Ubaldo to the Yankees Indians; Oh S&%#!, what now?

Ubaldo to the Indians? Really?

Well, hey, more power to the Tribe, I suppose. The cost ultimately paid for Jimenez was right in line with what the Rockies had been requesting over the past several days now – that is to say, two elite prospects plus a couple of others. Or, simply put, a haul that would “wow.” And so, Colorado’s farm system instantly became that much stronger with the addition of right-handers Alex White and Joe Gardner, first baseman/outfielder, Matt McBride, and a player to be named later. The mystery player to be named later is largely expected to be Drew Pomeranz (once he becomes trade eligible later this August). Simultaneously, Cleveland’s newest rotation member could wind up being the final piece that allows the Indians to surpass their fellow AL Central rivals in the standings and achieve the much desired playoff birth.

Interestingly, Pomeranz may eventually be viewed as the most valuable component of the deal down the road. The 22 year old lefty is ranked 14th in Baseball America’s top 20, and has looked mighty impressive with Cleveland’s High-A squad. Alex White was the 15th overall draft pick in 2009 and was ranked in Baseball America’s top 50 list heading into the season.

Although he’s currently on the disabled list with a strained finger ligament, White was pitching well prior to the injury at the big league level. Overall, I think the trade represents a pretty solid haul for the Rockies (and a curious departure from typical organizational practice for the Indians). It also leaves me somewhat aghast at what the Yankees would have had to trade in order to make this happen for themselves; I’m thinking Banuelos, Betances, and Ivan Nova along with a possible complimentary player like Laird.

So, where does this turn of events leave the Yankees? I guess that depends on where your priorities lie. For an organization such as New York, the emphasis is always on the present tense rather than that of the future. Judging how much of the future can acceptably be mortgaged away is really a matter of opinion. As it turns out, Brian Cashman‘s opinion was one of reluctance and faith.  Time will tell whether this was the prudent move or not.  Admittedly, there’s still the possibility of a big trade with another organization, but given the short time frame remaining today, the chances have to be smaller.

Obviously, the Yankees rotation would have been deeper with Ubaldo in the mix than it is without him. There’s no arguing what he accomplished the past few seasons, just as there is no denying what he’s capable of doing going forward. Still, I maintain that Yankees fans *should not* jump off the ledge just yet.  Time will tell whether the Yankees would have experienced buyers remorse with Ubaldo, and with every transaction, we’ll have plenty of time to scrutinize the move retrospectively.

It’s looking more and more likely that the Yankees will make the postseason again this year, and as cliché as it is, anything can happen once you get there. As the rosters are currently constructed, I do believe the Yanks are a better team still than either the Rangers or whatever team emerges from the AL Central. Boston is beastly, no doubt about it.  Still, their rotation like everyone else, is far from perfect. There’s a legitimate reason the Sox made a strong bid for Rich Harden — who Joe expertly discussed last week — just as there are plenty of reasons why we, as fans, should be thankful the talks fell through thanks to a failed physical examination.  Overall, the Red Sox may be the better team, but if they are, it’s not by a substantial amount.

Also, regardless of whether one agrees or not with Cashman not pulling the trigger on some of the club’s more notable prospects, it’s always a good thing when the farm system has an abundance of talent. I know this brings very little solace to some — I am all for trading prospects under the right circumstance too — but in today’s baseball climate, valuable cost-controlled young players are more important than ever.  At least for now, the Yankees have flexibility in that regard.

New York may “pay the price” in the immediate future (i.e.- the postseason) by not having another very good arm in the rotation, but with a little luck, perhaps the return on prospect patience will be worth its weight in gold down the road.  Sure some of the prospects will undoubtedly not pan out, but given the potential of some of their young players, don’t be surprised if some of them do contribute in a big way in the future.  The obvious question remains the same; does cost controlled talent outweigh the salivating-inducing thought of another successful World Series run?

I, for one, am okay with how things turned out.  Yes, I realize this may just be a Yankee blogger’s way of rationalizing.  I would have loved to have Jimenez on the Yankees roster, but honestly, I wasn’t nearly as disappointed when this trade didn’t work out as I was when Cliff Lee departed to the Rangers last season.

For what it’s worth, I do believe the Bombers have enough talent to contend in the postseason this year.  I’m also delighted the team still has guys like Jesus Montero waiting in the ranks, and bringing reason optimism for the future.  Who knows; perhaps, we have the best of both worlds at this point.

* * *

I’d also like to share some news on a more personal level. Yesterday afternoon, I went hiking with my wonderful girlfriend of six years, Kylee. We reached a secluded spot with an absolutely breathtaking view of the lake. I proposed and she said, “Yes!”  Ky is now officially my fiancée.

Kylee, you mean the world to me. I love you. I’m the luckiest man alive.

Yanks win big in second game of doubleheader

“That’s why I like whipping [the Yankees] butt. It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?” — Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter, March 2011

  • The twelve first inning runs are a new franchise record. Think about that. In the long and glorious history of the New York Yankees, they had never scored twelve runs in the first inning before this game. Insane.
  • The 24 hits are the Yankees’ most in almost exactly four years, when they hung 25 on the (Devil) Rays on July 22nd, 2007. It’s the first time they picked up 20 hits in a game since September 2009.
  • This was the 31st time since 1919 that the Yankees had eight players with two or more hits in a game. It’s the second time they’ve done it this season.
  • Zach Britton was the first starter the Yankees have knocked out of a game after just 0.1 IP since Tim Corcoran of the (Devil) Rays in September 2006. Here are Britton’s last two starts: 1 IP, 13 H, 17 R, 13 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. This kid was a top 10-15 prospect before the season. Fine example of what can happen when you rush young starters in the AL East.
  • Robinson Cano when the game started: .288/.333/.494. Cano when the final out was recorded: .297/.341/.505. Five-for-five with two doubles will do that for ya. Believe it or not, this was his first career five-hit game. That surprised me. Robbie has 17 career four-hit games.
  • I’m fairly certain that Andruw Jones has the most raw power on the Yankees. I’m talking brute strength, not hitting ability. When he gets a hold of one, they travel a frickin’ mile. He hit a homerun off the sign in the back of the visitor’s bullpen in this game, his 414th career homer. That’s the 45th most in history.
  • Ivan Nova‘s return was a smashing success; he allowed two garbage time runs in seven innings. He wiggled out of a bases loaded jam in the first, but was on cruise control the rest of the way with the big lead. Nova’s 97 pitches were broken down into 54 fastballs, 21 curveballs, 19 sliders, and three changeups. He got six swings and misses on the slide piece, the pitch they wanted him to work on in the minors.
  • I’m starting to think that Luis Ayala’s 1.65 ERA is not really indicative of his true ability. [/sarcasm]
  • Rafael Soriano threw his first 1-2-3 since Opening Day. It’s a Trade Deadline Eve miracle.
  • There’s too much offense to recap, so ogle the box score. Everyone got in on the fun. Here’s the FanGraphs stats, and here’s the updated standings.

The final game of this makeshift four-game set will be played Sunday afternoon at 1pm ET. Freddy Garcia gets the start against Jake Arrieta. If you want to go, I hear RAB Tickets can get you into the Stadium on the cheap.

Bichette homers again in GCL win

Based on this Mark LoMoglio picture from last night’s walk-off win (h/t Rebecca), J.R. Murphy is out with some kind of leg issue. No idea what though, could be an ankle, a foot, hamstring, maybe he fouled a ball off his leg, who knows. Either way, he’s still on crutches, so he’s not coming back anytime soon.

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 loss Rochester)
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 K
Greg Golson, CF & Doug Bernier, SS: both 1 for 3, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 RBI – the RBI single came off a big leaguer, or at least a guy that would be in the bigs for almost every organization
Mike Lamb, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – half of his 28 hits have gone for extra bases (eight doubles, two triples, four homers)
Jorge Vazquez, DH: 1 for 4, 1  R, 1 2B, 3 K – 133 strikeouts on the season … 133!
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 4, 1 2B – exactly two hits and one double in every game since being sent down
Jordan Parraz, RF & Austin Krum, LF: both 0 for 3 – Krum whiffed
Adam Warren, RHP: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 2 HB, 6-3 GB/FB – 64 of 105 pitches were strikes (61%)
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 21 of 32 pitches were strikes (65.6%)
Randy Flores, LHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 15 of 23 pitches were strikes (65.2%)

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Saturday’s Trade Deadline Open Thread

Gotta figure the next day and a half will be pretty hectic with rumors and trades and what not, so let’s start a thread for any Yankees-related stuff throughout the day. I’ll update this post and bump it to the top of the site whenever something noteworthy breaks, so the top bullets will be the latest info…

  • The Yankees bowed out of talks for Ubaldo four days ago after Colorado refused to let them perform a physical on the right-hander if they agreed to a trade. For what it’s worth, Jimenez is warming up to pitch against the Padres at the moment, so the report of him being scratch was erroneous. (Sherman)
  • Jimenez has been scratched from tonight’s start, and a deal appears to be done. He’s heading to Cleveland. (Heyman & Renck)
  • The Yankees took all the prospects Colorado wanted for Ubaldo off the table, and instead offered Phil Hughes and several others. The Rockies weren’t happy with that, so they turned to the Indians and sped up talks. The Yanks tried to sell it as troubled pitcher for troubled pitcher. (all Joel Sherman)

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Game 105: Nova’s Back

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The Yankees already have one win to their credit today, and now they’re welcoming Ivan Nova back to the rotation for the night cap. Joe Girardi indicated earlier this week that Nova could be up for more than just the spot start, though a trade is always possible as well. The Rockies have a scout in the stands tonight as the Ubaldo Jimenez talks go down to the wire. Either way, Nova’s job is to help the Yankees win tonight. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, DH
Andruw Jones, RF
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, 3B
Brett Gardner, LF

Ivan Nova, SP

The game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: To make room for Nova on the roster, the Yankees have sent Chris Dickerson back to Triple-A. He won’t be able to come back up for ten days, but I imagine the Yanks will just call up Greg Golson tomorrow. Either that or they’ll roll with a 13-man pitching staff for a week and a half (no thanks).

Orioles Trade: The Yankees haven’t made a trade yet, but Baltimore has. Between games they dealt super(setup)man Koji Uehara to the Rangers for the hacktastic Chris Davis and the festively plump Tommy Hunter. So no Koji tonight if the game is close in the late innings. Good news for the Yankees, and I think that’s a pretty nice trade for both teams.

Yanks pound Tillman, take first game of doubleheader

For the first two innings, Chris Tillman looked like Cy Young, striking out four men in a row at one point. He reverted back to his usual self after that, which meant his day ended with seven runs allowed in 4.1 IP. Let’s recap quickly…

  • The highlight of the offense was Nick Swisher, who was a triple shy of the cycle and has hit .351/.439/.544 since the All-Star break. Brett Gardner opened the scoring with a two-run single in the third, and the trio of Eric Chavez, Frankie Cervelli, and Chris Dickerson all had run-scoring singles. Jorge Posada drove in a run with a ground out.
  • Swish, Chavez, Cervelli, and Dickerson all had multiple hits, while Robinson Cano (walk), Gardner,  and Posada (single) all reached once. Eduardo Nunez and Mark Teixeira went a combined 0-for-9 with four strikeouts (three by Nunez), though Tex did come around to score after reaching first on a fielder’s choice. Considering the lineup, eight runs if pretty damn good.
  • Bartolo Colon had been amazingly efficient with his pitches earlier in the season, but he needed 105 to get 15 outs this afternoon. He walked two and gave up five hits, allowing two runs to score on ground ball outs. He pitched around a bases loaded jam in the first (struck out Mark Reynolds) and a runners on second and third situation in the third (struck out Derrek Lee). Bart did whiff six and get five ground ball outs, but it was a shaky outing and he had to battle for each out. It could have been worse.
  • Big ups to Cory Wade, who spared the bullpen after Colon’s short-ish start by soaking up three innings on 39 pitches. He did allow a solo homer to Reynolds, but that was the only blemish. Considering the score at the time (8-2), who cares. His work is greatly appreciated and will help the Yankees later tonight. Of course Boone Logan had a shaky ninth and caused Mariano Rivera to start throwing in the bullpen, so that sucks.
  • Here’s Tim Welke’s strike zone, which screams “we’ve gotta play two today so hurry the hell up.” Here’s the box score, the FanGraphs stuff, and the updated standings.

The second game of today’s doubleheader starts at the usual time, regular old 7pm ET. Ivan Nova will make his triumphant return to the bigs against Zach Britton, who is doing the same. The Yankees will have to make a move for Nova, but they have not yet announced it.

Handicapping the AL Cy Young Race

As the season moves into the dog days of August, some of the discussion in baseball circles naturally turns towards end of season awards ballots. This is usually a lot of fun, particularly when the old school, traditional camp goes head to head with the sabermetric camp and acrimony and recriminations ensue. There’s nothing quite like watching a reporter argue for a pitcher based on the win-loss record against someone who hasn’t looked at a W-L record all season. In anticipation of this, I’ve set out to handicap the American League Cy Young race, and have done so by trying to consider all relevant factors. Plenty of voters really do prefer looking at win-loss record, earned run average and overall team success. Other voters are comfortable looking past that and examining stats like FIP, strikeout and walk rates, and other more advanced measures of pitcher success. I’m not arguing for a particular voter rationale as much as trying to predict which one of the American League’s best pitchers will garner enough support from voters to take home the bacon. It’s a very good crop of pitchers this year, so the debate should be lively.

Honorable Mentions: C.J. Wilson, Felix Hernandez and Justin Masterson. All three have had fantastic seasons in their own right, but it’s hard to imagine any of them cracking the top 3 of the ballot as things stand right now. Of the three, King Felix seems the strongest candidate to move up the ballot if he finishes strong and other candidates slip. He’s won before, and he’s having another superb year in Seattle.

The Fringe

Dan Haren, photo courtesy of AP.

Dan Haren

My preseason pick for Cy Young is having another typically superb season. Haren is a bit of a fly ball pitcher, so pitching in Angels Stadium with good outfield defenders has really helped him so far. This year, Haren’s strikeout rate has dipped into the 7.5 K/9 range, down a little from his usual ~8 K/9 mark. However, he’s been more stingy than ever with the free passes, walking only 1.36 batters per nine innings. As a result, Haren leads the American League in K/BB ratio with a 5.65 mark, ahead of Justin Verlander’s 4.97.

Haren’s win-loss record is currently a modest 10-6. With a dozen or so starts left on the season, he seems unlikely to win twenty games this year, so he’s not likely to pick up any support from the traditional crowd in that area. His ERA is 3.01, certainly a respectable mark but nothing as shiny some of the other candidates. His ERA doesn’t diverge too wildly from his FIP (2.65) or xFIP (3.12), so there’s no reason to expect him to tail off as the season moves on, except for the fact that he usually pitches better in the first half of the season than the second.

As a result, I expect Haren to wind up in the top 3 of a few ballots, but he likely won’t be a serious contender for the award. Aside from K/BB ratio, he doesn’t lead the league in any of the “important” metrics, whether they be traditional or sabermetric, and there just isn’t a whole lot of buzz about his season. It’s been an excellent year for Haren, but probably not one good enough to win him the award. This is a friendly reminder that the Angels obtained him using Joe Saunders as the primary trade chip. Moving on.

Josh Beckett

Sadly, this was the only photo of Beckett available on the Internet. C'est la vie. Photo courtesy of AP.

Josh Beckett would likely be a serious contender for the Cy Young if not for the fact that he’s thrown roughly 30 to 40 innings less than the some of the other heavy hitters on this list. Like other seasons, Beckett has had a few struggles with his health this year, but he’s still managed to put together a good campaign and has several factors working in his favor for his Cy Young bid. For one, he’s a very well known pitcher with a reputation as being an ace, and he pitches in Boston and gets plenty of exposure. Further, he has a very low ERA, currently at 2.17. Those two factors alone mean that he’ll show up on plenty of Cy Young ballots around the nation.

Beckett is having a good year, no way around it. Yet, interestingly, his very low ERA is slightly misleading. It’s not as if this is a breakout year for Beckett. His strikeout rate has dipped a bit from career norms, and his xFIP is right in line with his career average. In fact, he posted a lower xFIP in each one of his 2007-2009 seasons. This shouldn’t obscure the fact that Beckett has had great success in the run prevention category, and if he cracks the 200 inning mark and the Red Sox win over 100 games he might find himself creeping up the ballot for plenty of voters. It won’t be undeserved. But it will be an interesting testament to the importance that a sub-3 ERA has on the psyche of the Cy Young voting community.

The Contenders

Jered Weaver

Aside from the pitcher deemed the Favorite, Jered Weaver has perhaps the strongest case for the AL Cy Young this year. Not only is his win-loss record a solid 14-4, but he also boasts a rather anemic 1.79 ERA. Weaver has a good strikeout rate thus far, punching out around seven and a half batters per nine innings, and he walks around two batters per nine. The key to explaining his tremendous success at run prevention this year is his astronomically low home run rate, 0.34 HR per nine innings. Weaver has given up only 6 home runs the entire year, well below what one would consider normal. Only 3% of his fly balls have turned into home runs this year; league average is around 10%, and Weaver himself is a career 7.5% HR/FB pitcher. It’s really an odd situation, particularly because Weaver is such an extreme fly ball pitcher. As a result, several run estimators expect Weaver to start yielding home runs at a much higher rate. His xFIP is 3.61, nearly two runs higher than his ERA.

I’m not advocating that Weaver be penalized in any way for maintaining such a low home run to fly ball ratio. If he ends the year with a 3% HR/FB ratio and a sub-2 ERA, he’ll likely win the Cy Young and it’ll be hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it. The historical record is what it is, even if it’s not likely sustainable or repeatable. The season isn’t over just yet though. Weaver has a decent amount of time left and it’s reasonable to expect his HR/FB ratio going forward to be somewhere around his career rate of 8%, which means more home runs and a higher ERA. Weaver may be a front-runner for the award at the moment, but it’s possible that he loses some steam as some of those fly balls turn into home runs and his ERA regresses in the last two months of the season. If not, and he finishes with 20 wins, a sub-2 ERA and a 90 win Los Angeles Angels team, he very well may take home his first ever Cy Young.

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander in the state of Karl Welzein. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Another pitcher sure to get some love from Cy Young voters is Justin Verlander. Verlander is currently posting his third straight sub-3 FIP season, but this year he finally has the ERA to match it (2.34). Verlander currently boasts an elite strikeout rate with an 8.79 K/9, but is walking a career low 1.77 batters per nine. For a career 2.81 BB/9 guy, this is a substantial reduction, and it leaves him with the second-best K/BB ratio in the American League. Like Weaver, Verlander is also well on his way to twenty wins, currently sporting a 14-5 win-loss record.

The thing that may stand in the way the most of Verlander clinching his first ever Cy Young is the risk of batted ball regression. His BABIP is currently .239, below his career mark of .288. Yet even if that inches up a couple dozen points, Verlander is still likely to have a very compelling case for Cy Young. He’s going to have the wins, the ERA and the peripheral stats to support him. He’s also thrown a ton of innings, more than CC Sabathia, and he’s thrown a no-hitter this season. If Detroit wins the Central, he may get an even bigger boost from voters. Verlander’s 2011 is absolutely superb. Whether he’s able to beat out Weaver and others is another question.

The Favorite 

"Throw ya hands in the air if youse a true playa". Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

CC Sabathia 

All the stars are lining up for Sabathia to win the second Cy Young award of his rather illustrious career. On the traditional side, the big fellow currently leads the American League in wins with 15. It’s absolutely true that he gets loads of run support, which is why wins aren’t the best barometer of pitcher skill, but plenty of voters still consider the factor. CC has 10 or 11 starts left this season, which means he’s a really good bet to end the year with more than twenty wins, a feat he accomplished for the first time last season. Like Weaver and Verlander, Sabathia also sports a very low ERA, currently 2.56. If Weaver’s ERA ticks up north of 2, it’s likely to make CC’s case look stronger.

Sabathia also has the benefit of pitching for a team contending for a playoff spot, perhaps directly against his competitors. Personally, I don’t think a better pitcher should be penalized for pitching on a worse team, but it seems clear that plenty of voters put a sort of premium on whether the Cy Young contender’s team makes the playoffs. If Sabathia’s Yankees win the Wild Card and Jered Weaver’s Angels or Justin Verlander’s Tigers do not, it can only help Sabathia’s case.

Sabathia should receive a good amount of support from the stat community. His case rests on more than just win totals, ERA and the Yankees making the playoffs. He currently sports the lowest FIP in the American League (2.49) and the highest fWAR total (5.6). He has an elite strikeout rate, a good walk rate and he’s getting loads of groundballs. His BABIP is fairly normal, and the only thing that could hurt him going forward is his relatively low HR/FB ratio, currently about half of his career rate. As a result his xFIP is 3.03, a touch higher than Verlander but still lower than Jered Weaver’s 3.61 mark. In other words, there’s nothing too fluky about Sabathia’s performance. Anyone who has watched him lately knows that already. He’s been virtually untouchable lately, in a stream reminiscent of his now-famous performance with Milwaukee in 2008. Sabathia is an ace in his prime, pitching in a tough division and racking up all sorts of indicators of dominance. In the midst of a very good year of pitching in the American League, Sabathia may end of with the best case for American League Cy Young. If the big fella wants a new contract, he’s doing a really good job of showing the world just how good he can be.