Open Thread: It’s too nice to play inside

What a wonderful Saturday we got. It felt totally refreshing to walk around Queens today, seeing everyone outside. The summer heat might be a drag in the city, but at this time of year it can’t be beat.

Just in case you were too busy to check, the Yanks dropped a game to the Astros this afternoon. The team did pick up 16 hits, including Robinson Cano‘s first spring home run and a Brett Gardner triple. Al Aceves got knocked around, though, allowing five runs in 4.1 innings. This will surely cause a new round of headlines tomorrow declaring that Aceves’s ascendancy to the fifth starter role is in jeopardy.

(Though, not really. It appears Aceves is the darling of this race and people will gloss over this poor outing, while they’ll continue to scrutinize Joba. So it goes.)

If you’re in this evening, have at it with the open thread.

A bedroom fit for a Yankee fan

A long-term RAB reader e-mailed me this week with a note about his son’s bedroom. Craig had just redone his 14-year-old son’s bedroom, and the family went with a Yankee theme. So as we await the two weeks until Opening Day to pass us by, check out these photos. The only better room would be one that replicates the Yankees’ locker room.

And then go outside. It’s far too nice out in the New York area to spend Saturday indoors, March Madness be damned.

MLB.com’s Draft Reports

MLB.com has started to post some reports for this year’s top draft prospects, which includes the player’s bio, a scouting report, and video. Among the three dozen or so players featured are personal fave Brandon Workman (who I’ve discussed here several times), top high school arm Jameson Taillon, and top college bat Zack Cox. There’s still no video for Bryce Harper (you can see him here), but they’ll be adding videos all spring long, so he’ll be there soon enough.

I can’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday morning.

Winning the battle to get traded

New York Yankees’ Sergio Mitre delivers a warm up pitch in the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, in Port Charlotte, Fla., Friday, March 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

On a spring-like Friday, Joel Sherman dropped the not-so-breaking news that the Yankees will probably trade either Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin before Spring Training is out. Both of these vets have bounced around the league, and neither figures to be too high up on the Yanks’ depth charts. The team can’t send either to AAA, and instead of wasting roster spots, the Yankees will try to turn their surplus into something at all.

But who will go? In writing about it here yesterday, Mike voiced the prevalent opinion that Gaudin will stay. The soon-to-be 27-year-old has a better career track record than Mitre and has posted league-average numbers in the American League over 463 innings. Mitre, meanwhile, is 29 and with no real record of success. He wasn’t a highly-touted prospect while with the Cubs, and he hasn’t been very effective at getting outs as a Major Leaguer.

Yet the allure of Spring Training stats is strong with this one. Last night, in the Yanks’ 6-2 loss to the Rays, Mitre started and was stellar. Facing Major Leaguers who will make up most of Tampa’s Opening Day lineup, he threw 5 innings and gave up two runs on a pair of hits and a walk. He struck out seven. Gaudin relieved him and wasn’t effective. In 2.1 innings, Chad allowed three earned runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out just one and walked away with his third loss on the spring. The appearance effectively ended Gaudin’s hopes of landing the fifth starting spot.

On the spring, these two pitchers spot opposite numbers. Mitre has been the Yanks’ best starter. In 14 innings, he has allowed five runs on nine hits. He has walked three while striking out 14. Gaudin, meanwhile, has thrown 9.1 innings and has given up nine earned runs on 16 hits and five walks. He has struck out just five. Despite Mitre’s tradeability due to his lower salary, one might be tempted to say it is a no-brainer.

But the real question concerns Mitre. With a career K/9 IP of 5.5, he’s never been a strike out pitcher, and he’s having a Spring Training that makes one think of a flash in the pan. It’s true he’s another winter of strengthening away from Tommy John surgery, but nothing in his pre-surgical record suggests he will keep up this pitching success. Gaudin, at least, can rest on his AL laurels.

In the end, the Yanks don’t need to make a decision yet. They don’t need a fifth starter until late April and could juggle the rotation to keep both around until the right offer comes. When it’s time to trade one of them, though, I’d be far less sad to see Mitre vanish into the ether of the NL. He may be the Yanks’ Grapefruit League Cy Young, but history is littered with those pitchers who are Spring Training All Stars and revert to form come the regular season.

Spring Training Game Thread: Let’s play two

The Yankees already won one game today, beating the Tigers at home in Tampa by some score that doesn’t matter. What is important is that CC Sabathia was the man on the mound, throwing his breaking balls for strikes and his fastballs by hitters. He tired once he approached his limit of 75-80 pitches, but that’s to be expected. Mariano Rivera threw ten pitches in a flawless inning, and Alex Rodriguez hit a ball that cleared the George M. Steinbrenner Field sign in left-center, making Jesus Montero‘s blast off the M look rather pedestrian.

As for tonight’s game, the half of the team that didn’t play this afternoon will take on the Rays on the road. Trade bait Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre will give it another guy as they try to stake their claim to the fifth starter’s job. Exciting stuff.

Here’s the lineup…

Gardner, CF
Granderson, LF
Swisher, DH
Posada, C
Winn, RF
Miranda, 1B
Pena, 2B
Laird, 3B
Nunez, SS

Scheduled Pitchers: Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Jason Hirsh, Amaury Sanit, and Zach Segovia.

Also scheduled to play: Reegie Corona, Colin Curtis, Reid Gorecki, Edwar Gonzalez, Jesus Montero, and Austin Romine.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, and MLB Network lifted the blackout in the Yanks’ market, so the game is viewable by all. Enjoy.

Photo Credit: Mike Carlson, AP

Sanchez, Pope sent down

Via Bryan Hoch, we learn this afternoon that the Yankees have made two more cuts from the Big League camp. Ryan Pope — 3 G, 3 IP, 1 H, 3 K — has been reassigned to the minor league camp, and Romulo Sanchez — 4 G, 3.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K — has been optioned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Despite less than stellar Spring Training numbers, the Yankees will probably give Sanchez some Major League innings at some point this season if and when the bullpen needs some help. Slowly, slowly, the roster is getting whittled down.

What’s in a projection system?

You might have noticed throughout our 2010 season preview series that we’ve been combining various projection systems at the end of each article. Each system handles projections differently, so we wanted to get an average, just to see if we can weed out some more bias. Yet the same caveat still applies to the averaged projection: it’s just a projection. It’s not saying that this is how Player A will hit in 2010. It’s saying that, based on the methodology, this is the best idea we have of the player’s potential production.

As John Sterling often says, you just can’t predict baseball. There are so many moving parts, so many variables, so many unknowns that predictions simply cannot take them all into account. You can compensate for the unknown, but you can’t factor it into predictions and projections. Thankfully, projection systems aren’t trying to predict anything. Instead, they’re taking the available data and putting it through a process which outputs its best idea of a player’s future performance. But, because of all the factors it cannot consider, these projections are often inaccurate.

Then why have them? Because it’s better than assuming a player will repeat his numbers from the previous season. Few players put up the same numbers year after year. Production fluctuates. Players get unlucky and players go on hot streaks. A pitcher can throw a perfect game and then allow five runs in his next start. Projection systems try to smooth this out, taking all available data and processing it in order to give us an idea of a player’s next-year production.

Projection systems have their biases, too. PECOTA, for example, hammers older players. That does make a degree of sense, because production tends to decline as a player ages. Not every player, though, declines along the same path. So when PECOTA projects a rough year from Jorge Posada, it’s just using the data available as it relates to the player, a 38-year-old catcher. That doesn’t mean Jorge will necessarily decline along the same lines.

All this is to back up Rob Neyer‘s disbelief in the projections for a few Yankees’ veterans. There’s an article, written by a notorious pot-stirrer, that basically says, “here are the PECOTA numbers, the Yankees could be in trouble.” It’s pretty benign, really. PECOTA projections have been out since late January, so we’ve all had a change to look over them (or at least those of us with a BP subscription). We know that other projection systems aren’t bullish on the veteran Yankees. Yet I’m with Neyer when he says

I don’t know enough about the guts of PECOTA to rail against it. Instead I’ll just say that I don’t believe that Jeter is going to steal 10 bases this season, and that I don’t believe Mariano Rivera will save only 22 games. I will say, too, that if your system says those things, it’s probably worth checking under the hood just in case one of the belts is running a little loose.

In other words, projection systems use general principles to project individual players. While there’s certainly merit in the exercise, it sometimes can’t nail down the outliers. That might be what’s at play here.