MLBTR: Yankees have talked to Brett Tomko about comeback

Via MLBTR: The Yankees are one of several teams to talk to Brett Tomko as he attempts a comeback. The right-hander has battled arm problems in recent years, but he’s healthy now and was able to spend time pitching in winter ball. He is planning to work out for teams in the coming weeks.

Tomko, 40, last pitched in the big leagues back in 2011, when he chucked 17.2 ineffective innings with the Rangers. You probably remember his brief cameo with the 2009 Yankees. Tomko says he is open to going to Triple-A and mentoring young pitchers, and it sounds like he’s already thinking about a post-playing career in coaching. The Yankees have signed a ton of pitchers to minor league deals in recent weeks. If they add him to the pile, great. If not, oh well. No reason to get worked up over it either way.

The Mitre/Tomko debate

In discussing baseball games, we often talk about the fallacy of the predetermined outcome. In a nutshell, the logic is as follows: If something bad happens — a caught stealing — followed by something good — say, a home run — then the Yankees are out a run because, had the caught stealing not happened, the home run would have been a two-run shot. Life and baseball simply do not work that way, and the outcome — the home run — probably doesn’t happen under differing circumstances.

Right now, the Yankees, in their search for a fifth ninth starter, are suffering through a debate over the predetermined outcome. Exhibit A is Brett Tomko in Oakland. On July 22, in order to make room for Sergio Mitre, the Yankees designated Tomko for assignment. He cleared waivers and was released on July 29.

At the time, Tomko had been awful for the Yanks. Pitching in long relief, he threw 15 games for 20.2 innings. He sported a 5.23 ERA and had allowed 26 base runners and 5 home run while striking out just 11. No one — not the Yankees, not their fans — was sad to see him go.

Since joining the A’s in mid-August and pitching as a starter, Tomko has been revelation. He topped off a stellar month on Monday night by tossing a complete game shut out against the Wild Card pretender Texas Rangers. In six starts, he is 4-1 with a 2.95 ERA. He has allowed 31 hits in 36.2 innings and has walked just six. He’s struck out 22 with his K/9 IP at 5.4, up a tick from the 4.8 mark he sported in the Bronx. Why, asked Peter Abraham, can’t the Yankees get players like that?

On the other hand, the Yankees are currently supporting the decline and fall of Sergio Mitre. After last night’s outing, Sergio Mitre’s numbers are horrendous. He is 3-3 with a 7.63 ERA and a 1.761 WHIP. He has thrown 46 innings and has allowed 81 base runners. This isn’t just bad; it’s Kei Igawa bad.

There is the possibility that Mitre hasn’t been as bad as those numbers indicate. As Jamal argued last night, Mitre has a 4.63 ERA in the five starts he has made against non-Toronto teams and a 10.59 mark against the Blue Jays. His FIP against non-Toronto teams stands at 3.55. Overall — and this is a key number — his FIP stands at 5.83.

With these numbers before us, it would seem that the Yanks jettisoned someone who is better than Sergio Mitre in favor of Sergio Mitre. They made a mistake. That’s only half the story because Tomko’s numbers are masking some trends. Brett Tomko’s BABIP while in Oakland is .226; Sergio Mitre’s in New York is .347. Tomko’s Oakland FIP is 5.05. He is currently enjoying an ERA two runs lower than how he is pitching.

The Yankees discarded Tomko because he is a 36-year-old journeyman with a below-average record and a 92 ERA+. That he is having a string of decent starts in Oakland shouldn’t convince us that the Yanks made a mistake. Sure, Oakland is catching lightning in a bottle. Sure, Sergio Mitre has been really bad. But it’s illogical to assume that Tomko would have pitched this far above his career norm in New York.

In a few days, the Yankees will clinch a playoff spot. A few days after that, the team will wrap up the division. Neither Sergio Mitre nor Brett Tomko will come close to the playoffs, and that is that.

Yanks acquire Jason Hirsh

T-Kep has the news. Hirsh, a 27-yr old RHP, was acquired from Colorado for a PTBNL and will report to Triple-A Scranton. Once the Astros top prospect, Hirsh was dealt to Colorado in the Jason Jennings trade a few years back. His numbers playing at altitude the last few years aren’t pretty, the move was made to add a little depth in the upper levels.

Update (6:10pm): Oh, and Brett Tomko was released.

Catching up with the exes: Tomko, Pavano, Small

To while away the afternoon now that the Yanks and Orioles have wrapped up their series, let’s check in on some ex-Yankees in the news these days. We start with the disgruntleds:

Brett Tomko
To make room for Sergio Mitre yesterday, the Yankees designated Brett Tomko for assignment. They have ten days to trade him or they can release him or ship him down to the minors. Tomko is not a happy camper about his tenure on the Yankees. “I don’t think I got a fair shot,” he said to reporters as he packed up his locker. “I pitched great in spring training and didn’t make the team. I pitched great in the minors, got called up and didn’t get much of a chance. I understand other guys are pitching great. But it could have been different. I can’t see the point in coming back.”

This is a clear example of the Yankees’ expectations not lining up with Tomko’s. At 36, Brett Tomko is a journeyman with a career ERA+ of 92. He isn’t the future of anything, and he’s not getting better. During his time on the Yanks, he allowed runs in seven of his 15 appearances and just wasn’t a trustworthy or impressive reliever.

“It’s hard when you throw once every 10 days. Your stuff can’t be the same,” he added later. “I never felt like I got a chance to show them anything. I wasn’t pitching much. As much as I want to be here and be with a winning team, I want to pitch. It would be great if they traded me in the next 10 days to help me out. But if not, I’m sure something will come up. Plenty of teams need pitching.”

Tomko won’t accept a Minor League assignment once the ten days are up, and the Yanks probably won’t find a team that needs a mediocre, ineffective and touchy pitcher. So much for him.

Carl Pavano
Try as we might, we just can’t ignore Carl Pavano. Today’s Pavano story though is something of an oddity. In what can only be described as an attempt by a reporter to create the news, Ken Rosenthal asked a Yankee official if the team would be interested in reacquiring Carl Pavano from the Indians.

The reply? A resounding no. “We’ve seen that movie,” Rosenthal’s source said. “Our players would go crazy if we did that.”

Pavano, for what it’s worth, isn’t having a terrible season. He’s 8-7 with a 5.13 ERA, but he’s managed to make 18 starts — one more than his single-season high with the Yanks. He also hasn’t been walking many batters. Yet, the Yankees hate him. The players hate him. The Front Office hates him. The fans hate him. He won’t — and shouldn’t — be back.

Aaron Small
Aaron Small was an odd addition to the Old Timer’s Day roster this year. While he went 10-0 for the Yanks in 2005, he was out of baseball a few months later after going 0-3 with an 8.46 ERA in 2006. Now, we learn that Small made his way to Yankee Stadium just six weeks after a bad bout of encephalitis. Small was in a medically-induced coma for eight days as doctors combated the virus that led to a life-threatening swelling of the former pitcher’s brain.

Small recovered from this ordeal and is slowly rebuilding his strength. This scary story makes his appearance at the stadium this past weekend all the more meaningful.

Brett Tomko, we hardly knew ye

As the Yankees prepare to hand the ball over to Sergio Mitre tonight, the team needs to clear a space on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters. Mercifully, they have opted to designate Brett Tomko for assignment rather than sticking Mark Melancon or David Robertson back on the Scranton shuttle. The Yankees now have ten days to trade the right-hander or else they will release him. Tomko, 36, was 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA in 15 games out of the pen. His tenure on the Yanks won’t be remembered at all.

First Half Review: Relief Pitchers

At 51-37, with the third best record in baseball, leading the Wild Card and just three games back in the AL East, the Yankees had a fine first half. Yet it was a tumultuous three months, wrought with streaks and injuries and strange trends, causing mass panic at times among Yankees fans. Over the extended All-Star Break, we’ll go over each position to see what went right, what went wrong, and how things look for the second half. First up we looked at the starting pitching, now it’s time to take a look at the relievers.

The expectations

The 2008 bullpen was one of the best in the business – ranking second in baseball in both FIP (3.82) and K/9 (8.66) – and the relief corps was expected to approximate that performance in 2009. The cast of characters was essentially unchanged, save a contract extension to southpaw Damaso Marte. Brian Bruney was set to join him as the primary bridge to Mariano Rivera, while rookie Phil Coke was primed to assume a key role. The rest of the pen was going to be filled out by a series of interchangeable parts, including Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, Jon Albaladejo, and David Robertson.

The results

The results so far have been a mixed bag. The bullpen was dreadful in April, better in May, and flat out dominant in June. They currently rank second in the majors with a 1.26 WHIP (just one baserunner every 100 IP out of the league lead), yet their ERA (4.19) is just 22nd best in the game. The relievers have thrown the fourth-most innings in the American League, a number that has to come down to avoid a second half burnout. That burden falls on the starting rotation, however.

The bullpen’s revival is the result of the the massive turnover in personnel from April to June. Let’s touch on the major pieces.

Mariano Rivera

Coming off a fairly major shoulder surgery, Mariano has been as fantastic as ever in 2009. Of course he did experience a rough go of it early after giving up some homers, but since May 21st he’s posted a 1.86 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP. Mo’s 14.33 K/BB is far and away the best in the game (next best is Scott Downs’ 8.06 mark) and the best of his Hall of Fame career. It took a little longer than usual, but Mo’s in midseason form and is as good as ever. He’s the least of the team’s concerns right now.

Brian Bruney & Damaso Marte

Bruney came out of the gate pitching like a man on a mission, out to prove all the B-Jobbers wrong about the lack of a solid 8th inning option. He struck out 12 and allowed just three hits over his first nine appearances, but went down with an elbow injury in late April. After being out for four weeks, Bruney lied about being healthy and came back too soon, ultimately landing himself back on the disabled list for another four weeks. He’s been nothing short of terrible since returning, allowing opponents to tattoo him for a .930 OPS. Right now, he’s a part of the problem and not the solution.

Marte’s season is just 5.1 ugly innings long, as a shoulder injury has shelved him since late April. When he was on the mound he was terrible, but how much of that is because of the injury we’ll never know. Currently rehabbing in Tampa, there’s still no timetable for his return.

Phil Coke & Phil Hughes

After a dynamite showing last September, Coke looked like he was poised to become the shutdown lefty reliever the Yanks have lacked for years. Coke’s overall numbers are rock solid, as are his splits against lefties, but his season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. He was very good in April, pretty terrible in May, but fantastic since June rolled around. The only member of the bullpen to stick on the 25-man active roster all season besides Mariano Rivera, it’s no stretch to call Coke the Yanks’ second most reliable reliever of 2009.

The other half of Michael Kay’s stupid little Philthys Club, Hughes moved into the bullpen after Chien-Ming Wang appeared ready to become an effective starter once again, and has done nothing but dominate. His numbers out of the bullpen (18.1 IP, 0.65 WHIP, .379 OPS against) are better than Joba Chamberlain‘s first 18.1 innings of relief in 2007 (0.82 WHIP, .467 OPS against), more evidence that if you put a good starter in the bullpen he’d be a damn good reliever. There’s not much to say here, Phil Hughes the Reliever has been tremendous.

Al Aceves & David Robertson

The dramatic turnaround of the bullpen coincides with Aceves’ recall from the minor leagues. His 40 innings of stellar relief work have been just what the doctor ordered, as he’s pitched in every role and succeeded in every situation. Robertson has had his moments, mostly in low leverage spots, but he’s been an effective super-high strikeout arm that can go multiple innings if need be. He’s been pretty much everything you could want your fifth best reliever to be.

Jon Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, Brett Tomko & Jose Veras

Edwar and Veras were two stalwarts in last year’s pen, providing rock-solid middle relief all summer. This year was a different story, as the two combined to allow 28 runs and 70 baserunners in 43 IP. Edwar soon found himself back in Triple-A while Veras found himself with the Indians after being designated for assignment. Albaladejo has been up and down while Tomko was mostly down, but both guys have mostly acted as the last man out of the pen. Neither has been great nor horrible, they’re just kind of there.

The Up and Down Crew

Anthony Claggett was terrible in his one outing and doesn’t figure to be back up anytime soon. Stephen Jackson didn’t even manage to get into the game in his eight days on the big league roster before ending up in Pittsburgh. Mark Melancon has been meh in his limited showings. Zach Kroenke, Romulo Sanchez, Amaury Sanit and others are stashed away in the minors awaiting their turn.

Expectations for the second half

With the success the bullpen has experienced over the last month or so, it’s tough not to be optimistic about the second half. However, a key piece in Hughes or Aceves (or both if it comes to it) could be lost if their services are needed in the rotation. Don’t be surprised if the team seeks out another relief arm at this year’s trade deadline. Regardless, the Yankees will need the bullpen to do the job consistently in the second half if they plan on making the postseason.

Open Thread: Brett Tomko, artist

Brett Tomko paintingYankee fans aren’t too fond of Brett Tomko – the 12th pitcher on the staff – these days. After all, he allowed those two homers in the middle innings that one time. Well, believe it or not Brett’s earned a pretty decent living for himself throwing a baseball (B-Ref says he’s raked in over $20M in his career), and it looks like he’s got a nice career lined up for when his playing days are over.

Tomko, you see, is a rather talented artist. He started copying the comics section of the newspaper when he was five, then stuck with it all through high school and majored in art at Florida Southern. Once he was drafted in the second round by the Reds, everything kind of got put on hold until he got together with Opie Otterstad, a prominent sports artist.

Since then, Tomko’s painted everyone from Nomar Garciaparra to Trevor Hoffman to Joakim Soria, and his current project is for fellow reliever Phil Hughes. “You could just see these perfect creases in the jersey,” Hughes said. “It’s insane. He’s really, really good. Some people think he paints, so what? But if you actually see him, it’s like, ‘Wow, he could do this for a living.'”

Marc Carig of The Star-Ledger wrote all about Tomko and his art today, so make sure you check it. There’s even a short video clip showing Tomko working on the painting for Hughes and explaining what goes in to it. Cool stuff, give it a read.

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Feel free to use this as your open thread for the evening. The Braves and Cubs are on ESPN, but the Mets are off. Anything goes, just be nice.

Photo Credit: John O’Boyle, The Star-Ledger