When it comes to pitching effectively, Brian Bruney and his control problems don’t warrant much sympathy from Yankee fans. But that’s not stopping Bruney from trying to play his cards anyway.

In a Mark Feinsand-penned profile, Bruney talks about pitching in Spring Training to earn a spot on the team. In the piece, he is judiciously critical of the former Yankee regime:

Bruney credits his offseason conditioning program – daily workouts, no alcohol, a strict diet and plenty of sleep – with improving his outlook, but he also believes the changes on the Yankees’ coaching staff – particularly Dave Eiland taking over as pitching coach for Ron Guidry – have helped him focus on the task at hand rather than worrying constantly about the consequences of a bad outing.

“I formed a relationship with Dave where he’s easy to talk to,” Bruney said. “In the past, I might not have had that relationship; I didn’t talk to Gator.”

Bruney also admitted to a level of fear in playing for Joe Torre, who was constantly criticized in recent years for overusing certain relievers.

“With Torre – and I’m not trying to bad-mouth anybody – sometimes you would go out there and try to be so good because you were scared of doing bad,” Bruney said. “You can’t pitch like that. (Joe) Girardi understands that you make mistakes – and I’m going to make them.”

Bruney’s comments aren’t out of line. We’re leaving that job up to Theo Epstein. But they do provide an interesting glimpse behind the closed doors of the Joe Torre regime.

We knew that Torre relied on certain relievers more than others. But did anything that Torre say or do cause other relievers to try too hard? That’s what Bruney claims. But then again, he might just be making excuses for his 37:39 BB:K ratio.

If Bruney can pitch well and pitch effectively, he’ll earn a spot on this team. He’s shown flashes of what he can do with his stuff. Maybe a changing of the guard will do him well or maybe he’s just laying the blame for his shortcomings on someone else. Time will tell.

Categories : Pitching
Comments (22)
  • Vandy’s Alvarez out at least 6 weeks
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    3B Pedro Alvarez, one of if not the best prospect for the 2008 draft, broke a bone in his hand during his first at-bat of the year. He’ll be out at least 6 weeks, which is basically half the college season. The injury unquestionably hurts Alvarez’s draft stock, but will it be enough to get him to the Yanks at #28 overall? I think so. If he comes back and plays like a mere mortal, there will be tons of questions about how bad the injury was, if he’s fully healthy, will it be a long-term thing, etc. Elite players have fallen for far less. The real question is whether or not Alvarez will decide to return to school for his senior year to try and build his stock back up. Even with the potential questions, he’d be a no-brainer at #28. · (21) ·

  • Joba the Great
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    In a subscriber-only piece in Baseball America, the BA prospect experts engage in a little Joba-Buchholz debate. The piece ends with John Manual’s take: “Chamberlain’s superior fastball makes him the better bet to be a long-term ace. In fact, it makes him the best pitching prospect to come around since I’ve been at BA, surpassing Josh Beckett and Mark Prior.” That is some high praise. · (27) ·

Mike’s Sunday-night Picture Day post showed that, hey, for all the talk of the off-season, there’s nothing like seeing some baseball players. The posed photos were often hilarious, often awkward, and all in front of some nondescript background.

So how about some practice photos instead? Via an e-mail from loyal reader and frequent commenter Brian comes the New York Yankees photos from Daylife.

Soon, very soon, the games start, and then it’s just a short jaunt until Opening Day. I’m ready.

Categories : Spring Training
Comments (4)
  • Yanks express some skepticism over Hughes’ blog
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    Buried on the second page of a story about Phil Hughes’ blog by Lisa Kennelly is a tidbit about the Yanks’ thoughts on Phil Hughes’ blog. Brian Cashman does not want players putting too much information out there, and Jason Zillo, director of media relations, said blogs could be banned for all players. In my opinion, the Yanks should tread a bit lightly around this issue. Blogs can be the team’s best friend, but they can also be a team’s worst enemy. Protecting the flow of two-way information is important, but being too heavy-handed may not be the right solution to something that isn’t yet a problem. · (12) ·

There’s an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune today about Kevin Towers and his ability to build bullpens. Well, that’s what the article would lead you to believe at first. The main topic of discussion is Heath Bell. He’s a somewhat strange case. For the most part, his minor league numbers were good, despite a few iffy years. But he never found success in the majors during his early years. Yet, through it all, he’s always been able to 1) strike out a ton of guys and 2) not walk too many. If you’ll glance through his stats in the minors and majors, he’s been able to carry at least a 3:1 K/BB ratio most of the way. And in the later years in the minors, it was far greater than that.

“I can’t really get into details,” Padres General Manager Kevin Towers said yesterday, “but we have guys who do stat analysis who look at lucky versus unlucky. Heath had horrible numbers in the big leagues, but (based on) hard-hit balls versus non-hard-hit balls and balls that should have been caught that weren’t, he just had rough, rough luck.”

Now, I’m not going to sift through batted ball charts right now. Maybe that’s an exercise for another day. But for now, let’s look around the majors who in some way or another fit the Bell profile. We’re talking guys in their late 20s who have had minor league success in the bullpen, but who haven’t quite put it together on the major league level. Peripherals are really key. We’re looking for a strikeout an inning, or at least close to that. And we’re looking for a 3:1 K/BB ratio.

Jason Frasor

Frasor has been in the majors since 2004, and he actually had a decent year in 2005, so he might not jump out at you right away. But if you look at his major league numbers, he’s put up a strikeout an inning and at least a 3:1 K/BB ratio over the past two years. His ERAs in those campaigns: 4.32 and 4.58. But what I find most similar between Bell and Frasor are the minor league marks. Once Frasor was converted to the bullpen in 2003, he was a strikeout machine. The best part is that he doesn’t walk too many. In fact, in his first year in the pen, he struck out 86 in 61 innings, which is insane. It’s more insane that he struck out 87 the previous year in 112 innings. And to bring the insanity meter even higher, he walked just 18 guys in 2003, giving him a K/BB ratio of 4.78. He could really help out an improving Blue Jays bullpen this year.

Grant Balfour

Balfour had spent most of his career with the Twins until 2006, when he was signed by the Red, and then split time between Milwaukee and Tampa Bay in 2007. In the majors, he’s put up ERAs in the mid-4s. And when you look at his peripherals, he seems to walk a few too many guys to fit our desired profile. But he does strike out more than a guy an inning, which is the first step. Now, take a gander at his minor league numbers. Well now. Those K:BB numbers are looking a bit nicer. The Brewers hid him for a bit in the minors last year, where he racked up 47 strikeouts to 11 walks in 32 innings. So yeah, the potential is there. And really, if you look at his game logs, you’ll see that his ERA last year was rather tainted by a zero-inning, four-run outing against the Red Sox. We could certainly see Balfour step up this year and become another cog in Tampa Bay’s hypertrophying pitching staff.

Santiago Casilla

You might notice a discrepancy in Casilla’s age. Look at his Baseball Reference page, and then his minors page. The A’s roster has him as being born in 1980, so we’ll say that he’s entering his age 28 season. He only has one season of more than six innings in the majors, last year, when he tossed up a 4.44 ERA in 50.7 innings, striking out 52 and walking 23. So he walked just a few too many guys, but nothing too too alarming. He had a similar trend in the minors, too, basically a 2:1 ratio. So why do I mention him? His previous years have been better. Back in 2005, he struck out 103 batters in 65 innings, while only walking 29. That’s 14 per nine innings! I’m not sure what happened in 2006, though. He struck out 32 in 33 innings, walking only 10, which is quality. But he tossed under 35 innings for the year, which speaks of injury. RotoWorld notes shoulder issues in 2006. Casilla has only been up in the majors for one season, really, and could struggle again in 2008. However, he’s not a bad bet moving forward, especially if he can regain that electric strikeout stuff he apparently demonstrated in ’05.

Greg Aquino

I really considered leaving Aquino off here because of his walk rates. He’s managed decent strikeout rates since converting to the bullpen, but he’s never really gotten far past the 2:1 K/B ratio, even in the minors. He had some arm troubles last year which limited his playing time. But if he can find some way to bring down that walk rate, he’s going to find success in the majors. Of course, it makes sense then that Andy MacPhail picked him off of waivers this off-season.

A few other guys to keep an eye on:

Zach McClellan, Brad Salmon, Jack Taschner, Tyler Yates, Francisco Rosario, John Bale.

Of course, none of this is guaranteed, not by any means. A thorough scouting job needs to be performed on each guy before you can say that he’s going to blossom into a viable reliever. However, given the statistical profiles, it seems these guys are worth a look.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
Comments (4)
  • BA’s Top 100 Prospects List
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    BA revealed their Top 100 List today, and surprisingly they didn’t cut it into two parts like most years. Joba comes in at number three (behind the overrated Jay Bruce and the underrated Evan Longoria), making it the second year in a row the Yanks boasted the top pitching prospect in the minors. (I’m not counting Dice-K from last year; dude was basically a veteran). Joba’s backed up Jose Tabata (#37), Austin Jackson (#41), and IPK (#45). Alan Horne could be considered a snub, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

    Update: Horne, Jeff Marquez and Jesus Montero each got a few Top 100 votes in the “Best of the Rest” section. Sorry, subscription required.
    · (17) ·

  • Shut out of premium ticket opportunities
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    The Yanks held their drawing for Premium Ticket sales yesterday, and I just received the following e-mail from the Yankees:

    Dear Yankees Fan: Thank you for registering for a chance to purchase tickets during the 2008 Yankees Premium Game Pre-on-sale. Unfortunately your entry was not selected for the online opportunity. As a fan, your loyalty to the Yankees is unparalleled and we would like to thank you for registering. As a reminder, all 2008 individual game tickets go on-sale, online only, on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 10:00 am.

    Anyone else on the receiving end of this one? Anyone win the lottery and get a chance to buy the Premium Game tickets? I bet the scalpers did. · (28) ·