A-Rod will play two nine-inning rehab games before returning

Alex Rodriguez will officially begin his minor league rehab assignment with High-A Tampa tonight, but the team wants him to play two full, nine-inning games with Triple-A Scranton before they activate him off the disabled list. Alex will DH tonight, play five or six innings in the field tomorrow, then if all goes well, he’ll head north to join SWB early next week. It sounds like the target day for his return is, coincidentally enough, Thursday at Target Field against the Twins.

CC Sabathia, right-hander

CC Sabathia has been a legitimate Cy Young contender in each of the last five seasons, mowing down hitters with power fastball, slider, changeup arsenal. Just imagine if he was using his dominant hand. As a trio of Daily News scribes found out, Sabathia is actually a righty. “I’m right-handed,” said the ace lefty. “I do everything with my right hand, including write. I played one year of T-ball righthanded and couldn’t catch, was uncoordinated. My dad changed me over, gave me a lefty glove and it just took. But my right hand is my dominant hand.”

I’m a righty, but I can kinda sorta throw left-handed. Not great, or good even, but I can get the ball to the intended target from maybe 30-40 feet. It wouldn’t be chest high or easily catchable, but I can get it there. I can’t fathom how a right-handed person can throw a baseball like Sabathia can. It just blows my mind.

Food For Thought: World Series WPA Leaders

Beyond The Box Score ran a great post today looking at the career leaders in Win Probability Added (WPA) in World Series play. The graphic up top (which you can click for a larger view) is the pitcher leaderboard, and you can click through the link to see the position players. At 2.40 WPA, Mariano Rivera has helped improved his team’s chances of winning in the Fall Classic more than any other player in the modern era (pitcher or hitter), dating back to Red Ruffing in the 30’s and 40’s. That 2.40 WPA came in only 36.1 career World Series innings too. For some perspective, Rivera had a 2.24 WPA in 60 IP last season. That’s how big he’s been in the postseason.

Mike Stanton (the lefty reliever, not the Marlins’ masher) is the only other recent pitcher to crack the top 12 leaderboard (1.59 WPA), Yankees or otherwise. He just barely made it too. Hideki Matsui (1.18 WPA) is the only recent player in the position players top 12, tied with Tim McCarver of all people. Godzilla only has 41 career plate appearances in the World Series, so he sure did a good job of making his contributions count. That list features the greatest Yankees of all-time basically, guys like Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson … all those guys make an appearance. Check out the post for more info, it’s pretty neat stuff.

The RAB Radio Show: August 12, 2011

Here’s what we have on tap for this week’s show:

  • The difference-makers in the Boston series. It was close to being a sweep in either direction.
  • Did you know that Mariano’s worst months are April and August? Yep. Makes sense. We talk about the semi-annual installment of WWWMW.
  • Six man rotation no more. The Yanks will move one of the guys out of the rotation after this weekend, but not really. They do have that doubleheader coming up, so it’s really going to persist for another week.
  • But after that week, it’s pretty clear who’s staying in the rotation.

Podcast run time 42:09

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.
[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow081211.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

A second half series between these two clubs is supposed to be important, it’s supposed to have major ramification on both the AL East and wildcard races. Instead, this one is just another series because Tampa has fallen out of it. This will be the third time the Yankees and Rays will play each other in a little less than a month, and right now New York leads the season series 5-4.

What Have The Rays Done Lately?

Tampa just swept a four game series against the Royals at home, and they’re 7-2 in their last nine games. Despite that, they’re just 12-13 since the All-Star break, and have fallen 9.5 games back in the AL East and 8.5 back of the wildcard. The Yankees need to win games for the sake of winning games, but there’s not much significance in specifically beating the Rays right now.

Rays On Offense

Photo Credit: Mike Fuentes, AP

With a .315 wOBA and a .153 ISO, the Rays have close to a perfectly average offense this season. The three centerpieces of their attack are Ben Zobrist (.279/.371/.498), Evan Longoria (.231/.329/.450), and (surprisingly enough) Casey Kotchman (.337/.398/.471), but they recently made a significant addition to the lineup: leadoff man Desmond Jennings. The hot shot prospect was called up about three weeks ago and has hit .333/.422/.597 with eight steals in 11 attempts in 19 games. He’s not really a .442 wOBA hitter, but he is quite good and a lot better than the dreck they were running out there in left field earlier this season.

As for the supporting cast, you have Johnny Damon (.262/.317/.387), B.J. Upton (.227/.309/.394), and Matt Joyce (.283/.345/.501, and he’s come back to life a bit of late). Robinson Chirinos (.250/.321/.354 in limited time) does the majority of the catching these days, though Kelly Shoppach will start against southpaws (.230/.337/.345 vs. LHP). Sean Rodriguez is a lefty masher (.274/.384/.505) and has been getting some regular playing time at shortstop (even against righties) because Reid Brignac (.193/.234/.219) and Elliot Johnson (.179/.242/.314) are terrible. Too bad Rodriguez isn’t much of a hitter against non-lefties (.175/.250/.263 vs. RHP). And then there’s Sam Fuld with his legendary .244/.309/.371 batting line, though I should note that he’s hitting .275/.362/.451 over the last month or so.

Rays On The Mound

Friday, LHP David Price (vs. CC Sabathia): The Yankees have seen Price three times this year, and he’s thrown one great game (7.1 IP, 2 R), one decent at best game (5 IP, 4 R), and one poor game (5 IP, 5 R). That’s actually in reverse chronological order, so he’s improved against New York each time out. Everyone knows Price’s shtick by now, he lives off his mid-90’s heat and will also throw a curveball, changeup, and occasional slider. His strikeout (8.68 K/9) and walk (2.14 BB/9) numbers are better than last season, but his homer rate (1.01 HR/9) is considerably worse. Price hasn’t been pitching all that well of late, with a 5.14 ERA in seven starts.

Saturday, RHP Jeremy Hellickson (vs. Phil Hughes): It took longer than expected, but the Yankees finally got their first crack at Hellickson the last time these clubs played, and he held them to two runs in seven innings. Remember he was supposed to start in the Bronx right before the All-Star break, but the game got rained out and Tampa skipped him. Hellickson is more of a command guy that a pure stuff guy, throwing his two and four-seamers right at 90 mph. His low-80’s changeup is his out pitch, and he’ll also mix in the occasional curveball. With strikeout (5.95 K/9) and ground ball (33.2%) rates that are less than stellar, Hellickson seems like a guy Yankee Stadium could eat alive. Tomorrow will be his first ever start there.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Sunday, RHP Jamie Shields (vs. Freddy Garcia): Another guy the Yankees have seen three times this year, Shields has shut New York down the last two times he faced them (8 IP, 1 R and 7.2 IP, 1 R), though his first start against them was merely pretty good (7 IP, 4 R). He’ll live off that world class changeup, setting it up with a low-90’s heater, a cutter, and a curveball that he continues to use more than ever. Shields has allowed no more than one run in four of his last six starts (two complete games), but in the other two he’s allowed six and ten runs. I’d count on the good version showing up this weekend.

Bullpen: Despite the continued success of Kyle freaking Farnsworth (2.56 FIP), Tampa actually has a bottom nine bullpen in MLB in terms of ERA (3.88), FIP (4.19), and xFIP (4.48). Joel Peralta (3.79 FIP) and Juan Cruz (3.57 FIP) have been fine in setup work, and Brandon Gomes (3.44 FIP) is starting to play a more prominent role. After those four you have three lefties are varying effectiveness. J.P. Howell has been terrible this season (5.60 FIP), which isn’t all that surprising since the guy missed a year and a half with major shoulder surgery. He does have value against same-side batters though (.217/.280/.283 vs. LHB). Cesar Ramos (4.98 FIP with no platoon split) has been sketchy, and hard-throwing Jake McGee’s dominant stretch after being recalled last month has came to an end about two weeks ago. He’s got a 6.01 FIP on the season.

Recommended Rays Reading: DRays Bay. If you want to catch one or all of the games this weekend, here’s some ticket info courtesy of RAB Tickets and TiqIQ.

Mailbag: Posada, Nunez, Burnett, Martin, Wilson

Another Friday, another mailbag. This week our focus is on players currently with the team that may or may not be next season, plus some miscellaneous stuff about C.J. Wilson and prospects. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in some questions.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Ryan asks: Do you guys think that Posada makes it onto the playoff roster?

I do think he’ll make it, assuming the Yankees get to the postseason, of course. We don’t want to jinx anything. Jorge Posada still has some value as a veteran pinch-hitter against right-handed pitchers, plus it won’t be a real chore to carry him on the roster since they figure to drop down to an eleven man pitching staff. I try not too put too much stock into intangibles, but we know Posada won’t be overwhelmed in a big spot in October, which is comforting (if nothing else).

Chris asks: If Posada does not retire at the end of the season do you see him trying to get a catching job in the NL or as a DH in the AL? I think he has a chip on his shoulder and would be looking to prove the Yankees (and Girardi) wrong.

I think he’s going to retire, but if he doesn’t, I imagine he’ll go to an AL club to DH. Maybe he’s open to being a part-time first baseman and primary pinch-hitter for an NL club, but I think that’s a big if. I see two likely destinations if he sticks around after 2011: the Rays and Mets. Both are close to home for him and could use someone for those roles.

Tucker asks: What trade value does Eduardo Nunez hold? Ken Rosenthal recently wrote that he has a lot because he’s hitting well and can “play” premium positions. What’s your take?

You all know that I’m not Nunez’s biggest fan, but there’s no denying the dude has some serious trade value. He’s shown that he can hit in the limited at-bats he’s gotten this year, and his impressive contact rate is in line with his minor league track record and scouting report. His defense has improved as the season has gone on (likely because he’s getting more reps), and he’s a legitimate shortstop. That last part alone is hard to find.

Let’s be conservative and says he’s a .320 wOBA, 25+ stolen base, average defense guy going forward. That’s basically this year’s version of Erick Aybar, who’s already a two-win player with six weeks left in the season. Five years of that guy at a bargain price will have a ton of value on the trade market. I don’t think that it’s an accident the Mariners wanted him in a potential Cliff Lee trade last year, legit middle infielders that are more than zeroes with the bat are pretty rare these days.

Preston asks: What are the chances the Yankees would/could trade or cut Burnett at the end of the season?

Maybe they’ll try to trade him, but I’m positive the Yankees won’t just release A.J. Burnett this offseason. If they do that, they’re still on the hook for his entire contract, so why not just keep him to see if he can give you anything, even as a reliever? For better or for worse, the Yankees are stuck with A.J. for the next two seasons.

Jeff asks: What do the Yankees do with Russell Martin in the off season? He narrowly qualifies as a Type A player. Do the Yankees offer arbitration whether he is Type A or B? Are Montero or Romine ready to take the job as a catcher in the big leagues? Could the Yankees platoon those two guys with Montero getting some time at DH?

The Type-A stuff doesn’t matter because he doesn’t have six full years of service time yet. You can’t get compensation picks for players you non-tender, and Martin won’t get those six years of service time until after next season. He’d probably get something like $6-6.5M his final time through arbitration after the season, which is a steep price but not the end of the world. The Yankees could use him as a caddy with either Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, breaking those guys in gradually rather than just handing them the starting catcher’s job.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Mark asks: Do you see the Yankees and Rangers getting into another testy free agent battle for C.J. Wilson this offseason? If yes, do you think he’s worth the high cost and whose spot in the rotation he would take? Thanks!

I have a feeling that we’re going to spent a lot of time talking about Wilson in November and December, so I don’t want to get too deep into it now. He’s obviously worth inquiring about, but I can’t see how in the world he gets less than Burnett or John Lackey did. He’s straight up better than those guys were at the time of their free agency, he’s left-handed, and he doesn’t have the recent injury history either. I like Wilson but I don’t love him, especially at that price. But as the second best starter on the market, the Yankees are bound to show some interest.

As for the last part of your question, I’m guess that one of Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon will not be back next year. Even if they are, it won’t be too difficult to free up a rotation spot for a pitcher of Wilson’s caliber.

Chris asks: I read an article that said the Phillies haven’t depleted their farm system in spite of all the trades of the last few years. A) is this true and if so, B) how is it the Yankees are seemingly one deal away from depleting their own? Is the Phillies system that much better?

To answer (A) first, the Phillies have traded 13 prospects (not counting J.A. Happ, who technically wasn’t a prospect) for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence over the last two years or so, and they’ve somehow managed to hold onto Domonic Brown. They started out with a very good farm system and have done a nice job of replenishing it by developing mid-round picks. That said, you can see the toll all those moves have taken on their farm system. They had to scrounge up a pair of Single-A kids to headline a package for Pence because they didn’t have the players in Triple or Double-A to get it done.

The Phillies are in the middle of the best stretch in franchise history and are rightfully in win now mode, because guys like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and even Lee and Halladay are on the wrong side of 30 and will see their skills decline over the next few years. Their window isn’t infinite, and at some point the well will dry up. It’s kinda like what happened to the Yankees in 2005 or so, but they obviously had a much higher margin of error given their payroll.

As for (B), it’s just a matter of perception. The Yankees could deal two of Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances and still boast a very strong farm system with two legitimate number one type prospects (whichever one of those three is left plus Gary Sanchez), one super-toolsy guy with some major helium (Mason Williams), and a cast of rock solid prospects close to big leagues (Austin Romine, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Corban Joseph, etc.). Yeah, the farm system would take a big hit dealing two of those three, but it would still be in much better shape than half the farm system’s out there.