Barbarisi on Gardner and Granderson’s defense

At the Wall Street Journal this morning, writer Daniel Barbarisi takes a look at Brett Gardner‘s range in left field. It’s subscriber-only content, but there are apparently ways to find it free it you search hard enough. Here’s something that caught my interest from the article:

He is effectively a second center fielder, ranging wide over the left side of the field in ways no other left fielder is doing. He frequently takes balls away from center fielder Curtis Granderson, when traditionally, it’s vice-versa…

Gardner teams with Granderson and Nick Swisher to create one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. Granderson is an established, rangy center fielder who has great in-line speed once he gets moving, and Swisher is an underrated and improving right fielder—his UZR is 10.7, fifth-best in baseball. And they move around significantly, adjusting for where they expect the hitter will place the ball…

The way Gardner covers ground allows the Yankees to use different defensive alignments, shifting Granderson more toward right field in some situations because they assume Gardner can cover all of left-center.

Jay Jaffe has speculated before that Gardner takes balls away from Granderson, and so it’s interesting to see Barbarisi essentially confirm this hypothesis. Like Jaffe, I wondered about Granderson’s poor UZR score since it doesn’t seem to pass the eye test and I’ve yet to find a single person who believes that Granderson is actually a poor fielder. It may simply be that Gardner’s speedy wheels and great instincts, and Granderson’s positioning, are the cause of Granderson’s subpar UZR score this year.

This is a relevant issue as it relates to Granderson’s MVP chances. In traditional categories, Granderson cleans up. He’s second in HR, first in R and RBI, and he’s stolen 24 bases. But in the advanced statistic realm of Wins Above Replacement, Granderson is held back by his poor defensive score. His -9.2 UZR rating means that he’s not as high up the Fangraphs’ WAR leaderboard as guys like Bautista, Pedroia and Ellsbury. Yet if we subbed in a value of 0 for Granderson’s UZR, still a conservative number in my estimation, his fWAR would go from 6.1 to 6.9. If we gave him last year’s value of 6.4 runs, his fWAR would go to 7.6, ahead of Pedroia, Ellsbury and Gonzalez and just a tenth of a point behind Jose Bautista. In other words, it’s possible that the case for Granderson winning the MVP should look even stronger than it currently does.

Anyway, the article is an interesting read and I recommend you take a look. There’s some cool stuff in there about how much Andruw Jones (himself a formerly-elite defender) respects Gardner’s defensive prowess, and also a fun quote about how much Gardner would love to win the Gold Glove. Parenthetically, Barbarisi has been a fantastic addition to the Wall Street Journal‘s coverage of sports. He’s been unafraid to integrate new statistics into his work without getting bogged down in explaining the stats and still maintaining the traditional feel of the newspaper sports column. If he isn’t on your radar by now, he should be.

DotF: Montero’s big day

Mike is on vacation for a few days this week, and so Joe and I will fill the DotF void. Last night, I ran into a clogged bathtub upon my return from Minneapolis and didn’t have a chance to hammer this one out. The big story of the day was clearly Jesus Montero who mashed the ball in two games for Scranton. Freddy Garcia made a rehab appearance too, but while he won, it wasn’t his finest effort. Anyway, here’s the abbreviated DotF for Monday.

Triple A Scranton (Game 1: 11-2 win over Rochester)
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 5, 2 HR, 1 2B, 6 RBI. – He’s now up to 15 dingers on the seasons. That’s some Montero Monday for you.
Adam Warren, P: 2 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K – Threw the first two innings on Sunday before the game was suspended.
Freddy Garcia, P: 4 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K – Allowed one HR to a prototypical AAAA player…threw 42 of 59 pitches for strikes. He’ll likely start this weekend against the Orioles.
Andrew Brackman, P: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K – Got the three-inning save in a blowout…Threw 23 of 31 pitches for strikes…Since 7/29, his line looks good: 11.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 12 K. [Read more…]

Who is eligible for the Yankees postseason roster?

When the Yankees designated Aaron Laffey for assignment, it created a free 40-man roster spot. The Yankees can use this spot in many ways, and may, in fact, eventually re-add Laffey (if he clears waivers and is outrighted to AAA). With the August 31st postseason roster deadline looming though, it could be that the Yankees are saving that for a player currently not on the 40-man roster who they might, just might, like to have on the playoff roster. Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos immediately come to mind. But the Yankees don’t need to use that 40-man spot on either, even if they fully intend to use one or both in the postseason. In fact, neither has to be on the 25-man roster on August 31st.

That might sound a bit confusing, because it runs counter to the old maxim that playoff roster have to be set by midnight on August 31st. While that is technically true, there are a number of exceptions to the rule. In fact, given the way MLB has created the rules, there are few limitations on what players a team can add to its postseason roster.

The eligible pool

Indeed, the active roster as of midnight on August 31st constitutes the immediately eligible players for a team’s postseason roster. Those include all players on the 25-man, plus any players on the disabled list, bereavement list, suspended list, or any other type of inactive list. Any of those players can be added to the postseason roster prior to any series.

The wild cards

Here’s where the rules open up. If any player in the eligible pool is injured at the start of any series, the team can substitute any player that was in the organization on August 31st. This is not limited, then, to players on the 40-man roster. It’s not even limited to players on the 40-man roster at the time of the substitution.

If the Yankees swung a trade in September and used that player every day from September 1 through the end of the season, it would not matter. He would not be postseason-eligible. But a player on the High-A Tampa roster would be eligible, whether or not he was ever on the 40-man roster prior to the series. (Though the Yankees would obviously have to add him to the 40-man roster before they could substitute him.)

The substitutions can be any player for any player. That is, they do not have to be position player for position player and pitcher for pitcher. That occurs in only one instance, which we’ll get to in just a tick.

Postseason substitution

Before every postseason series each team can submit a new roster, from its pool of eligible players. Teams can swap players in and out before each series without restriction.

If a player is injured during a postseason series, the team can substitute him immediately. This bears the position player for position player, pitcher for pitcher requirement. The substitution can be anyone that was in the team’s organization on August 31st, regardless of current roster status. The catch is that the injured player becomes inactive not only for the current series, but for the next one as well. In other words: get hurt in the ALCS, miss the World Series.

The Yankees situation

If the clock had just struck midnight on August 31st, rather than August 22nd, here’s how the Yankees’ eligible pool would break down.

Active Roster: Luis Ayala, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, CC Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade, Francisco Cervelli, Russell Martin, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada

Disabled list: Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, Freddy Garcia, Jeff Marquez, Damaso Marte, Sergio Mitre, Reegie Corona, Ramiro Pena, Colin Curtis

That gives the Yankees a pool of 34 players from which they can choose. But it really opens eligibility to the entire organization. We know that Chamberlain, Curtis, and Corona will not return. Therefore, the Yankees have at least three substitution spots. They could, therefore, add both Banuelos and Montero to the postseason roster before any series, regardless of whether they’re on the active roster, or even 40-man roster, on August 31st. There is a chance that every player on this list, save for Marquez and Garcia, ends the season on the DL. That will give the Yankees carte blanche to create their postseason roster.

Chances are, of course, that the Yankees won’t take advantage of their ability to substitute. Maybe they bring up a burner, as they did in 2009 with Freddy Guzman. There’s a chance, though an outside one, that they take Montero as an extra bat off the bench (and those chances could increase should they make the World Series). But right now they’re quite set in terms of position players. They’ll also likely reduce to an 11-man pitching staff, and so will be set there, too. If something goes awry between now and the end of September, though, the Yankees have their options. Who knew that having a crowded disabled list could come in handy at crucial moments?

Open Thread: Walk this way

Loyal reader Jimbo sent this our way earlier in the month, and considering the Burnett discussion from earlier today it seems highly appropriate in tonight’s open thread. It didn’t go in the post, because that would have taken away from its objectivity. Then again, considering Burnett’s standing among his peers in terms of walk rate, it very well may be the most accurate street name ever.

With that, I’ll leave this thread to you guys. Have at it.

Cashman: “My interest is to stay here”

The Cubs fired long-time GM Jim Hendry over the weekend, another fresh start in a century of futility filled with them. Owner Tom Ricketts has already announced that he will go outside the organization for his next GM and wants someone that will emphasize player development. Naturally, the situation has already spread to New York, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman was asked about joining the lovable losers when his contract expires after the season.

“I have a job I’m doing,” said Cash to Jack Curry. “Hal will evaluate that at the end of the year. My interest is to stay here. [New York] has been home for quite some time.” Some have speculated (myself included) that Cashman’s recent trend of brutal honesty indicates a readiness to leave the only job he’s known in his adult life, but we have no way of knowing his true intentions. He’s been close to leaving before, but always wound up back on a three-year deal. Cashman’s already the highest paid GM in the game, but if nothing else, this Cubs opening will give him some leverage as he negotiates a new deal with the Steinbrenners after the season.

Yankees designate Aaron Laffey for assignment

Remember yesterday, when the Yankees optioned Aaron Laffey to make room for Alex Rodriguez on the 25-man roster? It turns out that they didn’t option him. Instead, reports The Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig, they designated him for assignment. The idea, I’m guessing, is that since he made it all the way to the Yankees on waivers the first time through that he could clear waivers and head to AAA for the Yanks. We’ll see if any NL team puts in a claim this time around, or whether the Yanks were the only team really interested last time around.

This does open a spot on the 40-man roster, so speculate as you will.

Past Trade Review: Jose Tabata

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

There was a time, during RAB’s halcyon days, when Jose Tabata invited encouraging comparisons. The name Manny Ramirez appeared frequently, which left Yankees fans salivating. Even better, when Baseball America rated him the Yankees’ No. 2 and the No. 27 overall prospect in 2007, they said that he “has the talent to reach New York by the end of 2008.”

By the end of 2008 not only was Tabata not in the majors, but he wasn’t even in the Yankees system. On July 25th, 2008, when they sat three games back of first and were starting a series against Boston, they pulled off a major trade in which Tabata was the centerpiece. They sent him, along with Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Ross Ohlendorf to the Pirates in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. In Marte they got a lefty reliever — one whom they once traded for Enrique Wilson — and a right-handed outfielder in the midst of a career year. The Yankees certainly needed the help that Marte and Nady could provide, but losing Tabata still stung a little.

While Tabata possessed plenty of upside, his attitude and antics certainly soured the Yankees. After all, the same Baseball America scouting report that glowed about his “innate ability to get the fat part of the bat to the ball quickly, consistently, and with power,” also said that the “tends to cost and turn his talent on and off.” He stormed out of one game and considered quitting. That doesn’t even touch on his decades-older wife, who was accused of kidnapping a baby. In 2008 all that appeared to catch up to him, and he sported a mere .248/.320/.310 line in AA prior to the trade. The Yankees’ patience, apparently, wore thin.

Even with the reinforcements the Yankees couldn’t overcome their depleting pitching staff. At that point Chien-Ming Wang was already done for the year, and Joba Chamberlain had just a few starts remaining before he, too, would go on the DL. Marte pitched well at first, but after a long outing in Texas (I believe on the same day Joba got hurt) he was apparently gassed. Nady stumbled in his new digs. It amounted to a 32-28 record post-trade, which was actually worse than their pre-trade record. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The only bright side was that they had Nady and Marte for at least one more season each.

With Nady, they ended up with essentially nothing. The Yankees named him the starting right fielder in 2009, despite Nick Swisher‘s presence on the roster, but he suffered an elbow injury a few games into the season and didn’t play another one until 2010 with the Cubs. His time with the Yankees amounted to 0.6 WAR. Instead of exercising Marte’s $6 million option for 2009, the Yankees signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract. He’s spent most of it on the DL, though he did come through in the 2009 World Series. The only way the Yankees won this deal was with the old saying, flags fly forever. (Though I suppose that assumes that the Yankees would not have won the series without Marte, which is debatable, to say the least.)

Karstens, McCutchen, and Ohlendorf were mere afterthoughts in the trade. Ohlendorf broke camp with the 2008 team as a reliever, though his role was never clear. Whether that made him seem worse I’m not sure, but it’s impossible to define his stint with the big league club as successful. He might have helped in the future, but the Yankees had plenty of other mid-range pitching prospects. The same goes for Karstens and McCutchen. Both had their bright spots, but both were fungible assets. There was little to argue about when trading them, and even using hindsight, with Karstens experiencing some success this year, it’s hard to find fault with trading these guys. It was actually a Yankees fan’s dream: trading middling non-prospects for actual major leaguers.

Tabata, on the other hand, represented someone the Yankees could actually use. The system has lacked power corner OF bats since RAB started in 2007, and Tabata was the one guy who could have grown into that type of player. But given all his issues both on and off the field, they apparently thought he wasn’t the best fit. And despite all the hype, he has never hit for power — not in any stop in the minors in which he had more than 100 AB, and not in the majors.

The lack of power brings up an important question when evaluating the Tabata trade: where would he have played? Even if the Yankees were a bit aggressive with him, as the Pirates were last year, where would he have fit? Last year Brett Gardner was working on a breakout year, and the Yankees had Nick Swisher manning right field. From 2010 to 2011 Nick Swisher has produced a .367 wOBA and Gardner has produced .351 (9th and 20th among qualified MLB OFers). Tabata, meanwhile, has produced a .332 wOBA, and that’s pretty evenly divided between his two seasons. (It would rank 40th if he were qualified.)

It was impossible to know at the time, of course, that the Yankees would acquire Swisher and develop Gardner into a borderline elite player, so all of that represents hindsight evaluation in one way. But in another it represents a legitimate viewpoint, since Tabata wouldn’t have been ready for the majors until the Yankees started to see what they had in those two players. Even if he miraculously broke out in 2009 the Yanks wouldn’t have had room for him.

This weekend Tabata was rewarded for his 3.5 career WAR, and his potential for more, with a five-year extension worth a guaranteed $14.25 million that could end up a eight-year, $36.75 million deal. With the Yankees he never would have gotten that opportunity. With Gardner and Swisher taking over the outfield corners in the past two years, he would have remained blocked. That could have worked out if he turned things around in the Yanks system; they could have traded him this past winter, perhaps for a starting pitcher. But if he continued to falter they would have gotten even less. The Yanks apparently saw that risk ahead of time and dealt him while at least one team still valued him.

The hardest part of reconciling these past trades is figuring out how the Yankees would have fared had they not made the trade. It’s especially tough in this situation, when they got so little value for the return, but also wouldn’t have had room for the centerpiece. While it was a clear loss for the Yankees — they gave up something of value to another team and got little value back — the real-world effect isn’t that great. It would have taken a big turnaround from the disappointing Tabata in order for the Yankees to realize any value from him in the future.