Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yanks, Martin Agree To New Deal

On a day when the Yankees lost one of their toughest players to retirement, it's good to know that not all the badassness will be gone from this season's club.

The Yanks and Russell Martin agreed to a 1-year/$7.5 million deal today, avoiding arbitration in the process and crossing another name off the list of players that they needed to come to terms with.

(Looks like a homer to me.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Jorge Posada Has Retired

The rest of the Yankosphere has done a better job at covering this today than I have, but here are the highlights of Jorge's retirement press conference today:

- Along with the entire front office, Girardi, Jeter, Rivera, and CC were in attendance.

- Posada on playing for the Yankees: “I played baseball for the New York Yankees, and that’s all I could think of or dream of as a little kid.”

- Thurman Munson's wife saying that Jorge was the reason she got back into following baseball and the Yankees after her husband's death.

- Posada on when he knew he was retiring: “Talking to my wife during the season and talking to Derek through the season, I knew that this was it. I told him and I told Laura that this was my last year, during the year.”

And with that, another member of the Core Four has retired.  Whatever the actual definition of a "true Yankee" is, Jorge Posada is the perfect embodiment of that definition.  He was a loyal teammate and member of the organization, a fierce competitor, a great leader, and one of the hardest working players in Yankee history.  He gave everything he had for his team and his teammates for 17 years of a great, possibly Hall of Fame-worthy career, and it will certainly be different not having him around this season.

For a more in-depth reflection, check out the piece I wrote up on Jorge's career when the announcement of his retirement was first made.

For more in-depth coverage of today's events, check out LoHud.

(Photo courtesy of the AP)

Triple-R: The Bullpen

(Any discussion about the Yankee bullpen starts and ends with this man.  Courtesy of UPI/John Angelillo.)

Since I did such a bang up job predicting the rotation that will no longer include almost half of the analyzed members, I figured I might as well see this series all the way through to its conclusion.  With what happened last time, maybe there's some Triple-R karma left over from the Pineda trade and a few days after this is posted the Yankees will somehow add Craig Kimbrel and Sean Marshall to the bullpen before the season starts.  But if not, here's what we can expect from the current members of the Yankee 'pen.

Mariano Rivera- Remain

At this point, history, logic, and conventional wisdom can basically go out the window with Mo.  He is doing things in his 40s and performing at a level that nobody else in sports, save for maybe Nicklas Lidstrom, is doing.  Age doesn't seem to be able to stop him, durability concerns that should come with a professional athlete his age don't seem to be able to stop, and a decrease in velocity doesn't seem to be able to stop him.  He's coming off a year where his IP (61.1), K/9 (8.80), BB/9 (1.17), FIP (2.19), xFIP (2.64), and WAR (2.4) were all BETTER than what he put up in 2010.  In fact, Mo's 2011 FIP was the 4th best of his career; his BB/9 was the 2ND best of his career and the only other time outside of 2008 that he's been below 1.20 in that category.  Mo continues to be the best in the business by being precise with his command and consistent with his approach, and he has successfully combated his decrease in velocity by becoming even more pinpoint accurate with his command.  In what could finally be his last year, Mo has given no indication that he'll be anything less than brilliant again in 2012.  There will be the 3-game hiccup once or twice, but that's it.

Dave Robertson- Regress

The bad news is that D-Rob is a prime candidate to regress in 2012.  The good news is that it has more to do with the fact that his numbers can't get much better than they were in 2011 than it does an actual regression of his skills.  D-Rob benefited from an absurdly high strand rate in 2011 (89.8%) and an absurdly low HR/FB ratio (2.3%), neither of which are likely to be repeatable in 2012 as the law of averages runs its course.  Robertson is also still prone to the occasional bout of inconsistency with his command, and his walks continue to be a cause for concern (4.73 BB/9 last season).  But when you have the shutdown stuff that he has, that will help cover up some of the problem areas, and with another year of high-leverage experience under his belt, I don't expect Robertson to regress much more beyond an ERA and FIP in the mid-2.00s.  He possesses two elite pitches and he attacks hitters with them, and he generated more swings and misses (career highs 13.50 K/9 and 10.8 SwStr %) and less contact almost across the board in 2011 than in his previous years.  The all-world numbers of 2011 probably won't be back, but D-Rob will still be one of the 5 best relievers in baseball in 2012.

Rafael Soriano- Rebound

He's not my favorite player by any means, and I won't be plunking my money down to buy his jersey any time soon, but I do believe that Rafael Soriano's 2011 was not a true representation of the type of pitcher he is and can be for the Yankees.  He was the victim of a couple of really bad outings early in the season that, thanks to his extended injury absence, he didn't have enough time and enough innings of work to correct.  He gave up 9 earned runs and 8 walks in his first 11.1 IP in March and April, and just 9 earned runs and 10 walks over 28 IP for the rest of the season.  Soriano also experienced some issues with command that had not been present in his game in the previous two seasons.  It shouldn't be taken as a coincidence that his 3.97 FIP and 4.12 BB/9 were the highest numbers in those categories from Soriano since 2008, when he posted a 3.92 FIP and a ridiculously high 5.79 BB/9.  When he can locate, he can be very effective, and he showed instances of that in 2011.  And who knows how much the injury contributed to his early struggles and bouts with inconsistent command?  Injuries are still always a major risk with Soriano, but I expect to see a healthier, more consistent version of him in 2012.  Hey, maybe he'll even smile once.