Sabathia on same conditioning program as last offseason

Via Jack Curry, CC Sabathia is using the same conditioning and nutrition program this offseason that he used last offseason. Insert Cap’n Crunch joke here. Sabathia lost 30 lbs. last winter but gained most, if not all of it back during the season. As far as we know, there are no weight clauses in his new contract extension, but that’s not terribly surprising. Hopefully Sabathia does a better job of keeping the weight of next year, but I remain unconvinced that it had much impact on his pitching anyway.

Open Thread: Al Aceves

The Mexican Gangster rides again.

The Yankees have always been big players on the international market, and their current big league roster shows the fruits of their labor in the Dominican Republic (Robinson Cano, Ivan Nova), Venezuela (Jesus Montero, Frankie Cervelli), and Panama (Mariano Rivera). They’ve also started to emphasize Mexico in recent years, with scout Lee Sigman heading up the operation down there. They were reportedly prepared to select a little know Mexican League right-hander named Joakim Soria in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft at Sigman’s behest, but the Royals beat them to it.

A few years ago, Sigman and the Yankees worked out a package deal to acquire four players from one Mexican League club for a total of $450k. One of those players was top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, and another was the veteran Al Aceves. Less than ten months after signing, Aceves was in the big leagues, starting games down the stretch in 2008. He established himself as a bullpen extraordinaire in 2009, proving capable of throwing four pitches or four innings in an outing at a moment’s notice. The Mexican Gangster was invaluable in bridging the gap between the starting pitcher and the Phil Hughes-Mariano Rivera tandem at the end of the game as the Yankees stormed to the World Series.

Aceves never came close to achieving that kind of success in New York again. Following a lengthy rain delay at Fenway Park on May 8th of last season, Joe Girardi called on the righty in the fifth inning. He worked out of a jam then came back for the sixth, but he slipped a bit while delivering a pitch and his back locked up on him. We never saw Aceves in pinstripes again. The back problems — which were nothing new — and numerous setbacks kept him on the shelf for the rest of the season, and during the offseason he made things worse by falling off his bike and breaking his collarbone.

The injury was expected to keep Aceves out of action for three months, meaning he was going to miss the majority of Spring Training. The Yankees non-tendered Aceves one year ago today, just one day after the injury was reported. “Because of the back issue, we could not give him [a major league contract],” said Brian Cashman, who later tried to re-sign him to a minor league deal. The move to cut Aceves loose looks mind-numbingly stupid in hindsight, as he showed up to camp not only healthy and ready to go on the first day, but he did so for the Red Sox. The Gangster threw 122 total innings for Boston this past season (majors and minors), so either he healed better than expected or the Yankees’ doctors completely mis-evaluated him. Either way, there’s nothing they can do now other than learn from their mistakes.

* * *

Here’s your open thread for the night. Both the Devils and Islanders are in action, but you can talk about anything you want here. Go nuts.

And so it begins: Yankees interested in Mike Gonzalez

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have interest in free agent lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez. If you frequent our weekly chats, then you know I’ve been predicting Gonzalez will be the lefty specialist the Yankees waste $4M on next season for about three months now. He’ll step right into Damaso Marte‘s vacant “bad lefty reliever” spot on the roster.

In all seriousness, the 33-year-old southpaw is coming off knee surgery and has held left-handed batters to a .241/.293/.350 batting line with 36 strikeouts, eight unintentional walks, and a ~46% ground ball rate in 148 plate appearances over the last two seasons. He missed most of last season with two small tears in his rotator cuff and fraying in his labrum, and was regularly booed off the mound for the Orioles. For what it’s worth, Gonzalez is also a very close friend of Rafael Soriano‘s from their time with the Braves. He’s no better bet than any other lefty reliever on the market, though.

Nova shows up in Law’s Top 50 under 25

This week on ESPN.com, Keith Law wrote up his list of the top 50 players 25 and under (subscription required). It covers only players who are no longer eligible for Rookie of the Year, so Jesus Montero does not find his way onto the list. Yet there is a Yankee towards the end. Ivan Nova ranks No. 46. After making a banal comment about wins, Law talks about Nova’s command, ground ball rate, and slider as positives going forward. “There’s enough here that you can see a mid-rotation starter as he matures,” writes Law. Eduardo Nunez was pretty much the only other Yankees eligible for the list, and it’s no surprise that he didn’t make it.

The RAB Radio Show: December 2, 2011

The Yankees have managed to stay out of headlines this off-season, which saddens us. But the Winter Meetings are next week, and things can happen there. Mike and I discuss:

  • What Cashman might have brewing.
  • The obstacles he needs to overcome before anything gets done.
  • The inflexible payroll, starring Rafael Soriano.
  • The future free agent markets and how it could affect this winter.
  • Plus plenty more off-season speculation.

Podcast run time 34:18

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/TheRABRadioShow120211.mp3]

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

RAB Live Chat

Yankee starter ERAs through the years: A graphical look

On June 22 of this past year I noted that the 2011 Yankee pitching staff appeared to be on its way to racking up one of the franchise’s lowest single-season ERAs in years, and in fact, the team finished out the year with a 3.74 mark — the Yankees’ lowest seasonal ERA since the 1985 squad compiled a 3.69 ERA.

These tallies included both starting and relief pitching, and so today I wanted to take a look at some of the historical ERAs of Yankee starters to see just how good Yankee fans had it in the pitching department in 2011, at least compared with some other Yankee teams of recent vintage. To begin with, below is an update to the starting pitching chart I created back in an August post that took a look at how well-rounded the 2011 Yankees were.

At the time of that August post, the Yankee starting rotation had pitched to a 3.83 ERA (94 ERA-) and 3.88 FIP (96 FIP-), with the former representing the 13th-lowest mark — and 3rd-lowest since the team’s legendary 1978 (3.08 starters’ ERA) season — of the 43 Yankee clubs surveyed.

The Yankee starting rotation finished the 2011 season with a more-than-respectable 4.03 ERA (95 ERA-) and 3.97 FIP (95 FIP-), with the former tying the 1985 team’s mark for 18th-best of the last 43 seasons, though perhaps more importantly for Yankee fans of a certain age, the 4th-lowest ERA since 1985, which underscores both the dramatic increase in offensive levels of the last 25-plus years as well as the fact that it’s pretty damn difficult to put together a rotation in the AL that pitches to a sub-4.00 ERA.

The next chart shows the individual ERAs of the Yankee starting rotations — based on innings pitched — since 2003 (as always, click to enlarge):

A couple of things jump out at me:

  • Though the Yankees did the right thing cutting bait with Chien-Ming Wang when they did, it’s easy to forget that he was a pretty critical component of the 2006-2007 teams, compiling a total of 9.1 fWAR over those two seasons.
  • As I discovered last offseason, Mike Mussina may have been one of the more underappreciated Yankees in recent memory.
  • The Yankees have let a rather surprising number of starters put up 5.00-plus ERAs over the last nine seasons.
  • I still miss Joba the starter.
  • CC Sabathia has already been worth every penny he has yet to earn in pinstripes.
  • Good starting pitching is hard to come by.