How much is Yankee Stadium helping Nick Swisher?

Nick Swisher kills the ball to left field. Even in his poor 2008 he still showed power to left field, from both sides of the plate. His recovery in 2009 comprised improvements in his hitting as a lefty to center field, and from both sides of the plate to right field. This makes me ask the obvious question: Did Yankee Stadium aid Swisher’s 2009 rebound?

To get a better idea of an answer, we turn to my favorite new resource, FanGraphs splits. Here we can see how Swisher hit to each field over his career. The only downside is that we can’t further break down these splits into home/road. Swisher’s season stats, half of which he accumulated at Yankee Stadium, will have to suffice.

In 2007, when Swisher hit well, and in 2008, when he did not, he hit exactly zero extra base hits as a righty to right field. In 2005 and 2006 he hit one in each year, both times a double. That’s four years in the majors with just two extra base hits to the opposite field when batting righty. In 2009 he hit three, two doubles and a triple. While we’re dealing with small samples here, a matter of 17 to 30 balls in play per season, it’s tough to ignore his 2009 numbers eclipsing the entirety of his career to that point.

Hitting as a righty to right field in 2009, Swisher put just 21 balls in play. Like the rest of his career, the majority of those were fly balls. What changed is that he hit almost no balls on the ground, just 4.5 percent, and hit plenty on a line, 18.2 percent. It still resulted in no home runs, but again, the two doubles and one triple were more than he hit in his entire career combined to that point.

As a lefty hitting to right, it appears that the short porch also aided Swisher. In 2008 he hit .391 as a lefty to right, on the power of a .320 BABIP (lower because home runs do not count as balls in play). In 2009 he hit .330 on a .247 BABIP, but also posted a .413 ISO, which beats his .365 mark from 2008. Again, we’re working with relatively small samples here, around 110 balls in play (plus home runs) in each of the past two years. Over his career he’s accumulated 648 plate appearances as a lefty hitting to right, about a full season’s worth. In that sample he’s hit .384 with a .393 ISO on a .314 BABIP. That sends some mixed signals.

In 2009 his BABIP fell far below his career average. The home runs didn’t cause it, as the 12 he hit as a lefty to right lines up with his career totals. He did, however, hit more fly balls as a lefty to right in 2009. These are usually a BABIP killer. Yet, in Yankee Stadium, hitting fly balls to right field can bring good results — as in, more home runs. True to that, Swisher 40 percent of Swisher’s fly balls sailed over the fence. Though, again, that includes all of his games, not just those played at Yankee Stadium.

As was clear when I asked the question, there’s just not enough data to definitively answer whether Swisher benefitted from the dimensions of Yankee Stadium. We can see, however, that he certainly improved his power to right field upon joining the Yankees. For the bulk of his career he has been a dead pull hitter as a righty, but once in Yankee Stadium he took the ball the other way more often. Maybe this is a skill he’ll improve upon in 2010, making him more of a complete player. He’s never going to be a high average guy, and he’ll always strike out a ton, but if he can balance himself from the right side of the plate he can still add a dimension to his game.

Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Dustin Moseley, the newest Yankees non-roster invitee

Spring Training non-roster invitees don’t normally amount to anything. The Yankees have invited dozens over the years, only to see them spend the year in the minors, or, if they have an out clause, catch on with another organization. Even the ones who do head north with the big league team, like Morgan Ensberg in 2008, don’t always stick around all season. The Yankees have invited a pair of former high draft picks to camp, 2002 first rounder Royce Ring and 2003 second rounder Jason Hirsh, and yesterday announced that they’d also bring along 2000 first rounder Dustin Moseley.

The newest invitee spent the last four seasons in the Angels organization, breaking camp in the rotation over the past three years. He never stuck, though, moving between the minors and the bullpen after April. The Yankees faced him four times, twice as a starter, in fairly unremarkable games.

In the 2000 amateur draft the Reds selected Moseley with a supplemental first round pick, 34th overall. He didn’t sign until November and so didn’t see any professional action that season. Still, Baseball America ranked him the Reds No. 7 prospect for the 2001 season. In 2002 he moved up to No. 5, where he remained for 2003. In 2004 he peaked at No. 4 in the organization.

His results in both 2002 and 2003 warranted the ranking. While he posted unspectacular strikeout rates, and saw those rates fall as he climbed the minor league ladder, he stuck to what he does best: keeping the ball on the ground. That, in turn, kept the ball inside the ballpark. Combined with a serviceable walk rate, it led to low ERAs for Moseley as he worked through A+ and AA ball in 2002, and then AA and AAA in 2003.

For the second straight year, in 2004, he split the season between AA and AAA. I don’t have the game logs, but I wonder if this is akin to Jeff Karstens’s 2006, where he started in AAA, pitched poorly, dominated AA, and moved back up. His 1.56 WHIP at AAA suggests that might be the case. After the season the Reds traded him to the Angels for Ramon Ortiz, who went on to get hammered at Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly park.

Moseley didn’t make Anaheim’s Top 10 in 2005, mainly because they had a stacked system. Injuries limited Moseley to just 80 innings that year, and in that short span the Pacific Coast League took its toll. Whenever discussing the PCL, I find it necessary to mention that Bubba Crosby posted a 1.046 OPS there in 2003. Moseley allowed 11 home runs in his 80 innings, a far greater rate than he’d allowed in his career to date. He recovered a bit in 2005, bringing his home run rate back to his career norms and generally keeping the ball out of the air. His 4.68 FIP looked good in the PCL, and earned him a brief July cup of coffee before a September call-up.

In 2007 and 2008 Moseley broke camp in the Angels rotation, but didn’t last long either year. He stuck around in the bullpen in 2007, pitching 92 innings between eight starts and 38 relief appearances and posting a 3.98 FIP, mostly because of his low home run rate. When that took a jump in 2008, Moseley suffered. It also didn’t help that he allowed 70 hits in 50.1 IP. An forearm injury divided his season, landing him on the DL in early May. He came back to make a spot start in July, and then disappeared to the minors, not to return until rosters expanded. His 120.1 minor league innings went pretty horribly, resulting in a 6.94 ERA against a 5.62 FIP.

John Lackey’s elbow injury cleared Moseley for another rotation stint, though this one lasted only three starts. He left his April 17th start with an elbow injury that landed him on the DL. Hip surgery in August ultimately ended his season. Between his last start and his hip surgery, he also experienced nerve problems in his neck. The Angels declined to tender him a contract in December, making him a free agent.

Clearly, the Yanks can’t expect much from Moseley. Even if he pitches to his 2007 level, he’s bullpen fodder at best. The Yankees seem to be full in that department, so if Moseley stays with the organizations he’ll have to start in Scranton, joining Zach McAllister and Ivan Nova. Perhaps he’d provide an experienced depth option, but with the arms the Yankees have accumulated over the past year, including fellow NRI Jason Hirsh, it doesn’t seem likely that Moseley dons the interlocking NY in 2010.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Open Thread: You can’t strike out everyone

Earlier this morning, Ben discussed the Granderson left field question that made its rounds yesterday. It’s really no big deal. If the Yankees name Brett Gardner the starter and feel he’ll play better defense in center field, then perhaps Granderson will slide over to left. That seems to be the only scenario under which they’d even consider a move.

Rob Neyer often weighs in on stories like this, and he did so yesterday. I do take issue with one thing he said, though:

It’s pretty obvious that the organization doesn’t care about defense. That’s why they’ve got all those high-strikeout pitchers.

To start with the second sentence: Yes, they did pick up a number of high strikeout pitchers. Strikeouts help because it means fewer balls in play, which means less pressure on the defense. But those pitchers still allow plenty of balls in play, including a good number of fly balls and line drives. Thankfully, this crew of starters typically does a good job of keeping the ball out of the air. So it might be more accurate for Neyer to append that to his second sentence.

But that still leaves the issue of Sentence No. 1. Pretty obvious that they don’t care about defense? I just don’t see that. In fact, this off-season they brought in two good defensive outfielders in Curtis Granderson and Randy Winn, leaving Johnny Damon, a poor defender in 2009, to find work elsewhere. Hell, they even brought in a good defensive first baseman, even though he figures to play fewer than 10 games there this year. I think the organization does care about defense, but not at the expense of significant offense. Which is completely different than them not caring about defense.


And so begins another open thread. For the basketball fans, the Nets are in Charlotte and the Knicks are in Chicago. More interesting than the Knicks game, really, is their pursuit of Tracy McGrady. Not that McGrady is exciting in himself. Rather, trading for him would mean shedding Jared Jeffries’s contract. Joe Treutlein at Hoopdata explains what that means for the Knicks this off-season (with a tip o’ the hat to Ross, who has some new digs). Unfortunately, it looks like Houston has better offers. Or maybe they’re just posturing.

Steinbrenner Field set to host Florida Four in March

College baseball fans heading to Tampa for some Spring Training action this March are in for a treat. The Yankees and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission announced yesterday that Steinbrenner Field will play host to a pair of college games on March 2 that pits the state’s top collegiate teams against each other. The University of South Florida will play the University of Miami while the University of Florida will face off with Florida State in the second game.

“We’ve been working with the Yankees for a few years now to bring another premier event to our community,” Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission Rob Higgins said. “We hope it serves as launching pad to Omaha for the four programs. This is a story that will start in March and we hope continues on to June. ”

“On behalf of the World Champion New York Yankees, it is with great pleasure and pride that we welcome the Florida Four Baseball Classic to George M. Steinbrenner Field. As a past collegiate coach, it is George Steinbrenner’s dream to create this event for Tampa”, Felix Lopez, one of the team’s senior vice presidents, said. “We welcome the great schools of Florida to our facility and look forward to continuing this event for years to come”

According to our own resident college expert Mike Axisa, both Florida and Miami feature a few players to watch at this tournament. Miami’s catcher Yasmani Grandal is a likely first-rounder this year and Chris Hernandez, a lefty hurler, will probably go in the top three rounds. Eric Erickson, also a southpaw, was drafted by the Yanks in the 43rd round of the 2006 draft. Florida features Matt den Dekker, one of Mike’s potential first-round targets last year, and Nick Maronde, another lefty Mike named as a signability guy in 2008.

Anyway, this should be a great event. So if you’re in the Tampa area or are stopping by the Yanks’ complex for some Grapefruit League action, check out the Florida Four. A bunch of talented youngsters are going to be playing for state pride. (Hat tip to Maury Brown)

Yanks invite five more to Spring Training

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have invited five more players to Spring Training: RHP D.J. Mitchell, RHP Ryan Pope, RHP Dustin Moseley, 1B Jorge Vazquez, and 1B/3B Brandon Laird. Obviously, Moseley is the new name here. The 28-year-old spend the last four years going up-and-down for the Angels, though he missed most of last season with an elbow strain. His peripherals (5.3 K/9, 12.3 H/9) don’t exactly portend success in the AL East, but there’s no harm in inviting him to camp.

Apparently the Yankees aren’t too bothered by Laird’s arrest last month, which is a bit surprising considering they basically benched George Kontos for over a month when he got pinched a few years ago. Here’s the list of original invitees.

Just how much has A-Rod made during his career?

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Alex Rodriguez, I think of two things: his enormous talent, and his enormous salary. There’s just no way around it. The man signed the two biggest contracts in the history of the sport, more than 25% larger then the third biggest contract. The Yankees will pay Alex $32M in 2010, far and away the largest annual salary in the history of the game. If you’re a regular working stiff making $40,000 a year at the nine-to-five, it’ll take you about 16 lifetimes to make what A-Rod will pocket this season. It’s not fair, but that’s life.

We know what the contracts were. Ten years, $252M back in 2001, then another ten year, $275M monster after he opted out of the first deal in 2007. He also signed a Major League contract out of the draft, guaranteeing him more than four times the league minimum during his first three seasons. However, base salary is just one piece of the puzzle. A-Rod’s deals have contained incentives for making the All Star Team, various finishes in the MVP voting, Silver Sluggers, all sorts of stuff. In addition to all that, A-Rod will get 3% interest on $45M he agreed to defer just a year into his original deal with Texas, though he forfeited $15M of that when he opted out of his deal.

Well, words can only do so much, so here’s a breakdown of A-Rod’s annual earnings. Remember to click it for a larger view.

Update: I missed the signing bonus from his most recent contract. That’s the correct chart.

First off, none of that would be possible without the greatness of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Second of all, I make no guarantees about it’s accuracy, but I’m confident that I’m close.

A-Rod’s base salaries from 1994-2000 and 2008-2017 are straight forward. His base salaries from 2001-2007 were reduced by $3-5M per year as part of the deferred payments he agreed to (I assumed the 3% interest was compounded annually). That deferred money will be paid out from 2011-2020. The $10M signing bonus A-rod received as part of his deal with Texas was paid out over five years, and then there’s the incentives…

  • $50,000 for finishing sixth in the 2001 MVP voting
  • $100,000 each for being selected to the All Star Game from 2001-2007
  • $100,000 for receiving the most All Star votes in 2007
  • $100,000 each for Silver Slugger Awards in 2001-2003, 2005, and 2007
  • $100,000 for being named The Sporting News Player of the Year in 2002
  • $100,000 each for being named Baseball America’s Major League Player of the Year in 2002 and 2007
  • $200,000 for finishing second in the 2002 MVP voting
  • $500,000 for being named the 2003 AL MVP
  • $1,000,000 for being named the 2005 AL MVP
  • $1,500,000 for being named the 2007 AL MVP

And you know what? That’s not even all of them. From 2001-2007, A-Rod would have received $100,000 each time he was named to a postseason All Star Team by the AP, Baseball America, or The Sporting News. I couldn’t find that info, but that’s potentially $2,100,000 in incentives laying out there. He surely pocketed the majority of that.

So all told, A-Rod has made at least $216,940,700 $219,940,700 in his playing career to date. He’s guaranteed another $243,463,310 $250,463, 310 between now and 2020, and then there’s the $30M in possible incentives for setting the career homerun record. A-Rod’s sitting at 583 career homers right now, and he’ll make an additional $6M each when he hits his 660th, 714th, 755th, 762nd, and 763rd homers. If Alex hits 130 homers over the next four years (32.5 per year), he would have a shot at getting the last four homerun incentives all in one season. In that perfect storm scenario, A-Rod’s 2014 earnings would be $52,746,331 $55,746,331.

A-Rod is guaranteed to make $470,404,010 during his playing career, and he’ll be within shouting distance of clear half-a-billion dollars should he reach those homerun incentives.  And remember, that’s just what he’s made playing baseball. He also has/had endorsement deals with Nike, Rawlings, Wheaties, the Got Milk campaign, Pepsi and Oasys Mobile. I’m sure those are seven figure payouts, otherwise they wouldn’t be worth his time.

Some will call A-Rod greedy, but I’m inclined to say he just used common sense when presented with not one, but two nine-figure contracts. Alex did a tremendous job marketing his talent and maximizing his earning potential, which in the end is what we’re all trying to do. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Chien-Ming Wang heads to D.C. (for real this time)

Update (1:29pm): CMW gets one year, $2M guaranteed, plus another $3M in incentives. He’ll be arbitration eligible after the season. Not to shabby.

1:00pm: Via MLBTR, the Nationals have agreeed to sign former Yank Chien-Ming Wang, and have a press conference scheduled for later this week. PeteAbe first broke the news last week, but both sides backed off a bit. Either way, it’s done now. We don’t know what the terms are yet, but reportedly the Yanks wanted the chance to match any offer.

Wang’s tenure in pinstripes ends with a 55-26 record and a 4.16 ERA, though he hasn’t pitched a full season in more than two years. Hopefully he’s healthy, and I wish him luck.