Single-game tix on sale next Friday

The Yankees announced this evening that single-game tickets for the 2011 season will go on sale next week. At 10 a.m. on Friday, March 11, 2011, fans purchase any single-game tickets available via this page on the team’s official site. Considering how many tickets are sold as a part of the club’s various season ticket packages, it’s tough to say how many single-game seats are left, but those who act fast can usually find a few good games for sale. If not, there’s always RAB Tickets for all of your secondary market needs.

Open Thread: March 3rd Camp Notes

The latest from Tampa…

  • The Yankees and Rays played to a one-all tie this afternoon. Freddy Garcia threw two scoreless innings and Ivan Nova followed him up with three of his own, but Dellin Betances lost control and walked in a run in his second inning of work. Eric Chavez doubled and Curtis Granderson singled, but the run scored late in the game thanks to some funny defense by the Tampa B-team. Here’s the box score.
  • “If I lose this [rotation] spot, it’s my fault,” said Garcia afterwards, who acknowledged that he’ll have to shake his history of poor springs to keep that job. He was clocked at 88-89 mph with the fastball, surprisingly good (for him). (Erik Boland & George King)
  • Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and Steve Garrison all threw side sessions today. Andrew Brackman tossed his bullpen session as scheduled, and will get into a simulated game on this weekend. (Chad Jennings)

Here’s your open thread for the evening. The Rangers are the only local team in action tonight, though both SNY and MLB Network are showing replays of today’s Mets-Cardinals game if you’re so inclined. You all know what to do, so have at it.

Food For Thought: A.J. Burnett

Over the last three years, A.J. Burnett has hit 38 batters with pitches, the most in baseball. Twenty-one of those 38 batters were left-handed, or 55.3%. Right-handed pitchers around the league have about a 68%/32% split (RHB/LHB) on hit-by-pitches during that time, so Burnett’s clearly an outlier in that regard.

Those two heat maps above come courtesy of David Pinto at Baseball Analysts, and they show the general location of the pitches that have hit left-handed batters over those last three seasons. The graph on the left is the league average, the one on the right is Burnett. He’s not hitting these batters up high (around the shoulders, arms, and hands) like everyone else, he’s catching them down around the feet and ankles. Why? It’s the curveball, as Pinto shows in his post.

Thirteen of those 21 hit-by-pitches came with two strikes, which is why A.J. really goes to the hook. Hitting a batter is bad enough, but doing so in a two strike count is as infuriating as it gets. Hopefully those new mechanics get help straighten Burnett out, because free baserunners are a bad, bad thing.

The RAB Radio Show: March 3, 2011

There was plenty to like from today’s game against the Rays, not least of which was Ivan Nova going three innings. This might not be noteworthy by itself, but it does signal that they pitchers are increasing their workload. Hey, we’ll take anything that makes Opening Day feel closer.

Somehow, as we discussed the game and the guys involved, Mike and I got sidetracked on the Angels. They seem to attract bad contracts, and they didn’t help that reputation this winter. It’s nice that they’re no longer a perpetual thorn in the Yanks’s side.

Podcast run time 25:17

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Who exactly is Steve Garrison?

It was a relatively minor move, a forgettable waiver claim last September. The Yankees, surely on the recommendation of then-special adviser and former Padres GM Kevin Towers, claimed left-hander Steve Garrison off waivers from San Diego, and he remains on the 40-man roster to this day. The team has cut six players off the 40-man since claiming Garrison (four pitchers), so clearly they like him at least a little. But what’s his story? He seems like the forgotten man around these parts.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Garrison, who turned 24 a few days after being claimed, was originally a tenth round pick of the Brewers back in 2005. He’s a local kid that grew up just outside of Trenton and was drafted out of the prestigious Hun School of Princeton, and was the fourth best draft prospect in the state according to Baseball America. Garrison fell because of bonus concerns, but Milwaukee managed to buy him away from his commitment to North Carolina with a $160,000 bonus, which was fifth round money at the time.

The Brewers sent him to Low-A ball the year after being drafted, and Garrison performed pretty well (3.45 ERA, 3.78 FIP in 88.2 IP), prompting Baseball America to rank him the 27th best prospect in what was then the fifth best farm system in the game. He moved up to High-A the next season, pitching to a 3.44 ERA (3.36 FIP) in 104.2 IP before being traded to the Padres as part of a three-prospect package for Scott Linebrink. Three prospects for a reliever, imagine that.

Anyway, Garrison finished the year well in San Diego’s system (2.79 ERA, 2.99 FIP in 42 IP) and was ranked the sixth best prospect in the game’s twelfth best farm system by Baseball America. Bumped up to Double-A next year, the lefty was again solid (3.82 ERA, 3.74 FIP in 129.2 IP) but tumbled down the prospect lists and was considered the Padres’ 22nd best prospect, when they had the second to worst farm system in the game. Why the fall? Because Garrison had surgery to clean up the labrum and rotator cuff of his throwing shoulder after the season.

The surgery kept him out for most of 2009, and Garrison posted a 5.56 ERA (3.44 FIP) in 34 IP after coming back late in the season. San Diego liked him enough that they added him to their 40-man roster after the season to keep him from being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft. Garrison missed the majority of the 2010 season with another injury, this time a knee. It limited him to just 57 IP (5.37 ERA, 4.29 FIP), and San Diego designated him for assignment to free up a 40-man spot last September. That’s when the Yankees pounced.

Mr. Garrison throws the fastball and curveball, Mr. Hat the slider and changeup.

Garrison did not throw a pitch for the Yankees last year, but he did make an appearance in a Spring Training game earlier this week, allowing a pair of hits in two scoreless frames. The team apparently hasn’t told him if he will be a starter or reliever this season, but the two inning stint seems to indicate that they’re stretching him out, if for no other reason than to accumulate innings. Garrison has been a starter his entire career, save for a handful of relief appearances when he was coming back from the various injuries.

The equipment is certainly there for him to start. Garrison offers three pitches and was never a hard-thrower; his 88-90 mph fastball post-surgery matches his pre-surgery velocity. He also throws a big, over-the-top curveball and a changeup, both of which Baseball America described as plus at times when he last made their Prospect Handbook (before the 2009 season). He also throws a slider, but no word on its effectiveness. BA has also lauded his command (just 2.2 uIBB/9 in his career), polish, pickoff move, athleticism, and defense throughout the years. Garrison’s an interesting guy, but hardly a top prospect.

The Yankees currently have six left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster: CC Sabathia and Pedro Feliciano (who are going nowhere), Robert Fish (a Rule 5 pick who is going back to the Angels soon), Damaso Marte (going to the disabled list and will never be heard from again), Boone Logan, and Garrison. Although they seem to be stretching him out to start, the team is likely looking at Garrison as a reliever long-term. In fact, Mark Newman told Chad Jennings that if “Kevin Towers likes a pitcher, especially a bullpen guy, you have to listen” when discussing Garrison not too long ago.

I’m guessing that the Yankees will have Garrison start back at Double-A because a) there’s no room in the Triple-A rotation, and b) he only has 135.2 IP at the level, most of which were split up by the injuries. I don’t think there’s room for him in that rotation either, but he’s a prime candidate for the “two innings every three days” relief program the Yankees employ, which will allow him to focus on refining his two best pitches to hasten the conversion to reliever. Remember, Logan’s track record of success is like, 20 innings long, which is why Feliciano was brought in. Perhaps Garrison could offer an alternative later this season, though with two options remaining, there’s no rush.

Yankees to ‘wait and see’ with Cervelli

Via Erik Boland, the Yankees are in wait-and-see mode with Frankie Cervelli‘s bruised left foot. The catcher fouled a pitch off the foot in yesterday’s game (direct shot too), and a post-game CT scan was negative while an MRI was inconclusive. Doctors are taking a second look at the latter to determine the extent of the injury. “[There’s] still some concern and we’ll just wait and see what [the doctors] say,” said Joe Girardi this morning.

An injury to Cervelli would change things quite a bit, perhaps opening the door for Jesus Montero to start the year with the big league team. I still can’t see them using Jorge Posada behind the plate, not in anything more than an emergency situation.

2011 Season Preview: Curtis Granderson

As we count down the days and weeks leading up to the season, we’re going to preview the 2011 Yankees by looking at each of their core players and many, many more. A new preview will go up every day, Monday through Friday, from now until Opening Day.

Still can't believe that ball stayed in the park. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for Curtis Granderson in 2010. Not necessarily in that order, either. He was brought to town for a number of reasons, one of which was to help replace the left-handed power the Yankees let walk in the form of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, which he did, by and large. It wasn’t always pretty though.

Year two of the Granderson era is promising because of the way he finished year one. His improvement after working with hitting coach Kevin Long is well-documented, but we still have no idea if it’s a) real, and b) sustainable. Grandy has already smacked an opposite field homer in Spring Training, which is generally much ado about nothing, but it stands out a bit because he’s hit zero of those in the last two regular seasons. February and March are the time for blind optimism, what can I say.

The Grandyman was the team’s best player in late-August and September, and would have been their best player in the postseason if it wasn’t for Robbie Cano‘s superhuman efforts. What could 2011 have in store?

Best Case

The best case scenario for Granderson is incredibly exciting. We’ve already seen him produce at a seven-plus win pace, which he did back in 2007 with the Tigers by hitting .302/.361/.552 (.395 wOBA) with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 homers, and 26 steals all while playing phenomenal defense (+14.9 UZR) at an up-the-middle position. It’s been three full seasons since Grandy had that monster campaign, but he’s far from old (turns 30 in about two weeks) and still has that kind of talent.

Hopefully Grandy will be running people over again in 2011. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

To hit on that best case scenario, the improvements he showed after working with Long would have to prove to be real and permanent. Granderson hit .274/.378/.570 (.417 wOBA) with 15 homers in just 230 plate appearances (counting playoffs) after he got together with the hitting coach compared to just .239/.306/.415 (.310 wOBA) with ten homers in 336 plate appearances before. Maintaining a .417 wOBA pace over a full season is extremely tough to do, but based on how dominant Granderson was down the stretch, a .390-ish wOBA in 600+ plate appearances doesn’t seem out of question in the best case scenario.

Within that overall improvement came considerable improvement against southpaws, long Granderson’s bane. He hit just .206/.243/.275 with just four extra-base hits against lefties in just over 100 plate appearances before the fix, even worse than the .217/.270/.324 line he produced against them in 2008 and 2009. After working with K-Long, Granderson tagged lefties to the tune of .286/.275/.500 in 64 plate appearances, not all that far off from his performance against righties. If his platoon issues have been corrected, even just somewhat, holy cow.

Granderson’s defense has never really been a question. He’ll occasionally take a bad route on a ball hit in front of him, but overall he’s an above-average defender in center (+5.3 UZR last season) that could be even better after having a year to adjust to his new ballpark. Even if turns in a similar defensive effort with a .390 wOBA in a full season’s worth of playing time, we’re talking about Granderson being at least a six win player and a guy that should get some MVP love.

Worst Case

As exciting as Granderson’s best case is, his worst case scenario is just as ugly. The improvement following the work with Long could prove to be nothing more than small sample size noise, easily negated after the league has had an offseason and Spring Training to revise their scouting reports and game plans. Left-handers could continue to flummox the lefty swinging center fielder, who sees his strikeout rate and walk rates continue to head in opposite directions for the third straight season. That .310 wOBA he produces in the first half or so of 2010? Turns out that is Granderson’s true talent level.

On the other side of the ball, those funny routes continue to be an issue, and the dam eventually cracks. Grandy turns into a below average defensive outfielder, forcing the team to move him to left and insert Brett Gardner in center. A below average defensive left fielder with below average offense is … wait for it … a below average player, basically a fourth outfielder. Andruw Jones would see more and more playing time to compensate for Granderson’s shortcomings, overexposing him. Without the boost from playing a prime position, Grandy is little more than a one win player in the worst case scenario.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

What’s Likely To Happen

As much as we’d like it to be, the #cured version of Granderson probably isn’t the real version. Fourteen homers in a month-and-a-half is a 56 homer pace over a full season, and that’s just not going to happen. Even the most optimistic of Grandy lovers can agree on that. Joe broke down Granderson’s underlying skills last month, forecasting a .275/.365/.490 (~.375 wOBA) batting line in 2011, almost identical to what he did with the Tigers in 2008. The only full-time center fielders more productive offensively than Grandy that season were Grady Sizemore (.384 wOBA) and Carlos Beltran (.380), two guys that are now shells of their former selves due to injuries.

While I do believe the late-season improvement is real and sustainable, I still have a hard time expecting more than .265/.340/.480 (~.355 wOBA) out of the Grandyman, which is better than his 2010 effort but not quite as good as what Joe expects (and what 2008 produced). I should mention that I’m a sucker for low expectations, I guess you can’t be disappointed if you don’t expect much in the first place. At his age, there’s no reason to expect Granderson’s defense to fall off a cliff, so I think his floor in 2011 is basically his 2010 self with a pretty strong likelihood of even more. If he manages to stay healthy and put together a four-plus win season, I’ll be thrilled. Anything more is gravy.