Scouting The Trade Market: Jason Marquis

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

As the rumors about Ubaldo Jimenez swirl, you can bet the Yankees are covering all their bases by looking for pitching elsewhere at the same time. One pitcher Jerry Crasnick says is available is Jason Marquis of the Nationals, which makes sense. Washington is out of it and he’s not a part of their long-term future, so they might as well cash in the chip before he leaves as a free agent. The Staten Island native has been pretty vocal about wanting to pitch near home at some point in his career, so is it worth it for the Yankees to make his wish come true? Let’s explore…

The Pros

  • Marquis is very quietly enjoying the best season of his career. His 5.42 K/9 is his best strikeout rate since 2004, and his 2.75 BB/9 is his best walk rate ever. A 53.7% ground ball rate is right in line with his last two years as well as his peak years from 2003-2005.
  • He’s a true three-pitch pitcher, getting ground balls with his high-80’s sinker (that will occasionally run as high as 93) and mid-80’s slider. He’ll also use a low-80’s changeup and yeah, every so often he’ll bust out a straight four-seam fastball. That’s just a show-me pitch though, a 3-0 auto-strike offering or something. The sinker-slider-changeup combo is how he makes his living, and because of that repertoire he has a negligible platoon split both this year and for his career.
  • Marquis has pitched in large markets like St. Louis and Chicago before, which is always a plus. He’s also pitched in the playoffs several times, including with the Cardinals during their 2004 NL pennant run.
  • The final year of his contract will pay him about $1.25M a month from here on out ($7.5M total salary), which is pretty cheap.

The Cons

  • After throwing fewer than 190 IP just once from 2004-2009, Marquis was limited to just 13 starts and 58.2 IP last season because of bone chips in his throwing elbow. He had surgery and was out from late-April until early-August. He’s been healthy since and hasn’t missed a start this year.
  • Marquis has little margin for error because he can’t miss bats when he needs to. He’s a classic pitch-to-contact guy, getting a swing and miss just 7.0% of the time this year, essentially identical to his 6.8% career mark. Those kinds of guys are tough to count on against good lineups.
  • He’s a career National League pitcher and has performed pretty poorly during interleague play, a 5.50 ERA and ~4.89 FIP in 168.2 IP over the course of his career.
  • He does not project as either a Type-A or B free agent and is pretty far from off from the cut-off, so no draft pick(s) if he leaves as a free agent. Marquis has already started talking about a multi-year contract extension, but whatever team employs him is under no obligation to give it to him.

For what it’s worth, Larry Rothschild was Marquis’ pitching coach when he was with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008, so there’s already a bit of a relationship and familiarity there. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Marquis is no savior. He’s a decent fourth or fifth starter option at best, something the Yankees already have plenty of. If they could get him for dirt cheap, say a Grade-C prospect and take on the salary, there’s no harm in it just to have him around as depth. The Yankees need to focus on getting a high-end starter though, guys like Marquis are filler. Not useless, but not a difference maker.

Using Boone Logan properly

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Last night Boone Logan did part of his job, the big part of his job, well. He came into a high-leverage situation and got what should have been a bunch of outs, but thanks to the stadium, and his own poor reaction time, the Rays squeaked across two runs and took the lead. Logan was clearly responsible for the botched comebacker, though he did induce poor contact on the play. In terms of pure pitching, though, there are no complaints, despite him facing two right-handed batters.

Logan vs. righties

It’s no secret that Logan, like most lefty relievers, is more effective against same-handed batters. He has faced 448 lefties in his career and has held them to a .249/.324/.364 line, while righties have hit .313/.390/.486 against him. While there are certain lefty relievers, such as the Cubs’ Sean Marshall, who can handle full innings of work, Logan, with nearly 200 innings of career work, has clearly defined himself as a left-hand only kinda guy. Why, then, was he facing right-handed hitters?

No platoon advantage

There is a surefire way for managers to make his opponent pay for bringing in a LOOGY. Since the rules dictate that any pitcher brought into the game must face at least one batter, the manager can pinch-hit for his lefty, thus turning the platoon advantage in his favor. Joe Maddon did just that last night, not only with Sam Fuld, but also with the next batter due up, Reid Brignac. In fact, it was an utterly predictable move. Neither Fuld nor Brignac is a good hitter, and Maddon has been known to maneuver like this in the past.

With two weak hitters due up, why didn’t Girardi go to Cory Wade instead? He wouldn’t provide a platoon advantage, but he doesn’t have a significant career lefty/rigthy split. Girardi could have used him against the two lefties and then saved Logan for Johnny Damon, who is a far greater threat than the two batters before him. That makes enough sense, and it very well might have been the right move. But it certainly wasn’t the only move.

LOOGYs facing righties

Girardi knew that Maddon’s bench was bare. When Logan was announced, Maddon sent up Justin Ruggiano, a 29-year-old with a career .233/.269/.381 line. In place of Brignac he sent up Elliot Johnson, a career .194/.252/.317 hitter. So while he negated the lefty-lefty matchup, he also sent up two horrible hitters. Even someone like Logan should be able to retire these guys (which he essentially did). It’s not as though it were Evan Longoria up there.

Because of the one-batter minimum, this is a situation LOOGYs face often. They’ll come into the game set to face a lefty, and the opposing manager will pinch-hit. But, because he’s pinch hitting from his bench, chances are the replacement is not as good as the original hitter. A good manager will consider his opponent’s bench before bringing in a LOOGY, to make certain that he’s not running into a regular starter who had the night off. I can’t say for certain that Girardi did that, but I’d bet that he did.

It is part of a LOOGY’s job, then, to face right-handed bench players. It’s unreasonable to ask them to face righties and switch batters who normally hit near the middle of the order. That’s asking for trouble. But I find it difficult to complain when the opposing manager gains the platoon advantage by pinch-hitting two guys who have terrible MLB track records. A LOOGY has to be able to retire guys like that. And, again, Logan essentially did.

Using Logan against righties

If pitchers like Logan have to face righties, they might as well face slap-hitting righties with poor MLB track records. That’s exactly what Logan faced last night. In fact, it appears that’s the type of righty he’s faced for the most part this year. Despite his pitching in a few mop-up situations, he’s still faced just 39 righties to 68 lefties, and has held them to a .200/.272/.200 line. That is, he’s allowed zero extra base hits and only seven hits overall to right-handed hitters.

His success is largely a product of luck; he’s shown an inability in the past to retire righties, and we shouldn’t think that just because he’s fared well in these 39 instances that he’s all the sudden cured. But as I look at Logan’s play log I see a bunch of poor-hitting righties: Derrek Lee, Mike McCoy, Yorvit Torrealba, Franklin Gutierrez, Orlando Cabrera, and Aaron Hill. Most of the better righties he’s faced, such as Kevin Youkilis and Miguel Cabrera, have come during garbage time, when the Yanks were either up or down big.

It’s certainly possible, then, that Girardi is putting Logan in a position to succeed. Again, he’s faced just 39 righties this year in 107 total chances, or 37 percent. Last year it was 78 of 169, or 46 percent. You can learn a lot about a guy in a year, and it appears that Girardi has learned not only to limit his usage against righties, but also limit it to poor-hitting righties.

While in an ideal world Logan would never face a righty, it’s simply a reality of the game. Thankfully, Girardi has placed him in situations this year that favor him. When he does face a righty, it is, for the most part, a poor hitting one. When he faces a quality one, it has come in mop-up duty. Last night was a further example of that. The Yanks lost the lead, due in no small part to Logan’s poor reaction time, but he did pitch well against light-hitting righties. It’s something that can be expected of him, even as a LOOGY.

Looking Ahead At The Schedule: Time To Get Fat

Baseball is in a golden age of parity, which means there’s a lot of mediocre teams and very few elite or awful ones. The Yankees happen to be among the elite no matter what criteria you want to use. They have the fifth most wins in the game (56), the third best winning percentage (.596), the best run differential (+114), the second most fWAR (35.1), and the second most bWAR (32.2). The facts are the facts, the Yankees have been no worse than one of the three best teams in baseball in 2011.

Although they’re currently one and a half games back of the Red Sox for the AL East lead, the Yankees are five and a half games up on the Rays for the AL Wildcard. That’s a pretty significant gap considering that we’re still in July. Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds say the Yankees have a 95.6% chance to make the postseason as of today while Cool Standings has them at 89.5%. That’s a pretty nice cushion to have at this time of the year, but the Yankees have a chance to really pad that lead in the coming weeks.

Following these last two games in Tampa, the Yankees will head back to the Bronx for a ten-game homestand against the Athletics, Mariners, and Orioles. They’ll play two against the O’s next Saturday, finally making up one of those April rain outs. After the ten-game homestand they’ll hit the road and fly to Chicago’s south side for a four-game series against the White Sox. That’s 14 straight games against sub-.500 teams, and the three teams they’ll play on the homestand are well below .500. We’re talking a combined 39 games under .500. Yeah.

Once they get through that stretch, the Yankees will play nine games against the Red Sox, Angels, and Rays, all tough assignments for sure. It’s another cakewalk after that though, the Yankees will play 15 straight games against the Royals, Twins, Athletics, and Orioles. Although just three of those games will be played in the Bronx (the Oakland series), that sure does look like a comfy two-plus weeks there. All those teams are well under .500, and the latter three have been doormats for New York in recent years. They walk all over them.

Now, of course things can change. The Orioles are playing pretty atrocious baseball right now but the Yankees could run into them during a hot streak, who knows. That’s the unpredictability of a 162-game schedule. Regardless, that 14-game stretch against bad teams followed by the nine-game stretch against good teams followed by the 15-game stretch against bad teams will take the Yankees right through the end of August. Their September schedule is pretty brutal, including two scheduled off days lost to makeup games and a west coast trip. Plus they also have to go back to Toronto, which is like baseball hell with funny accents and mayonnaise on everything.

Playing 29 of their next 38 games (after this Rays series ends, I mean) against awful teams will give the Yankees a chance to really fatten up and pad that win total, pushing them even further out in the front of the pack with regards to a playoff spot. I’d like them to win the AL East, sure, but securing a postseason berth is priority numero uno. They can get greedy after that. The Yankees will finish the season with three games against the Rays, three games against the Red Sox, and then three games in Tampa, but that light schedule during the next three weeks could have them cruising on autopilot by then.

Yankees grab defeat from jaws of victory in TB

Well, the Yankees weren’t supposed to win on Monday night, so the baseball gods did the Rays a solid on Tuesday and helped them to a come from behind win. It’s only fair, I guess.

Sac fly, go-ahead run scores.

Blown

We’ll talk about Bartolo Colon‘s outing a bit, but we might as well start with the turning point of the game, Tampa’s two-run seventh inning. The Yankees were up 2-1 at the time and Colon started the frame with a strikeout, but Robinson Chirinos beat out an infield single to short ahead of Sean Rodriguez’s legitimate single to right. That took Bartolo out of the game, and that’s when things started to get weird.

Boone Logan came in to face the lefty Sam Fuld, which was kind odd because Sam Fuld is terrible and doesn’t need to be LOOGY’d. Joe Maddon predictably pinch-hit the right-hander Justin Ruggiano, who lifted a ball to center in an 0-2 count. It was a total can of corn, aside from that fact that it was in a dome. Curtis Granderson lost the ball in the roof and it dropped in for a hit about 15 feet in front of him. All the runners moved up and the bases were loaded with one out. The lefty swinging Reid Brignac was lifted for the righty Elliot Johnson, and frankly I expected them to squeeze to tie. They didn’t, and Johnson bounced the ball back to Logan.

Stupid roof.

Instead of a 1-2-3 inning-ending double play, the ball clipped off Logan’s glove and went behind him. The tying run scored and everyone was safe. It looked like Boone took his eye off the ball and was already thinking home, but I could be wrong. Logan finally got to face a lefty after that, and Johnny Damon lifted another harmless fly ball to center. This one was shallower and in no man’s land, forcing Granderson to catch it on a slide. That slowed him down just enough so that Rodriguez could trot home with the go-ahead run. Logan came in and did his job, getting two high pop-ups and a ground ball back to the mound, but the roof and some sloppy defense cost them the lead.

The Hammy’s Okay

Before those two singles in the seventh, Colon looked like vintage Bart. Both of his fastballs had their usual velocity and movement, and he did not appear to be favoring his hamstring at all. At the very least, he had the full recoil in his delivery when he threw his four-seamer, something we didn’t see last time out in Toronto. Colon was dotting the corners of the zone and struck out a season-high nine against just a pair of walks. His fastball velocity increased as the game went on, which is what we saw earlier in the year. It was a vintage Colon outing, he threw 70 of his 105 pitches for strikes (exactly two-thirds) and got 13 swings and misses. The Yankees lost the game, but it was very obvious that the pre-DL version of Bartolo had returned. That’s one big positive.

That was in BP, not the game. Unfortunately. Go Robbie.

The Post-Home Run Derby Swing Is Okay

Every year we hear about the Home Run Derby and how it sabotages perfectly good swings for the second half, but so far Home Run Derby Champ Robinson Cano has yet to show an ill effects. He had five hits during the four games in Toronto and singled in the opener against Tampa, but he hit his first post-Derby homerun in the third inning of this game, sending a 1-0 fastball over the wall in left-center for two runs. It was a oppo bomb, so he hasn’t gotten pull happy. Nope, no worries about his swing at all. Unfortunately, those were the only two runs the Yankees would score on the night.

Leftovers

Boy that Jeremy Hellickson kid, he’s some kinda of talent. That fastball-changeup combo is super legit, he had the entire team off balance all night. I wish Tampa would stop rolling out young arms like this year after year, it’s not fair. Do you know they haven’t had a starting pitching prospect flame out since Dewon Brazelton back in the day? I mean completely flame out, like provide basically zero value at the big league level. Wade Davis doesn’t count. That organization is the model player development machine.

Brett Gardner continues to be an offensive dynamo and continues to bat eighth. He singled twice in this game and stole a pair of bases, meaning he’s now swiped 14 straight without being caught. He’s also been successful in 23 of his last 27 attempts, and all of a sudden he leads the AL with 30 steals. That kinda came out of nowhere, no?

Mark Teixeira had two hits, believe it or not, and one was actually an extra base hit (a double). Derek Jeter took a big bat 0-for-4, and his groundout to end the seventh inning was one of the costliest plays in the game according to WPA. Gardner and Eduardo Nunez were on second and third, respectively, representing two big insurance runs. The Cap’n is just 15-for-82 with five walks and two hit-by pitches with runners in scoring position this year, a .183 batting average and .237 OBP.

Joel Peralta tried to get away with a quick pitch for strike three to Jorge Posada in the ninth, but the home plate ump wasn’t having any of it. It’s similar to the balk rule, a pitcher can not deliberately change his motion in an attempt to deceive the hitter. You don’t see quick pitches too often, so that was kinda fun, only because Peralta got called for it though.

The last four games these two teams have played have been decided by one run, and this was the first one the Yankees lost. It was also just the sixth time they’ve lost after having a lead through six innings this year (46-6). New York is just 12-13 in one run games, which sounds like it sound be meaningful, but it’s not. One run games are pretty fluky and don’t reflect the true talent of the team. I think it was Bill James who showed that a team’s record in games decided by three or more runs had a much stronger correlation to its overall record than games decided by one or two runs. Anyway, I’m rambling.

WPA Graph, Box Score & Standings

Sadface. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the up-to-minute standings.

Up Next

Game three of this four-game series will be played Wednesday night. Freddy Garcia gets that start against David Price. Let’s put this one in the rear-view mirror and move on.

Soriano, Chavez made rehab debuts with Tampa

Update: The second Short Season Staten Island game is over and has been added to the post. I suggest checking it out, it was quite interesting.

Bradley Suttle and Terry Tiffee have been placed on the DL for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, respectively.

High-A Tampa (11-0 depantsing by Jupiter)
Rafael Soriano, RHP: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – he was scheduled for 20 pitches or so … gave up a solo homer to the league leader in homers, but don’t worry too much about the results, it’s his first rehab appearance
Eric Chavez, DH: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K - played all nine innings
Abe Almonte, CF: 1 for 4, 1 3B, 3 K
Kyle Roller, 1B & J.R. Murphy, C: both 1 for 3
Everyone Else: combined 0 for 17, 5 K – Kelvin Castro committed a fielding error
Francisco Gil, RHP: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB – allowed one of Soriano’s inherited runners to score
Graham Stoneburner, RHP: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 7-2 GB/FB – yuck
Ronny Marte, RHP: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2-1 GB/FB – allowed one of Stoneburner’s inherited runners to score

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