Thanksgiving Day Open Thread

Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday of the year. I loved Christmas as a kid because of all the gifts, but now that I’m old I love Turkey Day a lot more. You just can’t beat the best meal of the year. I hope you have a great holiday and are spending it with lots of family and friends, and not here in this silly open thread. For those of you that do stop by today, there’s a video of some Don Mattingly highlights to enjoy.

Guest Post: Yankees’ Draft Spending

The following is a guest post from long-time reader Jake Hopkins, who you’ve probably seen in the comments as Jake H. He took a look back at how much money the Yankees have spent in the draft in recent years, something that will now be limited thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In one of his regular Friday chats, someone asked Mike if the Yankees should increase how much they spend on the draft and/or international free agents. This has been something that Yankees fans have been complaining about since last year’s draft, the Yankees not spending enough. Wanting to find out if this was true, I looked at the last five drafts, but with a twist.

What I wanted to do was take out the first round money in the draft. I did this because the Yankees never have a chance to draft a guy like Eric Hosmer or Stephen Strasburg. By taking these large bonuses out we can see the teams that spend throughout the entire draft and not just on their first round pick. The Giants are a good example; in the last five years they’ve spent $31.921 million on the draft and $16.356 million on first round bonuses (52.1%).

This point is more evident when looking at the total number of first round and supplemental first round picks since 2007. The Yankees have had a total of just five draft picks in those rounds during that time. That’s tied for the lowest amount of draft picks along with the Orioles and Marlins. The Blue Jays and the Rays are tied with the most at fifteen picks during that five-year span.

What I did was take the first round’s salary out of the equation and added back in a dollar. I then took that amount and divided it by the number of total picks that signed for the five-year period. The Yankees spent an average of $182,790 per pick, which was the fourth highest total. The Red Sox were number one followed by the Pirates and then the Jays. The Yankees also had the least amount spent on the first round picks until the 15th spot which was the Phillies, and they aren’t known for spending on the draft.

So we now know what the Yankees spent on average on each non-first round draft pick over that five-year period. Here is a year-by-year break down…

  • 2007: $145,313 average draft pick spending, fifth most.
  • 2008: $150,000 average draft pick spending, tenth most. (Remember no Gerrit Cole or Scott Bittle)
  • 2009: $207,692 average draft pick spending, fourth most.
  • 2010: $205,214 average draft pick spending, seventh most.
  • 2011: $227,957 average draft pick spending, sixth most.

As the numbers show, the Yankees have increased their average spending on the draft over the last five years, with 2011 representing their highest average draft pick price. While the Yankees’ spending has increased, I’m sure people are saying that the MLB average has gone up. Yes it has, but not as much as you may have thought…

  • 2007: $95,985 average for all teams.
  • 2008: $131,825 average for all teams.
  • 2009: $132,878 average for all teams.
  • 2010: $143,813 average for all teams.
  • 2011: $136,268 average for all teams.

So there was a large jump in draft spending from 2007 to 2008, then the average spending stayed close to those numbers with 2010 being the highest. Now keep in mind that this takes all teams into account, even those teams that don’t spend much at all. As the data shows, the Yankees have been consistently spending more per draft pick then the majority of the league. While people can complain that they didn’t draft such and such or sign who we want, we can’t say that they aren’t spending money.

Yankees offer Freddy Garcia arbitration

The Yankees have offered Type-B free agent Freddy Garcia arbitration. If he signs elsewhere, they will receive a supplemental first round draft pick as compensation. You can see all of the Type-A and B free agents (and their arbitration statuses) on our 2012 Draft Order page.

Garcia has until December 7th to accept the offer. He’s in line for a ~$6-7M salary if he does accept, but the two sides have been discussing a reunion in recent weeks. I have a feeling Freddy might have agreed to decline arbitration before the offer was made, similar to Javy Vazquez last season.

Yankees sign Jayson Nix

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees have signed utility infielder Jayson Nix to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they’ll have to pay him a $100k bonus if he’s not added to the 40-man roster or released just before Opening Day.

Nix, 29, spent last season with the Blue Jays. He’s a terrible hitter, owning a .207/.280/.368 batting line (.286 wOBA) in 869 career plate appearances. He did manage to hit 26 homers in 653 plate appearances from 2009-2010 though, so there is some pop in his bat. Nix has played second, short, and third extensively in recent years, and he’s also filled in at both corner outfield spots. His defensive stats aren’t anything special though. It’s just a depth move, I doubt he has much of a shot of making the team.

Open Thread: Aaron Small

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Does anyone represent the Yankees’ success with scrap heap pickups any better than Aaron Small? He was brought him in for minor league depth not long before Spring Training in 2005, but injuries and ineffectiveness at the big league level had him up as an emergency starter in late-July despite a 4.96 ERA in ten Triple-A starts. He won that first game but it wasn’t pretty; he allowed three runs and four walks in 5.1 IP against the Rangers, but a win is a win. Small made another start eight days later and held the Mariners to three runs in seven innings. The team needed pitching, so he kept getting the ball.

What was supposed to be a short-term, emergency starter thing turned into a regular rotation spot. Small famously finished the season with a 10-0 record, but he only made nine starts. He picked up one win out of bullpen in extra innings, and another in three innings of long relief. Small allowed two runs in 2.2 IP in his only ALDS outing against the Angels, a relief appearance in Game Three. The 10-0 record and 3.20 ERA looked great, the performance was entirely unsustainable. He wasn’t missing any bats (4.4 K/9) and wasn’t getting a ton of ground balls (43.9%), so something had to give.

Nevertheless, the Yankees signed Small to a one-year deal worth $1.2M as an arbitration-eligible player after the season. He started the 2006 season in the bullpen as the long-man, but he was just awful. In three starts and eight relief appearances, he allowed 29 runs and put 55 runners on base in just 27.2 IP. The fairytale story came to an end in late-June, when the Yankees designated Small for assignment. He finished the season in Triple-A and was out of baseball after the season.

After his career was over, Small returned home to Tennessee where he an his wife are active in their church. He survived a bout with encephalitis in 2008, which is an acute inflammation of the brain. He was in a medically induced coma for eight days, then six weeks later he was on the field for the final Old Timers’ Day at the Old Yankee Stadium. Today is Small’s 40th birthday, the big four-oh. It’s somewhat fitting since the story of his playing career is ten-and-oh.

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Here is your Thanksgiving Eve open thread. All three local hockey teams are in action, otherwise you’re on your own for entertainment. You folks know how these things work, so have at it. The thread is all yours.

The 2012 Bill James Projections: Yankee Offense and Pitching

(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

One of the bright spots of the long baseball offseason is the release of the various major projection systems. Before diving into the latest batch, it behooves me to issue the following reminder issued by RLYW’s SG: “Projections are inherently limited, so remember to take these for what they are. They are rough estimates of a player’s current talent level. They are not predictions for what a player is going to do in 2012, and they are not playing time predictions either.”

Exactly. No one should look at a player’s projection and expect that that’s what they’ll do next season. They’re generally a reasonable barometer for what a given player might be expected to do, but they are not meant to be predictive. In an ideal world we’d get percentile projections from each system, but as far as I know only SG does that with CAIRO.

I took a look at Dan Szymborksi’s 2012 projections for the Yankees at TYA a few weeks ago, and today we’ll tackle the Bill James projections, which are generally scoffed at in sabermetric circles as they tend to be wildly optimistic. Why look at them then? For one, James himself disagrees that they are overly optimistic, and I also seem to recall some intelligent baseball mind somewhere noting that since he generally projects everyone high, if you look at players within the context of other James projections you’ll get a better idea of where his system thinks players stand. And two, it’s the offseason, the perfect time for speculation as to how next season’s team may perform.

After the last set of projections is issued, which is usually sometime in February, I’ll compile all of the systems and spit out one “overall” projected line for each player. This is admittedly a far-from-perfect method, as the systems vary in both the specific stats they project and how they calculate them to a certain extent — for example, SG doesn’t include baserunning in his wOBA calculation for CAIRO, which ends up resulting in wOBAs that tend to look a little scary across the board; The Hardball Times’ Oliver and Tom Tango’s Marcel projections don’t adjust for park; while Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA and ZiPS do adjust for park, but don’t carry wOBA. The funny thing is, in spite of all of these variations (or maybe because of), the resultant averages of these six projection systems actually wind up being fairly reasonable.


Derek Jeter

2011 Bill James projection: .295/.365/.410, .344 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .297/.355/.388, .332 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .291/.360/.393, .333 wOBA

Bill James likes Derek Jeter. Despite a woeful 2010, he thought Derek could bounceback this past season — all things considered, James’ 2011 projection for Derek didn’t end up being that off. Once again James likes Derek in 2012. A year ago I would’ve said a .333 wOBA was undoable from Derek; now I’d actually be a bit surprised if he didn’t top it.

Curtis Granderson

2011 Bill James projection: .264/.341/.471, .355 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .262/.364/.552, .394 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .260/.348/.494, .364 wOBA

James had the most aggressive Granderson projection for 2011, and of course Curtis wound up outperforming everyone’s expectations. The 2012 projection recognizes Curtis’ impressive season, but doesn’t think he’ll come anywhere close to replicating it.

Robinson Cano

2011 Bill James projection: .308/.356/.502, .371 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .302/.349/.533, .375 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .303/.350/.505, .366 wOBA

Somewhat surprisingly James’ 2012 projection for Cano is slightly lower than his 2011. Perhaps it’s due to Cano having a very good season in 2011, but one that didn’t quite match the level of excellence he established in 2010. While a .366 wOBA is nothing to turn one’s nose up at, it would also be pretty disappointing following three straight seasons of .370 or better for Robbie. Projection systems always seem to underestimate Cano, and he’s likely the best bet in the Yankee lineup to exceed his projection, especially now that he’ll be batting behind Granderson and in front of A-Rod.

Alex Rodriguez

2011 Bill James projection: .284/.381/.530, .393 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .276/.362/.461, .361 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .277/.373/.497, .377 wOBA

Even though the majority of forecasts haven’t been released yet I’m willing to bet James is the most aggressive on Alex, probably by a lot. ZiPS has him at only .264/.350/.474. Alex had a disappointing, injury-plagued season in 2011, and the ZiPS projection essentially sees a repeat of that effort. I too see a bounceback year for A-Rod, and James’ .377 wOBA is pretty spot-on with my expectations.

Mark Teixeira

2011 Bill James projection: .282/.383/.532, .393 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .248/.341/.494, .361 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .271/.370/.522, .383 wOBA

Tex’s projections might be the biggest case of wishful thinking of all of James’ Yankee projections — it’s also the best projection for the Yankee starting nine — although it’s pretty disheartening to look at a .383 wOBA and think “Yeah, I can’t see Tex pulling that off.” In theory, he should be able to reach that plateau rather handily, but I have less confidence in Tex picking himself back up than Alex. Still, it’s worth noting that the James projections see Alex and Tex as the Yankees’ two best hitters, while ZiPS thinks it will be Cano and Granderson again. Let’s put it this way — if all four of them can turn in at least .370 wOBA seasons, the Yankee offense will be pretty dynamite once again.

Nick Swisher

2011 Bill James projection: .257/.359/.472, .362 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .260/.374/.449, .358 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .255/.366/.461, .361 wOBA

James sees Swish essentially turning in a repeat of his 2011 season, with slightly less OBP and slightly more power. That would be fine, although it’d be great to see Swish also get back above that .370 wOBA plateau, which he’s done during two of his three seasons in pinstripes.

Jesus Montero

2011 Bill James projection: .285/.348/.519, .376 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .328/.406/.590, .421 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .289/.351/.505, .371 wOBA

James’ very aggressive 2011 projection for Montero was one of the more widely discussed derided of last year’s offseason, although now that we’ve seen what Jesus is capable of at the Major League level, it doesn’t look quite as farfetched as it previously did. James’ 2012 Montero projection is revised down slightly from last year’s, although a .371 wOBA projection for a player with 69 career MLB PAs is still pretty optimistic, no matter how good Montero may have looked in September. Still, I feel pretty confident saying that we’d all do backflips if Montero managed to meet this triple slash during his first full season in the big leagues, though I also wouldn’t be shocked if he beat it.

Russell Martin

2011 Bill James projection: .266/.367/.379, .334 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .237/.324/.408, .325 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .256/.355/.400, .355 wOBA

Martin is the first Yankee I can ever remember essentially not caring about his offensive performance considering how valuable he wound up being on defense. I suppose a decade of Jorge Posada catching will do that to a man. Still, it’d be nice to see him pick that .325 wOBA up some, and while I don’t think he’ll hit James’ .355 mark, Russell’s on-base prowess should enable him to at least get somewhere in the high-.330s.

Brett Gardner

2011 Bill James projection: .275/.377/.371, .349 wOBA
2011 actual numbers: .259/.345/.369, .330 wOBA
2012 Bill James projection: .273/.369/.372, .341 wOBA

Ah, Brett Gardner. Perhaps the streakiest player in the lineup, Gardner recently acknowledged his uneven 2011 campaign and will be working with Kevin Long in the coming weeks to correct what he deemed a timing issue. Let’s hope it takes — for as valuable as Gardner is on defense, finding the missing .038 of OBP points will be crucial to Brett becoming a key cog in the lineup and also a viable leadoff option for Joe Girardi against righties. James sees improvement across the board for Gardner, and a .341 wOBA seems like a plenty reasonable benchmark. Maybe Brett can work with Jacoby Ellsbury and also develop a completely out-of-nowhere power stroke, too. A Brett Gardner with a .500-plus SLG would be a top-ten WAR player in all of baseball.

If you plug the starting nine’s 2012 James projected numbers into Dave Pinto’s Lineup Analysis, we get a lineup that projects to score 5.7 runs per game. Yes, please. The 2011 team averaged 5.35 runs per game, while the ZiPS-projected lineup was at 5.3 runs per game. Obviously the R/PG figure on the 2011 season is comprised of more than just nine players, but this provides something of a general vicinity for what one could reasonably expect out of the 2012 Yankee offense, if everything goes right. The “best” iteration of the lineup scores 5.75 runs per game and features Nick Swisher at leadoff.

Starting Pitching

And here’s the pitching staff, subject to change.

CC Sabathia

2011 Bill James projection: 237.2 IP, 3.32 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 237.1 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
2012 Bill James projection: 235.0 IP, 3.33 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 7.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9

James’ 2012 projection for Sabathia is basically the exact same thing as his 2011 projection for Sabathia. That’s a good thing.

Ivan Nova

2011 Bill James projection: 80.0 IP, 4.61 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 165.1 IP, 3.70 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 5.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
2012 Bill James projection: 183.0 IP, 4.28 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 6.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9

Nova’s projections were all over the map last offseason, with some systems — Oliver and Marcel — thinking quite highly of him despite little to go on, and others really hated him. James was in the middle, though of course Nova wound up outperforming everyone’s expectations. James’ 2012 projection for Nova seems plenty reasonable for me, and he seems a decent bet to outperform it.

Phil Hughes

2011 Bill James projection: 177.0 IP, 3.56 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 8.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 74.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 5.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
2012 Bill James projection: 102.0 IP, 3.71 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 8.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9

James’ 2011 projection for Hughes seems rather optimistic in retrospect, although it’s important to note that four of the six systems had Hughes with a sub-4.00 ERA. I’m not sure if the innings projection means that James sees Hughes spending time as both a starter and reliever, or if he doesn’t expect him to stay healthy enough for a full season of starts, but either way those are some incredibly optimistic numbers coming off the season Hughes just had. If Hughes manages to exceed a 3.71 ERA as a starter, many of us are going to have to revise our Hughes obituaries.

A.J. Burnett

2011 Bill James projection: 191.0 IP, 4.01 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 8.3 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 190.1 IP, 5.15 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9
2012 Bill James projection: 173.0 IP, 4.32 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 8.3 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9

I actually don’t think the idea of Burnett pitching to a 4.32 ERA is crazy, although that will likely be one of the more bullish Burnett projections you’ll see this offseason after two straight horrendous seasons. We keep saying this, but it seems like Burnett pretty much has to be better than he’s been.

Freddy Garcia

2011 Bill James projection: 148.0 IP, 4.20 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.30 HR/9
2011 actual numbers: 146.2 IP, 3.62 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
2012 Bill James projection: 144.0 IP, 4.25 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9

For the second straight system, Freddy’s solid showing in 2011 hasn’t influenced his 2012 projection at all ZiPS at all, as James’ forecast for 2012 is basically identical to his 2011 iteration. Though that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing; if Freddy does come back it will hopefully be as the fifth starter instead of the third starter, and a 4.25 ERA would be more than acceptable in that role.