Monday Open Thread

The Yankees are off tonight, so here’s an open thread to hold everyone over. Of course, the draft begins at 7pm ET (MLB Network) and I’ll be liveblogging it, so hopefully you’ll come join me then. Use this thread as you see fit tonight, anything goes.

The Yankee Clippings: 6/6/2011

With Mike’s live-chat and the draft just 90 minutes away, let’s jump in with some links. Thanks to David for the new name for this semi-regular section.

Draft Links: Oppenheimer, Mocks, Chats, Etc.

See you in about eight years, Gerrit. (Flickr user boomer-44 via Creative Commons license)

The draft begins at 7pm ET tonight and can be seen on MLB Network, and of course I’ll be liveblogging the whole shabang right here. The top three picks are pretty much settled: UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole will go first overall to the Pirates, Rice 3B Anthony Rendon will go second to the Mariners, and UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer will go third to the Diamondbacks. That could still change, but it seems unlikely. I’m not 100% certain, but I do believe Cole and Bauer will be the first pair of teammates to both go in the top three picks of the same draft in history. Rice RHPs Phil Humber and Jeff Niemann went third and fourth overall in 2004, respectively, so Cole and Bauer would replace them as the highest drafted teammates. At least I think they will, like I said I’m not certain.

Anyway, with a few hours to go, here’s some miscellaneous draft links to keep you occupied. All of our draft content here can be found right here

Oppenheimer On The 51st Pick

“It’s a lot harder,” said amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to George King when asked about not picking until 50 other players are already off the board. “When you pick higher, you can center in on a guys and get multiple looks. Now, with all the supplemental picks, you don’t have a clue what [other teams] will do … We will try to find the best available guy we can. It doesn’t matter if it’s high school or college.”

Final Mock Drafts

Both Jim Callis and Keith Law posted their (presumably) final mock drafts earlier today and revised them this afternoon. Callis’ list of picks is free but the analysis is behind the pay wall. KLaw’s mock is behind the iron curtain of Insider, but MLBTR provided a nice little recap. Kevin Goldstein’s mock draft is behind the Baseball Prospectus subscriber wall, though I can tell you that he has the Yankees taking high school outfielder Williams Jerez with that 51st overall pick. I wrote about him here, though I wouldn’t be completely in love with that pick. That’s not to say it would be bad, Jerez’s talent is worthy of that draft spot, he’s just a little too raw for my liking.

Draft Chats

In his marathon chat this morning, Frankie Piliere reiterated the Yankees’ interest in four high school players: RHP Dillon Howard, SS Brandon Martin, 3B/OF Tyler Goeddel, and LHP Jake Cave. We’ve heard that before. He adds that they’ll probably take high school OF Josh Bell if he’s still available, unless they truly believe he won’t sign. Law, meanwhile, said he believes that Goeddel will be off the board before the Yankees’ pick in his chat this afternoon. That would bum me out, I’m a fan of the kid. Barring something completely unexpected, the Yankees are very likely to take a prep player with that 51st overall pick. I approve.

Draft Things To Know

I enjoyed this post from David Cone favorite Jeff Sullivan, which breaks down some of things you should know heading into the draft if you’ve never been here before. I have one thing to add: “A ‘projectable’ player is tall and skinny.” That last part is important. If a player is tall and has already filled out, then he has “a good body.” This is of paramount importance, I assure you.

The almost average Nick Swisher

It hasn’t been too long since we last checked in on Nick Swisher. He used the start of the road trip to boost his then-abysmal season numbers, going 6 for 20 and hitting .300/.462/.650 in the first six games out west. In Anaheim he went 2 for 9, but with a double, a homer, and three walks. That brings his season numbers to .215/.342/.348. It might not look good, but you’ll be surprised at how close he has gotten to league average.

This caught me off guard, too, since Swisher stumbled for most of the season until last week. But lost in the downturn of his numbers is the downturn of offense around the league. The league average wOBA right now is .316, down from .321 last year and .329 in 2009. That changes the expectations somewhat, since Swisher can provide the same production while producing lower traditional stats. We can see this in last year’s numbers, when Swisher had an OBP 12 points lower than in 2009. Despite that, and despite a lower ISO, he still managed a higher wOBA. That’s because league-wide production dropped, as you can see in the average wOBA.

Right now Swisher has a .311 wOBA, putting him just five points below league average. What would it take for him to reach that average mark? If he goes 2 for 4 with a walk and a double against the Red Sox on Tuesday, his wOBA will jump to .319. Even if he’s 2 for 4 with two singles and a walk, he’ll be at .317. Hell, if Franklin Gutierrez doesn’t reach over the wall and pull back his homer in Seattle, he’d be on the border of league average right now. With a decent series this week against the Sox, he’ll almost certainly return to that level. All won’t be right with the universe, but it will be a lot closer.

Of course, for Swisher to be of value to the Yankees he has to be more than a league average player. The baseline, really, is league average right fielder. In that regard, he has a long way to go. The league average right fielder this year has a .348 wOBA. If he repeats the road trip on the current homestand — 8 for 29 with two doubles, three homers, and nine walks — he’ll only be at .336. If we give him a few more singles he’ll be up over .340. In any case, unless he goes on a monstrous tear, he’s going to be below the average right fielder for at least the next four or five series.

At this point in the season, though, getting Swisher’s numbers back to the average right fielder is a mere formality. It’s something that will look a bit nicer in retrospect, and perhaps help put the slow start behind him (and us, as fans). What matters is that he continues producing. If his numbers grade out just barely above average by season’s end, we know that he’ll have produced at an above-average for the last four months of the season. That is, he probably won’t produce enough to reach his normal numbers, but we can forget about that now. What matters is that he continues doing it. That might mean it takes him a while to reach the level of a league average right fielder. Thankfully, it also means that he’ll have been hitting like an above-average one for a while once he gets there.

Something else to keep in mind is how Swisher’s slump looks worse due to its place during the season. We’ve seen him get off to good starts in the past, and so his numbers tend to look better at this point. This slump essentially covered 162 PA, from April 7th to May 25th. He’s had similar slumps in the past. For instance, last year he hit .243/.313/.382 from August 3rd to September 29th (150 PA). In May of 2009 he hit .150/.311/.275, and for May and June that month he hit .201/.343/.390 (200 PA). Yet he ended both of those seasons with excellent numbers. We might yet see a torrid streak from Swisher.

A second chance at Bill Hall

(Photo Credit: Flickr user lakelandlocal via Creative Commons license)

As the Yankees searched for bench help this past offseason, one of the names we heard them connected to Bill Hall. He was coming off a damn fine season for the Red Sox (18 HR, .342 wOBA) and apparently the brain trust thought he could do the same in pinstripes. Hall eventually took an offer from the Astros, turning down a chance to come off the Yankees’ bench in favor of playing every day. Can’t say I blame him.

Well, the Houston experiment did not go well. Hall hit to the tune of a .269 wOBA with two homers and 55 strikeouts in 158 plate appearances with the Astros before they released him over the weekend. GM Ed Wade called the signing a “failure in judgment,” opting to eat the $2.25M left on Hall’s contract (approximately $2M in remaining salary this year plus the buyout of next year’s option) instead of hoping for a rebound in performance. That means any team can now sign Hall for the pro-rated Major League minimum (peanuts), and the Yankees have a second chance to add him to the team.

I have no problem picking up any player on the cheap, so in that sense I’m on board. The real question is why should we expect Hall to bounce back from his awful start and be worthy of a roster spot? The reality is that last year was an outlier for him, just look at his year-by-year wOBA …

Hall was fantastic back in 2005 and 2006, earning himself a fat four-year, $24M contract from the Brewers, but he’s been damn near replacement level since. Except for that one year with Boston. It wasn’t a Fenway Park thing (.346 wOBA at home, .334 on the road), it wasn’t a BABIP thing (.300 BABIP in 2010, .311 career), and it wasn’t a batted ball profile thing. His HR/FB rate was an unsustainably high 17.0% compared to a much more normal 13.1% for this career, so maybe that was behind the good year. Whatever it was, it’s not exactly something any team should count on happening again.

Late last week Joe wrote about the option of improving the team by upgrading the utility infielder, but Hall can’t replace Eduardo Nunez (assuming the idea is to send him down to Triple-A so he can play regularly) because he hasn’t played shortstop since 2006. Yeah, he stood there for 36 innings last year, but that was the only time he’s played the position in five years. Plus his defense at second is terrible, I’m not sure why it would be better on the other side of the bag. He’s more of an emergency shortstop more than anything, not a guy a team could legitimately use there. Andruw Jones has a) done nothing to lose his job, and b) is better than Hall anyway, so they’re not going to change fourth outfielders. The Yankees could use him in place of Chris Dickerson, but then they have no left-handed bat on the bench. Not a huge problem, more of an inconvenience. I assume that would be his way onto the roster.

Like I said, bringing Hall in for the pro-rated minimum is a perfectly fine move, but I really don’t see enough of an upgrade to consider it a no-brainer, an “oh my goodness they have to go out and get this guy” kind of move. If they sign him, great. If not, well no big deal. Hall’s more name value than substance, has been for more than four years now.

The RAB Radio Show: June 6, 2011

After a 6-3 road trip, including 2-1 against the Angels, the Yankees head home. Mike and I talk about the weekend, including a big portion on Jorge Posada. It seems that even when he does something good, one of his shortcomings turns it into a negative (e.g., a good at-bat followed by a GIDP, a double and getting thrown out on the bases). And, of course, we’re talking about the draft, which begins tonight at 7.

Podcast run time 31:08

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

MLB still probing A-Rod’s connection to Galea

Alex Rodriguez hanging out with his cousin is only news in the sense that he’s a famous person who did something. The story carries a little more interest, because of Yuri Sucart’s connection to steroids — after all, A-Rod was the one who outed him. But the meeting happened in a public space, and even MLB said there wasn’t any wrongdoing. Yet that has apparently led to an actual story, which Michael S. Schmidt and Serge F. Kovaleski reported in the Times yesterday. Apparently, MLB is still investigating Rodriguez’s connection to Dr. Anthony Galea, who is accused of supplying athletes with PEDs.

This is one of those things where you’re definitely better off reading the source article than our summary of it. Schmidt in particular has been following this story, and he lays it out in a reasonably easy to understand manner. But, for those who just want the facts, here’s what we know right now about the issue.

  • A-Rod met with MLB before last season to discuss the former’s connection to Galea. He denied having received PEDs.
  • Apparently A-Rod also testified before a federal grand jury for the case. I don’t think I’d heard that before. There is no word of what his testimony comprised, because of the rules of secrecy for grand jury proceedings. His lawyers wouldn’t even confirm that he did make the appearance.
  • MLB specifically wants Galea’s medical records pertaining to Rodriguez, and he has acquiesced. “Alex fully cooperated with Major League Baseball and federal authorities in Buffalo regarding his treatment with Dr. Galea, including granting a release of his medical records,” his lawyers said in a statement.
  • It is unclear why MLB has not yet received the medical records, which might be a bigger part of this story. If A-Rod did indeed give clearance, then why haven’t they seen them yet?
  • Galea maintains that he didn’t give HGH to athletes, but rather to other patients. If you’re looking for a reason why MLB is continuing their investigation, there it is. That just sounds fishy. If he’s distributing HGH, is he really going to withhold it from athletes?

As was the case last time this story came to the fore, I expect it to again fade into the background until something moves in Galea’s case. For now there appears to be no connection between Rodriguez and Galea beyond the anti-inflammatories the latter gave the former. But with A-Rod’s hip doctor, Mark Philippon, sounding skeptical upon hearing about the connection, there are definitely loose ends in this case. Since MLB seems eager, maybe even overeager, to punish anyone remotely connected to anything that might be a performance enhancer, I don’t expect this to fully go away until Galea’s case is decided.