Rich Lederer at The Baseball Analysts makes the Hall of Fame case for Tim Raines. By the time Raines arrived in New York, he was playing out the waning days of an excellent career, but he still be up some impressive numbers in limited playing time. During his career, he was often overshadowed by Rickey Henderson and should earn a spot in the Hall.
Over at the Lo Hud Yankees Blog, Peter Abraham this evening penned a piece with which we here at RAB clearly agree. Abraham wrote that the Yankees should just say no to Johan Santana.
Of course, we believe that. Hell, we’re even selling t-shirts for just that purpose.
But in the course of his argument, Abraham strays a bit from his analysis. He writes: “Santana could be great again. But he was 15-13, 3.33 last season and will be 29 in March.”
Now, as far as my reading of this statement goes, Abraham’s use of the “but” indicates that Johan Santana was not great in 2007 because he won only two more games than he lost. It’s a classic sportswriters mistake. Johan Santana didn’t win more games because the Twins’ offense was terrible. They were 25th in runs scored and 27th in team OPS.
Despite this poor offensive production, Johan Santana still managed to win 15 games. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s look at some of the other stats the once-great Johan Santana put up. His 3.33 ERA was 7th overall in the American League, trailing John Lackey by 0.31 runs. His 1.07 WHIP was tops in the AL, and his 235 strike outs trailed Scott Kazmir by just four. His strike out-to-walk ratio was 4.52, good for fourth in the American League.
In a word, Johan Santana in 2007 was great.
Now, there are plenty of reasons — starting with Phil Hughes and ending with the luxury tax issues — for the Yankees to avoid a trade of Johan Santana right now. And if his agent were smart, he’d tell Santana to stay healthy for another year and cash in during a full-fledged bidding war in 2008. But we shouldn’t start pretending that Johan Santana wasn’t great in 2007 because of a poor won-loss record. Make no mistake about it: Johan Santana is one of the top pitchers in the American League. Stick him on the Yankees or the Red Sox, and his 2007 line would probably feature 20+ wins and another Cy Young Award. Greatness, indeed.
This is just weird. As per The Post’s Yankees Blog, Roger Clemens’ people are on the prowl:
Roger Clemens’ attorney has launched his own investigation into whether the Yankees pitcher used performance-enhancing substances as the Mitchell Report claimed.
“We are convinced the conclusions in Mitchell’s report are wrong and are investigating the findings ourselves,” lawyer Rusty Hardin told The New York Times. “At this stage we have uncovered a lot of logical people who we thought Mitchell was going to talk to but never talked to him or his investigators. That’s troubling.”
Who knows if this is all just for show? No one else in the Mitchell Report is doing much denying, and no one’s launching their own investigation. But no one else in the report is one of the top pitchers of all time with a Hall of Fame reputation on the line.
I hope Clemens’ people release their own version of the report, and I have to wonder if this will be a farce of an investigation or the thing that brings down the Mitchell Report. Either way, this is one surreal development.
Over on his personal blog, RAB favorite Keith Law has tallied up 48 HOF ballots he’s received or seen. You can check out the full list over there, but of note is that Goose Gossage is sitting on 90 percent of those ballots. As expected, Donny Baseball is on but one ballot. · (2) ·
According to Murray Chass’s column today, the Twins might be backing off their demands of the Yankees for Johan Santana. The two sides were stuck on Ian Kennedy, whom the Yankees refused to put in a deal along with Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera. Now, as Chass says, they’d be willing to substitute Jeff Marquez for Kennedy. I now expect a bevy of “We have to make this deal!” comments.
Remember, though, that Bill Madden said a while ago that the Twins would have accepted Hughes, Melk, Marquez, and Hilligoss for Santana, but were turned down by the Yankees. So this could be nothing new. Then again, we heard after the Marquez-Hilligoss rumor that the Twins were still demanding Kennedy, so who knows.
I still stand in favor of keeping Hughes. If he busts, you lose nothing except his potential. The investment is minimal, so even if he goes down in 2009, they wouldn’t have put too much into him. However, if Santana succumbs to injury, you’re out a whole shit-ton of money. Say what you will about the Yankees having unlimited funds, but there’s a limit somewhere, especially considering the hefty luxury tax bill they foot yearly. If they sign Santana to a long-term extension and he gets injured in year two or three, he will affect the Yankees ability to go out and get another pitcher. Whereas if Hughes goes down this year, next year, whatever, he will in no way affect the team’s ability to pick up someone else.
It appears that the Twins will soon be looking for the best, final offers from the Yanks or Sox — though we’re still not sure if the Yankees are putting anything on the table. We’ll see, though.
So instead of a comment thread full of “we should do this deal” or “we shouldn’t do this deal,” why don’t we make it more interesting? If you’re the Twins and you can either have the Sox package (Lester, Crisp, Masterson, Lowrie) or the Yanks package (Hughes, Cabrera, Marquez, Hilligoss), which would you take?
While the 2007 Yankees made the playoffs with a half-season contributions from plenty of key pieces, a lot of fans seem to doubt their 2008 prospects. True, they will be relying on a bunch of rookies, but they got them to the playoffs in 2007. There’s no reason why they can’t ride full-season contributions from these players to be an even better team.
But for now, that’s a topic for another day. We’ll get there as soon as we know the makeup of the 2008 Yankees. Instead, let’s take a brief foray into the world of Mike Mussina, one of the key cogs for the 2008 Yankees. Now, as avid readers know, I’m not a fan of Mike Mussina. Despite his early success in pinstripes, his last few seasons and generally demeanor — crossword puzzles aside — have not won me over.
As Mike noted in the comments to my piece on Joba, the Yankees need Mussina to be league-average at worst in 2008. Is that a reasonable expectation? Surprisingly, I think so.
In 2007, Mussina’s stats were not pretty. He went 11-10 but had a career-high 5.15 ERA. He allowed 36 more hits than innings pitched and struck out a career low 91. The decline in strike outs — from 7.85 per 9 IP in 2006 to 5.39 in 2007 — is alarming. Those numbers are well worse than league-average, and Mussina’s VORP declined from over 40 to 11, just a shade above replacement level. Those are alarming trends.
But when you break out Mussina’s defense-independent stats, things look a little better. His fielding-independent pitching line, a number that equates roughly to ERA, was 4.58 or roughly league average. His home run totals were down, and while his line drive percentage was up, a lot of those baserunners from line drives seem to be a result of poor fielding.
For 2008, the Yankees need Mussina to keep his strike out rate at around 6.0 to 6.5 per 9 innings. They need him to take those home run totals down, and they need him to figure out why his LOB percentage dropped to 66.1 percent. For whatever reason, Mussina is getting worse at keeping baserunners from scoring. Considering this outlook, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Mike Mussina could be a league-average starter for the Yankees in 2008. That would be a welcome development indeed.
Kat O’Brien sure is full of conflicting information these days, and it all relates back to that ace in the hole from Nebraska that the Yankees hold.
To recap: At the end of last week, Buster Olney heard that Joba would head to the pen. Then, Newsday’s Kat O’Brien reported that sources within the Yankee organization said that Joba is expected to be in the started rotation. The back and forth continued when O’Brien issued a report that, when you think about it, basically supports Olney’s unsourced report and contradicts O’Brien’s own sources.
One of the concerns for the Yankees as they prepare for 2008 – particularly if they don’t reverse course and nab Johan Santana – is keeping a handle on the innings totals of young pitchers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.
The plan is for the three to compete for two spots in the starting rotation in spring training, with Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina likely to fill the other three rotation slots. But not one of the young trio was at or near the 200-inning mark in 2007. That means it will require careful watch to keep them in the rotation (if they earn it) without raising their innings an alarming amount.
According to Yanks GM Brian Cashman, all three of the youngsters will have innings caps, and the Yanks will be creative in their efforts at ensuring that these pitchers do not exceed their innings limits. While O’Brien once again reiterates the Yankee party line concerning Joba’s spot in the rotation, isn’t it obvious how this will shake down?
Chamberlain, Kennedy and Hughes will all pitch rather impressively during Spring Training, and Cashman and Girardi will have to make “a tough choice.” With Mike Mussina somehow guaranteed a spot in the rotation, the Yanks will be “forced” to do what’s best for the team, and Joba will head to the bullpen.
Right now, I don’t buy the line that Joba’s ticketed to the rotation. There are too many convenient excuses in place for the Yanks to use in order to move Joba to the pen. And for the first part of the season, that might not be a terrible move.
This year’s bill: $23,880,000. On the bright side, this is the second consecutive year the Yanks lowered their luxury tax input, having paid out $26,000,000 last year and a whooping $33,980,000 back in 2005. Old pal Roger Clemens tacked on $6,980,000 to the luxury tax bill all by his lonesome, and since 2002 the Yanks have paid $121,600,000 in luxury tax penalties. That’s alotta cheddar. · (6) ·