Vegas Watch 2011 Over/Under

Vegas Watch (via Bookmaker) posted the 2011 over/under win totals over the weekend, and they set the Yankees at 91. I’m going to take the over, but not by much. I remain unconvinced that going from 21 starts of Andy Pettitte, 26 starts of Javy Vazquez, nine starts of Dustin Moseley, and seven starts of Ivan Nova to about 60 starts of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Sergio Mitre, Nova, misc. prospect, misc. free agent, and misc. trade acquisition, is more than a four win downgrade, though it’s certainly a downgrade. What do you think?

A few others that I’m sure will get mentioned in the comments: Red Sox (96), Phillies (97), and Rays (86). I’m going to say under on the first two and over on the last. I don’t feel comfortable saying any team will win more than 95 games, nevermind 97. Tampa’s still really good, though not as good as last year.

Open Thread: February 21st Camp Notes

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The latest from camp on a rather busy day…

  • Hank Steinbrenner stole the show by mouthing off about a number of topics. “Some of the players [were] too busy building mansions and doing other things, not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that.” Gee, I wonder who he was referring too. Hank also questioned the focus of the 2010 team, saying they celebrated too much after the 2009 World Series. This is the same team that won 95 games and was two wins away from the World Series. Although I suppose it’s easy to think the team isn’t focused when you go to two games a year. (Mark Feinsand)
  • Alex Rodriguez conducted a much more civilized press conference, saying that his hip is healthy enough that he can return to the same workout routine he adhered to prior to the surgery. That’s what led to the weight and body fat loss this offseason. (Joel Sherman)
  • Dellin Betances threw an early morning batting practice session in front of some serious heat: Joe Girardi, Tony Pena, Larry Rothschild, pro scouting director Billy Eppler, pro scout Rick Williams, guest instructor David Wells, and a handful of minor league pitching coordinators were all there to watch him. (Chad Jennings & George King)
  • The list of non-Betances pitchers that threw live BP today: Andy Sisco, Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, Daniel Turpen, David Phelps, Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell, and Eric Wordekemper. Joe Girardi raved about Brackman and his cleaned up mechanics, but cautioned not to read too much into a BP session. (Marc Carig, Carig & Carig)
  • Jorge Posada was in full catcher’s gear, participating in fielding drills. There’s no reason not to have him in catching shape when the season begins. Ronnie Belliard also took reps at first base, Eric Chavez third base. The Yankees will play both guys at the corner infield spots this spring.  Outfielders took turns trying to rob homers at the wall. (Carig, Carig & Jennings)
  • Boone Logan airmailed a throw and hit a little girl in the stands in her arm. He ran to the dugout, got some ice, and she was ultimately fine. I’m guessing she got at least a ball and an autograph out of it, hopefully from someone better than Boone Logan. (Carig & Erik Boland)
  • A-Rod made a nice little play over a diving Joba Chamberlain during the fielding drills, then called the right-hander a “good husky.” He meant Husker, as in Nebraska Corn Husker. I laughed. (Bryan Hoch & Ben Shpigel)
  • After working out with Robbie Cano during the offseason, Eduardo Nunez was crushing the ball in batting practice. (Boland & Hoch)
  • The Yankees had their annual umpires meeting this morning. (Mark Feinsand)
  • And finally, the Yankees are converting minor leaguer Addison Maruszak into a catcher. An infielder so far in his career, the Yankees are trying to turn him into some sort of eight-position super-sub. Injuries have slowed him a bit in the last two years, but Maruszak is a good athlete and can hit a little (career .324 wOBA in 808 PA), so there’s a non-zero chance it’ll will work. (Jennings)

Here’s the open thread for the night. The Islanders are the only local team in action, so yeah. You all know what to do, so go nuts.

Shameless Plug: Eephus League Scorebook Kickstarter

I know I’m not usually allowed out of my cage on a Monday, but I thought I oughta drop in a little plug for something that caught my eye. Eephus League, a sort-of-blog (more like a collection of cool graphics and general baseball miscellanea with a side of blogging), has created a baseball scorecard book that I personally think is the most amazing thing around. It is, as they said in the 90’s, the bomb. The shizznit. The cat’s meow. You get the point.

I’ve personally been unable to find a scorecard book that I actually like (I’m about two web shopping trips from printing something out, going to Kinko’s with it, and making my own) and have instead been growing a messy, unwieldy pile of scorecards from baseball programs. This scorebook totally appeals to me, and it should appeal to you too, if you love baseball scorekeeping. It’s a nerd thing, but hey, I’ve spent Saturday nights compiling spreadsheets.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Kickstarter, but the basic gist is is that the owner of a project posts a brief, hand-made video and text synopsis, then says they need X money in Y days. People pledge money to the project. If enough money is pledged, the project goes through. If not enough money is put in before time is up, no money is paid out at all. The more money you donate, the cooler gifts you get (I went for the pins). Sadly, no Paypal allowed.

You should all put in five bucks because baseball scoring is awesome. $15 nets you a scorecard and a feel-good vibe in your gut. Click here for the Kickstarter page.

Food For Thought: Derek Jeter

Hitting coach Kevin Long spoke yesterday about the changes he and Derek Jeter are making to the Captain’s swing, specifically with regards to the inside pitch. “The issue with the stride foot is when it crosses over and goes [toward the plate] and the ball is coming inside, you don’t have a path to get to that pitch,” said Long. “So he’s going to try to [keep his hands and body inside] and try to stay into it … Now, by staying square and going up on his toe and going [inside with the swing], he’s creating an avenue for his hips to get through and to become square to the baseball.”

The two heat graphs above show Jeter’s foul balls over the last two years, with 2009 on the left and 2010 on the right. They come courtesy of Dave Pinto at Baseball Analytics, and allow us to see that the inside pitch was giving the Cap’n a hard time last year. Instead of putting those balls in play like we’re so used to seeing, he was just fouling them off. Assuming the adjustments work, the bulk of the foul balls should come on pitches on the outer half in 2011.

The RAB Radio Show: February 21, 2011

All the position players are in camp, which means a chance for a new story to emerge. Remember, last week the talk was about how fat the pitchers were. This week we shift gears completely. A-Rod showed up svelter than last year, and he has good news regarding his hip.

Really, the returns to form by A-Rod and Teixeira will dictate the 2011 team’s offensive prowess. Mike and I talk about some of the problems they had in 2010.

Podcast run time 27:33

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

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Intro music: “Smile” by Farmer’s Boulevard used under a Creative Commons license

The importance of a hot start for Teixeira

(Charles Krupa/AP)

Even though we heard it when the Yankees signed him, and even though we’ve witnessed it for the past two seasons, it’s still hard to simply accept Mark Teixeira‘s slow starts. The team counts on him as one of its best hitters, and while he can apparently be that player from May through October, for the past four seasons he has turned in terrible Aprils. This year, though, the Yankees need offense in April more than ever, and a present Teixeira would go a long way towards racking up that run total.

The thing is, the Yankees don’t even need Teixeira to be great in April. He has been so bad the last two Aprils that even his second-worst month’s numbers would suffice. If he can do even that, it would go a long way to the Yankees opening up the season hot on offense. Again, that might be more important than in the past, since the pitching staff carries more questions this season. Furthermore, it will mean a more productive season overall. Here’s what Teixeira’s numbers would look like if we substituted his September 2010 for April 2010, and his July 2009 for April 2009:

Note: I used the same number of PA Tex had in April and reverse engineered the counting stats.

The 2010 change is particularly notable, because Teixeira’s second worst month last year was pretty putrid: .220/.346/.349 in 133 September PA. Of course, that was a monster month compared to his .136/.300/.259 April. You can imagine how those numbers would look had we substituted even his .250/.353/.460 June instead. These slow starts are absolutely killing Teixeira’s seasons, and they’re hurting the team’s ability to jump out to an early lead in April.

Maybe this is the year he breaks his four-year curse. After all, in 2006 he hit .293/.391/.495 in April. He’s a different hitter now, of course, so maybe that’s no longer possible. Still, even something along the lines of his April 2005 — .262/.321/.485 — would be a welcome sight this year. With some questions on the pitching staff and another tight AL East race on the horizon, the Yanks could sure use it.

Better Than You Remember: Doug Mientkiewicz

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Long before the days of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees had an annual hunt to find a solid first baseman that could handle the position and relegate Jason Giambi to the role he was most qualified for: designated hitter. The names are all too familiar and none really wowed us: Andy Phillips, Morgan Ensberg, Craig Wilson, Tony Clark, John Olerud, the Tino Martinez redux … all forgettable in their own way. Then there’s Doug Mientkiewicz, who had his Yankees stint abbreviated by injuries.

Signed to be that Giambi caddy, Mientkiewicz got more attention for being Alex Rodriguez‘s high school buddy than he did for being a member of the Yankees. There were articles and columns written about how having a long-time friend around might help Alex relax, since we were in the middle of the “A-Rod can’t handle the pressure!” era. The Yankees gave Mientkiewicz just $1.5M, peanuts compared to the rest of the roster.

His first appearance came in the first game of the season, when he pinch hit for Phelps in the sixth inning. The then-Devil Rays had replaced left Scott Kazmir with righty Shawn Camp, so Joe Torre went for the platoon advantage down two runs. Mientkiewicz sac bunted Jorge Posada to third and Robbie Cano to second with one out, and both came around to score when Derek Jeter singled two batters later. His leadoff single in the eighth started a three-run rally that put the Yankees ahead for good. Minky went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in the next game, but then he went into a prolonged slump.

From April 6th through April 28th, a span of 19 team games, Mientkiewicz went just 4-for-46 with four walks (.087/.176/.174). He was so bad that God started killing kittens every time he batted. The poor play limited Minky to late-inning defensive replacement duties, but he earned a start against the Red Sox on April 28th, with the Yankees six-and-a-half games out of first. Mientkiewicz took Julian Tavarez deep in the third inning, turning a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. Although the Red Sox would eventually win because Scott Proctor and Sean Henn stunk, it was enough to buy Mientkiewicz some more playing time.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Over the next 30 team games, Minky hit .284/.333/.486 with three homers and six doubles in 83 plate appearances. A 3-for-4 game with a double and a homer off the facing of the upper deck off Curt Schilling on May 23rd highlighted a stretch in which the Yankees won just five of 18 games. It was also the highlight of his Yankees tenure. Boston would get revenge though. About two weeks later, Mike Lowell collided with Mientkiewicz while running out a ground ball, giving the first baseman a concussion and a fractured bone in his right wrist. Minky would spend the next 90 days on the disabled list, forcing Phelps, Phillips, Wilson Betemit, and Miguel Cairo to play the majority of the time at first base in the second half.

Mientkiewicz returned on September 4th, first serving as a defensive replacement exclusively. He assumed starting first base duties again in the middle of the month, and finished the season with a 17-for-45 flourish (.459/.545/.676). Like most of the Yankees, Minky didn’t do much of anything in postseason, going 0-for-6 with a walk against Cleveland.

Overall, Mientkiewicz hit .277/.349/.440 with five homers in 192 plate appearances as a Yankee. He struck out just 23 times and walked 16, plate discipline numbers consistent with the rest of his career. His .346 wOBA was damn close to the .349 mark Giambi posted and better than Johnny Damon‘s .340 wOBA. Minky also played his usual stellar defense, posting a +4.0 UZR (+15.0 UZR/150) and +5 on John Dewan’s +/- system, numbers right in line with the rest of his career. All told, Mientkiewicz was worth 0.9 WAR in 72 games and 192 plate appearances, a 2.8 WAR pace over 600 plate appearances.

By no means was Mientkiewicz great in New York, but he was almost certainly the best of that first base lot that ran through town during the mid-aughts. He had a few notable hits and made plenty of brilliant defensive plays, though the injury ruined what could have been an even more productive season. For $1.5M, Minky was a relative bargain.