The sounds of Cashman calling Boras’s bluff

Judging by the way he’s spoken to the media this week, Brian Cashman is as sick of the Johnny Damon drama as the rest of us. I can understand, to an extent, the attention surrounding the situation. Damon is the best remaining free agent, and the Yankees have a perceived hole in left field. But they also claim to have a tight budget, making what appears to be a perfect marriage a bit dicier. And so, the more time Johnny spends on the free agent market, the more we hear about his prospects, both real and fabricated.

This week Cashman has seemed a bit irritated when a reporter raises the topic. Over the weekend, when Jon Heyman floated the story about the Yankees putting a weekend deadline on their offer to Damon, Cashman wasn’t too friendly when asked for a comment.

“Long long it’s taking certain people to wake up and smell the coffee, that’s what surprises me,” Cashman said. “Wake up and smell the coffee,” seems to be one of his favorite phrases. But who, in this instance, should roll themselves out of bed and take a whiff of the French roast? “When you get on the phone with agents, they tell you one thing, and certain agents can’t honestly believe what they’re trying to convey. Do they think I’m stupid?” Emphasis, of course, is mine.

I wasn’t with Cashman when he said this. I don’t know what tone he took, though having heard him speak before I can venture a pretty good guess. But even absent that information, it sounds like he’s referring to Scott Boras. If Bill Madden is right about Boras continuing to float mystery teams instead of talking numbers, I’d say it’s almost certain that the above quote could read, “…Scott Boras can’t honestly believe what he’s trying to convey.”

Yesterday Bryan Hoch asked Cashman about Johnny Damon, and he started off frankly. “I’m not having any discussions with him,” Cashman said. Fair enough. Straight forward, answering the question — things you expect. But then he added a bit of a zinger, again presumably targeted at Boras.

“His abilities exceed the money that I have.”

I definitely chuckled at this a bit. Boras has gone on and on about Johnny’s invincibility this winter, and now that his other major clients have homes he has probably ramped up that effort over the past week or so. I can only imagine Cashman’s annoyance at constantly hearing it from Boras. His quote is also, I think, a hint at the dissonance between Boras’s demands and the current market. Yes, Johnny is a valuable player, and in a different year he’d probably have received a multiyear offer. This year that will not happen. But Boras continues to bang the drum.

All parties seem to think the Yankees are moving on. That’s just public discourse, however. Until Johnny signs elsewhere, the possibility remains that he’ll again don pinstripes in 2010. But, in case he does sign in Oakland or Cleveland or some other team, the Yankees do have options. As Joel Sherman tweets, the Yankees are still considering their options, including Reed Johnson. Also, if Rocco Baldelli comes to Spring Training, it will be as a non-roster invite. That makes plenty of sense, considering Baldelli’s injury history and performance last season.

Over the weekend, Damon said he’d have a team by the end of this week. Please, oh please let that be true. I don’t think I have the stomach for much more of this.

Piliere ranks the Yanks’ farm system middle of the pack

Frankie Piliere of AOL FanHouse released his organizational rankings today, one day after dropping his top 100 prospects on us. The Yanks came in at #15 overall, right in the middle of the pack. “The Yankees have plenty of depth,” he says. “What they don’t have right now is a great deal of impact talent behind Jesus Montero.” Hard to argue with that, I said the same thing a week ago.

The Rays top his list, and deservedly so. Their system is insane. And don’t even try the “it’s easy to have a good system when you have so many high picks from sucking so long” defense. Nine of their top ten prospects according to Baseball America were either a) drafted after the first round, or b) signing off the international market, where they were available to everyone. It’s time to stop being ignorant and start recognizing their amazing player development abilities.

Open Thread: DiMaggio vs. Paige

Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News writes of a story out of baseball’s forgotten lore, a matchup between Joe DiMaggio and Satchel Paige.

Joe DiMaggio was a prospect, a promising one for sure, but he still was two months shy of making his New York Yankees spring-training debut.

Leroy “Satchel” Paige was a Negro Leagues pitching sensation whose exploits seemed the stuff of myth until they actually were seen.

On a Sunday afternoon, Jan. 26, 1936, at the Oaks Ball Park in Emeryville, the two future Hall of Famers crossed paths in a fascinating but seldom told chapter of their legendary careers.

DiMaggio, 21 at the time, wasn’t the stoic Yankee Clipper yet.

Paige, 29 and in the prime of his career, played mostly in the game’s shadows. He wouldn’t make his major league debut for 12 more years.

The game, as Faraudo describes it, was quite the battle, pitting big leaguers against two Negro league players and a crew of players from the Oakland playgrounds. Paige, unsurprisingly, stole the show, allowing just one run on three hits through nine innings while driving in his team’s only run. DiMaggio was hitless until the 10th, when he slapped a single up the middle for the winning run.

After you finish taking in that memory, come back for the open thread. In local sports, the Devils are up in Ottawa, the Islanders host Washington, and the Knicks host the Wolves.

When the Yankees play: inside the 2010 schedule

In the middle of September, Major League Baseball released its preliminary schedule for 2010, and at the time, we had some fun dissecting the Yanks’ slate of 162. With the quirks of the scheduling came our requisite complaints: too many early games against Boston, too many illogical road trips and too many away games in April. On the other hand, the Yanks do get to play the Astros and Diamondbacks while the Red Sox face the Giants and Rockies, but I digress.

Today, baseball unveiled the preliminary start times for the 2010 season, and the Yanks’ official schedule has been updated as such. The schedule is available for download and personal calendar integration in numerous forms right here. The option to add the Yanks’ schedule to Google Calendar option is fantastic for those of whose lives are on Google, and the Outlook/iCal integration is an added perk this year.

Although the broadcast schedules have yet to be announced, we can glean some information from the start times. As we know, the Yanks and Red Sox will square off on Sunday night at 8 p.m. On average, the temperature in Boston on April 4 at 8 p.m. is in the low 40s. Ninja Cano will make his return. The next two games of the season, also in Boston, are night affairs, but the Yanks’ first two games at hand on Tuesday, April 13 and Wednesday, April 14 are both at 1:05 p.m.

In May, the Yanks will be the ESPN team of the month. With a weekend series from May 7-9 and a trip to Citi Field two weekends later, ESPN will broadcast both of the Sunday night games from those series, and FOX will probably take the May 8th game with a TBD start time.

The June TV highlights will be the Yankees/Joe Torre reunion in Chavez Ravine. Both of the weekend games for the Bombers’ trip to Los Angeles currently feature TBD start times, and I’d put money on a FOX/ESPN weekend special. Considering the media markets and the emotional story lines, those games are primed for a ratings bonanza. The week before that trip west, the Mets come to the Bronx, and both of those games will probably be on national TV as well. May and June will feature a lot of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and Jon Miller.

After that, only the remaining series against Boston are bound to be on TV. Otherwise, the Yankees have done a good job avoiding weekend night games. No home game on a Saturday starts later than 4:05 p.m., and although many Saturday road games are at night, I appreciate the Yanks’ efforts in schedule afternoon affairs.

So that’s that. Now, we just have to wait until Opening Day. April 4, 8:05 p.m. Mark your calendars.

Yanks trade Mitch Hilligoss for Greg Golson

Back in the day, a move like this would have flown under the radar. But now we have schmucks, like the guy covering MLBTR today, digging up little tidbits to satiate our transactional thirst. As MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports, the Yankees have sent Mitch Hilligoss to the Rangers for outfielder Greg Golson. It’s a small-time move, for sure — the Rangers DFA’d Golson last week to make room for Khalil Greene. The Yanks are the beneficiaries, trading a guy with no future on the team for a possible outfield option.

The 21st overall pick in the 2004 draft, Golson spent most of his professional career in the Phillies system. Known primarily for his speed, Golson didn’t flash much of anything else during his journey from A ball to AA. His OBP never hit even .330 until his age-22 season, in AA, and even then it sat at .333. His contact and power numbers were decent for a speedster, however, as he racked up 120 hits, 35 of which went for extra bases, over 426 at-bats in 2008. The Phillies then traded him to Texas for John Mayberry.

Golson slipped in 2009, his batting average dropping to .258, his OBP to .299, and his SLG to .334, all while in the hitter-friendly PCL. But even before then he lost the prospect luster. John Sickels extended his top 20 Rangers prospects to 24, and still Golson fell into the “others” list. Baseball America clearly left him out of their top 10, though Golson did rank as the best athlete, fastest baserunner, and best outfield arm in the organization.

For the Yanks, this represents just another low-risk move. Hilligoss, most remembered for his 38-game hitting streak in the Sally League three years ago, probably won’t amount to much, especially in the Yankees’s system. All Golson costs is one of the free 40-man roster spots, and even then it doesn’t seem like they’ll hesitate to cut him if the need arises. For now he’ll compete for a spot on the team in Spring Training, though chances are the Yankees will just stash him in AAA. It appears he was added to the 40-man roster after the 2008 season, so he’ll have options.

Credit: AP Photo/Tom Mihalek

The best fastball, curveball, slider, cutter, and changeup on the Yankees

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve started writing about the stats we use. One concept we saw in both current entries, UZR and wOBA, is linear weights. The idea might sound complex, but it is not. The idea is to assign a value to different outcomes and situations, so we can get a truer sense of how baseball players add value. During the 2009 season, FanGraphs introduced pitch type linear weights, which took the actual results of different pitch types, as provided by Baseball Info Solutions, and ran them through linear weight conversions by not only event, but by count. This gives us a decent idea of how a pitcher fared with his arsenal.

Let’s see how each of the Yankees fared. We’ll look at pitchers who spent a decent amount of time on the roster, 40 innings for relievers plus the starters. Then I’ll compare them to the league leaders, both for starters and relievers. These measurements will be on a per 100 pitch basis, as to put it in a rate form rather than counting form. Finally, for the secondary pitches I’ll weed out the short sample size numbers by noting only pitchers who threw the particular pitch at least 10 percent of the time.

Fastball

Starter: CC Sabathia, 0.64
Reliever: Phil Coke, 1.40

Some might be surprised to see Coke atop the list — some might even say it delegitimizes the stat. I believe it, though. It seemed that Coke got into major trouble when he overused his slider. We saw that first hand early in the season when the Twins, namely Morneau and Mauer, lit up Coke’s slider. He came back later in the series to face Morneau, and struck him out using just fastballs. It was certainly his most effective pitch, which probably explains why he had such spotty success. Relievers certainly need that second pitch. Also, for good measure, Phil Hughes‘s fastball wasn’t far behind, at 1.22, and it rated higher on a counting basis.

What comes as no surprise is CC Sabathia’s fastball ranking highest among starters. A.J. Burnett is known for his blazing fastball and devastating curve, but in 2009 his fastball didn’t quite measure up. That leaves Joba, Sabathia, and Pettitte, and it’s pretty clear who had the best fastball among that group. Joba, in fact, had a pretty terrible fastball, ranking among the worst for AL starters.

AL leader, starter: Zack Greinke, 1.27
AL leader, reliever: Craig Breslow, 2.65

Credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Slider

Starter: Joba Chamberlain, 1.29
Reliever: Phil Coke, -0.30

It seems Joba has good reason for loving his slider so much, as it appears a damn effective pitch. Overall it was worth 7.5 runs above average, an excellent mark, especially for a guy pitching his first full major league season. He kept shaking off Jorge Posada to get the three fingers, and he kept throwing it with effectiveness. If he can further harness the pitch this year and get his fastball back to 2008 levels, when it was at 0.79 runs above average per 100 pitches, he should have a wildly successful 2010 season.

As for Coke being the top reliever, that’s more a result of so few Yankee relievers using the pitch. David Robertson actually ranked highest, but he threw the pitch just 1.4 percent of the time, so we can discount the performance. Likewise, Burnett led among starters but threw the slider just 0.1 percent of the time. The Yankees bullpen, it appears, is more of a curveball/changeup crew.

AL leader, starter: Zack Greinke, 2.90
AL leader, reliever: Mike Wuertz, 2.75

Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Curve

Starter: A.J. Burnett, 1.47
Reliever: Al Aceves, 1.74

Though we saw it fall flat on a few occasions this season, Burnett clearly has the best curve on the team, and among the best in the league. His is a power curve, coming in something like a slider as it dips down and away from righties.

Aceves boasts a number of pitches in his arsenal, but none appears as effective as his curve. He’s a nice change of pace in the Yankees bullpen. While they have Robertson, Marte, and Hughes with strong fastballs, Aceves brings it down a tick, mixing high 80s heat with a slew of breaking and off-speed pitches that keep hitters guessing.

AL leader, starter: Tommy Hunter, 2.27
Al leader, reliever: Joakim Soria, 4.86

Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Change

Starter: CC Sabathia, 3.59
Reliever: Al Aceves, 3.10

Mike already wrote about CC’s changeup and how it devastates righties. So devastating, in fact, that it ranked best in league. Go CC. On the relief front, Aceves proves his versatility by not only ranking highest for curve, but also for changeup. He throws them with similar frequency, keeping hitters off-balance. Again, I love the change of pace he brings to the bullpen.

AL leader, starter: Sabathia
AL leader, reliever: Aceves

Credit: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

Cutter

Starter: Andy Pettitte, 2.50
Reliever: Mariano Rivera, 2.03

Neither of these comes as a surprise. Surprisingly, Hughes’s cutter ranked not far behind Mo’s on a rate basis, at 1.98, but clearly didn’t even approach it on a counting basis. Both of Hughes’s fastballs ranked well, with his curveball lagging behind. He probably needs to start throwing it more in 2010, though it appears he favors the four-seamer and cutter much more when pitching out of the bullpen.

Pettitte mixed his pitches well in 2009, going with healthy doses of four-seamers, cutters, curves, and changes. His cutter ranked the best, and his curve provided value as well. Those two pitches, I believe, help compensate for his four-seamer, which sits at 89 mph. Because he can go to the cutter and curve so frequently, he can keep hitters guessing, meaning they can’t jump as quickly on his four-seamer. His cutter, as you can see, ranked just below best in the league among AL starters.

AL leaders, starter: Scott Feldman and Jon Danks, 2.56
Al leader, reliever: Rivera (conveniently ignoring Lance Cormier’s slightly higher per-100-pitches mark, because Mo’s counting stat was far, far higher, and I’m biased and Mo is Mo)

Pettitte photo credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Mo photo credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Report: Nady reaches deal with the Cubs, Sheets with A’s

Update (1:58pm): Nady got $3.3M, plus another $2M in incentives. The base salary is a 50% pay cut.

11:00am: Via MLBTR, free agent outfielder Xavier Nady has agreed to a contract with the Cubs, ending his brief tenure in the Bronx. Nady still has to take a physical, which is no given considering he’s coming back from his second Tommy John surgery. The Yanks didn’t offer him arbitration because he would have probably accepted given his elbow, so they won’t get a draft pick even though he was a Type-B.

Nady hit .270-.319-.469 in close to 300 plate appearances with the Yankees, and was a potential left field option. Let’s see what the dollars are before everyone gets fussy.

Also, the A’s have signed Ben Sheets to a one-year, $8 million deal, though some sources say $10 mil. Rumor had it that Johnny Damon was their Plan B if they couldn’t land Sheets, so do the math.