Yankees have no obvious favorite to replace Eiland

Via Ken Davidoff, the Yankees do not have an obvious candidate to replace Dave Eiland as pitching coach, and will look both inside and outside the organization to fill the position. Dave Duncan signed a new contract with the Cardinals today, so thankfully we can put an end to that speculation before it even begins. Triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred and roving pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras are the only in-house replacements I can come up with, but there’s bound to be more.

Meanwhile, Joe Girardi said he doesn’t expect there to be any more changes to his coaching staff even though all of their contracts are up. You’d have to think that hitting coach Kevin Long will get a nice big contract extension after his work in recent years.

Press Conference Roundup: Girardi, Joba, Lee, Rangers, Montero, More

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman held their annual end-of-the-season press conferences today, so as you’d expect there was plenty of news to come out of Yankee Stadium this afternoon. We’ll surely break everything down in detail throughout the offseason, but let’s round it all up here first and digest everything before moving on.

Obviously, the biggest news to come out of the presser was the announcement that pitching coach Dave Eiland will not return in 2011, but we covered that already. Ditto Andy Pettitte‘s various injuries. Everything else you see below comes from the various beat writers, who as usual did a bang-up job today. Seriously, we’re lucky to have such a great crew covering the team full-time. Those guys deserve their own appreciation thread. Anyway, on to the chatter.

  • Cashman spoke to Hal Steinbrenner about Girardi today, and he will meet with the manager’s agent tomorrow. Both sides want to work out a new deal as quickly as possible and get it out of the way.
  • Girardi on Joba Chamberlain: “We consider him a bullpen guy in the back end of the bullpen.” Well, so much for everyone hoping that they’d let him try the starting thing again next season. Maybe in a different uniform.
  • When asked about Cliff Lee, Girardi replied “I’m sure we’ll definitely look at a free agent market pitcher.” Remember, because Lee is still under contract with the Rangers, it would be tampering to talk about him directly.
  • Cashman on the Rangers: “[They were] a locomotive that we couldn’t withstand … You didn’t see the real Yankees at that point in time, but I think the Rangers had everything to do with that. We didn’t look old against Minnesota, and that was a week before. Texas made us look old.”
  • Cash on Cliff Lee: “Bottom line, pitching is the key to the kingdom.”
  • On Jesus Montero: “Is Montero ready for the big leagues? I have people who believe that. But he’s going to have to prove that.”
  • Cashman’s bland Derek Jeter quote: “”Derek has been – and will be – an important part of this organization … There’s still game left in that guy. He’s going to be a part of this franchise. We’ll work something out.” Blah blah blah.
  • On the contract negotiations with Jeter and Mariano Rivera: “These aren’t regular negotiations. These are legacy players.” I’m scared.
  • Cash owned up to his poor 2009-2010 offseason as well: “I didn’t have a great winter last season.” He added that Nick Johnson was Plan C at designated hitter behind Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

Pettitte battled back and hamstring issues in ALDS

Via Marc Carig and Ben Shpigel, Andy Pettitte‘s back and hamstrings tightened up during his Game Two start in the ALDS, which is why he was pushed back to Game Three of the ALCS. Andy also had to cut his between-start bullpen session short, and if the LDS had gone five games there’s a chance he might not have been able to start. At 38-years-old, it’s hard to be surprised that the lefty was battling nagging injuries down the stretch, it’s what guys that age do.

It’s almost like everyone bashing Joe Girardi for flipping Pettitte and Phil Hughes in the ALCS rotation didn’t have all the information and now look stupid for criticizing him. Funny.

Cashman: Eiland will not return as pitching coach

Via Mark Feinsand and Marc Carig, Brian Cashman told reporters this afternoon that Dave Eiland will not return as pitching coach in 2011. Cashman said Eiland was not being blamed for the way the pitching staff fell apart down the stretch, and that reasons for his decision to go in a different direction are “private.”

Eiland had been the team’s pitching coach since the 2008, and before that he held the same role with the club’s various minor league affiliates. His contract was up, so technically he isn’t being fired. They’re just not going to bring him back. Eiland missed basically the entire month of June for undisclosed personal reasons this year, and I wonder if that played a role in the move.

Rangers reworked roster key in ALCS victory

Of all the 2010 AL playoff teams, the Texas Rangers finished with the worst record. But that didn’t mean that they were the worst team. During the six months of the regular season plenty changes. For the Rangers it felt like everything changed. It was those mid-season tweaks that made them better than their record indicated. For the past three weeks they’ve been the best team in the AL.

Here is the starting lineup the Rangers sent to the field on Opening Day:

1. Julio Borbon, CF
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, LF
4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Chris Davis, 1B
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
8. Andres Blanco, 2B
9. Elvis Andrus, SS

The only out of place player is Blanco, who was subbing for the injured Ian Kinsler.

The pitching staff, too, was quite different. Do you know who started Opening Day? Scott Feldman. You might remember him, though I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, for his solid 2009 season, in which he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA. His peripherals were a bit worse; it’s unlikely that a player who doesn’t strike out many and still walks around the league average rate will sustain that type of performance. The crew behind him wasn’t that impressive, either.

1. Scott Feldman
2. Rich Harden
3. C.J. Wilson
4. Colby Lewis
5. Matt Harrison

During the course of the season the Rangers made the necessary improvements to the club. Borbon started off poorly before picking it up, but by July it was clear that the Murphy-Hamilton-Cruz outfield was optimal. In fact, had it not been for Cruz’s two DL stints and Hamilton’s missed September, Borbon probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the 468 PA that he did. Kinsler eventually came back and replaced Blanco. Saltalamacchia and his fellow backstop Taylor Teagarden were eventually optioned, opening the door for Matt Treanor and, eventually, Bengie Molina. Davis was horrible, which led to Justin Smoak, which eventually led to Mitch Moreland.

The pitching staff, of course, received the biggest makeover. Three of the five Opening Day starters didn’t make it to season’s end. This happens to plenty of teams, but rarely to a playoff team. Yet the Rangers upgraded where needed. It helped that Wilson and Lewis had better than expected years. Tommy Hunter returned from the DL and provided quality innings. And, of course, the Cliff Lee trade reshaped everything. To that point Wilson was the ace of the staff. Putting Cliff Lee at the top made the rotation that much deeper.

What killed the Yankees was the Rangers’ mid-season acquisitions. Lee is the obvious culprit here, as he pitched well enough to win Game 3 on his own. Molina also provided destruction of his own. We’ll remember him because of his dream-crushing three-run homer in Game 4, reminiscent of his dream-crushing homers of playoffs past. But for the series he went 5 for 16 with a double in addition to that homer. His counterpart, Matt Treanor, who didn’t join the club until the second week of the season, went 2 for 6 with a homer and a walk.

The regular season can tell you plenty of things. It lets you know which team performed best over the long haul. It tells you which teams were built to last. It makes clear which teams have strengths that can mask weaknesses. What it doesn’t tell you is which teams have changed and to what degree they did. It doesn’t tell you, at least not explicitly, that the Rangers suffered because they got off to a slow start and then limped to the finish because they were assured a playoff spot by the beginning of September. The Rangers were better than their record indicated, and their in-season changes were a big part of that.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 25th, 2010

Record Last Week: 1-3 (11 RS, 26 RA) lost best-of-seven ALCS four games to two
Season Record: 95-67 (859 RS, 693 RA, 98-64 Pythag. record), finished one game back in AL East, won Wild Card

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