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The Yankees’ Top Ten WPA Games of 2011

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Last month, Mike looked at the Yankees’ five biggest hits of the 2011 season in terms of WPA. Last November I did posts on both the 10 biggest WPA swings of the 2010 seasons and 10 biggest WPA games, and the annual tradition continues today with the Yankees’ offense’s top ten WPA games of 2011.

Fortunately Baseball-Reference can do the heavy lifting for us:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB WPA
1 Russell Martin 2011-08-25 NYY OAK W 22-9 6 5 3 5 1 0 2 6 1 0.559
2 Curtis Granderson 2011-05-24 NYY TOR W 5-4 5 5 2 4 1 0 0 1 0 0.509
3 Derek Jeter 2011-05-08 NYY TEX W 12-5 6 6 2 4 0 0 2 3 0 0.452
4 Curtis Granderson 2011-09-17 NYY TOR W 7-6 5 3 3 3 1 0 1 2 2 0.400
5 Russell Martin 2011-07-18 NYY TBR W 5-4 5 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0.384
6 Eduardo Nunez 2011-09-21 (1) NYY TBR W 4-2 3 3 1 2 0 0 1 1 0 0.379
7 Robinson Cano 2011-08-11 NYY LAA W 6-5 4 4 1 3 0 0 1 4 0 0.378
8 Russell Martin 2011-09-01 NYY BOS W 4-2 5 5 1 2 1 0 0 2 0 0.374
9 Mark Teixeira 2011-05-24 NYY TOR W 5-4 5 4 0 2 0 0 0 1 1 0.372
10 Nick Swisher 2011-06-19 NYY CHC W 10-4 5 5 1 3 0 0 1 4 0 0.367
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/18/2011.

We’ll go in reverse order to build the excitement. On Sunday night, June 19, 2011, the Yankees were looking for a series win against the Chicago Cubs after splitting the first two, losing in execrable fashion in the Friday afternoon game against Doug Davis of all people, while pulling out an exciting 4-3 win in the Saturday contest. Tied 4-4 in the eighth of the rubber game, Nick Swisher clubbed a huge tie-breaking three-run shot to send the Yankees to a big interleague series victory.

The Yankees’ second (out of only three they’d have all season) walk-off victory of the season against the Blue Jays on May 24 appears twice on this list, with the first instance representing Mark Teixeira‘s biggest game of the season. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Tex laced a 3-1 Frank Francisco offering into right field for the game-winning single, scoring Curtis Granderson (who we’ll see in just a little bit).

The 8th-biggest game of the season belonged to Russell Martin — who appears three times on the list, a True Yankee™ if I’ve ever seen one — who delivered the decisive blow against Daniel Bard on September 1 in a Yankee victory that secured their first series win against Boston since May 2010.

Next up is Robinson Cano, who, in the Year of the Grand Slam — at least, for the Yankees, who hit an MLB-leading 10 slams for the second-straight season, including three by Cano, not to mention an 11th in the playoffs, also by Cano — appropriately blasted one in the Yankees’ 6-5 win over the hated Halos on August 11.

Everyone’s favorite infielder Eduardo Nunez clocks in at #6, as his huge game-tying home run against Yankee kryptonite James Shields helped propel them to eventual victory in the first half of a doubleheader on September 21 that also paved the way for the team to be in position to clinch during the evening portion of the twin bill, which they did in rather dramatic fashion.

Russell the Muscle is back at #5, with easily the most boring entry on this list, but still an important one nonetheless. On July 18 against Tampa Bay he went 2-5, but more importantly, worked a bases-loaded walk that forced in the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th in a game the Yankees held on to win 5-4.

The 4th-biggest game of the season was Curtis Granderson’s against Toronto on September 17, as he clubbed a home run, picked up three hits and walked twice as part of a perfect day, helping the Yankees battle back from a 6-1 deficit.

Derek Jeter checks in at #3, as his two-home-run game against Texas on Mother’s Day in a 12-5 victory over the Rangers was responsible for nearly 50% of the Yankees’ win that afternoon.

Coming in at number two is the Grandyman again, this time for that wild 5-4 come-from-behind victory on May 24 that also landed Tex on this list. While Tex may have picked up the game-winning hit, he may not have even been in position to do so without Curtis, who had four hits in this game including a double in the bottom of the eighth that keyed a two-run rally, bringing the Yankees to within one, and a game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the 9th that plated Jorge Posada. Grandy then promptly stole second on Francisco’s first pitch to Tex, and scored the game-winning run. Heck of a game for Mr. Granderson.

And the biggest cumulative WPA game of the season came courtesy of none other than Muscle Martin for his 5-5 performance in the three-grand-slam game (he also had a solo shot) on August 25. His slam came with the Yankees down 7-6 (.443 WPA) and gave them a lead they would never relinquish.

As noted earlier, if you were an opposing team you really didn’t want to load the bases against the Yankees in 2011, as they hit an insane .337/.354/.601 with the bases juiced in 2011, 39% (139 tOPS+) better than they hit on the whole, and 58% (158 sOPS+) better than the league average with the bases loaded.

Mailbag: Bench, Martin, Hill, Amnesty, JoVa

Seven questions this week, but the answers are pretty short so it’s kinda like a rapid fire mailbag. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Larry asks: If the plan is to use the Montero as a DH a good amount of the time, should/will the Yankees carry three catchers? If they do, do they carry Cervelli or Romine? Does it make more sense to carry Cervelli since he can play second or third in an emergency?

This situation really is no different that last year, when Jorge Posada was the regular DH. Russell Martin is the starting catcher, Montero is the starting DH, Frankie Cervelli is the backup catcher, and Austin Romine is in Triple-A. They can still let Montero catch say, 25-30 games with that roster, they’ll just have two catcher on the bench that day. Not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world if they do it once or twice a week.

Tucker asks: What’s the real danger in locking up Martin for a 2 or 3-year deal? If one of their catching prospects develops, couldn’t they always just trade him?

There is no real risk, at least not in terms of additional risk compared to the usual risk associated with multi-year contracts. Yeah, he is a catcher, so he is theoretically more of an injury risk than other position players, but nothing insane. It should be relatively ease to move him unless he completely craters, and even if he does, Martin’s unlikely to get paid so much that eating the contract (by designated him for assignment) is out of the question. I wouldn’t go anymore than three years though, his offense is still a question even if his defense is as good as advertised.

Patrick asks: Rich Hill. Second lefty and possibly the long man out of the pen?

Yes as a second lefty but no as a long man. Hill remade himself as a sidearmer this past season in hopes of becoming an effectively left specialist, and he was pretty good for the Red Sox until he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery last summer. He was non-tendered and will be out until sometime midseason. He’s a minor league contract guy, obviously, but not the worst candidate for a roll of the dice.

Arad asks:  If baseball were to have an amnesty clause where each team could get rid of one player without paying the contract, like basketball has, who would you do it to? I can’t see myself getting rid of Arod. I guess Burnett would be my choice.

Easily Alex Rodriguez, it’s not even a question in my mind. The final two years of A.J. Burnett‘s contract will be a walk in the park compared to the final six of A-Rod‘s deal. Alex is one of my all-time favorite players, but good gravy is that contract ugly. Amnesty the hell out of thing and never look back.

Arms. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Daniel asks: If the Marlins have a hypothetical fire sale at this time next year, and gave each team the opportunity to make ONE offer for Mike Stanton, what would you offer?

Man, I’d offer pretty much everything. Jesus Montero, Brett Gardner, and Ivan Nova? Maybe substitute in Manny Banuelos for Nova, but the point is I’d offer a lot. The kid’s a star, a homer mashing star. Dude just turned 22 years old, and he’s got 56 homers and a .264 ISO in 250 games while playing half his games in a huge park in Florida. We can only dream that Montero turns into that guy that quickly.

Travis asks: Is there any chance Jorge Vazquez gets a shot at being a righty off the bench for the Yankees or is he stuck in AAA until they trade him?

There was an unconfirmed rumor floating around a few days ago that JoVa was headed to Japan, which would be a good move for him. He’d definitely make more money there than he would sitting in Triple-A. And no, he won’t get a chance to be a bench player for the Yankees. The guy has big power but also big holes in his swing, hence the 220 strikeouts in 700 plate appearances between the regular season and winter ball this year. He also doesn’t offer much on defense. Don’t worry, someone else just like him will be along in a year or two.

Chip asks: In light of the Matt Moore contract, would you offer the same contract to Banuelos if he put up something like 9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 in AAA and forces himself into the major league rotation? Maybe even Montero would take something like that.

I’d offer it to Montero before I offered it to Banuelos (position players are safer than pitchers, yadda yadda yadda), but the Yankees have no reason to rush into a long-term deal with either player. Tampa has to do it because they won’t be able to afford these guys in three or four years, but the Yankees don’t have that problem. They can be patient, see how these guys develop, then make an offer if one is warranted. Just imagine if they’d signed Phil Hughes long-term in 2007, or Nick Johnson in 2003. It’s very risky business when you’re talking about guy with less than two years of service time, just look back at how many Rookie of the Year Award winners were total duds a few seasons later.

Report: Blue Jays bid close to $50M for Darvish

Via George King, the Blue Jays have made a bid north of $40M and closer to $50M for the negotiating rights to right-hander Yu Darvish. Orders for the monster bid apparently came from Rogers Communication, the massive communications company that owns the Jays as well as the Rogers Center. The Cubs are also believed to have made a large bid.

The Jays haven’t been confirmed as the high bidder yet, but there’s a good chance they will be if King’s report is accurate. The Yankees were said to have placed a “modest” bid, a term so vague I don’t know what to think.

Heyman: Yanks ‘seem to like Kuroda best’

As the Yanks await word of their bid on Yu Darvish and seemingly plan for a 2014 austerity budget in order to save a few million dollars, pitching is still a major concern. After CC Sabathia, the Four Horseman of A.J., Freddy, Phil and Ivan do not exactly scream out “confidence.” That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been keeping an eye on Hiroki Kuroda, the 36-year-old right-hander. Mike made the case for Kuroda in both May and December.

Still, as the free agent market remains at a standstill, the Yankees, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, like Kuroda best of the available pitchers. Unlike John Danks, for whom the White Sox asked for two of Dellin Betances, Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, Kuroda would cost only money and would likely to be willing to sign a shorter deal. We already know he’s willing to pitch on the East Coast, and the Yanks seem at least interested, if not eager, to have him.

Kuroda is a pitcher who could do well in Yankee Stadium. He gets strike outs and keeps the ball low. He’s been fairly durable too, throwing nearly 400 innings over the past two seasons. He earned $12 million last year and would likely be in line for a similar deal this year. To shore up a shaky rotation, the Yanks could do much, much worse.

Open Thread: Colter Bean

(Getty Images Photo / Elsa)

There’s something about Quad-A relievers that separates them from Quad-A hitters or starting pitchers. Perhaps it’s because they don’t play enough and their flaws don’t exposed as quickly, but there are always a few of them every year that make you think they could help the big league team if they’d just given ’em the chance. Colter Bean was that guy for the longest time, a funky sidearming right-hander with a sinker and slider that overwhelming minor league hitters.

The Yankees signed Bean as an undrafted free agent back in 2000, after he’d set all sorts of records at Auburn University. He slowly climbed up the minor league ladder, but by 2004 he was a mainstay in the Triple-A Columbus bullpen. He struck out 109 and walked just 23 in 82.2 IP that season, but the Yankees never called him up to help their beleaguered pitching staff. The next season he struck out 82 and walked 39 in 71.2 IP for the Triple-A squad, but he also got his first taste of the big leagues. The Yankees called him up in April and he made just one appearances, allowing a run on a hit and two walks in two innings against the Angels. That was the game when Alex Rodriguez hit three homers off Bartolo Colon and drove in ten runs. You remember that, I know you do.

All told, Bean appeared in just six games for the Yankees from 2005-2007, allowing seven runs on eight hits and nine walks in seven innings. The Red Sox thought he might have been of some use at one point, because eight years ago today they took him from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft. They returned him before the end of Spring Training though. Bean is a part owner of Bases Loaded Training Facility in Alabama these days, four years after his playing days ended with a stint in the Mexican League. In 589.2 minor league innings, he struck out 719 and walked just 267. Quad-A relievers man, they’ll fool you every time.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. The Jaguars and Falcons are playing tonight (8:20pm ET), but you’ll need the NFL Network to see that one. Either that or live in one of those two markets. Both the Islanders and Rangers are playing tonight as well. You can talk about anything you like here, it’s all good.

MLB, MLBPA Form International Talent Committee

Via Ben Balder, MLB and the players’ union has gotten together to form an International Talent Committee to review the way international players are sign and developed. The committee will be responsible for many things, including evaluating whether or not baseball should implement an international draft. There’s obviously a ton of logistics that will have to be worked out, including eligibility, agents, trainers, signing age, educational programs, the whole nine, but the wheels are now in motion.

The Yankees have built the core of their farm system through international free agency for decades, but the spending cap put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is really going to throw a wrench into their operation. An international draft will only hurt them further, but thankfully we’re still a few years from seeing one put in place.