Fan Confidence Poll: January 11th, 2016

2015 Season Record: 87-75 (764 RS, 698 RA, 88-74 pythag. record), lost wildcard game

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Update: Yankees acquire Kirby Yates from Indians in cash deal

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

Sunday: The Yankees sent $78,000 to the Indians for Yates, according to the Associated Press. It’s not often we hear how much money exchanges hands in these cash deals. Neat.

Friday: The Yankees have acquired right-hander Kirby Yates from the Indians in a cash trade, the team has announced.

Yates, 28, was designated for assignment earlier this week when the Indians signed Mike Napoli. Cleveland picked him up in a cash trade with the Rays back in November. Yates has a 5.27 ERA (5.51 FIP) in 56.1 big league innings, all with Tampa Bay. Here’s some video:

Yates had a 5.33 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 25.1 Triple-A innings this past season. He’s got a low-90s fastball and throws a mid-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball, so he’s one of those rare four-pitch relievers.

As best I can tell, Yates has a minor league option remaining, so he’s another candidate to ride the bullpen shuttle next season. This is basically Chris Martin 2.0. The Yankees picked up Yates for practically nothing and will see if they can get some decent innings out of him.

The club still has two open spots on the 40-man roster.

Weekend Open Thread

Another week in the books means we’re another week closer to Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers report in one month and ten days according to the countdown in the sidebar. It can’t come soon enough. People are starting to get offseason cabin fever, it seems. Here are the weekend links:

  • Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are baseball’s two newest Hall of Famers, and, as Tyler Kepner explains, the two were almost teammates with the Mets. Griffey blocked a deal to the Mets before the he was traded to the Reds. So, instead, the Mets used the players they were going to send to the Mariners for Griffey to get Mike Hampton. Hampton helped them win the 2000 pennant, and when he left as a free agent, the compensation draft pick turned into David Wright. Neat story.
  • I really enjoyed Corinne Landrey’s post on the best long plate appearances of 2015. At seven minutes and 47 seconds, the Andrew Miller-Troy Tulowitzki battle was the longest plate appearance of the season in terms of elapsed time. It was the highest leverage plate appearance of both their careers at 8.23 LI (!). It’s also kinda fun Clayton Kershaw (batter) had a 13-pitch at-bat against Madison Bumgarner, which ended with a ground out.
  • Rather than link you off to some individual articles, I’m going to point you towards Longform.org’s favorite pieces of 2015. That way you can pick and choose what you want to read. There’s an overall top ten and then top fives within different categories. Lots of great stuff in there. Make sure you check it out.

Friday: Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks, Nets, and Devils are all playing. There’s no college hoops though. Talk about those games, the links, or anything else right here.

Saturday: This is the open thread again. The NFL playoffs start today, so you’ve got the Chiefs vs. Texas (4pm ET on ABC and ESPN) and then the Steelers vs. Bengals (8pm ET on CBS). The Rangers and Islanders both played earlier today, though there is a bunch of college hoops on the schedule tonight. Have at it.

Sunday: Here’s the open thread one last time. I’m bumping this to the top of the site a little earlier than usual because of the NFL playoffs. The Seahawks and Vikings play first (1pm ET on NBC) and then there’s the Packers and Redskins later this afternoon (4:30pm ET on FOX). The Devils and Nets are playing, and there’s some college basketball action too. Go nuts.

Hip, Hip: Previewing the Hall of Fame Case for Jorge Posada

It's a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)
It’s a Jorge Posada kind of day. (Chris Trotman/Getty)

I would not have realized this without Mike mentioning it in a post last week, but Jorge Posada will be up for induction into the Hall of Fame during the next round of elections. He last played in 2011, a season that was humbling for him to say the least. His career ended on a positive note, though, as he was one of the few Yankees to show up during the ALDS against Detroit; in that disaster series, Jorge hit .429/.579/.571, notching six hits in the five game set. Amazingly enough, he didn’t drive a single run home in the series. Regardless of the ugly times in 2011, it wrapped up a fantastic career that deserves its share of inspection.

Posada’s Major League career started in earnest in 1997, when he played in 60 games and racked up 224 PAs for the Yanks; it got fully rolling in 1998, when his playing time jumped up and he played in 111 games and went to the plate 409 times. 1999 was rather similar; he played in 112 games and had 437 PA. 2000 was Jorge’s real breakout. Amassing 624 PA across 151 games, Posada raked, hitting .287/.417/.527 with 28 homers and an OPS+ of 139 (.405 wOBA; 140 wRC+). It started a string of four straight All Star Game appearances and four straight Silver Slugger awards. All told, Posada made it to five All Star Games and won five Silver Slugger awards (2000-3, 2007) and had a career line of .274/.374/.474/.848, good for a 121 OPS+ and a .367/123 wOBA/wRC+.

(Photo via NY Daily News)
(Photo via NY Daily News)

If we judge a player by the company he kept, then Posada was nothing short of an offensive leader at his position. His only offensive “sin” during his career was that he was not, in fact, Mike Piazza. Among catchers with at least 5000 PA from 1995-2011, Posada ranks second to Piazza in wOBA; wRC+; and home runs. He’s third in fWAR (44.3) behind Ivan Rodriguez (60.3–whom Posada outhit by 19 points in wOBA and 16 in wRC+) and Piazza (51.2).

Doubtlessly, Jorge Posada was the AL’s best offensive catcher for the years of his career; hitters like Mike Napoli and Joe Mauer definitely caught up to him in the later years of his career, but Posada’s offensive longevity and consistency were marvelous. Only twice–1999 and 2011–did Posada fail to hit at a league average rate, and that’s not adjusting for his position. Eight times, he notched marks at least 20% better than league average.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)
(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

But in the end, it probably wasn’t enough. Jorge wasn’t as good a hitter as Mike Piazza and he wasn’t as good a catcher as Ivan Rodriguez. He falls somewhere in the middle there, which definitely hurts him. This isn’t to say that his numbers are necessarily Hall-Worthy, but to say Posada was anything short of the second best offensive catcher of his time is unfair. The other big slight against him is another over which he had no control. Posada appeared in games for the Yankees staring in 1995, but wasn’t the full time catcher until 2000. Those years of being a part time player robbed him of the counting stats that a lot of voters take into consideration. Regardless, Posada managed to club 275 homers and drive in over 1,000 runs in his career, good marks for anyone, let alone a catcher. had he received more consistent playing time before 1998-2000, his candidacy might be more than something to dream on.

Considering the fate we just saw Jim Edmonds suffer–falling off the ballot ungraciously and undeservingly after just one appearance–it’s not likely that Posada sticks around very long. That wouldn’t be a big injustice or a travesty or anything, but as a player we feel a lot of emotional connection with, it’ll be a touch sad to see Jorge–like his teammate Bernie Williams–disappear from the ballot easily. In the end, though, it doesn’t change anything about the man and the player Jorge Posada was for the Yankees for so many years. It’s years too late, but thanks for the great career, Jorge. A retired number in Monument Park isn’t Cooperstown, but it’s a damn fine consolation prize.

Rosenthal: Chapman’s suspension could be announced before Spring Training

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

According to Ken Rosenthal, it is “probable” Aroldis Chapman‘s suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy will be announced before Spring Training opens in six weeks. March 1st is likely the absolute latest the announcement will be made, according to Rosenthal.

A few weeks ago we heard it is unlikely Chapman will receive a lengthy suspension, though one person’s idea of lengthy might be different than another’s. The domestic violence policy is new and no one has been suspended yet. There is no precedent and the policy does not include minimum or maximum suspensions.

There has been some speculation commissioner Rob Manfred would come down hard on the first set of offenders — Jose Reyes (for this) and Yasiel Puig (for this) are also being investigated — to establish a standard and hopefully create a deterrent. No one was arrested and Chapman was not charged with a crime following his incident.

Rosenthal notes the domestic violence policy does not explicitly say whether a suspended player can participate in Spring Training. I guess that will be covered when the suspension is announced. For what it’s worth, players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs can play in Spring Training and Extended Spring Training games.

Players do not accrue service time while suspended under the domestic violence policy. Chapman is due to become a free agent next offseason, though a suspension of at least 46 days would push his free agency back a year. Brian Cashman said the Yankees did their due diligence prior to acquiring Chapman and understand the risk.

At this point, there’s nothing more the Yankees or fans can do other than wait. Hoping a player is suspended more than 46 days for a domestic violence incident so you can keep him another year is kinda icky. I’m hoping Chapman’s suspension will be short so the Yankees can get 60+ high-impact innings from him, then move on next winter.

Subtle change helped Ackley unlock power potential in September

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

When the Yankees acquired Dustin Ackley at the trade deadline, they continued their recent trend of bringing in talented players who had fallen out of favor with their former teams. Ackley was a former tippy top prospect — Baseball America ranked him the No. 12 prospect in baseball in 2011 — who flopped, so the Yankees were able to get him for two players the Mariners have already traded elsewhere.

At worst, Ackley was going to be a more versatile Garrett Jones. Jones was the lefty hitting part-time outfielder/part-time first baseman who never played. Ackley would do the same, except add in the ability to play center field and second base, if necessary. Plus he’s seven years younger and had two additional years of team control remaining. Considering what the Yankees gave up, the move made total sense.

Ackley ended up having a nice impact down the stretch in September, going 13-for-40 (.325) with two doubles, two triples, and four homers in the final three weeks of the season. The Yankees needed all the offense they could get at the time, so Ackley played, mostly at second base but also some first base. Small sample size? Oh yes. Those three weeks could have been a total mirage. At least one person thinks Ackley’s big finish was for real though.

“(Former hitting coach Jeff Pentland) and I saw this pretty much the first BP session,” said hitting coach Alan Cockrell to Chad Jennings earlier this offseason. “He was coming off his back side going out to get the baseball, and it’s tough to hit when you’ve got something coming at you 95 and you’re going towards it. So, Pent and I were in agreement; we were going to get him to stay on his back side a little bit longer. Stay behind the ball a little bit more.”

Cockrell does have some history with Ackley. He was the Mariners hitting coach from December 2008 until May 2010, and Ackley was drafted in 2009, so the two worked together in some post-draft workouts and also during Spring Training in 2010. It’s not much, but there was some familiarity there, and that’s better than going in blind. Ackley was the No. 2 pick in the country, remember. Cockrell saw him at the peak of his prospect status.

“I saw Dustin when he was drafted out of the University of North Carolina … He could impact the baseball, and he was in a good position behind the ball. Had good hands and uses the whole field and the ball comes off his bat with a little different sound for a guy his size,” added Cockrell. “(We needed to) stabilize his movement going forward and keeping him behind the ball a little bit and give him some room to let the hands get the barrel to the ball. And he literally got it in one or two cage sessions. When that started to happen it was a big bat for us down the end.”

I don’t speak hitting coach, though it sounds like Cockrell is saying the Yankees wanted Ackley to stay back a little longer. Let the pitch travel a little deeper before attacking. That sound right? I could be totally wrong here. Anyway, here’s a look at Ackley’s swing with the Mariners from earlier this season and his swing with the Yankees. Brad Boxberger is on the mound in both GIFs, so they’re synced up based on when he starts his delivery.

Dustin Ackley swings then and now

I see … nothing. The two swings look exactly the same to me. It’s always amazed me players and hitting coaches can look at a swing and see something that isn’t right. Same deal with pitching coaches. They can pick up the littlest things in real time. I guess that’s why they make the big bucks.

I looked at the two GIFs frame by frame to see if I could pick anything up, and this is what I found:

Dustin Ackley foot landing

In the frame on the left, Ackley’s front foot is down completely. At the same moment based on Boxberger’s delivery, Ackley’s foot is just beginning to touch down in the frame on the right. That at least suggests Ackley waited just a tiny bit longer before starting his swing in the frame on the right. That’s what Cockrell was talking about. (I think.)

* * *

Update: A commenter noted Ackley’s front foot landed closer to the pitcher while with the Mariners. I’m not sure if he’s taking a smaller stride or simply moved back in the batter’s box. Moving back could also be designed to allow him to wait a little longer before swinging.

* * *

While with the Mariners this year, Ackley had a 16.9% soft contact rate and a 30.5% hard contact rate. The league averages were 18.6% and 28.6% this season, respectively. With the Yankees he had a 13.0% soft contact rate and a 43.5% hard contact rate, so the difference was substantial. Ackley’s time in pinstripes was absolutely a small sample. This also happened though. There’s no taking it back. Ackley hit the ball way harder with the Yankees.

Is the increased hard hit rate the result of staying back on the ball better, and is it something that carry over to next season? That’s what we’re all wondering. I’ve done enough of these mechanical change posts to know most of them amount to nothing. This is more of a timing change than a mechanical change, but whatever. Same difference.

The Starlin Castro pickup means Ackley will open next season as a bench player, which is for the best. Let him show September was real before entrusting him with more playing time. The Yankees took a shot on Ackley’s talent at the trade deadline and he rewarded them in September. Now the Yankees will see if he can be a long-term asset.