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.

Chamberlain makes Verducci’s at-risk pitchers list

Over the past three years the Yankees have employed Joba Rules to one degree or another. In 2007 it prevented him from pitching on back-to-back days. In 2008 it meant him starting the season in the bullpen. In 2009, most frustratingly, it led to three-inning starts in August. The Yankees had the best of intentions in mind, of course. Joba had just 15 minor league starts, about 88 total innings, before making his Major League debut, and the team wanted to make sure they weren’t increasing his workload too quickly. There’s nothing wrong with trying to keep your pitchers healthy.

The recent obsession with innings limits originated with research conducted by Sport Illustrated’s Tom Verducci and then-Athletics pitching coach Rick Peterson. They found that pitchers aged 25 and younger who pitched more than 30 innings over their previous career high were at risk of performance drop-off or injury in the next year. Intuitively, the theory makes sense. Going from the couch to running five miles is a terrible idea. Runners will succeed more often if they start small and build up to those five miles. With data to back up the idea, teams could act by limiting their young starters’ innings.

Many fans might be frustrated, then, to see Joba Chamberlain appear on the 2010 Verducci list. Between the regular season and the playoffs Joba threw 163.2 innings. Verducci identifies that as an increase of 47.2 innings over his previous career high. So what gives? The Yankees went through so much trouble to keep Joba’s innings at a reasonable level. How can Joba still be listed as an at-risk pitcher?

An increase of 47.2 innings means that Verducci identified Joba’s career high as 116 innings. That comes from 2007, Joba’s first professional season, when he threw 88.1 minor league innings. 24 regular season ML innings, and 3.2 postseason innings. Looking at his Baseball Cube page, we can see that Joba threw 118.2 innings at Nebraska in 2005, followed by 89.1 innings in 2006. We can tack on 37.2 innings to his 2006 total, since he pitched in the Hawaiian league, bringing his total to 127. This morning, Mike mentioned that he threw another 45.1 innings in summer ball, the M.I.N.K. League (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas) in 2005, bringing his total that year to 164 innings.

Year IP
2005 164
2006 127
2007 116
2008 100.1
2009 163.2

The progression moves oddly for Joba. How do the Yankees determine his previous career high? Is it his absolute high, which occurred four years prior? Was it his first professional season, most of which he spent in the minors? What about the gap between his innings in 2006? The difference between his bullpen and his rotation innings in 2007 and 2008? The most important question, to me at least, is of the difference between college, minor league, fall league, summer league, and major league innings. The competition is different, but does that change how the pitcher works?

Not even Verducci himself can answer those questions. He admits that the Year After Effect is more a rule of thumb, a general guideline. Each pitcher has throws different pitches with varying amounts of force. Furthermore, each pitcher’s body reacts differently to the stress of pitching. Every year Verducci identifies at-risk pitchers who cruise through the season. Among that group from the 2009 list: Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Jair Jurrjens, and Jon Lester. He also identifies five pitchers as confirming his rule, but Mike Pelfrey, Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley, John Danks, and Dana Eveland spent a combined zero days on the disabled list in 2009. They didn’t perform to their 2008 levels, but that can also be attributed to them being young, relatively inexperienced pitchers.

None of us has any idea what’s in store for Joba health-wise in 2010. From what I can tell he’s missed time only twice in his career with injuries. First came at Nebraska in 2006, when his draft stock dropped because of triceps tendinitis. He again suffered from tendinitis in 2008, this time in his shoulder. Yes, he saw a sharp increase in his 2009 totals over his previous professional highs, but he has thrown that many innings before, and at a relatively high level. How will that play into his 2010 season? I’m comfortable saying that I don’t know.

Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Sticking the new guy in left field

Spring Training doesn’t officially start until later this week — tomorrow to be exact — but already, most players have descended upon Tampa. The core of the Yankee team is already working out at the team’s minor league complex, and the reporters are starting to settle into their Spring Training routines. Some semblance of order is returning to this crazy time we call the Hot Stove League.

In Tampa, all eyes are on the new guys, and that obsession thrusts Curtis Granderson, who just wants to fit in, into the spotlight. Other than the return of Javier Vazquez to serve as the team’s fourth starter, Granderson is the biggest acquisition, and he’s being asked to replace Johnny Damon in the lineup. Considering Damon’s departure involved stealing two bases on one play and being lauded as a key offensive piece to the Yanks, that’s no small feat.

So after an off-season during which we obsessed over left field and searched for ways the Yanks could fill a left field gap, the reporters asked Curtis Granderson about his take on the corner slot. Maybe he’ll be the one to take it, he said to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “People forget that I came up as a left fielder,” Granderson said yesterday. “In the Minor Leagues all the way up to Double-A, I didn’t start playing center field consistently until my second year in the Minors. Even when I came to the big leagues, I played a few games in left. I have no problem going back over there if that happens to be.”

It seems so simple, but does it make sense for the Yanks? In essence, the team would be shifting Brett Gardner to center field while deploying Curtis Granderson as the left fielder. On days in which the Yanks are facing a lefty and want to rest Gardner, they can slide Granderson to center and use Randy Winn, Marcus Thames or someone else in left. Granderson is versatile enough and comfortable enough to make the move.

The numbers too bear out this alignment. Playing his home games in spacious Comerica Park, Granderson has generally been an above-average center fielder. He put up double-digit UZR totals in 2006 and 2007 before slipping below 0 in 2008. He rebounded last year with a 1.6 mark, and we can assume that he would be as good if not better covering ground in left. Brett Gardner meanwhile has shined as a center fielder. In limited duty, he put up a 9.5 mark in 2008 and a 7.2 mark in 2009.

As for the guys they would be replacing, a duo of Granderson in left and Gardner in center would far outshine Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera. Damon, after two disastrous years in center with the Yanks, had an above-average full-season showing in 2008 as a left fielder but saw his UZR slip to -9.2 in 2009. Melky, meanwhile, put up a 0.6 mark in center in 2008 and a 1.4 mark in 2009. Even assuming just a duplication of their 2010 numbers, the Gardnerson/Gardner duo would be nearly 9 defensive runs above average while the Cabrera/Damon duo would be just under -8 defensive runs below average.

The wild card in these moves remains Brett Gardner’s offense. The Yankees won’t ask Curtis Granderson to move to left if they don’t believe Gardner can hold down a starting job for long enough, and the team might not ask Granderson to move if their plan includes pursuing Carl Crawford after he hits free agency next winter. After all, they might not want Granderson to be bouncing back and forth between the outfield slots for one year with a more certain solution just around the corner.

With run prevention the next frontier in baseball analysis and team-building, the Yankees are bound to give many outfield permutations a good hard look in Spring Training. When Opening Day rolls around, no one should be surprised if the solution to the Johnny Damon hole had been around since early December after all.

The differences between Joba 2008 and Joba 2009

For about eight weeks during the 2008 season, Joba Chamberlain displayed dominance as a starter. After spending the first 60 some-odd innings of his big league career in the bullpen, the Yankees transitioned him to the rotation in June and there seemed to be only a routine drop-off in performance. His fastball still blew away hitters, and his slider still dropped off the table. It appeared the Yankees might see another homegrown star. Unfortunately, after 65.1 innings in the rotation Joba’s shoulder gave a bit, ending his 2008 stint in the rotation. After the season, however, Brian Cashman showed unquestioned faith in his 2006 draft pick, saying that only he and Chien-Ming Wang were guaranteed rotation spots in 2009.

As we remember all too well, Joba’s second season in the rotation didn’t go quite as well as the first. For starters, his fastball lost 2.5 miles per hour, the biggest loss in the majors among pitchers with 50 innings in 2008 and 2009. He seemed tentative on the mound, constantly shaking off Jorge Posada. In many instances he shook his head until Posada signaled for slider, especially in 3-2 counts. But the slider didn’t appear to have the bite we saw over the past two years.

Even still, he managed to pitch decently through July. At that point the Yankees tried two techniques in order to limit Joba’s workload, though neither seemed to take. That might have been a result of the uncertainty he faced, but it also might have been because he’d never pitched so many innings in a regular season. In any case, his performance did decline in the season’s final two months, his ERA inflating by more than a full run over that period. Clearly, something had changed.

Last week we looked at how Phil Hughes changed over the years. Now it’s Joba’s turn. What changes, other than fastball velocity, did he realize in 2009?

As regards his fastball, it appears that velocity is all he lost. In terms of movement he remained the same. In 2008 his fastball broke 4.4 inches towards right-handed batters (compared to a pitch with no spin), compared to 4.2 inches in 2009. His vertical movement was almost exactly the same as well, 10.0 inches in 2008 and 9.9 inches in 2009. He might not have been throwing it as hard, but velocity isn’t everything. His vertical movement remains comfortably above league average, though his horizontal movement remains below.

His bread and butter, the slider, did appear to have changed from 2008 to 2009. It did lose some velocity, about .08 mph, or about one percent. By comparison, his fastball velocity decreased by about three percent. In 2007 and 2008 Joba’s slider seemed to travel about 5/6 of the way to the plate and then drop at the last second. The 2007 PitchFx data is rough, but we can see the effect in 2008. Joba’s slider dropped 0.9 inches, while a league average slider “rose” 2.8 inches. In 2009 his slider had an inch less drop, at 0.1 “rise” compared to a league average of 2.3. So not only did Joba’s vertical movement rise, but the league average dropped.

As we know, pitchers employ different kinds of sliders. While some break primarily on the vertical plane, like Joba’s in 2008, others move side to side. In 2008 Joba didn’t generate much side to side movement, just 0.8 inches against a league average of 2.1 inches. In 2009 it appears Joba changed styles, as his slider broke 2.1 inches horizontally, against a league average of 2.4. The Texas Leaguers Pitch f/x tool says Joba got 18.3 percent swings and misses on his slider in 2009, compared to 26.2 percent as a starter in 2008.

Joba’s other secondary pitch, his curveball, also saw diminished movement in 2009. The horizontal break remained consistent, 4.1 against a league average of 5.1 in 2009 and 4.2 against a 5.3 league average in 2009. In terms of vertical break, however, it wasn’t nearly the same. In 2008, when he started working it into his arsenal as a starter, the pitch dropped 6.7 inches, a full two inches better than the league average.

My question is how to evaluate the pitch’s effectiveness. It’s not necessarily a swing and miss pitch like the slider, so whiff rate isn’t the only factor. In that regard, however, he did a bit better in 2009, inducing a swing and miss 14.9 percent of the time, compared to 5.6 percent as a starter in 08. He didn’t throw it as often for a strike, though, 55.9 percent in 2009 against 58.7 percent in 2008. Hitters swung at it more often in 2009, however, 34.3 percent against 23.8 percent in 2008. Might the greater vertical break in 2008 have fooled more hitters, causing them to look at more strikes?

(I was hoping that Joe Lefkowitz’s Pitch F/x Tool could tell us, but it appears to not be loading 2008 data. Drat.)

When we discuss Joba Chamberlain 2009 season, the topic often centers on his fastball. While his reduced velocity did cause concern, his pitches still broke in a similar manner. What might be more concerning is the change he saw in his secondary pitches. The breaks on his slider and curveball changed in 2009, and as we saw in the case of the slider, it led to fewer swings and misses. It appears Joba has a lot to work on for the 2010 season. Thankfully, he showed up early to get a head start.

Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Open Thread: Granderson vs. Soriano

From all accounts, Curtis Granderson sounds like a really good guy. He always seems to have something positive to say. It came as no surprise, then, when he said that he has no problem playing left field if the Yankees choose to deploy Brett Gardner in center. And why would he? Center and left field are separated by a matter of yards. I’m sure Granderson can make the necessary adjustments when reading the ball off the bat.

When I read this story, I thought of the situation the Nationals faced in Spring Training 2006. In December 2005 they acquired Alfonso Soriano from the Rangers, even though they had Jose Vidro entrenched at second base. The plan, apparently, was to move Soriano to left field. He threw a hissy fit of sorts, refusing at first to make the switch. Apparently the Rangers also broached the topic of a position change, but were also met with resistance. Eventually, faced with the choice of playing left field or being placed on the disqualified list, which would have made him inactive without pay, Soriano acquiesced.

While changing outfield spots is a bit different than moving from the infield to the outfield, it’s quite nice to have the player quickly agree to such a move. Really, though, the player doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have much say in the matter. His contract doesn’t designate his position. It merely makes him part of the team. It’s at the team’s discretion where he plays. Clearly there are exceptions — I can see a player’s point if he signs a free-agent contract with a team, only to have them sign another player at the same position and expect the former player to move. But, for the most part, players are at the mercy of their employers’ decisions.

With that, this is your open thread for the evening. It looks like the Olympics are your only sporting choice. The NBA is off following the All-Star game, and the NHL players are all in Vancouver.