Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sawxenfreude 2.0 Has Already Started...

You can't make this stuff up.

"A Boston Red Sox official told at least one player at the beginning of the managerial search that they 'weren't going to hire Bobby Valentine or someone like that,' a clubhouse source told last week.

The conversation suggests that Valentine, known as a no-nonsense manager in stints with the Mets and Rangers over 15 years, was perceived by some as a darkhorse candidate that would not be popular with some players.

'They're going to have a mess on their hands,' the source said when asked what would happen if Valentine, who at that time was just one of several candidates, was hired.

ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney had heard similar rumblings, citing sources Wednesday saying that 'some Red Sox players have been upset' that Valentine had emerged as a candidate and have been 'grumbling to each other, through texts and phone calls.'"

Holy shit, are you serious???  Already?????

I mean, I knew this was going to blow up in Bahhston's face.  I was only 20% joking with my Bobby V posts the last couple days.  But the dude has literally been on the job for less than a day and word around the Fraud Sawx water cooler is that players aren't happy and they're texting each other about it like little girls because their days of not working out, skipping their side sessions, and playing MW3 online are over.  Sources are popping up out of the woodwork to talk anonymously to anybody with a press credential.  It's like Beer&ChickenGate all over again.


(story courtesy of The Worldwide Leader in Fraud Sawx Nation)

Just Say No To Matt Thornton

As the Hot Stove season continues to be lukewarm for the Yankees, people are starting to get a little antsy and understandably so.  There's only so long we as fans and bloggers can wait to see which free agents the Yankees sign and what killer trades Cash makes to build the team up to the 160-2 juggernaut we all wish it would be next year.  But when the talk starts turning back to mid-30s lefty specialist relievers and there is serious analysis being done on the most expensive one, that's where the line from "antsy" gets crossed and we start jumping into 'bizarro world" territory.

So to everybody out there who's reading the chatter and rumors and analysis, and either seriously considering wanting Matt Thornton in the bullpen next year or already craving him, let me say this.

Stop it.  Just stop it.  The Yankees don't need Matt Thornton in the bullpen next season anymore than they need A.J. Burnett to be a part of the bullpen next season.  Let's review the current lay of the land out there beyond right field:
  • Mariano Rivera (greatest closer of all time)
  • Dave Robertson (best setup man in baseball in 2011)
  • Rafael Soriano (former closer/setup man with shutdown stuff when healthy)
  • Boone Logan (serviceable LOOGY most of the time)
  • Cory Wade (above-average middle innings guy)
  • Joba Chamberlain (solid career reliever who should be back by late summer)
  • Hector Noesi (above-average reliever who should be a starter but could get bumped back to the long man role)
Do you see that?  That's the best bullpen in baseball right there.  And it's pretty damn full and pretty damn full of guys who are already tough on lefties.  And after the back-to-back debacle of Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano, and the long line of 30-something relievers that the Yankees have handed contracts to, why would anybody even want to go down that road AGAIN??

I get that Matt Thornton is nasty, I do.  In the right situation, it would make perfect sense to bring in a guy with a career K/9 slightly below 10 and a very low HR/9 rate who murders left-handed hitting.  But when the situation is what it currently is in the Yankee 'pen, and adding this lefty murderer is going to cost prospects as well as 2 years and $12 million, that just doesn't make sense.  It's like spending time putting expensive rims on a Maybach.  It's already a badass fucking car, it doesn't need anything else gaudy on it.  Just leave it alone and let it be badass.

In short, just say "No" to Matt Thornton.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Bobby V Pleas Were Heard!!

And I couldn't be happier.  Congratulations, Fraud Sawx Nation.  Embrace your new savior.  Judging by his past choices of dugout wear, he should fit right in with the biggest group of phonies and phony fans in the world.

I'm especially loving the details from the story that seem to indicate ownership and the GM might not have been on the same page on this decision too.  Because nothing helps start the recovery process from the biggest collapse in baseball history like having a fractured decision-making group making major personnel decisions.  Especially when that fractured group is bringing in a known question mark when it comes to dealing with players.  Things are already looking up in Beantown!

P.S.- I really hope Cash comes out of left field some time in the next 48 hours with a monster trade just to steal the Fraud Sawx's thunder here.

Happy Birthday, Mo

It still feels weird wishing a cybernetic organism from some distant planet in the future a birthday.  I mean, honestly, do they even technically have birthdays?  And if they do, what are you supposed to get them?  But according to his cover story, today is Mo's birthday and I am obligated as a Yankee blogger, Yankee fan, and pathetic mere mortal to wish him a happy birthday and bow down to his all-worldly greatness.

He doesn't know if he's going to come back after his contract is up at the end of the 2012 season, so this may be the last time we get to wish him a happy b-day while he's still active and not returning to his home planet.

Happy birthday, Mo.  You're the greatest individual athlete at one position in the history of sports and I think I speak for Yankee fans everywhere when I say that we love having the privilege of watching you do your thing each and every year and will truly miss it when the day comes that you decide to no longer do said thing.

P.S.- I feel so much cooler knowing that my birthday is so close to Mo's.

Morning Trade Whispers

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees aren't having any "hi-level" trade talks with other teams right now.  With rumors swirling about Matt Garza, hopes being had by many for John Danks, and dreams (however unrealistic they are) still existing for King Felix, I think we can assume that those guys aren't being discussed right now as they would all be "hi-level" targets.

And that can mean only one thing.  The Yanks are looking to move A.J.  After all, a 5.15 ERA and 4.77 FIP doesn't exactly scream "hi-level" performance.

/crosses fingers

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Was That, Mike?

Not Yankee-related, and definitely crude and sophomoric, but too hilarious not to post.  Fucking Francesa.

I only wish Russo could have been there to burst out laughing like a little kid.


I Really Hope The Fraud Sawx Hire Bobby V As Their New Manager

I mean I really REALLY REALLY hope it happens.  I hope it happens more than I hope I get what I want for Christmas, more than I hope the Yankees add another starting pitcher besides Freddy, and more than I hope scientists one day find a cure for cancer.  Just look at some of these quotes from Andrew Marchand's piece on ESPNNY today:

"More than once, I had to remind him that asking a question is not not necessarily questioning a move. Over the two years, I never became 'one of his guys,' but I was also not in the smaller camp that hated him."

"He likes to be liked, which is probably his biggest drawback. If there are 10 people in a room and nine think he is a genius, he is concerned about the 10th. From my experience, the 10th person is usually wrong on Bobby V. But V can't let it go."

"Valentine was always getting into it with someone."

"... things were so dysfunctional between GM Steve Phillips and Valentine that Phillips would call [Bobby] Jones back to the majors later in the year."

Marchand's premise that the Yanks-Sawx rivalry "needs" Valentine is stupid, but the idea of this guy being the one to come in and straighten out the Fraud Sawx ship is even more laughable.  He's an ego maniac who always thinks he's right, has a reputation for arguing with upper management, and always seems to be fighting with his players in the clubhouse about one thing or another.  And now he's going to come in and manage a team fresh off a season of disappointment stemming from a lack of leadership, accountability, and effort from their disjointed collection of spoiled players, and whose roster will still likely employ most of the players blamed for said lack of leadership, accountability and effort?  Yeah, that should work out just fine.  Add in a collection of media guys whose sole goal in life seems to be stirring the pot, an ownership group with a longstanding reputation for throwing people under the bus, and a fanbase with such a sickening sense of entitlement that they practically expect to be handed the World Series trophy every year and it'll be a miracle if Fenway is still standing and Valentine is still alive come mid-2012.

So please, Ben Cherington.  Please sign Bobby V.  He's just what your team needs to rebound from the collapse of 2011.  And by "rebound," I mean continue to spiral downward in a torrent of finger pointing, infighting, excuse making, and general indifference from the players until you're forced to completely blow up the team and go back to being the sadsack, loser organization that we all know you are.

Possible Reasons For The Freddy Re-Signing

(How will The Garbage Man fit into the 2012 rotation plans?)

Freddy Garcia was an absolute steal for the Yankees in 2011.  Considering the fact that he was brought in on a non-guaranteed deal and was really only supposed to be a placeholder for one of the young arms in Triple-A and the Yankees ended up getting 146.2 IP of 3.62/4.12/4.36 ball out of him, you could make the argument that Freddy was their best addition last year.  That being said, I think it was still a bit of a surprise to most of us that the Yankees re-signed him this early in the offseason.  As I stated last week, I pictured Freddy as more of a last resort for the Yanks again if they weren't able to land any of the bigger FA pitchers.  So Freddy being back in the fold already has to mean one of 3 things.

1) The Yankees Are Confident With the 5 Guys They Have

Freddy being back gives the Yankees a complete 5-man rotation right now with him, CC, Nova, A.J., and Phil.  And with the strides that Nova made last year, the confidence the team already has that Phil will rebound in 2012 thanks to the extra laps he's running at the fat farm in Cali, and CC being CC, perhaps the feeling is that they can win again with that rotation and the rest of the roster around them.  Freddy is certainly no slouch to have at the back of the rotation, and with the previously-mentioned stockpile of young ammunition at Triple-A, the Yankees are well covered in case injuries or poor production hinder one of these 5. 

2) The Yankees Don't Like Any of the Big Free Agent Pitchers Available

Myself, along with everybody else in the blogosphere, has spent time analyzing the bigger name pitchers available this offseason.  And while they each come with their own set of strengths and potential bonuses they bring to the table, there are various risks associated with all of them, be it performance-related, injury-related, or transitioning to the AL East-related.  If nobody out there stands out as a sure thing in the eyes of the front office, perhaps they will decide it's not worth the extra money and years it will take to sign one of them.  Instead, they can just go low-risk on a guy who just proved he could get it done in New York and continue to bide their time until guys like ManBan and Betances are ready.

3) The Yankees Are Looking to Make a Trade

It certainly wouldn't be the first time that Cash has flown under the radar during Hot Stove season, and there are some potential trade targets out there that could be more attractive than throwing big money at a C.J. Wilson or a Yu Darvish.  It won't be the Josh Johnson or Felix Hernandez blockbuster that some fans out there are still clamoring for, but guys like John Danks, Jair Jurrjens, and Gio Gonzalez could probably be had for way less than it would take to get Johnson or King Felix.  And with the continued struggles of A.J. and Phil, maybe the front office has grown tired of waiting for them and are looking to see what teams, if any, are interested in including one of them in a deal.  If that's the case, Freddy is essentially replacing them in the rotation and leaving a spot open for a new guy.

I'm tending to lean more towards the #2 and #3 scenarios described above.  I can't see the Yankees holding pat with the staff they currently have after they were adamant in saying their goal this offseason was to improve the rotation.  And while bringing Freddy back is a part of that, I just can't see any way that he's the only part, especially considering the possibility that he doesn't repeat his solid 2011 campaign.  It will be interesting to see how the Yankees operate over the next couple of weeks.  That should shed some light on what they're trying to do and how re-signing Freddy fits into those plans.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Update

Between the Thanksgiving-birthday-Ranger game 3-day bender that just ended last night, you've probably noticed that the site hasn't been very active this weekend.  Thankfully there hasn't been much happening in Yankeeland other than the Freddy Garcia signing, so I didn't miss much.

But vacation's over, I'm back in WI and I'll be getting back into the routine tomorrow for everyone who's been dying without AB4AR the last couple days.  And I know I said the AB4AR Top 30 would be starting in November, but that clearly hasn't happened and I apologize for that.  Hopefully later this week or early next week that will start to come together.

In the mean time, do me a solid and head over to the AB4AR Facebook page and "Like" the hell out of it.  I'm trying to get those numbers up.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quick Reaction To The Freddy Signing

The Yanks threw a bit of curveball yesterday and announced they had re-signed Freddy Garcia to a 1-year deal.  After his successful season in 2011, this deal is significantly better than his non-guaranteed MiL one from last year, reported to be for $5 million.

I always thought that if Freddy was coming back to the Yankees he would be a late signee if their other targets fell through and that if he signed early in the offseason it would be because another team liked what they saw from him last year and wanted to snatch him up quick.  So with this being announced before any talks with the Wilsons, Oswalts, and Buehrles of the world going anywhere, I think this has to signal the Yankees having a plan to make a trade or 2 and move somebody currently in the rotation (possibly Phil Hughes).

Unfortunately, that's all I care to say on the topic right now.  It's my birthday today, so instead of analyzing the re-signing and thinking about what the Yankees could/should do I'm going to party like it's my birthday and sip Bacardi like it's my birthday.  And you know I don't give a fuck 'cause it's my birthday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What The Yankees Should Be Thankful For This Year

To some of us, it might seem like being a member of the New York Yankees is a cakewalk.  Getting paid millions of dollars to play a game for a living, playing that game for the most well-recognized team in the history of sports, playing it in front of a packed house every night, winning titles, doing commercials, dating supermodels and actresses and singers, etc.  I know I wouldn't mind living that life.  But don't let that fool you into thinking that these guys take what they have for granted and are totally made in the shade.  Oh no, they still have plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.  For example:

- Mark Teixeira should be thankful that popping up on the infield with runners on base isn't a fineable offense in the organization.  If it was, he probably wouldn't be able to afford cranberry sauce this year.

- A.J. Burnett should be thankful that he had Russell Martin behind the plate all season in 2011.  Who knows how high A.J.'s record-setting wild pitch totals would have been with somebody else back there?

- Boone Logan should be thankful that he doesn't have to face any lefties for another couple months.

- Robbie Cano should be thankful that he hired Scott Boras as his agent.  Whether Boras was joking last month when talking about Cano's contract or not, Cano is an MVP-caliber player and being with Boras all but guarantees he's going to get paid like one.

- Joba should be thankful that Phil Hughes will be stealing all the "what kind of shape is he in?" storylines that are usually reserved for him when pitchers and catchers report in 2012.

- Rafael Soriano should be thankful that Joba won't be back until the summer of 2012 at the earliest, otherwise he could be looking at becoming baseball's first $11 million 6th-Inning Guy.  Oh, and don't worry if Soriano isn't smiling.  He's definitely thankful.  Trust me.

- Alex Rodriguez should be thankful that he gets to hang out with all these hot chicks.... Or something like that.

- Swish should be thankful that The Boss isn't still running the show.  If he was, Swish's option probably would have been declined in favor of the New Kid on The Block, Yoenis Cespedes.

- Mo should be thankful that his career involves coming out to "Enter Sandman" and not singing "Enter Sandman" if he ends up needing this rumored vocal chord surgery.

- Cash should be thankful that Cliff Lee isn't available again this offseason.  He's already 0 for 2 going after Clifton, probably best that he doesn't get a chance to strike out.

As for me, I'm thankful for my family, my friends, my health, and the fact that I root for and write about a team whose biggest issues are deciding which free agent starter(s) they want to add to the rotation and making sure their All-Star first and third basemen bounce back in 2012.  No clubhouse drinking witch hunts, no GMs jumping ship, and no re-working the stadium dimensions to better fit the Little League-level talent of their lineup.  It's very easy to forget how spoiled we are as Yankee fans, especially when I throw up a post openly whining about Phil Hughes, but what better time to remember how good we all have it than this season of giving?

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, everybody.  Eat too much, drink too much, and make sure to take a dig or two at any family members who are Met or Fraud Sawx fans.

Mo Hangin' Em Up After 2012?

Via The Post:

"I don’t know what will happen.  I have one year left. I might call it over. I will know more in spring training."

Say it ain't so, Mo!  I didn't think robots even could retire.  Isn't that one of Asimov's 3 Laws?

In all seriousness, I wouldn't put much weight in this statement right now.  Mo's going through a tough time with his voice and possible upcoming vocal chord surgery.  We'll see how his tune changes when he gets over this and gets back in camp with the guys.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Phil Hughes And The Hard Lesson Of Prospect Hugging

(Phil Hughes, master of packing on mass)

I'm usually pretty good about letting things go when it comes to the Yankees (except some of Joe's bullpen moves and sac bunts), but one thing that still stuck in my craw right now is the recent revelation that Phil Hughes came into camp out of shape in 2011 and the suggestion by the organization that he's going to bounce back in 2012 because he's spending this offseason training hard again and getting back to the shape he was in before 2010.

I'm on the record as stating that I'm an unabashed Hughes fan and apologist.  He's listed on my "AB4AR Man Crush Hall of Fame" and even this disastrous 2011 season and recent news that could possibly explain that disaster won't change that.  But 2011 and the constant ups and downs in Hughes' career over the past few seasons, after the high hopes that were held for him and the pedestal he was put on early in his Minor League career, are just the latest reminder that baseball prospects are as tricky and unpredictable a business as anything and we as fans would be wise to never get too attached to any of them.

Prospects typically don't pan out for one of three reasons: injury, lack of skill development, or lack of personal/professional development.  What makes Phil Hughes' case particularly frustrating is that he has been a victim (probably the wrong word) to all three of those pitfalls.  Since making his Major League debut in 2007, Hughes has suffered injuries to his hamstring, oblique muscle and ribs, and his throwing shoulder.  He's gone from a pitcher known for a great fastball and curveball with command to match to a pitcher with a questionable fastball, a curveball that is inconsistent, an array of other offspeed pitches that he has tinkered with on and off but none that he's used enough to become effective, and command that seems to come and go at any time.  And now he has confirmed some of the whispers that have been around regarding his work ethic by having the organization confirm that he came into camp out of shape in 2011 because he didn't go to the training facility that he used prior to his career-best 2010 season.

The resume that Hughes had prior to 2007 paints him as a can't-miss, sure thing, "no doubt about it" future All Star, Cy Young winner, and Hall of Famer:
  • 2004 High School 1st Team All-American
  • 2004 MLB Draft 1st-Round Pick (Age 18)
  • 2006- Named #1 Yankee Prospect by Baseball America, called one of the best pitching prospects in the Minors (Age 20)
  • 2007- Named #2 Prospect in all of baseball by Baseball Digest (Age 20)
  • 2007- Invited to Yankees' Spring Training (Age 20)
  • 2007- Threw 6.1 no-hit innings in just his 2nd career start (Age 20)
He was on the fast track to being the next great Yankee pitcher, right up there with Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry.  But since then things haven't panned out, for the reasons mentioned above.  This is not to say that Hughes is at complete fault for how his career path has gone in the Majors.  It's not like the guy wanted and tried to pull his hamstring or break his ribs.  It just happened.  And the Yankees certainly didn't do him any favors by shuttling him from the rotation to the bullpen and back from '09 to 2010.  But when a prospect is as hyped as Hughes was, and you buy into that hype as much as I did, and then the performance doesn't match the hype, it's a crushing blow to the fan ego.

I should be wearing Phil Hughes jerseys to the office at work and boring all my friends to tears with stories about how I always knew he was going to be this good because of his MiL K rates as he prepares for another season as the Yankees' ace.  Instead, I'm sobbing into a pillow at night while listening to "Unbreak My Heart" by Toni Braxton after each of his inefficient 4-inning outings and cursing myself for being duped while I read that Hughes is going to a glorified fat camp in California and will come into the 2012 season once again on the fringe of making the rotation.  It all adds up to the same conclusion you have to come to with prospects, that conclusion being that you just never know. 

And it is this not knowing that we as Yankee fans must always be mindful of and remember when evaluating prospects.  Manny Banuelos could be the second coming of Johan Santana or he could be a pile of crap.  Mason Williams might turn into the next Ken Griffey Jr. or he might be bagging my groceries in three years.  Dante Bichette Jr. could become a better player than his old man or he could break his leg in a car accident when somebody runs a red light and never play again.

There are so many factors, both internal in terms of a player's own makeup and external in terms of the situation they're in, the coaching they receive, and the luck (good or bad) they experience, that contribute to how his career plays out.  And there's no way for us to know how all of those factors are going to add up for each player.  Because of this, we cannot allow ourselves as fans to get too attached to any prospect, no matter how amazing his stats look or how high his ceiling is.  Phil Hughes is just the latest example, and I'm as guilty as anybody for drinking the Hughes-Aid for as long as I have.  And now I have nobody but to blame but myself for being hurt by Phil and his inability to live up to the hype.

Prospects are like hot girls you meet at the bar who turn out to be crazy.  You can talk to them and about them, look at them, have fun with them.  But don't get too attached to them.  Because more often than not, you're just going to end up getting hurt if you do.

Yankees Sticking It To The 99%

From the team's press release earlier today announcing ticket pricing updates for 2012:

"All seats in the Field Level between the bases will be unchanged or reduced, while seats in the Field Level outfield sections located in fair territory (Sections 103-104 and 132-136) will have price reductions ranging from $10 to $35.  Grandstand Level seats beyond the bases will remain at $20, while Grandstand Level seats between the bases will be $28. Non-obstructed Bleachers tickets will increase by $5."

Non-obstructed bleacher tickets will increase by five bucks?  Are you serious?  Last time I checked, we were still living in a recession, people can't find jobs, everything at The Stadium is already grossly overpriced, and now the Yankees want to jack up the price of the most affordable tickets in the place?

For shame, Yankees.  For shame.

Examining Possible Eduardo Nunez Trade Matches With The Braves

The biggest story to come out this past weekend was probably the "Braves being interested in Eduardo Nunez" rumors that sprouted up after the infamous "sources" stated that Atlanta was interested in the Yankees' utility infielder as a replacement for Alex Gonzalez at short.  Personally, I still can't fathom why so many teams and fans are so high on Nunez, but if this is real then it's certainly a path the Yankees should consider pursuing.  And with the slow pace that the Hot Stove Season is moving at right now, why not play the hypothetical trade game and look for potential trade pieces from Atlanta's side for Nunez.  Given the Yankees' needs this offseason, there are a few interesting possibilities out there on the Braves roster.

Brooks Conrad- 2B/3B

Hey, why not swap one utility guy for another?  Conrad is stuck behind Dan Uggla at 2nd and the Chipper Jones/Martin Prado duo at 3rd, and he would fit the bill of a solid defensive utility infielder that Nunez currently does not.

Conrad's also not a complete waste of space at the plate.  He's a switch hitter with good numbers against lefties (even if it was in just 24 AB in 2011) and the first thing that stands out is his BB rate, which has jumped to 9.0% in 2010 and 12.3% in 2011 as he started to get more plate appearances.  He also cut down on the K % a bit in 2011, a sign that even at 31 Conrad has some room to improve at the plate, and his contact rates show a guy who doesn't make a lot of bad contact on pitches out of the zone.  His GB/FB rate is solid, and he's got some pop in his bat for a little guy (career .199 ISO), so an appointment or two with renowned hitting doctor Kevin Long could help him maximize his skill set and tailor it to hitting in Yankee Stadium while cutting down on the swings and misses.

As a backup, Conrad brings more to the table than he takes off of it.  He can swing the bat a little, draws walks, can play 2 infield positions and probably SS if needed, and runs the bases well.  The addition of Conrad would cover the weaknesses present in Nunez's game that became more obvious when he was forced to play every day last season, and Conrad would have to be considered an upgrade at the utility IF position over the likes of Brandon Laird and Ramiro Pena.  Being an older player, the Yankees might even have room to get another prospect, albeit a low-level one, included in the deal for the younger Nunez if the Braves are that in love with him.

Jair Jurrjens- SP

This is the name that everybody talks about in relation to any potential trade with the Braves. And they are reportedly already entertaining offers for the 25-year-old righty, so I might as well discuss him.

On the surface, Jurrjens doesn't appear to be a good fit for the Yankees.  His fastball velocity and K/9 dropped to career-lows in 2011 at 89.1 MPH and 5.33 respectively, likely a result of the continuing injury issues that plague him.  At such a young age arm issues raise a big red flag, particularly when they appear to already be sapping a pitcher of his stuff.  And Jurrjens' inconsistent GB/FB rates should raise concern as to how his game would translate to pitching in the AL East and Yankee Stadium, especially if he's going to be pitching with a diminished fastball.

That being said, there are some things to like about Jurrjens.  He made a big improvement in cutting down on his walks in 2011, posting a career-best 2.61 BB/9.  And he is just 25 years old, presumably approaching the prime of his career with an already mature approach on the mound.  Working with Larry Rothschild could be just the thing Jurrjens needs to get the most out of his stuff and become a consistently effective pitcher.  And adding him through a trade lessens the commitment and risk the Yankees take on in terms of years and money.  He might not fit the bill of top-tier starter that the Yankees are looking for, but he's also not Brien Gordon or Sidney Ponson.  You can't say that Jurrjens in 2012 isn't a better deal than Freddy in 2011.

Arodys Vizcaino- RHP

This one is admittedly a bit of a pipe dream, but it would be nice to see if the Braves were interested in moving the kid who was a key prospect piece in the fateful Javy Vazquez Reunion Tour trade of a couple years ago.  Bringing Vizcaino back could be a way for Cash to help right some of the wrongs of that trade, and with where Vizcaino is with the Braves right now it isn't completely outside the realm of possibilities.

The Braves moved Vizcaino quickly through their system this year, giving him stops at all 3 MiL levels before calling him up for an audition late in the season.  Vizcaino was impressive in 97 combined MiL innings, striking out 100 while walking just 28.  But as he moved up through the system, he started being used more as a reliever than a starter.  And his 17.1 IP at the Major League level in 2011 were all as a reliever, with his BB/9 increasing dramatically to 4.67 while his K/9 dipped slightly to 8.83, still a good number but not representative of the stuff and command combo he exhibited in the Minors.

This transition from starter to reliever could signify some uncertainty in Atlanta as to how they see Vizcaino being used at the Major League level.  The trade of Derek Lowe could signify a willingness to let him compete for a rotation spot in 2012, but utilizing him as a reliever late in 2011 probably did more harm than good to his development as a starter, and the Atlanta bullpen is a bit crowded right now with the emergence of Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, and Christhian Martinez in 2011.  If there is some internal waffling on what Vizcaino's future holds with the organization, now would be a perfect time for the Yankees to capitalize and bring his name up in discussions.

These are just 3 names that stood out most to me in looking at Atlanta's current roster.  I'm sure we could dig deeper into their farm system and find some attractive pieces as well or hypothesize about how to include Jason Heyward into a deal.  But a trade involving Eduardo Nunez isn't likely to be a blockbuster, and it would behoove the Yankees to not try to make it one and risk bringing guys like ManBan and Dellin Betances into the discussion.  They have needs, the Braves apparently have a want in Nunez, and that should be the main focus of the discussions.  While Atlanta currently has a high asking price for Jurrjens, that should come down if and when talks become real, and including guys like Conrad and Vizcaino in the talks should still allow the Yankees room to use their mid-level pieces to finish a deal if a trade became that involved.  Going back to what I said last week and what anybody with any sense would say, for the right deal nobody should be off the table.  And from a Yankee perspective, adding value at their positions of need for Eduardo Nunez would be the right deal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Justin Verlander Is The MVP? Really?

Clemens '86- 254 IP, 24-4, 8.43 K/9, 2.37 BB/9, 2.48 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 8.0 WAR

Pedro '99- 213.1 IP, 23-4, 13.20 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 2.07 ERA, 1.39 FIP, 12.1 WAR (only 31 GS)

Verlander '11- 251 IP, 25-4, 8.96 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, 2.40 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 7.0 WAR

I don't get it.  I really don't.  Looking back at the way the voting went when Clemens won in 1986 and this year, it looks like both he and Verlander benefited from the same thing- a bunch of other position player candidates who all had similar great seasons without any one player distinguishing himself as head and shoulders above the others.  But if Pedro Martinez didn't win the MVP in 1999 with those numbers then there's no way you can convince me that Justin Verlander deserved the award in 2011 over guys like Bautista, Granderson, or Ellsbury.  And remember, this is a guy who hates the Fraud Sawx more than anything saying this.

The media jumped on the Verlander bandwagon late in the summer and basically hand delivered the award to him, and that's just sad.  Cy Young?  sure.  But more valuable than those everyday players and the seasons they had?  Not on your life.  MLB should just change to Most Popular Player Amongst The Media Award, or MPPATM, starting next season because that's really all it is now.

P.S.- Yes, I'm a grown man who just used a WWE clip of The Miz to express my disdain for the AL MVP Award voting.  Suck it.

Darvish Posting Not A Sure Thing?

In an article for Yahoo! Sports, Jeff Passan discussed the latest in the Yu Darvish situation and shed some light on the workings of the posting system for Japanese players looking to join Major League teams, which I admittedly had no idea was such a thorn in the teams or players.  The piece suggests that Darvish being posted might not be the 100% certainty that everybody perceives it to be if he decides to stand up against the system.  Check out some of the quotes:

"Yu Darvish, in the words of a confidant, 'wants to change baseball in Japan.'”

“'I’m concerned we’re not going to see him for a few more years,' said another GM in a similar position. 'He’s not your average Japanese player. I get the impression he wants to stand for something.'”

"So whether it is speaking out about the posting system or coming out in such favor of staying that it would embarrass the financially troubled Fighters if they posted him anyway for the millions in revenue it would bring, Darvish does command a position of strength, publicly if not legally."

On the one hand, I would have to respect Darvish if he decided to take a stand against the current system and stay in the NPB League.  On the other hand, I would have to be pissed at Darvish for doing so because it would mean the Yankees have no chance to sign him this year.  I know I'll definitely be paying closer attention to this story over the next couple weeks now that there's a possibility of Darvish not being posted, and I'm sure the Yankees will be doing the same.

Yu Darvish, freedom fighter against posting system tyranny!

MVP Vote Could Be A Crapshoot Today

(Who wants it?)

The AL MVP winner will be announced later today and the Yankees have 2 horses in the race in Curtis Granderson and Robbie Cano.  Towards the end of the regular season there was a lot of talk about who from the collection of top contenders would take home the award.  And between nobody really stepping up and distinguishing themselves during the season's final weeks and the quick transition to focusing on the playoffs, I feel like the MVP talk has fallen by the wayside this offseason.

The list of contenders this year is a deep one: the previously mentioned C-Grand and Cano from the Bombers, Adrian "God's Plan" Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury from Fraud Sawx Nation, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera from Detroit, and Jose Bautista from Toronto.  And all 7 guys have a real shot to win the award depending on how the votes go.  But who will rack up enough votes to take home the hardware?  And do Curtis and Robbie have a legit shot?

I'm not going to go through the numbers again because we all know them by now, but the short answer is yes, both guys should be considered real threats to win the award and Curtis could even end up stealing it.  But the big knock against both guys, besides the fact that the play for the Yankees, something that has already cost Nova and CC votes in their respective award races, is their negative defensive ratings in 2011.  Curtis' case has been talked about multiple times, and I still think his rating is a bit unfair thanks to the super human abilities of Brett Gardner in left, but voters likely won't consider that.  And Cano didn't have nearly the year in the field that he did in 2010, something that could force voters to look past his offensive numbers that were right on par with what he put up in 2010.  That, plus Curtis' low batting average, will stick out in some voters' minds and will likely be enough to cost both guys crucial points in the final tally.

The other interesting factor in play here today is the teammate factor.  There are 3 separate pairs of teammates amongst the group of top MVP contenders and that could work against all 6 of them if they end up splitting votes.  In the end I see that being enough to tip the scales in Jose Bautista's favor, even though I'm a firm believer that a player on a mediocre team should not be considered "most valuable."  So book Bautista for the award and another post tonight from me railing on the voters for not giving Curtis and Cano their due.

AB4AR Prediction: 1st) Bautista, 2nd) Ellsbury, 3rd) Granderson, 4th) Verlander, 5th) Gonzalez or Cano.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

AB4AR FA Profile Recap

For those who didn't have the time during their busy work weeks to devote to the AB4AR Free Agent Profile series, here are the links to all 5 guys in one convenient post.  Study up and set the hierarchy of your pitcher wish list.  But mainly study up, that way you won't sound like an idiot when you think the Yankees not signing Mark Buehrle is the end of the world.

- Monday: C.J. Wilson

- Tuesday: Yu Darvish

- Wednesday: Roy Oswalt

- Thursday: Mark Buehrle

- Friday: Edwin Jackson

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thoughts On The 40-Man Moves

The Yankees made some roster moves yesterday in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft, adding 5 guys to the 40-man to protect them: David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, David Adams, Corban Joseph, and Zoilo Almonte.  My quick take- all good moves.

- Phelps and Mitchell are both solid Triple-A starting prospects, just the type of Rule 5 gold that other teams look for.  They'll be among the crew of Triple-A arms that could be called on to make spot starts in 2012 or even play bigger roles if the Yankees' offseason plans to beef up the rotation don't pan out.  Mitchell is also an intriguing relief possibility.

- Adams, despite missing the better part of the 2010-2011 seasons because of a broken ankle, is still a guy worth keeping around because of his bat.  Before he got hurt in 2010, he was hitting .309/.393/.507 with a .403 wOBA in Double-A.  That's damn good production at the plate at any level.  And at 24, he still has time to re-establish himself.  Corban Joseph is cut from a similar cloth and could become a contender for a utility role in the show if he can continue to hit at Triple-A this coming season.

- Almonte is a personal favorite of mine, and with good reason after having a breakout year in 2011.  He hit .298/.373/.522 with a .402 wOBA in High-A this season before getting bumped up to Trenton.  He's 22 and has already shown an advanced approach and eye at the plate, so it will be interesting to see if he can replicate this year's success at the next level in 2012.

All of these guys would have likely drawn interest from other teams in the draft, so I'm glad the Yankees kept them around.  With only 1 open spot on the 40-man roster right now, that could mean we've seen the last of the likes of Kevin Whelan and/or Justin Maxwell.  But that's an acceptable loss to keep these 5 in house.

Friday, November 18, 2011

AB4AR Free Agent Profile: Edwin Jackson

(Worst no-hitter in MLB history?)

Last profile of the week for FA pitchers.  We go back down a little lower on the age ladder to get to Edwin Jackson.  He's an intriguing possibility, but one that comes with some bigger red flags than the other guys on the list.


- He's young, just 28 right now, and already has plenty of experience.  After this past season, Jackson now has 5 full seasons as a starter under his belt, with 161.0+ IP in each of the 5 seasons.

- Durability.  Similar to Buehrle, Jackson has been able to rack up those innings over the past 5 years by being healthy and making at least 31 starts in each of those seasons.  He comes with little to no injury-related baggage.

- He's got pretty good stuff- Solid mid-90s fastball with a choice of slider, curve, or change from the offspeed menu.  The slider has been his best offspeed pitch over the course of his starting career, consistently rating above average.  And working with Larry Rothschild could help bring out better results from that stuff.

- Good trends.  Since '07, his first season as a full-time starter, Jackson has seen his FIP decrease every year from 4.90 in '07 to just 3.55 this past season.  He's also seen his WAR go from the mid 1.00s to 3.8 the past 2 seasons.  Again, it's worth noting that 3.8 would have been the Yankees' 2nd best amongst their starters in 2011.


- Command.  Jackson's career BB/9 is 3.36, higher than you'd like to see from a top-line starter, and he's not known for being particularly efficient with his pitches.

- Jackson's career K/9 is pretty good (6.68), but those values have fluctuated dramatically between seasons.  This is likely tied to his inconsistent command, but with no clear trend in his K numbers it becomes hard to predict how Jackson's stuff would play in Yankee Stadium.

- In terms of a contact, Jackson's age will probably lead to him seeking a longer contract, 4 or 5 years, and for something around $10 mil per season.  For a guy with his inconsistent track record, that's a big commitment to make.  And considering the alternatives, both in-house and in the FA market, Jackson's services might not be worth that much to the Yankee brass.

In my opinion, Jackson is more a #3=#4-type starter based off his production and inconsistency.  And while he is young and has bounced around a lot, possibly something that could contribute to the inconsistency, I don't think he's worth the amount of years and money it will probably take to sign him.  Out of the 5 pitchers profiled this week, Jackson would be my last last resort, even after Mark Buehrle, and since we haven't heard many rumors regarding communication between his agent and Cash, it's safe to assume the Yankees feel the same way.

AB4AR EXCLUSIVE: First Photo Of Phil Hughes At Athletes' Performance In Cali

Holy shit!  Phil really was out of shape this year!  He looks terrible.

Well this changes everything I said before.  He really looks like he needs help.  It's a near miracle he was even able to step on the mound this past season in that kind of shape.  At least he's at a place where he can get back into playing shape and come back stronger next season.  Go get 'em, Phil!  Eye of the tiger, buddy.

(To anybody out there who reads AB4AR regularly and remembers the original post from last year that inspired this one, you're awesome.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

AB4AR Free Agent Profile: Mark Buehrle

(Happy Mark Buehrle is happy.  Courtesy of The AP)

At this point, we've moved from the #2-type starters down to the #3s.  First up, Mark "Curl of The" Buehrle.

(A Mastodon reference and Chris Berman joke in the same sentence.  Score!)


- Consistency, consistency, consistency.  Buehrle is frighteningly consistent.  He's made at least 30 starts every year since his first full MLB season in 2001, thrown at least 201.0 innings every season since '01, and has won at least 10 games every season since '01 (at least 13 in 9 out of the 11 seasons).  To call the guy a workhorse would be an understatement.

- Durability, durability, durability.  Buehrle couldn't have put up that consistent level of production without being healthy.  He's never missed a significant amount of time due to injury, so his track record suggests that he would come with very low health-related risks despite the workload.

- His performance over these past 11 seasons has been above average.  Career 3.83 ERA, career 4.13 FIP, and 2 consecutive seasons of a FIP below 4.00.  He's also produced at least 3.4 WAR in all but one of his seasons.  The only Yankee starter to produce more than that last year was CC.

- Like Oswalt, Buehrle likes to work fast and throw strikes.  He generates a lot of swings and contact, but most of it is the weak type of contact he wants off of the cutter or changeup, his 2 best pitches.  Also like Oswalt, Buehrle has tremendous command.  His career BB/9 is just 2.05 and he's been at least 2.14 or lower in BB/9 every season since 2004.

- Dude can field his position like a boss.  3 straight Gold Gloves and the inspiration for the "Buehrle-Meter" on BBTN.


- Stuff-wise Buehrle isn't much.  His average fastball velocity in 2011 was just 85.6 MPH and it's trending downward as he gets into his 30s.  The value of his fastball dropped from slightly above average in 2010 to 12.5 runs below average this past season, suggesting poor future results for him on the pitch he uses to set up his 2 out pitches.

- Because of the soft fastball and the fact that he pitches to contact, Buehrle's K rates aren't very good.  Career K/9 is 5.07 but he hasn't had a season with a K/9 above 5.00 since 2008.  Bill James projects a slight rebound in that category for 2012, but fewer Ks means more balls in play, and that could mean more balls pulled through the left side against Jeter and The Horse.

- Although he isn't as old as Oswalt, but at 32 Buehrle is approaching the downside of his career.  And while he hasn't gotten hurt yet, all that mileage on his arm over the last 10 years could just mean he's ready to break down as he approaches his mid-30s.

- Recently Buerhle hasn't been very good at the beginning or the end of seasons.  It's admittedly a bit of a nitpick, but for a team that's always going to be in the playoff hunt, the Yankees can't afford to have starters bombing in September and October.

The Yankees could certainly do worse than adding Buehrle to the 2012 rotation.  He would be the 2nd lefty that they haven't had since Pettitte retired, which would be nice to break up the righties.  But at his age with his stuff, Buehrle does not fit the top-of-the-rotation mold that the Yankees are looking for.  Combined with Nova, he could provide a solid stable of #3-#4-type pitchers behind CC if Hughes and A.J. can bounce back in 2012, and he also won't command nearly the dollars or years that Wilson or Darvish will.  You know you're going to get innings and above-average production from Buehrle, but odds are he will be looked at as more of a contingency plan for the Yankees in case they don't get one of the higher-upside guys.

Anybody Wanna Trade Brett Gardner? How About Russell Martin? Anybody?

Matt Imbrogno touched on this briefly yesterday, but there was one thing that Cash said the other day when speaking the media at the GM meetings that really stood out to me.  When asked if he had been engaged in trade talks with any other teams, Cash mentioned that teams had called asking about four specific players: Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, Russell Martin, and A.J. Burnett.  While he didn't say who the teams were, or what, if any, players they were offering up as hypothetical return trade pieces, the fact that there are teams out there interested in those four guys got me thinking.  And the more I think about it, the more I think I could live with any or all of them being traded.

Swish was really no surprise to read about.  There had been all kinds of rumblings about whether or not the Yankees should and would pick up his 2012 option, and you can't come across many Yankee blogs that haven't included Swish as potential trade bait to bring in a pitcher.  For what he brings to the table, Swish would be a valuable addition to almost any team.  He gets on base, he hits for power, hits from both sides of the plate, plays a good outfield, and can even be a backup option at first base if needed.  And he's in the last year of a contract, so wherever he plays this coming season you know he's going to be motivated to perform at a high level so he can earn a big pay day.

Brett Gardner, on the other hand, was one of the names that I was surprised to read, even though I probably shouldn't have been.  With his speed and ability to make contact, Gardner would be an ideal leadoff candidate for plenty of teams out there.  You throw in the good defense and the team-friendly salary and you could probably start a discussion with Billy Beane about one of his young pitchers around Gardner.  As valuable as he's been the last 2 years, the reality is that Gardner is the Yankees' #9 hitter and won't be leading off for them until Derek Jeter finally does fall off the offensive cliff.  Would you really say no to trading the team's #9 hitter and a prospect or two for Gio Gonzalez if that would get it done?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

AB4AR Free Agent Profile: Roy Oswalt

(Oswalt doing this to Joe mid-game next season could be fun)

We've already looked at the potential 2011 version of A.J. Burnett and the latest high-profile Japanese import.  Today, let's focus on the wily veteran of the free agent group, Mr. Roy Oswalt.


- Oswalt isn't just a proven commodity, he's a GOOD proven commodity.  Multiple ASGs, Cy Young contention in his prime, career 3.47 ERA, career 3.52 FIP, career 7.35 K/9.  All those things point to him being an ideal #2 starter candidate.

- He works fast and throws strikes, 2 qualities that seem to evade members of the Yankee rotation from time to time.  Oswalt works off the fastball mostly, and has a trio of offspeed pitches to use to get outs when he gets ahead in the count (curve, slider, change).

- He backs up his good stuff and aggressive approach with great command.  Oswalt's career BB/9 is just 2.09, and last year's 2.14 BB/9 shows that he doesn't appear to be losing his ability to throw strikes one bit.  And while his GB rate isn't as good as Wilson's (47.3% career, 45.1% last season), it still translates well to pitching in Yankee Stadium.

- As a 34-year-old veteran and a guy with a reputation as a consummate professional, Oswalt shouldn't come with any questions about whether or not he can "handle pitching in New York."

- Being a veteran approaching the downside of his career, Oswalt won't command nearly the years or the dollars that the other major FA starters will.  That gives the Yankees more salary flexibility and the chance to get more bang for their buck if Oswalt produces to his career averages.


- Injuries, injuries, injuries.  Oswalt has a few DL trips on his ledger, but the big issue over the last 2 seasons has been his back.  It was so bad this past season that there were talks of Oswalt retiring because of the back problems.  Regardless of the money or the years it takes to get him, you almost have to pencil in Oswalt for one significant chunk of time on the DL next year and have a contingency plan in place.

- While he career numbers are solid, Oswalt's stuff appears to be trending in the wrong direction.  His fastball velocity has dropped in each of the last 2 seasons, from 93.1 in 2009 to 91.4 this past season.  The values of all his pitches declined in 2011, with each of his offspeed pitches actually scoring as below average.  And his 6.02 K/9 in 2011 was a career low, as was his 8.0 Swinging Strike %.

- Making the switch from the NL to AL, while not likely to affect Oswalt's psyche, could put a dent in his production when coupled with what appears to be declining stuff.  Pitching to the Mets and Nationals lineups isn't quite the same as pitching to the Sawx and Blue Jays.

- The track record is solid, but at 34 and with injury question marks, Oswalt does represent the "aging pitcher on the downside of his career" category that got the Yankees in trouble in the mid-2000s and that they've seemingly been trying to avoid the last couple seasons.

- With rumors going around that Oswalt would prefer to stay in the NL and may even be going back to Philly under a new contract, the Yankees could be fighting an uphill battle if they're serious about him.

I think a 34-year-old Roy Oswalt would be a help to the 2012 Yankee rotation, even if I see him as more of a #3-type starter than a #2 pitching in the AL East.  His skill set and approach on the mound are solid and he'd be a good clubhouse guy.  Hell, maybe he could even help figure out how to make A.J. a consistent pitcher.  But with the big glaring injury risk in his back, I wouldn't offer him more than a 1-year deal with an option for a 2nd.  If there is real interest on Oswalt's part, and the Yanks can get him for $6-8 mil, I'd be all for it.

CC Was Robbed (Sorta)

CC Sabathia pitched more innings than Jered Weaver this past season.  He won more games than Weaver, had more strikeouts and a better K rate than Weaver, had better GB and HR rates than Weaver.  He had a lower FIP, lower xFIP, and accumulated 1.5 more WAR than Weaver.

CC also had more wins, Ks, and a better K rate than James Shields.  He walked fewer guys than Shields and had a better BB/9 as well.  The gap between CC's FIP and Shields' is even wider than the gap between CC and Weaver.  And CC had 2.2 more WAR than Shields in 2011.

And somehow CC Sabathia finished behind these other 2 in the AL Cy Young voting yesterday.  In the grand scheme of things it didn't really matter, as Justin Verlander all but locked up the unanimous award some time in late August.  But the difference between finishing 2nd and 4th in the voting probably cost CC what would have been a much-deserved bonus, a bonus he could have used to buy some more kickass custom Air Jordan baseball cleats.

I'm calling shenanigans on the BWAA.  This is ridiculous.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AB4AR Free Agent Profile: Yu Darvish*

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(*- Assumes Darvish will be posted by his Japanese league team)

Yesterday I kicked off the AB4AR FF Profile series by looking at C.J. Wilson.  Today let's break down the next biggest potential free agent pitching target, Yu Darvish of the Japanese Nippon Ham Fighters.


- Darvish is just 25 years old, still presumably before his physical prime, and yet has plenty of experience to fall back on.  Granted it's all been in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan, but Darvish has 7 seasons of baseball under his belt.  He's not a typical 25-year-old pitcher with little to no high-level pro experience.

- Despite the young age, Darvish has already been built up to handle heavy workloads.  He's thrown 200+ innings in 4 of his last 5 seasons, and has done it without suffering any significant arm injuries as a result.  Considering the Yankees' recent history with managing young pitchers' innings limits, this is a good thing to not have to worry about with Darvish.

- Darvish has serious swing-and-miss stuff.  He has a career 8.93 K/9 in the NPBL and that number has trended upwards over the last couple seasons.  His array of pitches is reported to include a 4-seam fastball that sits low-to-mid 90s and touches 97, a 2-seam fastball, a curveball, a change, a slider, and even a cutter and splitter.  He almost certainly won't be throwing all those pitches in the Majors, but he's certainly not at a loss for options.

- He pairs his stuff with great command and great mechanics.  His career BB/9 in the NPBL was just 2.36 and scouts familiar with him comment on how well he repeats his delivery and manages his own mechanical issues.  One scout in particular said, "His balance to home plate is impeccable and he repeats his motion extremely well because he knows his entire pitching motion like the back of his hand."  That's pretty high praise and a valuable skill to have at such a young age.  And when you look around the MLB and see how many pitchers struggle with repeating mechanics (see: Burnett, A.J.), that makes that report even more glowing.

- Because he's an international free agent, the Yankees wouldn't have to forfeit any draft picks to sign him.  Just pay the posting fee, which doesn't count towards the luxury tax or the overall payroll, and negotiate a deal.  And since he doesn't have the MLB track record to speak of, a Darvish deal will likely cost less than one for C.J. Wilson.


- Darvish's flashy stats (1.99 career ERA, 2.60 FIP, 0.98 WHIP, 55 CG, the above K/9 and BB/9 values) have all come against NPBL competition and almost certainly aren't representative of how Darvish would fair against Major League hitters.  Logic would dictate that those numbers wouldn't be as flashy after a year pitching in the AL East.

- The heavy workload on such a young pitcher can be seen as a red flag by scouts and teams who are used to today's strict innings and pitch counts placed on pitchers who are Darvish's age.  The fact that he hasn't had a serious arm injury yet could just mean he's "due" for one.

- Darvish's ability to handle all the cultural changes that come with being a pitcher for a Major League team is a big unknown.  And there are some questions, albeit small ones, about the relationship between he and his wife.  How would that play out in front of the cutthroat NY media?

- Recent star Japanese exports (Irabu, Matsuzaka) have flopped in the Majors.  And while it would be unfair to use them to evaluate Darvish, it is something that teams are going to do.  Because of all the cultural differences and style differences between the American game and the Japanese game, and how others before him have failed to adjust to those differences, Darvish can be seen as a risky signing.

- Between the posting fee (likely somewhere between $40-50 million) and whatever his contract will be (likely $50-60 million), Darvish could end up being the most expensive free agent pitcher out there.  And when he's essentially being looked at as a AAAA-level prospect, that's a hefty price to pay.

Personally, I think Darvish is the pitcher the Yankees should be targeting the hardest.  He's by far the youngest free agent starter available and easily the one with the highest upside.  Pitchers this young aren't supposed to be as experienced and mature as he is.  They aren't supposed to have this firm a grasp on their mechanics or this advanced a combination of stuff and command.  By all accounts, Darvish is already a more polished pitcher than Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes, and by that comparison also more polished than top prospects like ManBan and Dellin Betances.

Based on their long history with high-profile Japanese free agents, both the good (Matsui) and the bad (Igawa), the Yankees are probably the team best-equipped to make Darvish's transition to Major League Baseball a successful one.  And to top it all off, the Yankees can add Darvish by giving up just money, the asset that they have the most of.  They've already scouted him multiple times over the last few seasons, so they have to have a plan for targeting Darvish if and when he's posted.  The Yankees were wise to not be as aggressive on Dice-K as the Fraud Sawx were.  I think they'd be equally wise to be that aggressive on Darvish this time.

P.S.- If you're looking for information on Darvish, the best source out there is probably this recent post on TYA by pro scout David P. It's a must-read for sure.

Can Curtis Granderson Repeat His 2011 Performance?

(The Grandy Man could in 2011.  Can he do it again next year?)

2011 was a helluva season for Curtis Granderson.  Less than 1 year after he had to miss 2 games in the middle of the season to completely rework his swing with Kevin Long, C-Grand used that new swing to put together a monster 2011 season... :

.262/.364/.552, 77 XBH, 41 HR, 136 R, 119 RBI, 85 BB, 25 SB, 146 wRC+, .394 wOBA, 7.0 WAR, ASG Starter, AL Silver Slugger Award winner for CF, AL Players' Choice Awards winner for AL Player of the Year, and possible AL MVP

... And re-establish himself as a premiere player in the American League.  Surprisingly, Granderson's 2011 campaign might not even be his career best.  In 2007 he went .302/.361/.552 with 84 XBH (including an insane 23 triples), 141 wRC+, a .395 wOBA, a 14.5 UZR/150, and a career best 7.8 WAR.  But for Yankee purposes, 2011 was a big year for Curtis as it confirmed that he could be the type of player he was in 2007 and 2008 and the type of player the Yankees thought they were getting when they traded for him in December of '09.  But after one year of so-so C-Grand and one year of great C-Grand, what should we be expecting for him in 2012?  Or more specifically, can his 2011 level of production be maintained going forward?

First, let's use some broad strokes to explain Curtis' big rebound in 2011.  When Long rebuilt Granderson's swing in 2010, his main focus was to cut all of the excess pre-swing movement out and create a more compact swing to better utilize Curtis' quick hands.  That compact swing produced a big power surge in the 2nd half of 2010 and it continued this past season as Granderson posted a .290 ISO, besting his previous career high (set in his '07 season) by 40 points.  Granderson also bounced back a bit on the batting average front thanks to a .295 BABIP, which was still not up above .300 like he was in his first 3 full MLB seasons with the Tigers, but much better than the .270s values he put up in 2009 and 2010.  His batting average, and production as a whole, took a bit of a hit because of a 24.5% K rate, his highest since 2006, but Curtis used a career high 12.3% BB rate to counter that and keep his OBP and wOBA values high.

A Quick Word On The AL ROY Voting

Hellickson- 102 points
Trumbo- 63 points
Hosmer-38 points
Nova- 30 points
Pineda- 11 points

Is that a joke?  Are the voters serious?  Who voted for the Rookie of the Year this year, a local Tampa Bay middle school class??  Fuckin' A, man.  That point total is TERRIBLE.

You want to tell me that Jeremy Hellickson was a slightly better pitcher than Ivan Nova this year?  OK, I'll buy that.  But you can't try to tell me he was THAT much better than Nova.  And there's no way you can convince me that he was better than Michael Pineda at all.  Or that Trumbo with his sub-.300 OBP and Hosmer with his shitty first base defense were better than Nova and Pineda.  JUST LOOK AT THE FUCKING NUMBERS!!!!

Whatever.  It's a joke.  20 bucks says Nova would have gotten more votes if he wasn't wearing a navy blue hat with an interlocking "NY" on it.  Although on the positive side, maybe the still lingering love obsession with HRs gives C-Grand a better shot at winning the MVP next week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Phil Hughes Is Going To Get In Shape Now

Via Andrew Marchand at ESPNNY:

"Phil Hughes didn't show up to spring training grossly overweight last February, but he'd packed on enough pounds to end up in what the New York Yankees call "fat camp." It is for players who need to up their conditioning a bit to ready themselves for the season.

With 2012 spring training now less than 100 days away, Hughes is reverting to the workout program that preceded his All-Star 2010 season, which makes Yankees GM Brian Cashman think an uptick in Hughes' performance will follow.

"I think in 2012, you are going to see that again.  He is determined. He is going to Athletes' Performance out there in California, which is something he did two years ago to be in optimal shape."

Ohhhhhhh.  So THAT's why Phil Hughes was a piece of crap in 2011.  He was an out of shape fat fatty fat fat magoo because he didn't go to the training facility that he did before the 2010 season.  Maybe this would have been some good information to know back in the spring when everybody was wringing their hands and shaking their heads about where Hughes' velocity and command had gone and he was getting MRI'd and tested up the wazoo to find out what was wrong with him.

Obviously we can't establish complete causality between Hughes being out of shape and his poor 2011 performance, but that would certainly make sense, especially when combined with the major innings increase he took in in 2010.  More work on the shoulder than he's ever experienced + coming into 2011 camp out of shape could very well = crappy Phil Hughes.  It's a bit of surprise that the Yankees didn't mention this stuff earlier in the year.  Did they not want to shame Hughes publicly for being overweight and out of shape?  Did they honestly think that it had nothing to do with his performance?  Did he not even disclose to them that he hadn't attended Athletes' Performance before this past season?

Whatever the reasons are, shame on Hughes for taking his offseason workouts so lightly and coming into 2011 out of shape.  As Marchand mentions in his story, Hughes was expected to step up and take the reins as the #2 starter behind CC this past year and instead he wound up getting kicked to the back of the rotation and then the bullpen again come playoff time.  If Hughes would have taken things more seriously and been in better shape perhaps he could have turned in a better performance in 2011, perhaps he could have convinced the front office and Joe that he is capable of being a #2 starter, and perhaps the Yankees' offseason plans would be different right now.

But enough on the past.  What matters now is that Hughes is reportedly going back to that training facility to get in better shape for 2012.  And a Hughes in better shape makes it more likely that will see a better Hughes on the mound in 2012.  Let's do it to it, Lars.  Fucking PerkiSystem, baby!!

P.S.- I can just picture this Yankee Spring Training fat camp.  All of the out shape guys doing wind sprints and weigh-ins with Mike Harkey there going "Attention, players.  Lunch has been canceled today due to lack of hustle.  Deal with it."

AB4AR Free Agent Profile: C.J. Wilson

(Would you give $90 mil to this guy?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

CC Sabathia, the biggest potential fish in the free agent pitching pond, has been back in the fold for the Yankees for a couple weeks now.  And since the Yankees avoided any long, drawn out negotiations with him, Cash has been able to get the ball rolling on the process of courting other free agent targets.  The Yankees made no secret that their goal this offseason was to bolster their rotation, and while there aren't any other CCs or Cliff Lees out there, there are a few interesting possibilities.  This week at AB4AR, I'll take a look at some of the Yankees' biggest starting pitching targets, starting with everyone's favorite left-handed converted reliever, C.J. Wilson.


- Workload increase going from reliever to starter hasn't been a problem for Wilson, who jumped from 73.2 IP in '09 to 204.1 in 2010 (plus 24.1 more in the postseason) and then to 252.1 total in the regular season and postseason in 2011 without any arm or stuff issues.  In fact, Wilson's average velocity velocity increased from 2010 to 2011.

- Wilson hasn't just been a workhorse the last 2 years, he's been a damn good pitcher too.  He's got an ERA in the low 3.00s over the past 2 seasons as a starter and a FIP just slightly higher.  His ERA/FIP/xFIP tripleslash in 2011 was 2.94/3.24/3.41, numbers certainly indicative of a #1-#2-type starter.  He's also accumulated 10.5 WAR as a starter over the last 2 seasons and is a beast on lefties.

- Wilson lowered his BB/9 from 4.10 in 2010 to just 2.98 this past year while increasing his K/9 from 7.50 in 2010 back up to 8.30 in 2011, much closer to the K rates he used to post as a reliever.  And between his 3 different fastballs and 3 offspeed offerings (slider, change, curve), Wilson has 6 legit pitches at his disposal, all of which he used well in 2011 to up his Swinging Strike percentage from 6.7% to 8.3%.

- Grounders, grounders, grounders.  Wilson has had a GB% of either 49.2 or 49.3% in 5 of the last 6 seasons, and the one season he didn't post that rate he put up an even better one of 55.4% in '09.  Keeping the ball on the ground more is always a bonus in homer happy Yankee Stadium.

- At 30 years old and with only 2 full seasons of starter work on his resume, Wilson is in the prime of his career and doesn't have nearly the wear and tear on his arm that other pitchers his age have.  This suggests the potential for him to at least continue this level of production over the next few years.


- While he has been healthy the last 2 seasons, Wilson's career is littered with injury issues, including TJS in 2003, elbow and shoulder problems in 2008, and blisters in 2009.  Given that track record, these last 2 seasons of clean health bills could just mean he's due to get hurt again.

- While 2011 was a good year for him in terms of command, Wilson's previous lowest BB rate was 3.38 BB/9 in 2005, and he's had 2 seasons over 4.00 and one over 5.00.  So he's not exactly the most efficient cat on the block, and the Yankees already have plenty of inefficiency in their rotation with Burnett and Hughes.

- He's a Type-A free agent this year, and the Rangers would be stupid not to offer him arbitration, so the Yankees are looking at giving up another 1st-round pick if they sign him.

- His postseason track record is nothing to write home about, in fact it's downright bad.  Small sample size surely plays a part, but Wilson has thrown 52.1 playoff innings over the last 2 seasons and has given up 28 ER and 29 BB in those innings.  This past postseason was particularly brutal, as Wilson put up a 5.79 ERA and 6.31 FIP.  It's something that the media and fans will point to in an argument against him, so it's only fair to mention it here, small sample sizes be damned.

- While he's a "young" 30, Wilson still turns 31 this offseason and he'll likely command at least the 5 years/$82 million that A.J. Burnett and John Lackey got, if not more.  By signing him, and his injury history, the Yankees would be committing themselves long term to another pitcher who will end his contract in his mid-to-late-30s.

His numbers over the last 2 seasons make Wilson look like the ideal #2 starter for the Yankees, an innings machine who strikes guys out, keeps the ball on the ground and in the yard, and has a multitude of pitches with which to work.  But the lack of track record in terms of health, BB rate, and workload is a concern to me, and I see Wilson and his agent commanding more than the 5/$82 mil that A.J. got because his performance over the last 2 seasons is better than what A.J. did.  If the talks start moving towards 6 or 7 years and 90-100 million bucks, I think the Yankees would be wise to take a pass on Wilson.  And honestly, I'd be surprised if they did sign him.  This feels like another case of Cash getting involved to drive the price up for his competition.  I guess we'll see what happens.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Joe Torre Needs To Shut Up About Posada

I know this probably shouldn't bother me at all, but it does and so I have to say something about it.

I don't want to hear Joe Torre commenting on the Jorge Posada situation with the Yankees anymore.  I don't.  He commented on it on Tuesday, saying:

"It’s really tough when you play with one team and create the relationships that he has all these years. It's probably going to be tough to think about going somewhere else."

And then on Thursday at a function for his own charity organization, Torre had this to say about Jorge's HOF chances:

"I've noticed over the years when guys get voted in, whether it’s first ballot, second ballot -- if you play in postseason, people get a chance to see you in a different light and it may carry a little more weight. But as much postseason as he’s played in, I think consideration is certainly warranted."

Now I get that Torre managed Jorge for the majority of his Yankee career and the peak of that career that included Jorge's best seasons and 4 World Series championships for both.  I get that Torre probably shares a great bond with Jorge because of that and because of the fact that they are both former catchers.  But here's the thing, Torre isn't a part of the Yankee organization anymore.  For argument's sake, you could that Jorge isn't either, but Torre holds a job with Major League Baseball, a very prominent one too as Executive BP of Baseball Operations.  And something just doesn't sit right with me about a guy holding that position commenting on the goings on of a team with which he was formerly employed and with which he had a deep connection.

In the position he's currently in, Torre should always be objective and neutral in all his dealings and this string of comments this week about a former player on the former team he managed doesn't give off that vibe.  To me, this is the type of stuff Torre and the MLB shouldn't be involved in or commenting on- an individual team's dealing or lack thereof with a free agent- and to comment on it suggests a potential bias or vested interest that Torre, and by association MLB, has towards the situation.  The last thing that should be happening here is for teams' plans to be changed because of statements made by the MLB office, or for Hall of Fame voters to be swayed by something Torre, a league official, said.

If he were just a regular retired former manager or working in the media, it would be OK.  Former players and coaches can be good in those media roles because of all the behind-the-scenes history and insight they can provide on former teams and players.  But it's just not the same when you're representing the league, the governing body over all the teams and players, and I'd hate for any kind of talk of league interference in whatever happens with Posada to come up.  That wouldn't be good for the Yankees, it wouldn't be good for Posada, and it wouldn't be good for the league.

So Joe, I respect the fact that you have your feelings and opinions on the Yankee-Posada issue.  As someone who worked closely with Jorge for such a long time, you're entitled to have them.  But in the position you're in as a high-ranking MLB official, you need to realize that the days of being able to talk openly and candidly about everything Yankee-related are over.  The only people who should be commenting on this are Jorge, the Yankees, and any other team seriously interested in signing Jorge.  Keep your mouth shut about this and let the situation play out amongst the parties involved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Goodbye, Sweet Prince

If this report by Jim Salisbury is true, then this is a sad day for AB4AR.  Jonathan Papelbon was one of my favorite Fraud Sawx whipping boys, maybe THE favorite.  And now my opportunities to bag on him for being overrated and a choker and a phony and an asshat will be much fewer and farther between.

But I'll always have the memories.  The C-Grand home run off Papelbon in the 10th inning on April 6th, 2010 that helped seal the series for the Yanks.  The Marcus Thames homer on May 17th.  The absolute meltdown of a blown save in Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS against the Angels.  This picture:

So many good times.  So many...

/tries not to cry

So adios, dickhead.  It's been fun.  Watch out for the batteries in Philly when you blow a save.  Can't imagine those fans will be quite as fahhgiving as the fans in FACKING BAHHHHHHHSTON!!!!

Spring Training Dates Released

- Pitchers & Catchers: February 19th, 2012

- Position Players: February 24th

- First Full-Team Workout: February 25th

Mark your calendars and book your flights if you're interested in going to Spring Training this year, people.  There are the key dates.  If you're lucky, maybe you'll get a picture of Soriano smiling during one of the workouts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is Jorge Posada Delusional?

(Courtesy of The AP)

It's been Jorge Posada Day over at LoHud today.  The one post that stood out to me was this one linking Posada and Bernie Williams and the similar paths their Yankee careers took at the end.  And within that post, I found this comment by Jorge to be particularly interesting when he was asked if seeing what happened to Bernie five years ago prepared him for this past season:

“If you asked me that question in February of this year, I would have said, no,” Posada said. “But now, I would say, yes. It went the same way, pretty much.”

Uhhh, Jorge?  Are you serious?  You really weren't prepared for your Yankee career to end after this year?  How could you not see the writing on the wall?  You were in the last year of your contract as a 40-year-old catcher with abominable defensive skills.  After years of letting that criticism slide, the team flat out told you well before Spring Training that you weren't going to catch anymore and to prepare to be a DH.  The picture was already being painted for you for this to be your final season before the season even started.  And as the season progressed, your role became increasingly smaller as your offensive skills eroded, and the Yankees focused on Russell Martin and Jesus Montero as their new catcher/DH tandem of the future.

If Jorge honestly didn't think that 2011 was going to be his final year in pinstripes, then I really don't know what to say.  On the one hand it makes the whole situation a little sadder, knowing that he played like shit all season and got relegated to platoon status after thinking he was going to be back in 2012.  On the other hand, I have to knock him for being a bit of a dope for not expecting this.  Just serves as a reminder that as hard as it is to watch our favorite players decline, it must be even harder for them to have to experience it.

Does Ivan Nova Have A Chance To Win AL Rookie Of The Year?

(** Author's Note- I completely botched this and forgot that Alexi Ogando is not eligible for the AL ROY this year because he spent more than 45 days on a Major League roster in 2010.  So disregard everything related to Ogando below and just focus on the other candidates. **)

The Yankees have already been heavily featured in the early portion of MLB Awards season, getting shafted out of at least 2 AL Gold Gloves and then having Robbie Cano and C-Grand deservedly win Silver Slugger Awards for their respective positions.  But the real meat and potatoes of award season starts this coming Monday with the announcement of the AL and NL Rookie of the Year Award winners.  And for the first time since Cano in '05 the Yankees have a horse in the race for the AL award in Ivan Nova.  But how good is Nova's chance of really contending for the award?  Let's make like D-Generation X and break it down.

The way I see it, there are five other "real" contenders for the AL award besides Nova, two position players and three pitchers.  The two position players are Mark Trumbo of the Angels and Eric Hosmer of the Royals.  While others may try to make an arguments for Desmond Jennings or Dustin Ackley, those guys don't have a full season's worth of plate appearances under their belts and so my belief is that their body of work can't be looked at the same as those of Trumbo and Hosmer.  So how do these two stack up?

Trumbo: 573 PA (1st among AL rookies), 137 H (2nd), 29 HR (1st), 87 RBI (1st), .768 OPS (7th), .327 wOBA (10th), 105 wRC+ (tied for 9th), 2.3 WAR (4th)

Trumbo's power numbers look good, which is something that old school voters always go for, but his OPS and wOBA suffers thanks to a low BA (.254) and low OBP (.291), both byproducts of Trumbo's low walk rate (4.4%).  However, Trumbo balances out those flaws at the plate by rating as an above average defensive first baseman and a decent baserunner.

Hosmer: 563 PA (2nd), 153 H (1st), 19 HR (3rd), 78 RBI (tied for 2nd), .799 OPS (3rd), .342 wOBA (3rd), 114 wRC+ (5th), 1.6 WAR (8th)

Hosmer beats Trumbo in most of the sabermetric categories thanks to a better walk rate (6.0%) and a much lower K rate (14.6%).  He was a better all around hitter than Trumbo in 2011 but takes a knock in the WAR department thanks to a subpar defensive rating.  Considering that both guys played the same position this season, that could hurt Hosmer.

Nice first seasons for both of those guys, no doubt.  But the real competition for the award, in my opinion, will come down to the four top rookie pitchers in the AL this season: Nova, Alexi Ogando of the Rangers, Michael Pineda of the Mariners, and Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays.  Through both the traditional and sabermetric statistical looking glasses, these guys were the cream of the AL rookie pitching crop in 2011, racking up the top 4 innings totals amongst all AL rookie hurlers and thus creating a bigger body of work to more accurately assess their numbers and weigh them against their rookie counterparts (sorry, Zach Britton).  For the purposes of this comparison, the rankings indicated in the parentheses represent where each pitcher ranks amongst themselves.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mark Buehrle Is Blowing Up The Rumor Mill

And I really don't understand why.  Joel Sherman says this:

"These Yankees are more self-confident in their overall team and farm system and, therefore, not as overzealous in its pursuit of pitching.

That is why the Yankees probably will not end up with C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish, though they left those October scouting meetings with that duo atop their free-agent board (non-CC division). Both are, for example, listed above Mark Buehrle; yet Buehrle stands a better chance of becoming a Yankee because he fits certain criteria, including less financial risk than Wilson or Darvish."

And Buster Olney says this:

"Yankees did due diligence today and talked to Mark Buehrle's agent, but it's still highly unlikely they take a serious run at him."

Boys, boys, boys.  Can you pump the brakes for a second?  Did you not listen to Cash last week?  It's a slow process.  He's still in the infant stages of said process, reaching out to everybody.  It's still WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY to early to try to predict who the Yankees will and won't target.  And honestly, they're going to target everybody, or at least make it seem like they're targeting everybody.  It's what Cash does.  Just let him do his thing.  And certainly don't waste valuable Twitter space talking about Mark Buehrle.  He's like the rice pudding of the FA pitcher buffet.  Sure, you wouldn't mind having some and you'll probably enjoy it if it's on your plate, but you aren't making a beeline to it at Ponderosa.

P.S.- I don't know where I stand on Buehrle.  I feel like he should be ranked right above Freddy as a last resort.

Freddy The Forgotten

As Cash makes his rounds on the preliminary phone call circuit to the cream of this year's FA pitching crop (Wilson, Edwin Jackson, Buehrle, Oswalt, etc.), one guy who hasn't received a lot of "real" talk is Freddy Garcia.  There has been mention of both sides sharing a mutual interest in bringing Freddy back for 2012, but right now that option is probably more of a last resort for the Yankees much like it was last offseason.  So what should the Yankees' approach be with Freddy?

Garcia greatly outperformed any and all expectations this past season any way you cut it.  He was, at times, the Yankees' 2nd best starter, and over the course of the entire season you could make the argument that he WAS their 2nd best starter, 3rd at worst.  His 3.62/4.12/4.36 line over 146.2 IP was a blessing in disguise for a rotation that could have been crippled by Phil Hughes' problems and A.J.'s all around sucktitude, and it earned him a Type-B free agent status this offseason.

This  is where things get interesting with Garcia.  The Yankees could offer him arbitration, which would lead to a higher dollar amount than what they paid him last year, and if Garcia turns it down they get a draft pick.  And given the year he had last year, Garcia very likely could get more money than what the arbitration number would come out to in the open market.  But if Garcia did decide to accept the arbitration deal, the Yankees suddenly have 5 starting pitchers again and somebody would have to get the boot to the bullpen if they're serious about pursuing any of the crop of previously-mentioned pitchers or Yu Darvish.

So what to do?  If it were me, I would offer Garcia arbitration as I think there are teams out there who would pay Freddy more for a year of his services and he would be wise to pursue those opportunities.  Also, the Yankees could try to swing a gentleman's agreement like they had with Javy Vazquez to not accept the arbitration offer, leaving them free to pursue their other targets and gain a pick and leaving Freddy free to sign on with another team who wants him.  In any case, Freddy is a good insurance policy for the Yanks to have in their back pocket.  He just might not be there for the taking as long as he was last year.