Open Thread: Moneyball

So apparently they finally did go ahead and turn Michael Lewis’ Moneyball into a movie. I remember hearing that the idea got shelved a few times before I stopped caring (not that I did much in the first place), but apparently it got the green light at some point and there’s a trailer. I dunno, seems a little too dramatic for me. Slow motion bat flips after drawing a walk? Magic Scott Hatteberg homers? And is that David Justice playing himself? I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll stick this one in the Netflix queue rather than run out and go see in theatres. I suspect the book will be far better than film, which is usually the case.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are at home playing the Angels (Pineiro vs. Capuano) plus the MLB Network will carry a game (teams depend on where you live). It’s Friday night though, I suggest getting the hell out of the house. Use this thread to talk about whatever you want in the meantime.

Gammons: Yankees tried to tamper with Andrew Miller

Update (6:12pm): Via Marc Carig, Brian Cashman responded to the accusation by saying it was simply “not true.”

Original Post (5:30pm): Via Peter Gammons, the Yankees and other teams tried to convince lefty Andrew Miller to use his June 15th opt-out clause presumably so they could sign him, which would be considered tampering. The Red Sox agreed to call Miller up and put him in the rotation, so the opt-out never came into play anyway. Still, accusing teams of tampering is a pretty serious accusation even though it probably happens all the time. I’m sure a bunch of Gammons-Red Sox cracks will follow, but this is something MLB will probably look into.

International Free Agency Preview

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Although the draft gets most of the attention and rightfully so, the lifeblood of the Yankees’ farm system has long been international free agency, particularly Latin America. The top three and six of the top ten players on my preseason top 30 prospects list were acquired via international free agency, a talent market the Yankees can dominate with just money and not have to worry about draft position or slot recommendations. Ben Badler of Baseball America covers the IFA market like no one else, and this week he rolled out his early coverage of the International Signing Period, which officially begins on July 2nd each year. All of his preview content is behind the subscriber wall and can be found here: top talents, outfielders, shortstops, and pitchers.

Three Dominican outfielders highlight this year’s crop of talent, which is headlined by Ronald Guzman. He’s the best pure hitter and top offensive talent on the market this season but is likely to be relegated to left field down the line. Elier Hernandez is the tools freak with big time foot speed and huge batting practice power. Nomar Mazara also puts on displays in batting practice, but he doesn’t carry the same swing into games and is prone to swinging and missing, always a red flag with amateurs. Guzman has been connected to the Rangers, Red Sox and Blue Jays, Hernandez to the Royals. All three are expected to command seven figure signing bonuses.

The top two arms are righties Victor Sanchez (Venezuela) and Roberto Osuna (Mexico). Sanchez stands 6-foot-1 and has run his fastball as high as 94 while showing decent offspeed stuff, but the concern is that he doesn’t miss as many bats as someone with his stuff should against the competition he’s been facing. Osuna is the nephew of former Yankee Antonio Osuna, and he’ll offer low-90’s fastballs with a curveball and changeup. He turns 16 on July 2nd (so he just made the cut off), but he’s already pitching in the Mexican League and holding his own as a 15-year-old playing against guys ten years his senior. Sanchez could command as much as $3.5M, Osuna less than that but still seven figures.

We’ll hear much more about the Yankees and specific players in the coming weeks, but here’s a quick recap of the guys connected to the Yankees according to Badler. Also check out the Dominican Prospect League’s site for more info on way more players…

Manny Marcos, OF, Dominican Republic
A center fielder with a wiry strong 6-foot-0, 175 lb. frame, Marcos figures to stay at the position long-term and has good speed. He does have some power, but it’s more to the gaps than over the fence right now.

Yairo Munoz, SS, Dominican Republic
Munoz is a “shortstop” more than a shortstop, meaning he’s likely to wind up at another position down the road. Perez trains with former Yankees’ infield coach Rafael Perez, and he’s a switch hitter that has shown power from both sides of the plate, though his best tools are above-average speed and arm strength. Here’s video.

Luis Reynoso, SS, Dominican Republic
Another “shortstop,” Reynoso doesn’t have one true standout tool according to Badler and is instead solid at everything. He has some athleticism and projection, and his offensive game relies more on contact from the right side than power. Here’s video.

* * *

I recommend clicking through and watching the videos for no other reason to see how young and physically immature these kids are. They’re just babies, and yet scouts and teams are trying to project who will grow into a big league body and develop big league tools. Much respect to all the scouts out there.

Game 68: Chi-Town

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Ever since the Chien-Ming Wang debacle of 2008, interleague play in NL parks has scared the crap out of me. I’m an anti-anti-DH guy anyway, if it was up to me all the 30 teams would use a designated hitter. Pitchers are paid to pitch, not hit, so why are we focusing on what they can’t do by letting them bat? Anyway, the Yankees will spend the next six days in (very hitter friendly) NL parks, so hopefully the guys on the mound don’t do anything with the stick beyond the old sacrifice bunt. Here’s the starting nine…

Nick Swisher, RF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Brett Gardner, LF
Freddy Garcia, SP

First pitch is scheduled for 2:20pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

RAB Live Chat

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

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Only interleague play could bring these two storied franchises together, though they’re historic for very different reasons. The Yankees have won more World Championships than anyone else while the Cubs have gone more than a century since their last title. Wrigley Field is a homer friendly place, so we could be in for some very high scoring games as the NL park portion of the Yankees’ interleague scheduled begins.

What Have The Cubs Done Lately?

The Cubs are gonna Cub. Yesterday’s 12-7 win over Zack Greinke and the Brewers was their third win in four games, but just their fifth win in their last 17 games and their 19th win in their last 50 games. At 28-40, Chicago’s north siders are ten games back in the NL Central and their -66 run differential is second worst in all of baseball. Talk of a fire sale has been met with “who would take those contracts?” responses. The looks like that World Series drought will extend to 104 years this season.

Cubs On Offense

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The Cubbies’ lineup changes by the day but it’s anchored by a handful of stalwarts. Kosuke Fukudome is not the player they thought they were getting with that four year, $48M deal, but you know what? A .301/.409/.419 batting line is fine work from a leadoff guy. Superstar in training Starlin Castro sports a .312/.342/.426 batting line, which is damn impressive for a kid that turned 21 in Spring Training. Yankee killer Carlos Pena is hitting just .211/.355/.402 on the year, but you know he’ll have two or three homers by time the series ends. It’s just the way it is, he kills them. Aramis Ramirez is the other middle of the order mainstay, though he’s at .275/.327/.408 on the season. That’s not the Aramis we’re used to seeing. Former Yankee Alfonso Soriano is at .275/.300/.538, though he’s hit just one homer since hitting eleven in the first month of the season.

Those guys are the core, everyone else just fills in around them. Geovany Soto missed a big chunk of the season due to injury, and he’s at just .220/.307/.384 on the year. My fantasy team weeps. You’ll hear many references about Darwin Barney being a winner and playing the game the right way and all of that this weekend, but his .294/.321/.359 batting line lacks substance and he was just placed on the disabled list anyway.. Jeff Baker is fresh off the disabled list with a .347/.366/.480 line, then you’ve got bit pieces Blake DeWitt (.273/.286/.400), Reed Johnson (.362/.423/.652 in limited time), Lou Montanez (.281/.303/.344 in very limited time), Tony Campana (.239/.255/.283 in very limited time), and D.J. LeMahieu (.294/.294/.294 in extremely limited time). Manager Mike Quade fashions a lineup of those guys around Fukudome, Castro, Soriano, Aramis, and Pena.

Overall, the Cubs are limping along with a .264/.319/.390 batting line as a team, pretty much middle of the pack among the 30 clubs. They don’t steal many bases (Campana has seven, Castro six) and they’re near the bottom of the NL in sacrifice bunts, so they don’t do the small ball thing very well. Essentially, Chicago is a power and patience team without much power or patience. Castro’s a bonafide stud, but the rest of the offense is a bunch of square pegs jammed into round holes.

Cubs On The Mound

Friday, LHP Doug Davis: Signed to a minor league deal after the season started, Davis has made just six starts so far this year. He’s always struck out a fair amount of guys thanks to his big breaking curveball, and he continues to do so this year (8.38 K/9) despite a sky high walk rate (5.59 BB/9). Davis is a typical finesse lefty that throws both a cutter and four seamer in the low-80’s with that curveball as well as a changeup. He’s one of those guys that can be frustrating because he throws junk and keeps hitters off balance, though the Yankees have to patient and let him work himself into trouble, because he will do it if given the opportunity.

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Saturday, RHP Ryan Dempster: Chicago’s Opening Day starter, Dempster was absolutely brutal early in the year, like eight homers allowed with a 7.63 ERA in his first five starts brutal. He’s settled down since then and looks much more like himself, striking out 8.47 and walking just 2.87 batters per nine innings pitching with a 4.31 ERA in his last ten starts. Dempster will throw strikes and get ground balls with a true five pitch mix. His two and four seam fastballs sit in the low-90’s, his put away slider hums in around the mid-80’s, and he’ll also show a low-80’s changeup and a high-80’s splitter. He’s surrendered two earned runs or fewer in seven of his last nine starts and will be the toughest assignment of the weekend (on paper).

Sunday, RHP Randy Wells: Wells has made four starts since coming off the disabled list (forearm), though he’s allowed 15 runs and put 28 men on base in 18 IP during that time. He’s usually a ground ball guy (46+% grounder rate last three years) but it’s just not happening this season (35.1% grounders), maybe because his fastball velocity fell off a cliff. Wells will usually work with low-90’s four and two-seamers, plus low-80’s sliders and changeup, but for whatever reason it just hasn’t worked for him. Keep an eye on his location, if he’s spotting his stuff down in the zone, he’ll do alright. Anything at the thigh or above will get crushed.

Bullpen: Remember our old pal Kerry Wood? He did a bang up job for the Yankees down the stretch last year before taking that well below market deal to return to the team that drafted him, and guess what? He’s on the disabled list, which is his home away from home. Thankfully it’s just a blister this time and nothing serious. Wood’s injury puts the setup onus on Jeff Samardzija (41 K but 26 BB in 37.2 IP) and the tremendously underrated Sean Marshall (32 K and nine walks in 32.1 IP). He’s a lefty capable of getting anyone out, but the good news is that he threw two innings and 33 pitches last night, so he might not be available today.

The rest of the bullpen seems to be one big revolving door. The only mainstay is lefty specialist John Grabow, who does the job against same side batters but is prone to meltdowns. Rodrigo Lopez (6.57 ERA in 12.1 IP) is the recently acquired long man, former (unsigned) Yankees draft pick Chris Carpenter (seven batters faced, two hits and a walk) the recently called up flamethrower without a defined role. James Russell (5.30 ERA in 37.1) is the swingman with some spots starts under his belt. Oh, I guess I should mention Carlos Marmol. The closer has actually cut his walk rate from 6.0 BB/9 last year to 4.4 BB/9 this year, but his strikeout rate has plummeted from 16.0 K/9 last year to 11.6 this year. More than half of the 400-something batters he’s faced over the last two years failed to put the ball in play, but that’s who he is. Marmol’s just a freak, and I mean that in a good way. His slider might be the best in the game, but damn does he make it interesting. Fun to watch though.

Recommended Cubs Reading: The Cub Reporter

Ticket Info: If you’re in Chicago this weekend and want to catch a game or three, make sure you check out RAB Tickets. After the jump is a graphic from the wonderful people at TiqIQ with some pricing info.

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The Obligatory J.C. Romero Post

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The Yankees are in a perpetual search for left-handed bullpen help, so anytime someone with a smidgen of big league success to their credit hits the market, you can be sure Brian Cashman & Co. will show interest. The Phillies designated J.C. Romero for assignment yesterday, so he’s the next name to enter the LOOGY sweepstakes. I like the pros and cons breakdown we’ve been using in the Scouting The Trade Market series, so let’s roll with that…

The Pros

  • Being left-handed and breathing qualifies as a plus in this game all by itself, but believe it or not Romero has handled lefties very well this year. You figure he would have performed poorly since they cut him. Romero held same side batters to a .208/.321/.208 batting line in 29 plate appearances, striking out eight. Lefties also have an 81.3% ground ball rate against him this year, which is ridiculous. Since the start of last year, he’s held left-handers to a .215/.317/.262 line with as many strikeouts (28) as total bases in 126 plate appearances.
  • Romero’s contract will pay him just $1.35M this season, after which he’ll be a free agent. That’s nothing, the Yankees could pickup the pro-rated portion of that up and not blink an eye.
  • The Phillies have already devalued him with the DFA, so they’re forced to trade, release, or waive him within ten days. They essentially stuck an “O.B.O.” on the sticker price.
  • He’s got pennant race, playoff, and World Series experience with the Phillies … yadda yadda yadda.

The Cons

  • Romero’s fastball velocity is down noticeably, which may have something to do with the torn flexor tendon in his left elbow that required surgery and kept him on the shelf from late-July 2009 to late-April 2010. He also missed time with a calf issue this year and has a PED suspension in the not too distant past.
  • He’s completely unusably against right-handed pitchers. They’ve got a .297/.435/.432 batting line against Romero this year with six unintentional walks and two strikeouts in 46 plate appearances, and it’s .303/.446/.552 in 103 plate appearances since the start of last season. His career splits aren’t as drastic, but the point stands, can’t use him against righties.
  • Romero does not project as a Type-A or B free agent, so the Yankees wouldn’t get a draft pick if he were to leave after the season, assuming they offered arbitration.

They say you can’t predict baseball, but the Yankees interest in Romero is as predictable as it gets. There’s no chance he’d get to them off waivers since every team but the Red Sox would have a chance at him before they do, so forget that idea. It’s trade or bust. Some similar pitchers that have been traded recently include David Purcey (twice) and Will Ohman, both of whom returned fringy prospects a little on the older side. Think Lance Pendleton or Greg Golson. I’m not saying that’s who the Yankees should offer, it’s just an example of what it’s taken to acquire similar players in the recent past. I’m not the biggest Romero fan in the world, but there’s little reason for the Yankees not to pursue him.