligan on 2009 and look forward to 2010? Do they trade top prospects for pitching? The possibilities are both limitless and scary.

Categories : Open Thread
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  • New York stadium updates

    In the Bronx, the new Yankee Stadium is, according to’s Barry Bloom, 90 percent complete. The Yankees will shift their offices across the street in February, and deconstruction of the House that Ruth Built could begin as early as late March. I’ll try to swing by the Stadium in a few weeks to grab a final set of construction photos.

    Meanwhile, across town, things aren’t as rosy. While the Mets’ new stadium will be completed on time, Citi, the Mets’ naming rights partner, has seen their stock drop nearly 90 percent this year, and the government is on the verge of bailing out the beleaguered financial institution. The Mets and CitiGroup again reiterated on Friday that the naming rights deal will remain in place, but I’m skeptical. If the Mets lose out on this deal — widely regarded as the most lucrative in sports history — the team will be struggling in this economic climate to find a replacement partner.
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We all know by now that CC Sabathia is sitting on a few $100-million offers. The Brewers seem willing to give him $100 million over five years; the Yanks would like his services for six years at $140 million.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a tough decision. The Yankees are offering more stability in term sof the number of years and more money in pure dollars. If only life — and baseball — were that simple.

In an excellent piece of analysis earlier this week, Jeff Sackman at Brew Crew Ball examined how these two offers aren’t as different as the media would make them out to be. First, we have the issue of average annual value. The Brewers are reportedly offering $20 million a season while the Yanks’ contract comes in at $23.3 million. If Sabathia truly does enjoy the NL and Milwaukee, would a meager $3.3 million per season be enough to convince him to come to New York?

But more importantly, is that really a difference of $3.3 million per year? Using some cost-of-living adjustments and basic economic assumptions, the Brew Crew Ball has put together a spreadsheet tracking the two offers. Sackman provides the explanation:

Depending on to what degree Sabathia wants to engage with his new community, that’ll be more expensive in New York. First and foremost, he’ll pay more taxes as a part- or full-time resident of NYC. If he wants to buy a celeb-style compound for his family, it might take $20MM for such a place on Long Island; for the same amount, he could probably buy Manitowoc.

This is a tough adjustment for us to figure, because we don’t know just how much money CC would spend in NY or MKE. With that caveat, I think the taxes alone would come close to an extra 10% bite on Yankees earnings. Mykenk’s spreadsheet estimates something closer to 15%, which isn’t all that far-fetched, either.

So…if we use the 10% number, $140 looks more like $126–a yearly value of just barely more than the Brewers offer. If we up that to 15%, the Yankees are down to $119, or slightly less on an annualized basis.

Now, as Sackman, notes there are plenty of other considerations to take into account. The total value figure of the Yanks’ offer is fairly shocking and would certainly set the bar high for future free agent pitchers. Sabathia’s odds of winning a championship are higher in New York than in Milwaukee. The players association may pressure CC into taking the higher offer.

But in the end, Sackman has a point that I hope the Yanks and CC’s agent understand. The Yanks’ offer just isn’t as high as we all thought, and perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why Sabathia’s camp has remained silent on the state of the lefty’s free agency.

Categories : Hot Stove League
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On the last page of his biography of Ed Barrow, author Daniel R. Levitt allows a long quote from Branch Rickey to close out his tome. “I say there has never been a smarter baseball man than Mr. Barrow,” Rickey once said. “He knows what a club needs to achieve balance, what a club needs to become a pennant winner. I, perhaps, can judge the part, but Mr. Barrow can judge the whole.”

These are glowing words from one of the men considered to be among the smartest baseball minds in the game’s history. It is a quote, in fact, better served for the first page of a book. Branch Rickey, one of baseball’s most famous executives, talks about Ed Barrow, one of the games most influential — but not quite as well known — executives, in positively glowing tones.

With that type of quote setting the stage, Levitt as the author of a biography would have had free reign to build up Ed Barrow’s life and accomplishments in baseball. Instead, the quote is buried. This is but one of the many missed opportunities that arise in Levitt’s informative but misguided biography of a man who deserves so much more.

For many Yankee fans, the name Ed Barrow is lost to time. But he was part of the game for fifty years and nearly half of those he spent constructing Yankee dynasties. He saw baseball emerge as a big business in the early 1900s, won a World Series ring as a manager, help bring the Babe and Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio to New York, ushered the Yanks through the dark days of World War II and sat on a committee to bring in some of the Hall of Fame’s first members. Throughout those years, he was a key player in establishing first formal relationships between minor league clubs and Major League teams and later building up the farm team system we know and love.

But Levitt doesn’t always bring across just who Ed Barrow was. Early on in the book, Levitt introduces Barrow as a stubborn hot-head with little taste for the internal politics of baseball. He is very much the bulldog in the book’s subtitle, “The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty.” While we learn this much about Barrow in the late 1890s, for the next fifty years, Levitt relies on that trope to tell Barrow’s story. At turn after turn, meeting after meeting, he doesn’t get what he wants because of his stubbornness.

While reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel that there was more to the story. I never got a sense of who Barrow was, and he seemed almost incidental to Levitt’s year-by-year recitation of Yankee — and baseball — history. Now and then, bits and pieces of Barrow’s personal life are interspersed into the baseball narrative, but one gets the sense that Barrow either had no life outside of baseball or just wasn’t an interesting enough person to warrant a biography.

When the book first hit stores in April, Levitt ran through the blog circuit. Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts interviewed him, and Baseball Prospectus chatted up the author as well. Those Q-and-A’s better serve to introduce Barrow than the book does, but that doesn’t mean the tale is not one worth reading.

Levitt’s book works best as a story of the development of the game from a pastime that was incidentally a poorly-run gathering of businesses into a big money-making business with tentacles throughout America. The appendices to the book are chock full of payroll and salary statistics from an era prior to free agency, and his superb detailing of the uneasy relationship between the Major and Minor League is a story rarely, if ever, told. In the end, Barrow, influential at the time, is almost incidental to the story Levitt ultimately tells.

Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty is available on the University of Nebraska Press. Cover price is $29.95, but Amazon has it for $21.86. I am, however, a firm believer in supporting local bookstores.

Categories : Reviews
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