Just a reminder, my weekly appearance on The Shore Sports Report with Mike Krenek and Joe Giglio is coming up at 6:05pm ET today. You can listen in on either FOX Sports 1030 AM or WOBM 1160 AM, and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be able to stream it online via one of those links as well.
As I was watching the Yankees pound Fausto Carmona last night, something caught my eye. To make sure I wasn’t crazy, I consulted both Joe and Ben, who confirmed my suspicion: Mark Teixeira has opened his stance. Not from last year either, I’m talking about from just last month. Given his horrible start and recent hot streak, it makes sense that he and Kevin Long tinkered and made some adjustments to help right the ship, but usually the untrained eye can’t pick those adjustments up.
Of course, I had to confirm this first. In order to avoid any issues with camera angle and what not, I screen cap’d at-bats from two home games. The top image comes from the June 2nd game vs. Baltimore (the Phil Hughes-Brad Bergeson matchup), and bottom is the July 16th game vs. the Rays (the first game after the break). Make sure you click for a larger view…
You can see Jamie Shields bending over to fix his pant leg in the bottom image. Tex is at the start of a practice swing in the meantime, which is why his hands are a bit lower, but his feet do not move at all. I just wanted to make sure I got the batter’s box in the shot to use as a reference, and Shields was in the way whenever he was on the rubber. Tex’s hands go back to their usual spot once the Shields gets ready to throw the pitch.
So anyway, you can clearly see that Tex has opened up. His front foot is closer to the edge of the batter’s box, and there’s more real estate between his feet. There are plenty of reasons why a batter would open up his stance, but the first two are obvious. First and foremost, it helps the batter see the ball better simply by providing a better line of sight towards the pitcher. Perhaps it’s helped Tex recognize offspeed pitches earlier in the pitch’s flight, he definitely doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed by them like he was in April and May.
Secondly, opening the stance helps the batter get around better on pitches in the inner half. Tex has been pulling more balls to rightfield with authority lately (spray chart during struggles, and after), hence his increased power performance. Although we know that correlation does not equal causation, it does stand to reason that opening his stance has helped Tex do a better job of getting the fat part of the bat on inside pitches.
I haven’t checked to see if Teixeira has also opened up when batting righthanded, but I’m not too concerned about that. Righthanders were killing him earlier this year, but he was performing well against southpaws. I’m not saying this new stance is why the Yanks’ first baseman has turned his season around over the last month or so, but it’s certainly interesting to see.
Update (4:00 p.m.): In what must be a cruel and horrible joke, Jerry Crasnick reports that the Yankees have checked in on Royals’ utility player Willie Bloomquist. I know the Yanks need bench help, but that’s no reason to go out and trade for one of the worst players in baseball. The 32-year-old is a career .298 wOBA hitter, but has managed to underperform that with a .294 wOBA this year. There’s also another $1.05M left on his contract through the end of the season. Bloomquist is definitely versatile, with a ton of experience at every position but pitcher and catcher. Still, the guy stinks (0.0 WAR, woo!). I’d rather see Eduardo Nunez get a shot.
Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal says the Yanks are now out on Adam Dunn, and Joel Sherman explains why. Basically, the Yanks are worried about how Dunn does not want to DH, would have to adjust to a new league and a pennant race and carries an extremely high asking price. For similar reasons, the Rays are reportedly out of the running as well. Of course, based on how these things have gone so far, I expect the introductory press conference to be no later than Saturday morning.
As the trade deadline approaches we’re going to see the Yankees connected to many, many players just because of who they are. Every other team wants to get the Yanks involved simply because it drives up the prices for everyone else. We know they’re prioritizing bullpen and bench help, but that hasn’t stopped Brian Cashman from window shopping for other stuff. Sometimes there’s a deal you just can’t pass up.
Jon Heyman said the Yanks were still in the hunt for Adam Dunn yesterday, and one ESPN Radio report even called them the front-runners to land him. Of course we’ve already seen this movie twice this year; the Yanks were also rumored to be the the front-runners for Cliff Lee and Dan Haren earlier this month, and we know how that turned out. I’m taking these reports with a hefty grain of salt from now on.
Anyway, I’ve already said what I had to say about bringing Dunn to the Yankees, though now it sounds like the cost is going to prohibitive. They apparently asked the Rays for Matt Garza, which zooms right past crazytown and into insultinglydelusionalville. There’s another big time lefthanded power threat out there though, one that might even fit with the Yanks better than Dunn. His name: Luke Scott.
The former Astro and current Oriole is one of the best hitters in the game that no one talks about. He’s hitting .287/.354/.567 on the season, a .393 wOBA that would be bested by just one Yankee, Robbie Cano. Although this, his age-32 season, is likely a career year, Scott has posted a .364 wOBA over the last three seasons, better than guys like Paul Konerko, Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui, Victor Martinez … the list goes on and on. He also doesn’t have much of a platoon split (.371 wOBA vs. RHP, .341 vs. LHP in his career), so he’s a viable everyday designated hitter. Clearly, the guy can flat out hit at the big league level and in the AL East. He’s done it for three years now.
Defensively, Scott isn’t as bad as you might think. His three year UZR in left is rock solid at +3.8, but he’s not going to supplant Brett Gardner anytime soon. It is nice to have that option available though, in case of injury or if the Yanks decide to sell high on Gardner and trade him this offseason or something. Scott can also handle first base in the pinch should Mark Teixeira ever need a day off.
There’s about $1.525M left on Scott’s contract this year, and he’s still under team control as an arbitration eligible player in both 2011 and 2012, so he’s not a rental player. Should he get too expensive through arbitration, which is very possible considering this season’s performance, the Yanks could always non-tender him and try to re-sign him at a discount, or just flip him in a trade. There are always takers for guys who can hit.
No, Scott is not likely to maintain a .390+ wOBA level of performance over the next two seasons, but he still has plenty of value if he slides back into a .360-ish wOBA level. A player that posts a .360 wOBA with league average defense in left for 200 plate appearances and another 400 at designated hitter is a 2.1 WAR player based on Sky Kalkman’s calculator, which is worth about $8.4M in production based on the current market. His trade value comes in at $6.4M assuming he is a no-compensation free agent or is not offered arbitration, which is equivalent to a Grade-B pitching prospect. Would you deal David Phelps or Ivan Nova within the division for Scott? I know I would.
Of course there’s a big obstacle standing in the way of any Yanks-O’s trade: Peter Angelos. The Orioles’ owner despised George Steinbrenner and his team, and the Mike Mussina signing only exacerbated the problem. The two teams have made just one trade during Cashman’s tenure, the Jaret Wright-Chris Britton blockbuster back in November 2006. Perhaps a deal could be worked out with acting GM Andy MacPhail having exclusive control of the baseball ops, maybe even a multi-player trade involving Ty Wigginton as well.
I don’t expect the Yanks to make a major splash before Saturday’s deadline, but I’m hoping to be surprised. Scott doesn’t have the name recognition of Dunn, but he’s performing at a similar level this year and has a more favorable contract situation. As far as we know, the asking price isn’t as ridiculous either. If the Yanks do decide to make a move for a full-time designated hitter in the next two days, they won’t be able to do much better than this guy right here.
Even with Jorge Posada dealing with a Baker’s cyst and Frankie Cervelli hitting .195/.273/.293 in his last 131 plate appearances, the Yankees are not going to pursue a catcher before Saturday’s trade deadline according to Ken Rosenthal. They have depth at the position in the form up Chad Moeller and Jesus Montero, and frankly there are no attractive catchers on the trade market anyway. I suppose they could look at someone like Chris Snyder while employing Posada as a full-time designated hitter, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Rosenthal also mentions that the Yanks want Adam Dunn but aren’t confident that they’ll be able to land him, and the asking price for bullpen help remains high. Go figure.
There’s no denying that one of Brian Cashman‘s biggest mistakes has been the acquisition of Japanese lefty Kei Igawa. After getting blown out of the water on the bidding for Daisuke Matsuzaka by the Red Sox, Cashman and the rest of the brain trust turned to Igawa, who was coming off a five season stretch with the Hanshin Tigers where he topped 200 innings four times (172.1 IP the other year) and posted a 3.14 ERA, 8.59 K/9, and 2.47 BB/9. He wasn’t going to be the ace Dice-K is was supposed to be, but he was expected to solidify the back of a rotation that featured the likes of Shawn Chacon, Sidney Ponson, and Darrell Rasner the year before.
The Yanks won Igawa’s rights with a $26,000,194 bid during the posting process; the extra $194 was an ode to his league leading strikeout total in 2006. They then gave him a five year contract worth $20M, but have gotten basically nothing out of him. Igawa’s Yankee career consists of 71.2 innings of 6.66 ERA, 6.19 FIP, 5.74 xFIP pitching, totaling -0.2 WAR. It’s quite literally $46M flushed down the toilet.
It’s not like the Yankees haven’t had a chance to unload Igawa, either. The Padres claimed the lefty off waivers back in August of 2007, he was part of the Johan Santana trade talks, ditto Mike Cameron, and the Cubs even showed some interest in him as recently as this offseason. None of that materialized, and in hindsight, yeah they should have just let the Padres have him and the $17M or so left on his contract. The Yanks still believed Igawa was salvageable and wanted to try to extract value out of him, but of course that never happened.
Late last night in one of his classic Heard This tweets, Buster Olney said that one reason why the Yanks have yet to deal Igawa is because doing so would cost them big time against the luxury tax. Ben and I couldn’t exactly figure out how that would work (neither could Maury Brown), but Jayson Stark explained the situation back in May:
At least now, you see, Igawa doesn’t count against their luxury-tax payroll because they were able to dump him off the 40-man roster. But if somebody actually wanted him (not that there’s any indication of that), the Yankees would have to pay virtually his entire salary. And that would pull all those dollars back onto their luxury-tax bill, to the tune of a 40 percent tax on whatever they’re paying.
In other words, one GM said, “They have huge incentive not to trade him, even if they could. So he’s one of the all-time stuck-in-purgatory cases.”
Essentially, if the Yanks trade Igawa and eat any of the money left on his deal, it counts against their big league payroll and thus the luxury tax. As long as he’s in the minors and not on the 40-man roster, which has been the case for more than two years now, his salary does not count towards their Major League payroll. The luxury tax isn’t cheap, 40% for every dollar on the payroll in excess of $170M, so they’d be looking at $2.2M in extra luxury tax if they deal Igawa today and ate every dollar left on his deal. That’s pocket change for the Yanks, but is it worth paying on top of Igawa’s salary just to get rid of him? Nah.
There’s a lot of venom towards Igawa and his sunglasses for obvious reasons, but I dunno, having him in Triple-A doesn’t bother me as much as it does some others. It’s not like he’s blocking an actual prospect, he’s just the veteran swingman/long man that every Triple-A team employs to soak up miscellaneous innings here and there. Does it suck that the Yanks still have to pay him another $4M next year? Sure, but they’re stuck paying that money anyway. Might as well get something out of him.
So until his contract expires after next season, Igawa is stuck in Scranton, not wanted by the Yankees, not wanted back in Japan. His occasional appearance in DotF is a reminder of just how poorly this deal turned out.
It’s hard to argue with a scoreless performance. Sure, the Indians have the third-worst offense in the AL. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to hold them scoreless. In fact, neither of the Yankees’ pitchers who went before Burnett accomplished that feat. He allowed 10 baserunners along the way, which is a rough number when you pitch just 6.1 innings. But Burnett’s performance allowed for a few extra baserunners. He was that good.
When a pitcher allows runners to reach base he can help himself out in two ways. First, he can strike out the subsequent hitters and leave the baserunners stranded. Second, he can get groundballs, which 1) can lead to groundouts, 2) prevents the runners from advancing too far, and 3) can produce a double play. While Burnett did allow 10 men to reach base, including five to lead off an inning, he mitigated this by striking out seven and keeping nine of 16 balls in play on the ground. That prevented the Indians from doing much after reaching base.
There were more good signs from A.J., too. For the year his four-seamer had been averaging 93.1 MPH, as had his two-seamer. In last night’s game he averaged 94 with each. It’s tough to make much of one start — there are enough PitchFX issues that comparing one start to an entire season’s worth of data might produce misleading results. The gun in Cleveland, however, appears to be in working order. It had Javy and CC right around where they’d been all season. It’s encouraging, then, to see Burnett dialing it up with the fastball.
As his strikeouts indicate, Burnett was also getting plenty of swings and misses. For the year his swinging strike rate is down to 7.3 percent from 8.2 percent last year and 10.3 percent in 2008. Last night he got 12 whiffs on his 114 pitches, or 10.5 percent. That’s more like it. Most of them came on his curveball (6) and his two-seamer (5). He got just one whiff on his four-seamer, and didn’t get any swings and misses on either of the two changeups he threw. It’s not like he needed that fourth pitch last night.
It was, in almost every way, a good night for Burnett. He got into some trouble by allowing leadoff runners to hit, but then he went to work, inducing grounders and striking out Indians to prevent them from scoring. It was the work of a true No. 2 pitcher, the guy the Yanks are paying $17.5 million per year. More starts like this would be appreciated.