From the no one should be surprised department, Nick Johnson felt pain his wrist taking swings today, and has been sent back to New York for test. You really didn’t think that NJ would get through his rehab without a setback, did you? It’s a shame, the Yankees could really use a productive (and set) designated hitter right about now. Anything they get out of Johnson the rest of the season is just gravy, zero expectations.
So LeBron James is going to announce his long awaited decision tonight. All indications are that he’s going to join the Miami Heat, who have pulled a Yankees and signed everyone this offseason. I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m not much of a basketball fan at all, but if LeBron came to the Knicks, I probably would have watched some games this year. Definitely at the start of the season, at least. But now I still don’t have any interest in the sport, who wants to watch a league with all the best players on one team? That’s not sport, that’s not competition, it’s a video game set to rookie difficulty with force trades on.
Yes, that probably sounds hypocritical coming from a Yanks fan, but baseball and basketball are such different sports. Three great players can win you a title in basketball, but an All Star baseball team can absolutely get beat by one or two hot pitchers in a short playoff series. Anyway, LeBron’s making his announcement at 9pm ET on ESPN, so talk about that or whatever else you want here.
Part of Andy Pettitte‘s first half success has been his defense’s ability to turn balls in play into outs. He surely has something to do with that himself — he sets ’em up, the defense knocks ’em down — though we’re not really sure to what degree he controls the results of balls in play. His .268 mark is currently the lowest of his career, though he did have a .270 BABIP for all of 2005. Yet that’s not where all of Andy’s success lies.
A low BABIP means Pettitte is doing a good job keeping runners off base. But once they do reach base they still don’t stand a great chance of scoring. On the year Pettitte has allowed 115 men to roam the bases. That counts hits, walks, reach on errors, and hit by pitches, but subtracts home runs. Of those 115 baserunners, only 26 have come around to score (37 runs allowed minus 11 home runs). That’s good for a 77.4 percent strand rate (I ran this a bit differently than FanGraphs does their strand rate, which has Pettitte at a 79.7 percent strand rate).
How is he doing this? Usually pitchers can achieve high strand rates by striking out runners with men on base, but Pettitte actually fares worse in strikeouts with men on base than he does with the bases empty. He also walks more batters with men on base. The answer is that hitters fare even worse on balls in play with men on base than they do with the bases empty. Hitters currently have a puny .184 BABIP with men on base against Pettitte, and have grounded into double plays in 17 percent of their opportunities.
Some of this has to be luck, but part of it, I’d like to think, involves some veteran savvy on Pettitte’s part. He knows he doesn’t have the stuff to overpower hitters, so he bears down and gets the guys he has to. The question, of course, is of whether he can continue this favorable trend for the rest of the season.
For what it’s worth, Pettitte doesn’t notice a difference. In an excellent story by FanHouse’s Jeff Fletcher, Pettitte is quoted as saying, “I feel like I’m pitching exactly the same.” We’ll take it.
The trade deadline really brings out the dumb in people. Stupid trade rumors come with the territory, and we’re certainly no exception. So you’re going to have to forgive me for a second while I throw something out there. Ready for this one? Javy Vazquez for Jayson Werth. Seriously, hear me out before you delete your RAB bookmark.
Buster Olney says that the Phillies are talking to a bunch of teams about possible matches for Werth, and are looking for what he calls “a proven starting pitcher who could be a No. 2 or No. 3 type of guy” in return. Well, Javy fits that bill. You can argue that he’s more of a number four based on his dreadful April, but I’m not going to waste my time with that. The guy’s got a 3.05 ERA (3.94 FIP) in his last ten starts, and the Yankees would have won more than six of those games if they bothered to score more than two runs in three of the four losses.
But there’s a fit here because each team has something the other team needs. The Phils need a starter, and the Yanks could use an extra bat. Furthermore, both players are free agents after the season and are projected to be Type-A free agents, so each team will still get their two extra picks in the epiphany draft of 2011. The money doesn’t match up perfectly – Javy is owed $5.54M the rest of the way, Werth $3.41M – but that’s something that could easily be worked out (I think).
What would the Yankees be getting in Werth? Basically a righthanded hitting version of Nick Swisher, that’s what. Werth’s triple-slash line sits at .279/.365/.518 (.378 wOBA), which is perfectly in line with his performance over the last two seasons. There’s no fluke, it’s an established level of performance. Werth has also shown that the friendly confines of Citizen’s Banks Park aren’t the cause for his success, he’s wOBA’d .389 and .374 on the road in the past two years. His three year UZR in right sits at +17.5, and he can even play center in a pinch, not that the Yankees would need him too. Want steals? You got them too. Werth has swiped 44 bags in 49 tries over the last three years (89.8%). The guy does pretty much everything.
The Yankees could use him in a four man outfield/designated hitter rotation with Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson and Swisher, adding some considerable length to their lineup while assuming avoiding the risk of taking on a huge contract. Well, that last part isn’t entirely true, because you’re giving up a quality innings eater, which is risky by default. The team would have to feel comfortable with someone like Sergio Mitre or Ivan Nova or maybe even Dustin Moseley taking the ball every fifth day, which might not sound so appealing given the team’s shaky bullpen. They do have options however, so the answer to that final rotation just might be there.
Remember, Ruben Amaro Jr. hasn’t exactly distinguished himself as an astute general manager. He gave three year contracts to 30-something’s Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco, two year deals to Ross Gload, Danys frickin’ Baez, and 46-year-old Jamie Moyer, traded Cliff Lee for peanuts only to have interest in reacquiring him six months later, gave Ryan Howard that completely unnecessary extension, plus a whole bunch of other questionable moves. Amaro seems to be very much stuck in the early-00’s way of doing things; big names, big contracts, poorly thought out trades. A Werth-Javy swap is unlikely, but not completely insane. I think. Of course, Werth would have to lose the Baseball Jesus look if a trade did happen, which would be a shame.
In all seriousness, the Yanks can use the extra bat, and they do have four other quality starters in the rotation to rely on. They’d be robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is always sketchy when you’re talking about starting pitching. So what do you think, good idea? Bad idea?