Open Thread: A-Rod’s Birthday

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Alex Rodriguez isn’t with the Yankees right now because of his knee surgery, but that’s no reason to skip out on wishing him a happy birthday. He turns 36 today, and is the most productive position player in baseball that age or older in terms of bWAR (3.2). Todd Helton (2.6) is the only other guy that age that has been worth more than two wins to his team this year. Earlier today we heard that Alex will start his baseball related rehab activities with the team in New York rather than Tampa, but he’s still a few weeks from returning. It’ll be nice to have him back, it’s impossible to replace a hitter of his caliber and there’s definitely a different vibe to the offense when he’s out.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The now Carlos Beltran-less Mets are playing the Reds at 7pm ET (Pelfrey vs. Arroyo), and Beltran’s new team (the Giants) are in Philadelphia (Cain vs. Hamels) on ESPN at the same time. The trade can’t be official for 24 hours because of his no-trade clause per league rules, so Beltran isn’t in the lineup for San Fran tonight. Use this thread to talk about anything your heart desires, so have at it.

2011 Draft: Yankees agree to sign 14th rounder Rookie Davis

Via Jim Callis, the Yankees have agreed to sign 14th round pick Rookie Davis for $550,000, which is obviously well-above MLB’s slot recommendation. It’s the largest bonus given to a player outside of the top three rounds so far this year, by any team. Davis, a right-hander who stands 6-foot-4 and 235 lbs., is said to own “an 89-92 mph fastball and a promising curveball.” Here’s some video.

Cubs trying get Yankees to take Zambrano off their hands

Via Buster Olney, the Cubs are “trying to nudge” the Yankees into taking Carlos Zambrano off their hands, dangling some money to offset his salary as a carrot. Zambrano is under contract for $18M next season with a $19.25M vesting player option for 2013 that won’t be a factor because he won’t meet the Cy Young Award voting criteria to trigger it. Not only is he completely insane, but Zambrano’s performance has been declining. His 4.70 ERA is backed up by a 4.21 xFIP, the sixth straight year is xFIP is over 4.20. Plus the Cubs are trying to give him away, what does that tell you? Pass.

Joe posted some other trade deadline nuggets earlier today. Here’s what I wrote about Zambrano over the winter.

Injury Notes: Soriano, A-Rod, Feliciano, Marte

A few updates from the infirmary…

  • Rafael Soriano was not activated before today’s game, he likely will be before Friday’s game. He threw back-to-back rehab games on Sunday and Monday, so they’re just giving him the extra rest instead of rushing him right back out there. Tomorrow’s off day will give him three days off following the back-to-back.
  • Alex Rodriguez will do his early rehab work with the team in New York rather than in Tampa. The Yankees have a date in mind for when A-Rod will start taking batting practice and such, but his return to the lineup is still a few weeks off.
  • Pedro Feliciano is probably a non-option for the rest of the year. “I would think so, yeah,” said Joe Girardi before today’s game when asked if he’s ready to give up on having the lefty this season. “He’s not doing much.” Girardi said Feliciano is “trying” to play catch.
  • Damaso Marte, however, might be able to contribute something late in the season. He continues to throw bullpens in Tampa and is about nine months out from shoulder surgery. I still wouldn’t count on him returning this year, but it sounds like Marte has a better chance to do so than Feliciano.

Game 102: Gettin’ Away

Larry Bernandez! (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

It’s a getaway day for the Mariners and the Yankees have tomorrow off. I sure hope the bats don’t head into the 48 hour or so break a little early against King Felix. Get greedy and sweep that miserable team, fellas. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Russell Martin, C
Jorge Posada, 1B
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Phil Hughes, SP

The game starts a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Trade market heating up with Jimenez, Danks, Nolasco talk

With just five days until the non-waiver trade deadline, rumors are starting to fly with reckless abandon. The Yankees, by all indications, are looking into most available starting pitchers. There are ups and downs to each, of course, so let’s take a look at the three that have gotten some play in the past day.

Ubaldo Jimenez: In terms of talent, years of control, and contract, he’s the best pitcher on the market. It’s still unclear why the Rockies would consider trading him in the first place. The only reason is to start a quick rebuilding process, since their two biggest stars are under contract for many years to come. Joel Sherman reports that the Rockies have come down in price and are asking for three of Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Jesus Montero, and Ivan Nova. Perhaps if they take two and some other prospects it could work, but I cant’ see the Yanks trading three of their top five guys for him.

Ricky Nolasco: We’ve heard his name mentioned a few times in passing before, but nothing seriously. This morning SI’s Jon Heyman said that the Yanks tried for him, but that the Marlins aren’t ready to deal. Nolaso is under contract through 2013, for $9 million next year and $11.5 million in 2013. I don’t quite like this one, unless he comes super cheap. His results have never matched his potential — they’ve been pretty far off, in fact — and his strikeouts are way down this year.

John Danks: There’s nothing connecting him to the Yankees, but Ken Rosenthal reports that he’s on the market. I wrote up the case for Danks last week. He’s my favorite option on the market, all considered. He won’t cost as much as Jimenez and he’s better than Nolasco. The White Sox seem to be in wheeling and dealing mode right now; as I write this, they’re in the process of trading Edwin Jackson to the Blue Jays.

The Best He’s Ever Been

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

CC Sabathia was almost perfect last night. Mother Nature tried her hardest to throw him off track with a pair of short but just long enough rain delays in the later innings of his outing against the Mariners, perhaps robbing him of just enough command and rhythm that it cost him the perfect game. Sabathia ended his night with a career-high 14 strikeouts in seven innings, allowing a total of two balls to leave the infield. He was dominant, completely overpowering a weak lineup, but this was not a one-start thing.

Sabathia has been the best pitcher in the world over the last month or so, a span covering seven starts. He’s thrown 54.2 of 63 possible innings (86.8%) and allowed just five runs. Five. Only 46 batters have reached base in that time (0.84 WHIP), and only 31 of those 46 batters reached via a base hit. CC has struck out 72 batters in that span, raising his season strikeout rate from 6.6 K/9 to 8.3 K/9 in just seven starts. That’s 46.1% of his season strikeout total in 32.4% of the innings. Sabathia’s been so good these last seven starts that we can legitimately ask this question: has he ever had a seven-start stretch like this before?

The best season of Sabathia’s career was 2008, when he combined to rack up 7.1 bWAR and 7.6 fWAR in a career-high 253 IP with the Indians and Brewers. His second half effort with the Brewers is the stuff of legend, when he practically carried the franchise to their first playoff appearance in a quarter-century. Sabathia made 17 starts with Milwaukee, including the final three on three days rest. He managed to accumulate 4.8 bWAR and 4.6 fWAR with the Brewers, which is a great season for most pitchers. He did that in 130.2 IP.

The best seven-start stretch during Sabathia’s time with Milwaukee came from August 8th to September 5th, when he threw three complete games and two shutouts in seven starts. The table on the right has the stats from CC’s last seven starts this year as well as the stats for that seven-start stretch with the Brew Crew back in 2008. I used Sky Kalkman’s WAR Calculator to calculate the WAR, which is pretty close to bWAR. It uses actual results in the calculation (runs allowed), not underlying performance (FIP) like fWAR. It tells us what did happen, not what should have happened.

As you can see, the run Sabathia is on right now is even better than what he did in Milwaukee three years ago. He recorded two fewer outs but struck out a dozen more batters and allowed 14 fewer hits and one fewer homer. Those seven starts in 2008 came against the Braves, Nationals, Astros, Padres (twice), and Pirates (twice), who combined for a .421 winning percentage that season. These seven starts this year have come against the Rockies, Brewers, Indians, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Rays (twice). That’s a combined winning percentage of .496. He’s performed better against better competition.

It’s hard to believe considering how dominant he was during his brief stint in Milwaukee, but Sabathia’s last seven starts have been better than anything he’s done before. He’s piling up strikeouts and keeping opponents off base via hits and walks. No one is scoring off him, not at all, and he’s taking the ball deep into the game every time out. We see hot streaks come and go all season long, but it’s not often that we see one of the game’s best go off a run better than anything they’ve ever done before. This is the pitching equivalent of 2007 Alex Rodriguez, the starting version of 2008 Mariano Rivera. That’s how good Sabathia has been for the last month.