Sherman on Jeter: How about four years and $100M?

As a heavy snow begins to blanket New York City, there’s little to do until pitchers and catcher report but sit and wait. The Yankees are through with their Hot Stove League wheelin’ and dealin’, and as the equipment trucks head south, a calm descends upon the organization. Yet, this moment of off-season serenity isn’t wanting for musings on the next season.

As we’ve written more than once over the last few months, the Yankees face some contract choices next winter. Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi will be free agents, and while it’s easy to see Rivera and Girardi returning on similar deals to those in place now, Jeter remains the big question mark. When it will time to sign his new contract, Jeter will be 36, and even though he is coming off of a 10-year, $189 million, the Yankees may very well have to pay him for what he’s done rather than for what he will do.

Today in The Post, Joel Sherman tackles the topic with a piece on Jeter’s pride. He doesn’t talk about Derek’s pride as arrogance but rather focuses on Jeter’s pride as it impacts his desire to be a better player. The story is one we’ve heard before because Joe discussed it after attending a Brian Cashman WFAN breakfast a while back: The Yanks’ GM challenged Jeter to improve his defense, and Jeter did so. While maintaining his prodigious offensive output, Jeter has morphed from a below-average defender into an average-to-above-average one.

How will this impact the Yanks’ efforts at extending their star short stop? Sherman thinks that Jeter’s drive to stay at the top of his game will lead him to pressure the Yanks into paying up simply producing on the field. Sherman pegs the chances of Jeter’s remaining in pinstripes at 98 percent, and because of A-Rod‘s contract, the Post scribe believes Jeter will get four years at $100 million. He would, in that sense, nearly match A-Rod, and the left side of the Yanks’ infield would be making a combined $50 million at a time when both players are over 35.

Does this make sense? Over the last four seasons, Jeter has seen his WAR value fluctuate. According to Fangraphs, he was worth $23.2 million in 2006, $15.5 million in 2007, $16.6 million in 2008 and a whopping $33.4 million in 2009 for a four-year total of $88.7 million. Since he, like the rest of us, isn’t getting any younger, I doubt he can duplicate even that four-year total, and, for example, his CHONE prediction pegs him at $15.4 for 2010.

In the end, the Yankees will pay Derek Jeter simply because he is Derek Jeter. He’s not going to go anywhere, and the team will take care of him. As I said yesterday, though, as the Yanks’ core players age and earn more, the team will have to find young cost-controlled talent to alleviate the payroll pressure. If Derek gets even a four-year, $84-million extension, thus replicating his 2010 salary, the Yanks will be paying their short stop and third baseman a combined $46 million in 2014 when they are 40 and 38 respectively. That’s a bit of a scary thought.

Yankees hitters against strikeout pitchers

Last week we looked at the Yankees hitters against the best ground ball pitchers and against the best fly ball pitchers. We saw that the Yankees often demolished ground ball pitchers, while they had more of a mixed bag against the fly ball type. Today we’ll move onto high strikeout pitchers. Again, the idea is to plot their performances against pitchers of all different types at the end. Some guys, after all, fall into multiple classifications. As we’ll soon see, Justin Verlander is both a strikeout and fly ball pitcher.

As with the ground ball and fly ball pitchers, we run into a few issues with strikeout pitchers. First, the pitcher with the third highest K rate, Zack Greinke, never faced the Yankees. Second, two of the top 10 pitched for the Yankees. For this study I’ll list qualifying AL starters with a greater than 7.00 K/9 rate. The last pitcher on the list is John Lackey; the next highest K rate belongs to Andy Pettitte.

This list is nice, because everyone but Floyd appeared on either the fly ball or the ground ball one. Once I saw that there were four guys on the fly ball list and seven from the ground ball list, maybe we’d see a trend emerge. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Even when we average it all out, the Yankees scored almost exactly the same runs per nine innings against strikeout pitchers as they did fly ball pitchers.

One aspect I noted in the previous post was the team’s home run rate. Against ground ball pitchers they hit 1.63 home runs per nine innings, and against fly ball pitchers that number dropped to 1.36. They hit 1.38 home runs per nine innings against strikeout pitchers. It appears Beckett skews the numbers against ground ballers and strikeout pitchers a bit higher, since he gave up an inordinate amount of home runs against the team. Then again, against Felix, Gloyd, Baker, and Lackey they hit no home runs over 26.2 innings, so perhaps that helps balance the figure.

Again, the Yankees beat up on the rookies, Anderson and Romero, and knocked around the Red Sox. The other pitcher they hit well, Jered Weaver, has always pitched poorly against them. In 41.1 career innings against the Yankees Weaver has allowed 28 runs, or a 6.10 RA. It’s a terribly small sample, covering just seven starts, so I expect we’ll see that even out a bit more in the coming years. Ditto with Anderson and Romero, especially the latter, since he’ll face the Yankees plenty.

While I’ll continue the series with the low-walk and low-homer pitchers, it doesn’t appear we’ll see many definitive trends. Considering the short samples we see from each pitcher, and considering each pitcher is defined by more than one aspect, this makes sense. There are just so may variables to consider that we can’t put much stock in how a pitcher fared against the team in 10 to 20, or even 40 innings. Though, in Halladay’s case, yeah, he’s pretty damn good against the Yanks.

Link Dump: Joba Rules, J.T. Snow, Damon

Snowpocalypse 2010 has hit, so ride it out with these links…

Death to the Joba Rules

At long last, the Joba Rules are dead. “He’s not going to have any restrictions,” said pitching coach Dave Eiland, “so Joe (Girardi) and I are not going to have to go into the game thinking, ‘Oh, he’s got 85 pitches or six innings or whatever comes first.’ We don’t have to game plan it out. The kid gloves are off, and he’s just going to go out and pitch and he knows that and he’s going to come in and be all geared up to win that job, as are the other guys. Competition should bring out the best in everyone.” Of course, this won’t calm the conspiracy theorists who think Joba is going to return to the bullpen next year, because there was both a bullpen and rotation version of the rules. Either way, so long Joba Rules, and thanks for the shirt.

Big leaguers give bloggers a bad name

At his blog earlier this week, former big league catcher Brent Mayne told a story about how he once told a batter what pitch was coming. That batter was J.T. Snow, who was with the Yanks at the time and grew up playing with/against Mayne in Southern California. Long story short, he mumbled to the pinch hitting Snow that he was getting a fastball away, which Snow promptly ripped for a double and his first big league hit. Except, of course, that never happened.

Mayne said Snow was a September call-up with the Yanks, and they were playing in Kansas City. Snow went 0-for-5 in the only game he played against the Royals as a Bomber, and even though his first big league hit was in fact a pinch-hit double, it came off of Tom Henke of Toronto with Pat Borders behind the plate a week later. Here’s the easy to read game log. I expect it from the mother’s basement dwellers, Brent. But not from you.

Damon’s still looking for two years

Yeah, amazing, isn’t it? We’re basically a week from pitchers and catchers, Damon has received offers from just one team (that we know of), and yet he and Boras are still holding out for a two year deal. Matt at Fack Youk wonders if Johnny’s lost his mind, as do so many others. I can’t imagine Damon is happy with how Boras worked him over, or maybe he’s just naive and thinks someone will meet one day his demands.

Thames No. 1 on an all-time Tigers list

Marcus Thames doesn’t stand out as someone who would hold a franchise record, but according to Tom Gage of The Detroit News, he does. His 99 home runs in 1,463 at-bats is the franchise record for home run pace among players with 1,500 or more plate appearances as a Tiger. That also amounts to a home run every 16.28 times he stepped to the plate, which, considering his lack of bases on balls, is probably an even further record. Cecil Fielder, who ranks second on the AB/HR list, hit a home run once every 17.36 plate appearances.

Wade Boggs and the winter of 1992

Wade Boggs knocks out a base hit against the Orioles in Sept. 1997. (AP Photo/Roberto Borea)

These days, the Yankees don’t struggle to attract top talent. With playoff appearances in 13 of the last 14 seasons and five World Series titles out of their last seven Fall Classic appearances, the Yankees have become one of the top destinations for marquee players looking for a shot at October glory. Adding to the winning is the team’s willingness to spend, spend, spend.

It wasn’t always like this though. The Yankees have always been happy to dole out the dollars, but sometimes, even the dollars aren’t incentive enough. For a look at just when and why the Yankees couldn’t convince players to come to the Bronx and how it all ended, we flashback again to the winter of 1992/1993. A few weeks ago, I explored the Roberto Kelly/Paul O’Neill trade, and today, we look at the circumstances surrounding Wade Boggs’ arrival in the Bronx.

For Yankee fans of a certain age, the thought of Boggs in the Bronx was enough to churn the strongest of stomachs. Boggs was so deeply associated with the hated Red Sox that fans despised him. To make matters worse, he and Don Mattingly had a relationship about as warm as the one Derek Jeter and A-Rod share today.

After the 1992 season, Boggs was a free agent, and the Yankees needed a third baseman. They had recently lost Charlie Hayes in the expansion draft, and although Boggs had put up an anemic .259/.353/.358 line in Boston and had suffered through back spasms, the Tampa faction of the divisive Yankee Front Office had their eyes set on Boggs. Eventually, the team signed him to a three-year, $11 million deal — a contract Jack Curry called “curious” — but the circumstances of the deal reveal much about the way the Yankees used to operate.

The Yankees in 1992 were a team no one wanted to join. They had just finished their fourth straight losing season, and it was just the second time in franchise history and the first since 1912-1915 that the team had suffered through that much futility on the field. Behind the scenes, the Yankees had struggled with the suspension of George Steinbrenner and struggled with his return. The Boss and Joseph Molloy, a managing partner in Tampa, had wrested control of personnel moves from Gene Michael and Buck Showalter, and the strains of that fight over the team power was in full display. That winter, David Cone, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux, Terry Steinbach and Doug Drabek all rejected the Yankes. The team had to outbid the Dodgers by one year and $5 million just to land Boggs. It was ugly indeed.

Yet, somehow, someway, it worked out for the Yankees. Boggs stuck around for five years and wasn’t terrible. He hit .313/.396/.407 with a 111 OPS+ while in the Bronx, and the image of his horse ride around the stadium in 1996 has come to represent October salvation for a group of Yankee lovers who were formative fans as the Yanks struggled for wins. A sign of the baseball split in the Yankee Front Office early on, Boggs became a symbol of the team’s new-found success by mid-decade.

These days, of course, the Yankees don’t have to bend and break to get the guys they want. They have resolved issues of decentralized baseball power that seem to crop up every ten years and have put a product on the field that 29 other teams envy and strive to beat. Boggs and O’Neill, two guys most analysts were already counting out before they played their first games in pinstripes, were the harbingers of this great new era in Yankee baseball. Who would have believed it then?

Chien-Ming Wang, former Yankee (UPDATE: Not yet)

Update by Mike (10:08am): Buster Olney and a Nats’ writer shot Pete’s report down. Washington is still very much in pursuit of Wanger, but he’s still a week or so away from making a decision.

8:56am: Once the Yankees declined to tender Chien-Ming Wang a contract in December it was pretty apparent that he would not return to the team. We held out a glimmer of hope, mainly because Wang had pitched so well in 2006 and 2007. It appears he’s about to officially become a former Yankee. PeteAbe tweets that he has chosen the Nationals, and that a deal is near. We wish him luck in his new digs, and hope he picks up a few wins against the Mets this season.

Did David Robertson’s increased velocity lead to injury?

It was tough to not fall in love with David Robertson last season. For followers of Down on the Farm it was the realization of the potential we saw over the past few years. For the uninitiated it was his sneaky fastball and astronomical strikeout rate. Sure, his walk rate was at times frustrating — the game Al Aceves started in Minnesota comes immediately to mind — but his stuff made many wonder whether he could slide into a setup role and — maybe, possibly — eventually become a closer candidate.

In September we received the bad news: Robertson’s elbow was barking and he’d have to miss some time for it to heal. He did come back in time to warm up at the end of the month and make a playoff run, in which he allowed no runs on four hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. The only downside was that he struck out just three in that span, far, far below his season mark of around 13 per nine. Did something change for Robertson as a result of the injury?

In yesterday’s post about Joba’s diminished velocity, commenter tommiesmithjohncarlos linked to Robertson’s velocity chart. He called it sexy, but after clicking the link I became a bit more concerned. You can check it out here, or view it below. In 2008, during his brief call-up, his fastball velocity sat in the low 90s. It was the same upon his call-up in 2009, but as you can see his average fastball velocity climbed after the All-Star break. As it got up to the 93.5-94 range, we see a break in the action. That’s the September injury. So how big a concern is this?

Click for larger version

Correlation does not imply causation, so it’s difficult to say whether the increased velocity directly led to injury. The correlation certainly exists, though, so it raises some red flags. So does Robertson’s velocity upon return. Instead of averaging 93 or 94 mph, as you can see on the chart he was back down in the 92 mph range. That’s where he sat in the playoffs as well. From what I can tell, he never hit 94 after the elbow injury. This isn’t evidence that injury caused the velocity drop-off, of course. It could just as easily be that Robertson became a bit more cautious upon his return.

As Robertson’s velocity increased, he seemingly got better — not only in terms of strikeouts, but also in his walks. Again, the increase started after the first small break in the velocity plot, which represents the All-Star break. That gives us one full month of data, August. In that month he faced 45 batters, striking out 17 of them and walking just four. Just one hit a home run, and overall only three runners crossed the plate — two of which came when the team got blown out by Boston. Meanwhile, he had a ridiculously bloated BABIP, .494, though that hurts a lot less when you don’t allow that many balls in play.

Since there’s no clear conclusion on this case — I’m noting a trend rather than saying that X caused Y — I’d like to point out a few other awesome Robertson stats. In 2009 he faced 99 batters with the bases empty and 92 with runners on. In the latter category he absolutely dominated, striking out 33 to just 12 walks while allowing no home runs. He walked fewer batters with the bases empty, but also struck out fewer. He also did a damn good job of keeping the ball inside Yankee Stadium, allowing just one home run at home (84 batters faced). Finally, his poorest month earned run wise was July, in which he allowed seven runs to the 50 batters he faced. Yet his FIP that month was 3.82.

Thankfully, Robertson showed that he can get hitters out without a 93-94 mph fastball. It was a marvel to watch, and I hope he can still break it out in 2010. But if it had anything to do with his injury, at least we know he can survive without it. After all, he allowed just five runs to the 73 batters he faced from April through June, striking out 26 of them. Blazing fastball or not, I’m excited to see what Robertson can contribute this year.

Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Open Thread: Who has the best rotation in baseball?

In his daily blog post this morning, Buster Olney opined about the five best starting rotations in the game, led by the Red Sox. The Yankees placed second, followed (in order) by the White Sox, Angels, and Cardinals. The Phillies also received an honorable mention.

We could argue about who has the best rotation from here until Opening Day, and there’s no right answer. However, what we do have are CHONE projections, so I rounded those up to see how each rotation is expected to perform next season. He’s the four non-New York teams…

All we’re doing is adding, so it doesn’t matter what order the pitchers are listed in. Olney has no idea who the Cardinals’ fifth starter is, and neither do I. And frankly, neither does the team. Regardless, they don’t have any other pitchers projected to be worth over a win, so it doesn’t make much of a difference anyway. Obviously, the BoSox have the best projected rotation among the four teams, with five starters set to be at least league average (two WAR is basically league avg). You have to like the balance in the ChiSox’s rotation though, minus the Freddy Garcia eyesore.

Now, what about the Yanks?

Olney thinks Phil Hughes will be the fifth starter, though most others think it’ll be Joba Chamberlain. For whatever reason, CHONE has Joba projected as a reliever in 2010, a reliever worth just 0.9 WAR at that. Even if we swap Hughes out for a 0.9 WAR pitcher, the Yanks still outpace the pack by a full win. They have the two best projected starters among the five teams in CC Sabathia and Javy Vazquez, and are the only team besides Chicago with four 3.0+ WAR pitchers on the staff.

Remember, these are just projections, far from gospel. They’re not telling us what will happen, but what could happen based on past data. Don’t take them to heart, they’re just for fun. That said, I like the way the numbers worked out.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the evening. The Islanders, Nets, and Knicks are all in action. Anything goes, just be cool.