Pedro Feliciano, relief workhorse

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

When the Yankees officially signed Pedro Feliciano to a two-year deal two days ago, they added the game’s preeminent relief workhorse to their bullpen. Not only did the 34-year-old southpaw lead the league with 92 appearances last season, the most since Salomon Torres appeared in 94 games in 2006 and the second most in the last 31 years, but he also led the league with 88 appearances in 2009 and 86 appearances in 2008. Feliciano has appeared in 28 more games than any other pitcher in the last three seasons, 42 games more than anyone else if you go back to 2007, when he appeared in “just” 74 contests.

That high workload can be scary, especially when you factor in all the times he warmed up but didn’t enter the game, but Feliciano is the definition of a lefty specialist. His career high in innings pitched is 64 set four years ago, and he’s never faced more than 280 batters in a season. In Tuesday morning’s blog post (Insider req’d), Buster Olney mentioned a) the Yankees intend to keep an eye on Feliciano’s workload, and b) he actually pitches better on short rest. Allow me to excerpt…

The Yankees intend to moderate his workload – the left-hander has pitched in a whopping 344 games over the last four seasons — and hope this will make him more consistent.

But the funny thing is that his splits from 2010 on how rest impacts his performance are counter-intuitive  an upside pyramid from what you’d expect.

– OPS when pitching on zero days of rest: .583
– One day of rest: .641
– Two days: .820
– Three-five days: 1.036
– Six days-plus: 1.550

OPS is a nice quick and dirty number, but we know that OBP is more important than SLG, so it’s not the best metric. I want to see how Feliciano has performed on various days of rest in terms of wOBA and as well as strikeout rate, so let’s do that. In order to avoid a small sample, I used data from 2008 through 2010…

The league data is for relievers only, so starters aren’t skewing the numbers at all. Also, it’s better to have a lower wOBA+ and a higher PA/K+ in this case since we’re talking about the opposing batter’s performance and Feliciano’s strikeout rate, respectively. Also, we might as well just throw out the data for games pitched on three or more days rest, the sample is just too small. If we want to lump it all in with the two days of rest data and call it two or more days of rest, we get a 113 wOBA+ and a 101 PA/K+ in 78 appearances. Not all that hot.

So as it turns out, Feliciano is better when he’s used quite heavily, considerably better in fact. He holds opponents to about 90% of the league average offensively on a day or less of rest, though his strikeout rate remains at or above average regardless of how many days he’s had off. Without going into wOBA+ and all that, it does appear that he’s tired down the stretch in the past, presumably as that heavy workload starts to catch up to him during the summer. That’s why it’ll be important for Joe Girardi & Co. to monitor Feliciano’s workload throughout the season, because you want him to be healthy and effective down the stretch. September and October is when you can run him into the ground and use him five days a week, when there’s a little more at stake.

A lot of times we’ll hear television announcers say that so-and-so wants the ball everyday and needs to pitch a lot to be effective, but I’ve always kinda brushed that off as another way of romanticizing the game. We all want to think it’s full of these big tough guys that will pitch until their arms fall off and what not, but we all know that’s just not how it works. Feliciano appears to be a rare breed though, the kind of guy that thrives when he’s used often. He won’t throw many total innings and shouldn’t face any right-handers, but it’ll be nice to have some (theoretical) predictability from a lefty reliever for once.

Yankees interested in Jeremy Bonderman?

Bonderman throws his first major league pitch. He doesn't look like the type of guy who'd make you throw a chair through a wall. (Paul Warner/AP)

Expect to see a lot of this the rest of the off-season, or at least until the back end of the Yankees’ rotation does not include the names Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Not long ago Fox Sports’s Jon Morosi reported that the Yankees “have shown interest” in Jeremy Bonderman. To what degree they’re interested is not clear, but I think we can turn to an oft-repeated line from Brian Cashman to get an idea.

“It’s something we do with every free agent.”

Two weeks ago Mike examined Bonderman and found little to like. While it appeared that his career was on the right track in 2006, when the Tigers went to the World Series, he’s been quite the disappointment ever since. It’s hard to believe he was just 23 that year. You can check Mike’s post for the gory details, but suffice it to say that injury played a major role in his downfall. After missing time in 2007 with blister problems followed by an elbow issue, he pitched just 81.2 innings combined in 2008 and 2009.

Bonderman did have a few good stretches in an overall disappointing 2010. From April 21 through June 1 he had a 2.70 ERA in 46.2 innings, which included a 35 to 12 K/BB ratio. Mixed in there was a seven-inning, two-run performance against the Yankees. Those starts, unfortunately, were bookended by two of his worst: a four-inning, 10-run debacle against the Mariners and a 5.2-inning, seven-run job against the Royals. He also continued to induce ground balls at a decent rate, a skill that is always welcome from a righty at Yankee Stadium.

As Mike said, “It would be foolish to count on Bonderman recovering the magic from 2004 through 2006.” But if he can build on what he did in 2010, he can be a decent back end option. With just a little improvement he’ll past the basic test — is he better than Segio Mitre? — with flying colors. It’s going to take quite the incentive-laden deal for me to get behind this one, but considering what the Yankees have on hand and what’s on the market, they could do a lot worse than a low-risk deal on Bonderman.

Kevin Long planning to work with Jeter before camp

Via Pete Caldera, hitting coach Kevin Long is planning to work with Derek Jeter before Spring Training officially gets underway. K-Long’s done some great things in recent years, but I’m not sure if even he knows the cure for “36-year-old shortstop.” Meanwhile, Long mentioned that the team is not married to a batting order for 2011, saying that the team will instead “toy with it.” I like it.

Open Thread: Jake Westbrook & Ted Lilly

Photo Credits: Suzanne Plunkett (Westbrook) & John Froschauer (Lilly), AP

Whenever you make a trade for multiple minor league pitchers, you usually hope that at least one pans out. When two turn into bonafide big league starters, you’ve struck gold. That’s what happened in December of 1999, when the Yankees traded Hideki Irabu to the Expos for then-minor leaguers Jake Westbrook and Ted Lilly. Westbrook’s pinstriped career lasted all of six months and 6.2 innings (13.50 ERA); he was traded to the Indians that June for David Justice. Lilly stuck around a little longer, throwing a total of 205.1 IP (4.65 ERA) across parts of three seasons for the Yanks before being traded to Oakland in a three-team swap that brought (ugh) Jeff Weaver to New York. All told, these two have accounted for 2,991.1 IP with 37.9 bWAR in their careers (most of that is Lilly), and were involved in what are arguably Brian Cashman‘s two best trades and his single worst.

Anyway, there’s your nostalgic moment for the night. Here’s the open thread. The Devils and Knicks are both in action, plus the Sugar Bowl is on (Ohio St. vs. Arkansas). Talk about whatever your heart desires, so go have at it.

Weekend Writer Update: We’ve made our selections and will announce the three new weekend people in tomorrow night’s open thread. Yes, we ending up “hiring” three.

Swisher to receive 2011 Thurman Munson Award

Who wants pie? (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Nick Swisher will be honored next month at the 31st annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner. The Yankee right fielder will receive a Munson Award in recognition for his on-field contributions to the team and his off-field charity work.

The dinner, hosted by AHRC-New York City Foundation, an organization that raises money for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will take place on Feb. 1, and Diana Munson, the late Yankee captain’s wife, praised Swisher.

“I love the way he plays, I love his enthusiasm,” said Diana Munson of Swisher. “Most importantly, he respects the history of baseball and the Yankees. On Old Timers Day, he was out there getting autographs and taking pictures. He’s not embarrassed by his love of the game, and respects the players. Plus, he’s cute.”

Swisher is coming off a season in which he hit .288/.359/.511 with 29 home runs and 89 RBI, and he has become a fan favorite out in right field. Off the field, he leads the Nick Swisher Foundation and its Swish’s Wishes program which helps lift the spirits of children suffering through life-threatening illnesses. He has also served as a co-Ambassador to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Lee Denim Day in their efforts to raise money for breast cancer research. The Munson Award is a well-deserved one for a Yankee who is very giving of his time and energy.

Yankees considering Andruw Jones

Via Jon Heyman, free agent Andruw Jones is on the Yankees’ “list of righty hitting [outfielders] to consider.” I assume this is the same list Manny Ramirez was on. I took a look at Jones about a week ago and figured that he’s a viable option for that Marcus Thames role, and I see no reason to change my opinion now. Andruw has declined the Yanks once before though, so there’s a little bit of history here.

The RAB Radio Show: January 4, 2011

It appears as though the Rangers will sign Adrian Beltre. What does this have to do with the Yankees? It makes the Angels that much worse. Again, what does this have to do with the Yankees? They have some decent pitchers on staff, and the Yanks could go shopping in Anaheim come deadline. Mike and I run down the guys they have and who we’d want.

(Also, more Scott Kazmir than you ever wanted to hear.)

After poking around the Angels and discussing their bleak situation, we move onto divisional matters. The Orioles further strengthened their bullpen by adding Kevin Gregg. If they have a lead late they might actually hold on. Plus, there’s another positive to signing Gregg.

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