Yankees interested in Jeremy Bonderman?

Bonderman throws his first major league pitch. He doesn't look like the type of guy who'd make you throw a chair through a wall. (Paul Warner/AP)

Expect to see a lot of this the rest of the off-season, or at least until the back end of the Yankees’ rotation does not include the names Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Not long ago Fox Sports’s Jon Morosi reported that the Yankees “have shown interest” in Jeremy Bonderman. To what degree they’re interested is not clear, but I think we can turn to an oft-repeated line from Brian Cashman to get an idea.

“It’s something we do with every free agent.”

Two weeks ago Mike examined Bonderman and found little to like. While it appeared that his career was on the right track in 2006, when the Tigers went to the World Series, he’s been quite the disappointment ever since. It’s hard to believe he was just 23 that year. You can check Mike’s post for the gory details, but suffice it to say that injury played a major role in his downfall. After missing time in 2007 with blister problems followed by an elbow issue, he pitched just 81.2 innings combined in 2008 and 2009.

Bonderman did have a few good stretches in an overall disappointing 2010. From April 21 through June 1 he had a 2.70 ERA in 46.2 innings, which included a 35 to 12 K/BB ratio. Mixed in there was a seven-inning, two-run performance against the Yankees. Those starts, unfortunately, were bookended by two of his worst: a four-inning, 10-run debacle against the Mariners and a 5.2-inning, seven-run job against the Royals. He also continued to induce ground balls at a decent rate, a skill that is always welcome from a righty at Yankee Stadium.

As Mike said, “It would be foolish to count on Bonderman recovering the magic from 2004 through 2006.” But if he can build on what he did in 2010, he can be a decent back end option. With just a little improvement he’ll past the basic test — is he better than Segio Mitre? — with flying colors. It’s going to take quite the incentive-laden deal for me to get behind this one, but considering what the Yankees have on hand and what’s on the market, they could do a lot worse than a low-risk deal on Bonderman.

Kevin Long planning to work with Jeter before camp

Via Pete Caldera, hitting coach Kevin Long is planning to work with Derek Jeter before Spring Training officially gets underway. K-Long’s done some great things in recent years, but I’m not sure if even he knows the cure for “36-year-old shortstop.” Meanwhile, Long mentioned that the team is not married to a batting order for 2011, saying that the team will instead “toy with it.” I like it.

Open Thread: Jake Westbrook & Ted Lilly

Photo Credits: Suzanne Plunkett (Westbrook) & John Froschauer (Lilly), AP

Whenever you make a trade for multiple minor league pitchers, you usually hope that at least one pans out. When two turn into bonafide big league starters, you’ve struck gold. That’s what happened in December of 1999, when the Yankees traded Hideki Irabu to the Expos for then-minor leaguers Jake Westbrook and Ted Lilly. Westbrook’s pinstriped career lasted all of six months and 6.2 innings (13.50 ERA); he was traded to the Indians that June for David Justice. Lilly stuck around a little longer, throwing a total of 205.1 IP (4.65 ERA) across parts of three seasons for the Yanks before being traded to Oakland in a three-team swap that brought (ugh) Jeff Weaver to New York. All told, these two have accounted for 2,991.1 IP with 37.9 bWAR in their careers (most of that is Lilly), and were involved in what are arguably Brian Cashman‘s two best trades and his single worst.

Anyway, there’s your nostalgic moment for the night. Here’s the open thread. The Devils and Knicks are both in action, plus the Sugar Bowl is on (Ohio St. vs. Arkansas). Talk about whatever your heart desires, so go have at it.

Weekend Writer Update: We’ve made our selections and will announce the three new weekend people in tomorrow night’s open thread. Yes, we ending up “hiring” three.

Swisher to receive 2011 Thurman Munson Award

Who wants pie? (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Nick Swisher will be honored next month at the 31st annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner. The Yankee right fielder will receive a Munson Award in recognition for his on-field contributions to the team and his off-field charity work.

The dinner, hosted by AHRC-New York City Foundation, an organization that raises money for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will take place on Feb. 1, and Diana Munson, the late Yankee captain’s wife, praised Swisher.

“I love the way he plays, I love his enthusiasm,” said Diana Munson of Swisher. “Most importantly, he respects the history of baseball and the Yankees. On Old Timers Day, he was out there getting autographs and taking pictures. He’s not embarrassed by his love of the game, and respects the players. Plus, he’s cute.”

Swisher is coming off a season in which he hit .288/.359/.511 with 29 home runs and 89 RBI, and he has become a fan favorite out in right field. Off the field, he leads the Nick Swisher Foundation and its Swish’s Wishes program which helps lift the spirits of children suffering through life-threatening illnesses. He has also served as a co-Ambassador to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Lee Denim Day in their efforts to raise money for breast cancer research. The Munson Award is a well-deserved one for a Yankee who is very giving of his time and energy.

Yankees considering Andruw Jones

Via Jon Heyman, free agent Andruw Jones is on the Yankees’ “list of righty hitting [outfielders] to consider.” I assume this is the same list Manny Ramirez was on. I took a look at Jones about a week ago and figured that he’s a viable option for that Marcus Thames role, and I see no reason to change my opinion now. Andruw has declined the Yanks once before though, so there’s a little bit of history here.

The RAB Radio Show: January 4, 2011

It appears as though the Rangers will sign Adrian Beltre. What does this have to do with the Yankees? It makes the Angels that much worse. Again, what does this have to do with the Yankees? They have some decent pitchers on staff, and the Yanks could go shopping in Anaheim come deadline. Mike and I run down the guys they have and who we’d want.

(Also, more Scott Kazmir than you ever wanted to hear.)

After poking around the Angels and discussing their bleak situation, we move onto divisional matters. The Orioles further strengthened their bullpen by adding Kevin Gregg. If they have a lead late they might actually hold on. Plus, there’s another positive to signing Gregg.

Podcast run time 31:35

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The 2010 Yankees & Inherited Runners

That was a bad day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

One of the most frustrating things to watch in baseball is when a reliever comes into a game and isn’t able to put the fire out. Instead of stranding the runners like he was asked to do, they end up coming around to score, and even worse is when he piles some more runs of his own on top of that. It inevitably happens throughout the season, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it. Those inherited runners are one of baseball’s little statistical quirks, because when those runs score don’t get charged to the pitcher that was actually on the mound at the time.

Let’s say it’s the seventh inning, and CC Sabathia loads the bases with two outs on an infield single, a bloop into the triangle in shallow right-center, and a hit by pitch that grazed the batter’s jersey. Joe Girardi takes his ace out at 118 pitches and gives the ball to Chad Gaudin because he’s trying to force feed him a spot on the playoff roster. Gaudin walks two straight batters then gives up a solid single to center, allowing all three of those inherited runners to score before getting the final out. All three runs are charged to Sabathia while Gaudin exits with a shiny 0.00 ERA. It’s not fair or an accurate representation of what happened, but those are the rules.

As a whole, the Yankee pitching staff allowed 61 of 212 inherited runners to score in 2010, or 28.8%. The major league average was 30.8%, so the Yanks were solidly better than the rest of the league in that department. I’m guessing that has to do the team’s primary relievers having down right excellent strikeout rates, close to or above one strikeout per nine innings pitched. The best team at stranding inherited runners in 2010 was the Twins (23.8% allowed to score), the worst was the Diamondbacks (41.3%, yikes). Here is the inherited runner breakdown for Yankee relievers with at least 25 innings pitched in 2010…

It’s not an enormous amount of baserunners on an individual level, but every little bit counts. Fun fact: All three of those inherited runners Mo allowed to score came in one game, the May 16th game when he walked Jim Thome with the bases loaded before allowing the grand slam to Jason Kubel (pictured above). To give you an idea of how unstable this data really is, David Robertson‘s percentage of inherited runners scored would have been an above league average 28.1% instead of a below average 31.3% had he allowed nine runners to score instead of ten.

Aside from Mitre and CHoP, the team’s core relief crew did a fine job of stranding runners, basically league average or better. None of the primary guys really had an especially poor season in this department. But what about the starting pitchers that handed the ball off to said relief crew?

Among the many great stats kept at Baseball Reference is data on bequeathed runners and bequeathed runners scored. That is runners left on base by a starting pitcher and handed over to a reliever, the other side of the inherited runner coin. Here’s a breakdown of the team’s five regular starters from 2010, with their bequeathed runner data…

Again, it’s a relatively small amount of runners on an individual level, but it still puts a dent in the ol’ ERA. Both Pettitte and Hughes appear to have benefited greatly from work by the guys relieving them, Sabathia not so much. I wanted to get an idea of how much having an above or below average rate of bequeathed runners score impacted these guys’ ERA’s, so let’s figure out how many runners would have been expected to score had each received the team average of 28.8% inherited runners scored…

Okay, so it’s not much of a difference, nothing worth getting upset over. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started writing this post, so for all I knew it could have been a 0.50 ERA swing in some cases. I wish there was a way to get bequeathed runner data for relievers, but alas, B-Ref only keeps it for starters. I suspect that Joba might have been a little unlucky in those spots, I seem to remember quite a few times when he was lifted with men on base only to watch the inning implode. Heck, those three inherited runners Mo allowed to score in that game all belonged to Joba. Could be confirmation bias, so who knows.

As it stands, the only significant addition to the 2011 bullpen is Pedro Feliciano. He’s been an inherited runner stranding machine over the last four years, allowing just 51 of 235 runners to score (21.7%) over the last four years. Over the last two seasons, it’s 18.3%. That definitely has something to do with his status as a lefty specialist though, so don’t get too excited. As long as the Yankee relievers keep missing bats and getting outs on strike three, I would expect them to be better than league average at stranding extraneous baserunners.