While the 2007 Yankees made the playoffs with a half-season contributions from plenty of key pieces, a lot of fans seem to doubt their 2008 prospects. True, they will be relying on a bunch of rookies, but they got them to the playoffs in 2007. There’s no reason why they can’t ride full-season contributions from these players to be an even better team.
But for now, that’s a topic for another day. We’ll get there as soon as we know the makeup of the 2008 Yankees. Instead, let’s take a brief foray into the world of Mike Mussina, one of the key cogs for the 2008 Yankees. Now, as avid readers know, I’m not a fan of Mike Mussina. Despite his early success in pinstripes, his last few seasons and generally demeanor — crossword puzzles aside — have not won me over.
As Mike noted in the comments to my piece on Joba, the Yankees need Mussina to be league-average at worst in 2008. Is that a reasonable expectation? Surprisingly, I think so.
In 2007, Mussina’s stats were not pretty. He went 11-10 but had a career-high 5.15 ERA. He allowed 36 more hits than innings pitched and struck out a career low 91. The decline in strike outs — from 7.85 per 9 IP in 2006 to 5.39 in 2007 — is alarming. Those numbers are well worse than league-average, and Mussina’s VORP declined from over 40 to 11, just a shade above replacement level. Those are alarming trends.
But when you break out Mussina’s defense-independent stats, things look a little better. His fielding-independent pitching line, a number that equates roughly to ERA, was 4.58 or roughly league average. His home run totals were down, and while his line drive percentage was up, a lot of those baserunners from line drives seem to be a result of poor fielding.
For 2008, the Yankees need Mussina to keep his strike out rate at around 6.0 to 6.5 per 9 innings. They need him to take those home run totals down, and they need him to figure out why his LOB percentage dropped to 66.1 percent. For whatever reason, Mussina is getting worse at keeping baserunners from scoring. Considering this outlook, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Mike Mussina could be a league-average starter for the Yankees in 2008. That would be a welcome development indeed.
Kat O’Brien sure is full of conflicting information these days, and it all relates back to that ace in the hole from Nebraska that the Yankees hold.
To recap: At the end of last week, Buster Olney heard that Joba would head to the pen. Then, Newsday’s Kat O’Brien reported that sources within the Yankee organization said that Joba is expected to be in the started rotation. The back and forth continued when O’Brien issued a report that, when you think about it, basically supports Olney’s unsourced report and contradicts O’Brien’s own sources.
One of the concerns for the Yankees as they prepare for 2008 – particularly if they don’t reverse course and nab Johan Santana – is keeping a handle on the innings totals of young pitchers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.
The plan is for the three to compete for two spots in the starting rotation in spring training, with Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina likely to fill the other three rotation slots. But not one of the young trio was at or near the 200-inning mark in 2007. That means it will require careful watch to keep them in the rotation (if they earn it) without raising their innings an alarming amount.
According to Yanks GM Brian Cashman, all three of the youngsters will have innings caps, and the Yanks will be creative in their efforts at ensuring that these pitchers do not exceed their innings limits. While O’Brien once again reiterates the Yankee party line concerning Joba’s spot in the rotation, isn’t it obvious how this will shake down?
Chamberlain, Kennedy and Hughes will all pitch rather impressively during Spring Training, and Cashman and Girardi will have to make “a tough choice.” With Mike Mussina somehow guaranteed a spot in the rotation, the Yanks will be “forced” to do what’s best for the team, and Joba will head to the bullpen.
Right now, I don’t buy the line that Joba’s ticketed to the rotation. There are too many convenient excuses in place for the Yanks to use in order to move Joba to the pen. And for the first part of the season, that might not be a terrible move.
This year’s bill: $23,880,000. On the bright side, this is the second consecutive year the Yanks lowered their luxury tax input, having paid out $26,000,000 last year and a whooping $33,980,000 back in 2005. Old pal Roger Clemens tacked on $6,980,000 to the luxury tax bill all by his lonesome, and since 2002 the Yanks have paid $121,600,000 in luxury tax penalties. That’s alotta cheddar. · (6) ·
Roger Clemens posted a video on YouTube in which he defends himself from the accusations in the Mitchell Report. Take a look:
As ESPN reports, Clemens will sit for a 60 Minutes interview in an effort to clear his name.
Posting figures to be a little light around these parts over the next few days, so take the time and spend it with your friends and family. Forget all about baseball for a few days and enjoy the company of your loved ones. Ben, Joe and I wish everyone the happiest of holidays, and with any luck Santa will leave Johan Santana under the tree (with Hughes, Joba and IPK tucked away safely in the stocking, of course).
Happy Holidays to you and yours from River Ave. Blues.
Despite what Buster Olney hears, Kat O’Brien says that “several people within the Yankee organization” told her that Joba will be in the starting rotation come April. At this point, we’ve heard so much back-and-forth on this issue that neither outcome will be much of a surprise. · (37) ·
The return: RHP Edison Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera. Unless Cincy is going to turn around and flip Volquez to the O’s for Bedard, this deal is a step back for them. Once upon a time Volquez was the Rangers top prospect, but his star has faded considerably. Danny Ray Herrera is generously listed at 5’7″, 150 lbs, and sits at 80-82 with his fastball and 55-60 with his curve. I’m dead serious. He’s got half-decent numbers though, so maybe he works out for them. Meanwhile, Bill James projects Hamilton to a .979 OPS last year. Remember when you all laughed at me for saying the Yanks should pluck him off waivers a few years ago? · (18) ·
You know how Scott Boras puts together those huge binders that contain pages and pages of information proclaiming [insert Boras client here] is a “special” player, a “once in a generation” talent, and all that jazz? Well, You Been Blinded got it’s hands on the binder Boras handed out for A-Rod back in 2001. After looking through it, the first thing I noticed is that Boras would save himself a ton of paper if he stopped putting only one measly little table on each page. Secondly, that A-Rod kid is pretty good. Check it out.
(hat tip to MLBTR) · (2) ·
This stuff is kinda old, but I figured it was worth linking to during a slow news time. MiLB.com posted their annual look back at the Yankees’ organization, naming players of the year, up-and-comers, and so on. They also take a nice little chronological look back at the all big events in the Yanks’ organization this year (remember how Hit Streak Hilligoss got the nickname? good times), and even have a statistical recap page. But my favorite part of MiLB.com’s annual review is the photo gallery -just awesome, awesome stuff. Did Brett Smith really take a no-no into the 8th inning three times before May 21st? Holy moly.