Game 89: Win it for the Boss

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Joel Sherman had a great article in The Post this morning about just how much George Steinbrenner wanted to beat the Devil Rays whenever they played. Apparently the Boss didn’t like then-Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli, so he would have Joe Torre use his A-lineup and best pitchers during Spring Training games just because he wanted to beat them so badly. Since the Rays physically play in St. Pete, Spring Training was the only time the two teams would face off in Tampa, so George went all out for bragging rights. This was long before the days of YES, and we rarely, if ever, had a chance to see these games. I can imagine it was a blast.

A little bit more than just bragging rights are on the line in this weekend’s series against the Rays as the two teams are separated by just two games atop the AL East. They have the two best records and two best run differentials on the planet, and both teams come in having won eight of their last ten games. Yeah, the Yankees only need to win one game this weekend to maintain sole possession of first place into next week, but let’s not settle for mediocrity. Bury them right next to the Sox, and have those two duke it out for the Wild Card.

It’s about as big as a series can get in July, and it should be fun one. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Curtis Granderson CF
Juan Miranda DH – called up from Scranton this afternoon in exchange for Kevin Russo
Brett Gardner LF

And on the mound, the Big Man, CC Sabathia.

The Yanks will host a special pre-game ceremony tonight to honor George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, and it will be shown on YES even though the game itself will air on My9. The ceremonies begin at 6:45pm-ish ET; the game 20 minutes later. Enjoy.

Yanks atop SI’s most overrated player survey

The Yankees may be, for the 8th year in a row, the game’s most popular team among baseball fans, but its players aren’t well loved by those on other teams. According to a recent Sports Illustrated poll of 187 Major Leaguers, players have view a handful of Yankees as the most overrated players in the game.

Leading the pack is 24-year-old reliever Joba Chamberlain. A whopping 12 percent of respondents picked him as the most overrated. Despite Joba’s struggles this year, he’s still young and should have a promising future ahead of him. He can take comfort in the fact that Derek Jeter earned the same honors in the 2008 poll.

Joining Joba on the list are fellow teammates Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher. It’s hard to say if this hatred is justified or if other Major Leaguers simply don’t like the guys who grab headlines. The other two in the top five were J.D. Drew, one of the game’s best hitting outfielders over the last five years, and Gary Matthews, Jr., someone regarded as so bad that it’s hard to believe he could be overrated.

It’s pretty clear to see how players view this question though. It’s not about which players are actually overrated. Rather, it’s about which players receive too much attention based on their skills. A-Rod is hated because, well, he’s A-Rod, and we know of his crimes against baseball. Nick Swisher ran one of the most over-the-top All Star Game vote campaigns in the history of the Final Vote, and if he weren’t a Yankee, we’d probably hate him too.

Joba’s inclusion on this list is because he’s legitimately overrated. Right now, he’s a 24-year-old struggling to find consistency at the Major League level. There’s certainly nothing wrong or unexpected in that. But because of the amount of press he has received and the way he blew away the league in 2007, other players expect him to be better than he has been this year. We shouldn’t expect Joba to be as dominant as he once was, and although he can still have a very successful career as a starter or reliever, right now, perception of him as a pitcher just hasn’t lined up with the results.

Miranda back up; Russo back down

Juan gone to AAA no longer. | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees have recalled Juan Miranda from AAA Scranton and have sent Kevin Russo back to the minors, reports Ben Shpigel. Miranda is in the lineup tonight as the Yanks’ DH, and he will be batting eighth against Tampa’s James Shields.

For the 27-year-old Miranda, this is his second stint in the Bronx this year. In his previous stay, he hit .217/.294/.435 with a pair of home runs in 51 plate appearances. Recently back from a minor injury, he had been on a tear at AAA over his last ten games, hitting .459/.545/.838 with three home runs and eight doubles. On the season, his minor league line is .291/.380/.509 with 10 home runs in 175 at bats. He certainly can mash the ball.

Russo has long been the Yanks’ odd man out. He made a splash during the Subway Series in the Yanks’ 2-1 win over the Mets in May and, a few days later, helped down the Twins 3-2. Since then, however, he hasn’t hit or played much at all. He’s had just 28 plate appearances over the team’s last 36 games, and he’s just 3 for 24 in that span. He’s far better off getting regular playing time in Scranton than he is warming the bench in the Bronx.

For Miranda and the Yankees, this could be a semi-permanent move until or unless the team finds a true DH, and it could also be a trade showcase. If the Yanks want to make a move in a few weeks without selling the farm, Miranda could be the perfect trading chip. It could also spell the end to Francisco Cervelli‘s playing time as well because the Yanks would prefer to use Jorge at catcher while Marcus Thames and Miranda share DH duties. Either way, this is a move that was a long time coming.

RAB Live Chat

Join us for the FanGraphs Live Discussion

On Saturday, August 7th, FanGraphs and River Avenue Blues are hosting their first ever Live Discussion. The event will consist of three hours of conversation about baseball, analysis of the sport, and how the game is covered. Hosting the event will be David Appelman and Dave Cameron of FanGraphs along with Joe Pawlikowski, Benjamin Kabak, and Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. Notable guests include former Deadspin editor and author Will Leitch, baseball consultant and analyst Mitchel Lichtman, Wall Street Journal contributor David Biderman, self-proclaimed egomaniac Jonah Keri as well as other writers from FanGraphs and around the web. This is your chance to talk baseball with analysts and fellow fans of the game.

A ticket to the event will cost $15 (plus $1.36 surcharge), and can be purchased here. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, New York, New York.

Join us for a morning of baseball conversation that will entertain and enlighten.

Ticket prices coming down for tonight’s game

Tonight promises to be a special occasion at Yankee Stadium. Before the second half opens against the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees will pay tribute to George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. YES will carry the pre-game ceremonies, but I figure that many of you will want to go to the game. If you already have tickets the Yankees suggest you be in your seats by 6:45. If you don’t have tickets, well, you might be in luck. After an initial spike in prices following George Steinbrenner’s death Tuesday morning, ticket prices have fallen a bit.

As long as you’re not angling for field-level, you should find some decent ticket prices. (Though I guess that depends on what you consider decent prices.) Check out RAB Tickets and see if anything strikes your fancy. I’d also recommend checking back around 3:00 to see if any prices have dropped at that point.

Going for the Kill: Bring in Adam Dunn

Over the last few weeks I’ve been profiling some players on the trade market that may or may not make some sense for the Yankees and their needs. That series was more or less an introduction to those players, not necessarily an endorsement of their acquisition. This time I’m going to cut right to the chase: I want the Yankees to trade for Adam Dunn.

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I had been lukewarm about the idea all year long likely because he’d just be  rental, but the more I think about it, the more I want him in pinstripes. Perhaps the failed Cliff Lee got my hopes up and I’m still trying to cope with the disappointment of losing out on that big fish. Either way, Nick Johnson’s setback means the team currently has no designated hitter, which puts the Yanks at a considerable disadvantage in an ultra-competitive division. Another bat is very much needed in order to keep Ramiro Pena and Colin Curtis and Frankie Cervelli on the bench where they belong.

Scheduled to become a free agent after the season, Dunn is reportedly losing interest in signing a long-term deal with the Nationals. He’s a lock to be a Type-A free agent, and his $12M salary this year isn’t crazy enough to keep a team from declining to offer him arbitration. Even if he were to accept, there are worst things in the world than having a guy that productive signed for one year at $14-15M. It’s not like there are any age related concerns either, Dunn is still very much in the prime of his career at age 30.

Dunn’s credentials are well-known. In an era of baseball that suddenly features fewer homeruns and less offense in general, Dunn is arguably the best and most consistent longball threat in the game, whacking 38-40 homers in each of the last five years. He’s on pace for 39 this season, and that’s without the New Stadium’s short porch in right. All those homers are supplemented by a ton of walks (16.5% walk rate for his career), though he’s traded in some free passes this year in exchange for some more singles, kinda like Nick Swisher. There’s nothing wrong with that, a hit is always better than a walk.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Yes, Dunn does strike out a ton, there’s no denying it. He’s on pace for 191 whiffs this year, which would be the eighth highest single season total in baseball history and the third highest single season total of Dunn’s career. Strikeouts are (usually) the worst possible outcome, but we know that sometimes you have to trade them off for big time power, something Dunn obviously provides. His platoon split isn’t as crazy as you might think; he’s got a .397 career wOBA against righties, and .361 off lefties. That’s more than acceptable.

Dunn is so comically bad at anything on a baseball field aside from swinging a bat that it’s almost not worth mentioning his defense and baserunning. His three-year UZR‘s in the outfield and at first base are -49.4 and -18.6, respectively, among the bottom two scores in the game. So yeah, Dunn has been one the game’s two worst defensive players at not just one, but two positions over the last three years. His last stolen base came in 2008, and he has a grand total of two steals in the last two and a half seasons. Baseball Prospectus’ baserunning stats say he’s cost his teams an even six runs on the bases during that time, which actually isn’t as bad as I expected. That doesn’t change the point though, Dunn is strictly a designated hitter.

Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo maintains that it would take an “extraordinary offer” to pry Dunn loose, but it would be irresponsible of him to ignore offers with his team out of contention (14 games back) and Dunn’s sudden lack of interest in signing a new deal. Sky Kalkman’s trade value calculator pegs Dunn’s value at $11.3M assuming a strong second half, which is equivalent to something like a Grade-B pitching prospect plus a Grade-B position player prospect according to Victor Wang’s research. I’m not talking Jesus Montero or Austin Romine here, those guys should only be moved for a super-elite player.

The Yanks have some surplus Grade-B prospects, so they can afford to overpay a little if that’s what a takes. Zach McAllister or Ivan Nova plus one of David Adams or Eduardo Nunez could headline the package with another low level, low probability prospect thrown in for good measure. For comparison’s sake, the last time Dunn was traded (from the Reds to Diamondbacks), he fetched a Grade-C hitting prospect (Wilkin Castillo), a Grade-B pitching prospect (Dallas Buck), and the perpetually over-rated Micah Owings (he can hit, he’s an ace!). Z-Mac/Nova and Adams/Nunez plus a third player isn’t all that far off.

The Yankees already have a fine offense. They lead baseball in on-base percentage at .353, but their power output has dropped off noticeably from last season. They’re on pace for 182 homers as a team (244 last year), and their isolated power has dropped from .195 to .174 from ’09 to ’10. It’s still a very good offense like I said, no doubt about it, but adding Dunn makes it the best in the league, with over-the-fence power everywhere you look.  The Yanks don’t need Adam Dunn, but they didn’t need Cliff Lee either. That didn’t, and shouldn’t, stop them from trying to improve the team wherever possible.