Open Thread: February 24th Camp Notes

MFIFKY. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Here’s a recap of today’s action…

  • CC Sabathia threw an early morning batting practice session with Joe Girardi, Yogi Berra, Larry Rothschild, and others watching. He threw around 30 pitches and felt he kept his mechanics together, saying his stamina was better after the weight loss. (Chad Jennings, Marc Carig & Erik Boland)
  • Rafael Soriano threw a bullpen session with Jorge Posada behind the plate while Derek Jeter took some hacks against Sergio Mitre. Ground ball pitcher against ground ball hitter? Poor worms. (Carig & Carig)
  • Brian Cashman said that Andrew Brackman has been the most impressive young pitcher in camp so far, but he also mentioned David Phelps, Adam Warren, Hector Noesi, and Manny Banuelos. “You might see all of them [in 2011],” said the GM. (Jack Curry)
  • Position players did a bunch of mundane field drills, including cut-off man work on throws from the outfield. Russell Martin did some blocking drills, but Frankie Cervelli is the likely starter behind the plate for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener. (Mark Feinsand, Bryan Hoch & Carig)
  • Joe Girardi misspoke when he revealed the Spring Training rotation the other day. Phil Hughes will start the fourth game, A.J. Burnett the fifth game instead of vice versa. He said not to read anything into the order, and I wouldn’t either. It’s still February. (Jennings)
  • Apparently the Yankees have a “director of optimal performance” by the name of Chad Bohling. The players watched him give a presentation this morning on … optimizing performance? I guess. (Jennings)
  • As for the annual team building exercise (the pool hall, arcade, etc.), that’ll happen later on in camp. There’s too much going on right now. (Carig)

This is your open thread for the evening. The Isles are the only local team in action, so yeah. Looks like The Office and Parks & Rec for me. Talk about whatever you like, just be cool.

Carpenter would accept a trade

With Adam Wainwright out for the season, attention has turned to Chris Carpenter. He was already a guy I thought would fit well with the Yanks, and if the Waino injury keeps the Cards at bay in the first half, that could become a reality around the trade deadline. But, since he has 10 and 5 rights, he can veto any trade the Cardinals try to make. According to a recent report by Ken Rosenthal, that won’t be much of an issue.

“If the Cardinals wanted to trade me, obviously I would go. There’s no question about that. I’m not going to hold back or veto or do anything like that if they’re looking to move me.” This won’t become an issue until at least mid-season, but it’s good to know that if the Cardinals fall out of it, there will be few roadblocks to acquiring Carpenter. With a system as deep as the Yanks, there’s surely a match somewhere.

Playoff Odds Report has Yanks sitting pretty

That’s the first iteration of Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds Report, which is available to non-subscribers. Using a Monte Carlo simulator, they run simulations based on expected winning percentage. Even though the Red Sox come out two games ahead in this simulation, the Yankees still have a 70.8 percent playoff odds, thanks to weak competition around the rest of the league. In fact, the next closest team is Texas at 85.6 wins. In the NL, only the Phillies and the Giants come close to the Yanks.

Things might appear a bit bleak when we’re only looking inward. But when compared to the rest of the league, the Yanks still have plenty to be excited about.

The RAB Radio Show: February 24, 2011

Ben joins the show today, and we talk about a few of the position battles in camp. It starts with the pitching and how the competition among the young players is going. We also hit on the bench and the growing perception that Eric Chavez has some kind of edge.

Podcast run time 19:22

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
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Intro music: “Smile” by Farmer’s Boulevard used under a Creative Commons license

Heyman: Garcia likely No. 4, No. 5 “wide open”

The most peculiar aspect of the Yankees’ rotation battle this spring is that no candidate stands out. The contestants are either flawed veterans — Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon — or unproven youngsters — Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Andrew Brackman, etc. This leaves the Yankees with some tough decisions. One of them, though, might be made already.

This morning SI’s Jon Heyman reported that Garcia “has a leg up” on the No. 4 starer job. That would mean he’s a leg up on everyone, since he’d have to fall into the No. 5 spot before falling out of the race completely. When the Yankees signed Garcia, I assumed he’d win one of those spots out of spring training. He’s an experienced veteran who pitched serviceably last year, even with diminished stuff. Even though he came to camp on a minor league deal, I was confident of seeing him pitch in pinstripes this April.

While Garcia might already have an assumed spot in the rotation, apparently the Yanks are being a bit more tight-lipped about the last spot. Heyman calls the the competition “wide open,” but I think the Yanks have a good idea of what they’re doing there. They have a few young guys, but perhaps none quite as ready for the bigs as Ivan Nova. Brackman and Phelps would be nice options, but I can’t see either of them, in their limited experiences, making the club out of camp. That essentially boils the competition to Nova and Colon, and unless Colon lights up opposing hitters during his spring starts, it’s hard to see anyone but Nova taking the job.

This is really just a reminder of the differences between perception and reality in spring training. Last year the Yankees held a fifth starter competition, but word was that Hughes was the favorite from the start. This year they’re doing something similar, but if you break down the contestants it’s hard to pick anyone other than Garcia and Nova, with Colon having an outside shot because of his veteran status. Maybe these things do motivate players, but they’re easy enough to see through. The Yanks are saying it, but from the looks there’s not much of a competition at all.

2011 Season Preview: Mark Teixeira

What up, Mark? (Mike Carleson/AP)

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 be going up every day, Monday through Friday, from now until Opening Day.

It started in 1985. Don Mattingly, coming off his first full season in the bigs, during which he led the league in hits and won the batting title, got his first start at first base on Opening Day. In the two years before that, Ken Griffey opened the season at first. Dave Revering, Bob Watson, and Chris Chambliss held the honors in the years before that. But from 1985 through 1995, it was Mattingly who manned first on Opening Day. It was the start of a tradition.

When Mattingly retired after the 95 season he passed the torch to Tino Martinez, who started at first on Opening Day from 1996 through 2001. The honors then went to Jason Giambi, who was supposed to start at first on Opening Day from 2002 through at least 2008. Only Josh Phelps starting at first on Opening Day 2007 broke that streak. Now Mark Teixeira is the man at first, and in 2011 he will open his third pinstriped season there. Save for that one anomalous Opening Day, the Yankees have had four men man first base on Opening Day since 1985. It is a tradition, once maligned, that we all hope continues through 2016, when Teixeira perhaps passes the torch to the next great Yankees first baseman.

For now we can enjoy the current first baseman in his prime. While Teixeira had his second worst, and certainly most disappointing, season in 2010, he’s still a world class athlete in the prime of his career. Despite the down year the expectations range high.

Best Case

Game changer. (Charles Krupa/AP)

By the time a player reaches age 30, we usually have a good idea of his true talent. This appears to be the case with Teixeira, who produced a wOBA between .402 and .410 from 2007 through 2009, peaking at .410 in 2008. Since he’s 31 and unlikely to dramatically improve, we can safely peg his peak value at 2008, when, on the strength of his best offensive season and a particularly impressive defensive one, he produced 7.3 WAR.

That would make his best case section pretty boring. That’s not going to fly. As I examined earlier this week, a hot start could make a big difference for Teixeira. In that quick and dirty analysis I substituted Teixeira’s second-worst month for his worst one. It made something of a difference in his season numbers, particularly in batting average and slugging. But what if Teixeira were to have an otherworldly April, and then go on to have a season similar to 2009?

The last season in which Teixeira produced good numbers in April was 2006, when he hit .293/.391/.495 in 115 April PA. If we simply substitute those numbers for Teixeira’s April 2009 numbers — .200/.367/.371 in 90 PA — this is what we’d come up with:

.303/.387/.575

And yet, in 2007 Teixeira hit .306/.400/.563, so this isn’t really out of line at all out of line with what Teixeira can do. Yet it’s a bit better than his 2009. The best case for Teixiera, then, is an MVP.

Worst Case

No one wants to see this again in 2011. (Paul Battaglia/AP)

Most of us don’t want to acknowledge the worst case scenario for any player. Not at this point in the year. It involves injury, of course, and with Teixeira that possibility is a bit more real than it was at this time last year. While he didn’t spend any time on the DL, the year was marked by a series of injuries that hampered his production, and which culminated in a hamstring strain during the ALCS.

Baseball Injury Tool notes four different instances in 2010 when Teixeira was listed as day-to-day. There was the foul ball he took off his foot at the end of May, but the real litany came towards the end of the season. He missed a game at the end of August with a thumb contusion, an injury that probably lingered the rest of the season; he had a cortizone shot sometime at the end of September. Then, towards the middle of September, it was revealed that he had a toe fracture — which he suffered at the end of August. Then came the hamstring strain.

Most of these injuries, it appears, stemmed from fluke things such as getting hit by pitches. That’s good news going forward, since it doesn’t portend a repeat in 2011. Still, we know that small injuries, especially the thumb one, can seriously hamper Teixeira’s production. Repeating any part of his 2011 injury wise would probably bring on the worst case scenario.

The other part of the worst case is that Teixeira’s production truly has declined. Again, it’s easy to look at the injuries as an explanation. He did produce two stellar months in July and August, and those were two months where he was a month removed from any day-to-day injuries. Still, we have no idea the degree to which that link is causal. There have been first baseman who have produced similarly to Teixeira early in their careers, only to decline around age 30. The worst case, then, would be a facsimile of his 2010 season, but perhaps without the torrid July and August production.

What’s Likely To Happen

Given the injuries that slowed his 2010 season and his focus on getting off to a decent start in 2011, I think that Teixeira’s most likely case involves a compromise between his 2008 and 2009 seasons. That is, an OBP close to, but not quite at, .400, and a SLG that ranges around .550 rather than .565. That would still provide tremendous production for the Yankees, and would put him among the best first basemen in the American League.

Despite Teixeira’s best efforts, it’s tough to envision anything but a slow start. This is now a four-year trend, and to predict a reversal is to bet blindly on optimism. As long as his start doesn’t resemble 2010, which was his worst April ever, the Yanks can weather the extra outs from the No. 3 spot.

Thankfully, along with the trend of slow starts comes the trend of torrid production later in the season. Even in his down year last season he crushed the ball during the summer months. If it is blind optimism to predict a hot start, it is equally blind pessimism to predict a drop-off in summer numbers. When healthy Teixeira is a proven second half hitter, and that will help the Yankees tremendously heading into a September pennant race.

As Mark Teixeira goes, so will the Yankees. He occupies a key spot in the lineup, and the Yankees rely on his production to help lead their league-best offense. While 2010 represented a down year, it was also one marked by injuries. If he remains healthy in 2011, it’s hard to expect anything but another elite season.