So yes, I understand that having failed to update yesterday, I broke my New Year's Resolution and am thus a horrible person.
That said, let's move on to the elephant in the room: the Super Bowl is tomorrow, and I have yet to announce my pick!
Unlike last year, I haven't given a whole lot of thought to my pick for this year. The reason for that is two-fold:
1) I think the Steelers are that good
2) The party I'm going to is a de facto Steelers party, so regardless of my personal feelings, I have to root for Pittsburgh.
Seriously, though, on paper the Steelers should have this game in hand. However, the Cardinals are reminding a lot of people about the Giants in '07-'08: a team that sneaked into the playoffs and then got hot at the right time.
For this reason, I don't think anyone that picks Arizona is making a stupid pick; history shows that they might very well be the ones celebrating tomorrow night. Larry Fitzgerald could very well be the very best player in the game.
Both QBs have played in--and won--Super Bowls, although it's been nearly a decade since Warner won his last one in 2000.
So go on and fill up on greasy snack food--America's unofficial holiday is nearly here.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
So yes, I understand that having failed to update yesterday, I broke my New Year's Resolution and am thus a horrible person.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
[it's 11.27 PM, so as long as I get this done in the next half hour I won't have broken my New Year's resolution!]
You know you've been baseball blogging too much when...
10) You hear "spreadsheet" and think baseball reference
09) Your best friend apologizes for only reading once a month...even though she doesn't watch baseball and hates the Yankees.
08) You hear that George Mitchell has been named US Mideast envoy and begin to think that 'Roid Rage would go a long way to explaining the endemic violence.
07) You look forward to the end of the second week of February not for Valentine's Day but for Spring Training...
06) You feel out of the loop because your phone won't let you mobile update.
05) You have, at any point in time, uttered the sentence "it's on my blog."
04) You have, at any point in time, ever live-blogged and had people follow the post through some or the entirety of the event.
03) You feel slightly bad for the fact that you will be unable to live-blog the Super Bowl because you'll actually be at a Super Bowl Party (what is this life and how do you have one?).
02) You've ever looked at your Technorati ranking.
01) You're so determined to make your New Year's blogging resolution stand that you come up with something like this.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Today, walking back from the library, I had two choices open to me:
Walk on the sheets of black ice on the sidewalks, or wade through the puddles--so dark you can't tell how deep--on the roads.
This is, of course, not a wholly new experience to me, but at least at Syracuse, once you made it to campus (and this itself was no small feat), you could count on salted sidewalks.
I love hockey and Christmas lights and all that, but we're at that part of winter where it's, baseball-wise, at least, the final stretch before Spring Training. And, yeah, so what if Spring Training doesn't include the competitive edge of the regular season? Spring Training's a time for veterans to prank the young guys, a time for stories of clubhouse bonding and, of course, the hope that this year will be THE year.
Truth is, winter's old news.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Tonight I went with Andrea and her friend Jared to see Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester do a Q+A moderated by Andrew Marchand at Sacred Heart University in Farfield, CT.
The event got off to a somewhat inauspicious start when they kept replaying country music on a loop, but the place--the William Pitt Center--was absolutely packed, and there seemed to be a majority of Yankee fans--not all of whom may have been entirely sober, mind.
Joba and Lester answered a wide array of questions, which ranged from the locker rooms, to the "welcome to the Big Leagues, kid" moment to questions about things off the field, such as Joe Torre's book, Lester's cancer and Joba's DUI.
Joba commended Lester for his conquering cancer, and, like the 12-year-old boy who asked the question, was fascinated to hear Lester talk about his no-hitter.
As concerns the DUI, Joba stated that he could either be a man and face it or run from it, and that he's chosen to face it.
The entire thing lasted maybe an hour and a half, which is good, because the bleachers were fairly uncomfortable.
Anyway, I have pictures, but my camera battery died, so they will have to wait a day or two.
Now that Andy Pettitte has officially returned to the Yankees, we can construct a basic rotation and do some basic, non-statistical analysis (that will come later, hopefully).
Right now the five starting pitchers likely to be on the Opening Day Roster are CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, CM Wang, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain.
The most common rotation construction is:
However, I have come across arguments for this construction as well:
There are also arguments out there to switch Joba and Pettitte, but I don't see that happening and I'll explain why.
There seems to be one set-in-stone rule about rotation construction: Sabathia is the number one guy.
Amongst the others, there are a few common themes. One of the main arguments for pitching Wang second, instead of third, is to break up the power pitching combination of Sabathia and Burnett. Another argument is that there are quite a few that believe Burnett will get hurt before it's all said and done, but the counter-argument is that when Burnett is healthy, his stuff can rival the best in the game. In some rotations, Burnett would be a number one-type starter; that the Yankees could pitch him third if they chose to shows a lot about the depth of the rotation.
At the bottom end of the rotation, there are two basic arguments for keeping Joba as the number five starter: 1) He will be on an innings limit and occasionally you do skip a five starter to keep the top guys on a regular schedule, and 2) if Pettitte was to start fifth, then you would have back-to-back lefties in the rotation.
Whatever rotation one does construct, however, there is one basic rule about the rotation's expected performance: If healthy, the 2009 rotation projects to be one of, if not the, best in baseball.
It's a big if--most of us don't need any subtle reminders of last season.
However, unlike last season, the Yankees should be able to avoid a Ponsonarian scheme: if pitcher A gets hurt, pitcher R Replacement could be Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves or Coke all before you have to start worrying about taking a flier on someone.
To put this in perspective, last year, if memory serves, the first pitcher the Yankees called up to fill a void was Rasner. Granted, Rasner performed admirably for a while, but it simply wasn't good enough in the long run.
If we are going to mention weaknesses of this rotation, we would have to say the following:
1) Sabathia was overworked at the end of last season. While it probably won't affect him, as his 2007 didn't seem to hurt his 2008, it's still something to watch.
2) Burnett's notoriously shaky injury history. Hopefully the toils and travails of Carl Pavano mean he'll do everything he can to stay healthy.
3) How CM Wang rebounds from his foot injury. He did injure his push-off foot, so there is plenty of room for concern. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, he seems to be attracting the least attention of anyone.
4) Whether Pettitte's year last year was a bloop or if he really has fallen off that much. Either way, though, Pettitte is a pretty solid guarantee to go out and pitch innings, which is ultimately what you need from a four starter.
5) Joba's shoulder. They say shoulders are the things you don't want, and Joba's injury history is one of the reasons he went as low in the draft as he did. Hopefully, by not going starter-reliever-starter with Joba, the Yankees can avoid putting undue stress on his shoulder.
Except for Pettitte, all of the other major concerns with the Yankee rotation amount to concerns over health. So, as stated before, the simple maxim for the rotation is: Stay healthy!
The Yankee pitchers are on the whole, young, and just about to hit or in their prime. It's hard to imagine any team wanting to face this rotation day in and day out. Sabathia, Burnett and Joba are all power pitchers; Wang and Pettitte are by tradition the ground-ball-pitchers-of-doom.
There's a lot to be optimistic about with this rotation--just as long as they stay healthy.
Monday, January 26, 2009
According to Buster Olney on 1050, Andy Pettitte has agreed to a $6 million deal with "easily attainable" incentives.
More on this as it develops.
The deal reportedly includes incentives that, if reached, will total Pettitte's salary to $12 million, more than the original $10 million offer the Yankees had on the table.
However, Pettitte is (apparently) only guaranteed $6 million, which would result in a considerable pay cut from last year.
For the Yankees, however, this deal is excellent.
Pettitte, as has often been stated, was by far the best fit for the Yankees' needs, and while the Yankees seem to have gotten the better end of the deal, from a financial point of view, Pettitte could still surpass the original offer the Yankees had made.
Whether Pettitte can pull a Mussina in '09 is another story entirely, but it seems as though now the Yankees have their rotation sorted out:
1) CC Sabathia
2) AJ Burnett
3) CM Wang
4) Andy Pettitte
5) Joba Chamberlain/Phil Hughes/Winner out of ST.
I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty sweet rotation, provided everyone stays healthy, of course...
Now, if the Yankees want to sign Sheets (I still doubt they will for reasons previously stated), they can do so without taking the risk that Sheets won't be able to pitch 200 innings. However, given Sheets' caliber, I doubt he will sign anywhere without a guaranteed rotation spot.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
According to River Ave Blues, among the many accusations surfacing in Joe Torre's new books, one is that the Steinbrenners were informed by team medical personnel about Torre's prostate cancer before Torre himself .
There are three distinct possibilities here:
1) The above is true and results in a distinct breach of medical ethics. Even if doctor-patient confidentiality, for whatever reason I don't know, doesn't exist, there isn't really a question that an adult, conscious patient of sound mind has a right to know about his or her own medical condition before anyone else, including his or her employers.
2) The above is false and results in a little fuzzier but still pretty distinct breach of journalism ethics. It is hard to believe that either Torre or a writer as respected as Verducci would blatantly make something up, so it's possible that Verducci didn't do a very good job checking his sources, which is hard to imagine when it's Torre's book! If Torre willingly and knowingly consented to let a false allegation appear, then Torre pretty much loses whatever credibility he had. If Torre willingly consented to let the allegation appear and believed that it was true, it's a different story, but that said, Torre's not an idiot. It seems hard to believe that he could let himself think such a thing.
3) The best case scenario is that it is unfounded internet rumor. In which case, there is still an ethics breach, though Torre, the team doctors and the Steinbrenners get to keep their name.
According to this article, a tell-all book, ghost-written by Tom Verducci, has Joe Torre revealing a bitter rift with the New York Yankees.
It would have been foolish, of course, to suggest that Torre's entire 1996-2007 tenure with the New York Yankees was without fault on either side, but such a work can only harm Torre's relationship with the team that employed him for twelve years.
My brother linked me to the story, and his opinion on the situation isn't that much different than my own:
...My biggest gripe about it is that it isn't only a rip on the players, but consequently it's a rip on the fans saying like "lol you follow a scummy team." Keep some of that shit in the clubhouse Joe, you just lost a lot of my respect...and the respect from most New Yorkers who think you are a class act guy. It obviously sounds astounding to have a grudge against someone who helped brought your favorite team ... four World Series...but there was no reason to trash a former team.
A Yankees fan would have to be an idiot not to be grateful for Torre for the four World Series, but at the same time, my brother has a point--a slight on the team like this is also a slight on the fans.
Perhaps more importantly, and more unfortunately, it's a bit harder to go around calling Torre a class act right now.
I don't know about you, but for all of Jeter's faults (ie, his lack of range and tendency to GIDP), I can't see the Captain ever doing something like this...
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I saw the bird man in the Bronx today.
Whistling and cawing, he was, as though trying himself to bring back all the birds, as though saying "winter is over, come back home", even though winter technically still has another two months to go.
Even so, one can tell that the thaw is beginning.
It is no longer as dark as the dead of night at four thirty in the afternoon, snow seems old and pointless instead of fresh and fun, and the gear that greets me on the streets is not that of the Giants or the Knicks or the Rangers, but that of the Yankees and Mets.
It is, of course, no secret that New York is a baseball city. Baseball first, baseball foremost, baseball forever.
We live for spring because it makes us believe again.
It makes us believe that the world doesn't have to be an oppressive place, it makes us believe that things that are bad, whether they be minor like a third place finish in the division, or major like a collapsed economy, that these things cannot endure. It makes us believe that we can be bold with our predictions, that A-Rod can have a monster year and CC can (again) win the Cy Young and that those chilly October nights will be worth it.
We are a cold weather city, but winter is not our thing. We can do Christmas all right in Rockefeller Square and no one rivals our New Year's, but these things we would do anyway, even if they were six months later.
Our hearts lie in the spring, in the endless promise of hope, though we refuse to forget our history and perhaps this is why baseball and, of course, the Yankees mean so much to us.
So go ahead bird man, caw and tweet as you will.
We like spring around here.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Recently, ESPN's Keith Law came out with a list of top prospects by organization.
The five on the Yankees' list:
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Jesus Montero, C
3. Andrew Brackman, RHP
4. Dellin Betances, RHP
5. Zach McAllister, RHP
While one familiar with the Yankees' farm system would expect to see Jackson and Montero on the list, a notable absence is Mark Melancon-who many predict is being groomed to take over for Mariano Rivera.
In this list from Baseball Intellect, the prospects are ranked:
1. Jesus Montero
2. Dellin Betances
3. Austin Jackson
4. Andrew Brackman
5. Mark Melancon
This got me thinking:
Not too long ago, no pitcher predicted to make his career in the bullpen would ever have made anyone's top list of prospects. It used to be that relievers were simply pitchers that weren't good enough to start.
How far we've come.
To be sure, relievers are still not (usually) seen in the same light as starters, and there's a good reason for it--a good starter theoretically means a relief pitcher will not have to be used in the first place.
However, that doesn't mean that baseball today hasn't figured out a way to turn relieving into an art. Players like Mariano Rivera and Francisco Rodriguez will sell more jerseys than Melky Cabrera or Maicer Izturis.
Relief pitchers might not seem like valuable commodities, but if you ask any Yankee fan about Mariano Rivera, they will tell you that few men in pinstripes have been as valuable to the team for so long.
Even so, when asked to rank top prospects, few will list relievers. Either the relief pitcher will be that good, or the rest of the farm system will be rather mundane, and it's not hard to imagine which is more common.
Although Baseball Intellect thinks Melancon will most likely project as a solid middle reliever, the common refrain--groomed to be Rivera's successor--would seem to illustrate that expectations for him are high, indeed.
Whether Melancon should be included in the top five Yankees prospects in terms of ceiling is hard to gauge, but in terms of major-league readiness, Melancon, who could potentially see action in late 2009, if not sooner, still has to be considered at the top.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
According to this report, the NY Mets have signed or will sign Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal.
Garcia had been considering the Yankees as well; had he signed, it would have likely forced Andy Pettitte out.
The closer it gets to Spring Training, the more it seems like Pettitte really is the only option the Yankees want to consider, though Pettitte apparently wants more money and the Yankees aren't biting.
In other news, the Ricketts family has won the bidding war to buy the Chicago Cubs.
Perhaps new ownership will spur the Cubs on to...
Eh, who am I kidding--these are the Cubs!
Good luck to the Ricketts family--and remember, leave the baseball to the baseball people!
David Pinto is the author of Baseball Musings and a columnist for The Sporting News. Having both written for Baseball Prospectus and been a lead researcher for ESPN's Baseball Tonight , Pinto is one of the most well-respected baseball names in the game. Recently, he graciously granted my request for a (short) interview, where we talked stats, SABRmetrics and fencing.
PBP: Say I’m a 13 year-old kid. I love baseball, playing it, watching, whatever, and now I’m about to start playing fantasy baseball. I want to buy a guide which will give both the best information, and make it the most accessible to someone that’s still not taken algebra. What should I look for in a guide?
David Pinto (DP): There's a big difference between playing fantasy baseball and evaluating real players. At this point, rather than buying a guide, I'd buy a subscription to Baseball Prospectus [because] BP does the math for you and tends to put things in terms of runs and wins, which is what you want to know. They will also hold chats in which you can ask about players. Sites like Sporting News also do near daily fantasy columns during the regular season, so it might be worth subscribing to those.
In general, the best players should also be the best fantasy players. Sometimes you get someone like Alfonso Soriano who is better in fantasy than real life, but those are rare. Also, different providers have different rules, so it's tough to find a one-size fits all publication.
PBP: Many serious statisticians or baseball people pay more attention to park-adjusted statistics than they do the “regular” stats. When, if ever, do you think the MSM will tend towards the park-adjusted stats?
DP ESPN already publishes park adjustments on their web site, and you can't get much more main stream than ESPN. Park adjustments come up when you are comparing players, for example, Jake Peavy vs. Roy Oswalt. Jake pitches in an easier park than than Roy, so you need to give Roy a boost. I'm not sure that the MSM needs to be more intense than that...I wouldn't want to see park adjust OBA popping up when guy comes to bat.
PBP: You don't want to see people using [park-adjusted stats] too much, then?
DP: Not in a broadcast. I'd like to see it in award stories and Hall of Fame stories, and of course, when broadcaster talk about comparing two players.
PBP: What batting statistic is the most overrated, and why? What about underrated?
DP: I still think OBA is underrated, but it's made great strides. People still tend to look at batting average first, and that's due to years of drilling it into people's heads that it's the most important stat. Most parks and broadcasts now do post OBA, however.
RBI is the most overrated in my opinion. RBI are due both to the ability of the batter and the ability of teammates to set him up.
PBP: OBA... I'm gonna have to [sheepishly admit that I need to] look that one up. It's wOBA without the weight adjustment, I'd take it...
DP: OBA is On-base Average, often written OBP today. It's (hits+walks+hit-by-pitch)/(at bats+walks+hit by pitch+sacrifice flies)
[As for overrated,] people attribute RBI just to hitters, which should not be the case.
PBP: There I go, confusing simple things again! So, to continue, what about pitching stats? Which would you feel are the most underrated and overrated?
DP: Wins are the most overrated, for the same reason as RBI.
It's a team effort to get a win.
Underrated is tougher. People appreciate strikeouts and walks, and even home runs allowed. It may very well be something that isn't really a stat, but the efficiency of a pitcher.
Greg Maddux had such a great career because he didn't waste pitches. That allowed him to stay in games. So pitches per inning is something we should track.
PBP: Do you think someone will figure out how to turn it into a stat?
It almost doesn't seem stat-y enough for the stat heads, but it makes a lot of sense. And I say stat heads with love and kindness in my heart.
DP: Kindness accepted.
PBP: All right, next question and maybe the most important one...
Say someone on the street comes up to you and asks you to explain Sabrmetrics and what it has to do with fencing. How do you respond?
DP: I would respond it's the organization and mining of data that helps describe the sport.
So in fencing, what would be the thrust/hit ratio? How well does someone retreat? How well does someone block?
PBP: That's an awesome analogy! I think I'll need to use that from now on.
DP: Maybe I should start a fencing stats clearing house. Part of what made companies like STATS, Inc. successful is they started collecting data no one else did. I bet they're not collecting enough fencing info.
PBP: I'd love to see them do it for a sport like hockey, but I don't think anyone does it to the extent they do it in baseball. Anyway, last question--do you think in time we’ll start to see American high school players and use Sabrmetrics to the extent that they're used in the MLB? Do they use them already? Do you think it would be too much pressure on a kid?
DP: Oh yes...With computer programs available for PDAs that track all this information, it should be fairly easy at this point to track the kind of hit data we have now.
PBP: Do you think it would be too much pressure on a 15, 16 year old kid?
DP: No, they just want to play. It will also make it easier for scouts to find the best players, so I would think the good ones would welcome the chance to have their skills better analyzed.
PBP: Interesting take! Clearly you didn't go to my high school...win or else...
DP: In my opinion, more information is always better.
PBP: Which would explain your chosen career path....
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I was talking to David Pinto last night (stay tuned for an interview with him at the end of the week!) and he posed a question that I am not sure anyone else has considered just yet:
Why is it that there is (seemingly) no money for the remaining free agents , but arbitration numbers are way, way up ?
I can't presume to offer a straight answer. I don't know nearly enough about the business of arbitration or what teams need or, most importantly, the state of teams' finances to do more than speculate.
However, given that the Hot Stove League is its own sport, speculate we will.
There are two reasons that immediately came to mind last night when the question was posed to me:
1) the caliber and positions played of arbitration-eligible players versus the caliber and positions played of remaining free agents
2) the fact that arbitration-eligible players are still under team control while free agents are not, thus making it a game of leverage.
To look at the first reason--
One has to remember that the top free agents--CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixiera--all did sign, and sign for large, long-term deals as well. The fact that they all signed for the same team might throw you, but they did, in fact, sign. They played positions that the Yankees needed to fill, are young enough to be able to sign the long-term deals, and with the exception of Burnett, are historically healthy.
If you look at some of the remaining free agents, however, you see names like Ben Sheets, Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Braden Looper (there are lots of others; these are just the first four that come to mind).
With each of these, there's a decent reason for not signing them--Sheets, though good, is never healthy, Ramirez is up there in age and likely looking for more than a one or two year deal, Griffey hasn't been truly healthy since he left Seattle and Looper is just not that good (as I've learned the hard way).
In all or at least most these cases (and again, the list above is not extensive by any means), the players are (likely) looking for deals at a minimum of three years, and for many teams, the risk is simply not worth the signing.
If we look at players who have submitted arbitration figures , however, we see players like Ryan Howard, Dan Uggla, Jason Werth, Ryan Ludwick, Justin Verlander and John Maine. Again, this is not an extensive list, just a sampling.
However, some of the things you notice is that the players on the list are that 1) the players are mostly young, and 2) they are mostly healthy. Heading to arbitration means that the length of the players' contracts are not really up for question; in the case of the best players, teams will often sign them to an extension to avoid arbitration altogether. Many of the players listed would have become free agents at the end of this season or next, so while there may very well be questions about how good a player is, teams aren't risking long-term harm by having to sign them to a long term deal.
Arbitration itself is a somewhat arbitrary process (I know, I know); by its very nature players that accept it, especially those on the downswing of their career, will likely get more money than through free agency alone. Had Bobby Abreu, for example, accepted arbitration, he'd likely be looking at a salary of $16-$18 million.
Free Agency, and this goes into reason number two listed above, is by its very nature much more dependent on the market and market conditions.
As with any basic market, there are two main factors in play: supply and demand, and risk.
For a team to sign a player that's a free agent, the player must satisfy a demand of the team and not possess a risk greater than the possible outcome.
Mark Teixiera satisfied the Yankees' need for a first baseman, and he doesn't, health-wise or age-wise, possess an obvious risk that he won't be able to play most of his eight-year contract.
In one instance where there seems to be an overwhelming supply available, one can look at the available free agent catchers, who include Pudge Rodriguez, Jason Varitek and Brad Ausmus. In that group alone, you've got former all-stars--though the 'former' is perhaps more relevant than the 'all-star'. Teams want catchers that, even if they can't hit like Mike Piazza or Jorge Posada, will at least not be an automatic out. Yankees fans should be wary enough of this--for all the great defense Jose Molina provided, a line up combination last year of Cano, Molina and Cabrera was a recipe for a 1-2-3 inning.
So, the question--why are arbitration numbers way, way up and free agent numbers down--we can speculate has a three-part answer:
1) Numbers for the biggest free agent signings were not, in fact, down;
2) the corps of players accepting arbitration this year, as a whole, tend to be younger and healthier than the remaining free agents, and since most will become free agents in a year or two don't present the time-commitment risks a big free agent signing would, and,
3) the free agent market operates in an open market system (or something that closely resembles it), while arbitration is much more artificial. In a down market, like our current recession, all open markets will suffer, but arbitration can offer players some protection, even if it is artificial.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
In a poll on ESPN.com today, the question posed is about which change you would most like to see in sports.
The four options are:
NBA travel enforcement
It's perhaps not surprising that the BCS is running away with the lead, with 79% of the very un-scientific vote, but the poll does bring up an interesting point--reminding us that the designated hitter was never embraced by everyone and still has its detractors.
I admit that until last season, I had never really given much thought to the rule.
The idea that one league had it and one league did not made enough sense to me--if I really cared that much, I could go and become a fan of the National League.
Then, on a hot day last June, I saw why the designated hitter could be a good thing. Had the Yankees been playing in an American League ballpark, Chien Ming Wang would have never had to run the bases and while no one can say for sure, it is certainly possible that Wang would have never injured his foot.
In the American League, I thought, this would never happen.
Never mind that my support for the DH rule, no matter how momentary, could cause me to lose all credibility as a baseball purist; a Yankee was hurt because there was no DH and this was a horror of horrors.
It even prompted this quote from Hank Steinbrenner:
"I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."
More than a few months removed from that event, however, it's easier to provide a clearer picture.
The designated hitter was introduced to the MLB in 1973, and it's now used in the majority of the world's professional leagues.
Surely, then, something so widespread couldn't be bad for the game, right?
I asked my friend, Steven Lord, a Mets fan, what he thought, and he offered this take:
I don't like it. I'm an NL person. I feel that if you play the field, you should have to hit. I feel that in the NL, pitchers have to think twice about going after a person because they know that they will have to stand in the box. I like the strategy involved with it: bunting, double switches...hell, even Tony LaRussa has added a new element to it with batting his pitcher 8th....it adds an extra element to the game.
From a sentimental point of view, that argument would hold a lot of weight.
It does make a manager have to think, it does mean that pitchers have to think before (intentionally) beaning someone, and it does mean that hitters need to be able to field, and fielders hit.
However, if you consider the years since the strike, you discover the following: Since 1994, NL teams have won the World Series in 95, 97, 01, 03, 06 and 08...six years out of fourteen, and in those years, they managed to win the World Series in less than six games just twice, in 06 and 08.
Meanwhile, the American League has won World Series in 96, 98, 99, 00, 02, 04, 05 and 07, and failed to do so in a sweep or five games only twice (96 and 02).
If we also consider the results of the All Star games since the strike and the composite results of interleague play (all time results are: 1387–1317, AL), it becomes fairly clear that the American League is the better league.
While the Designated Hitter itself can not be solely responsible for this, some of the consequences of its implementation are.
The most simple way of putting it is that theoretically the DH improves a team's offense, which means the team's opponent needs to adjust and improve its pitching, a backlash response, if you will.
Whether or not that is actually what happened is up for debate, but what is not is that the DH, when used, can alter the way a game is played. As the traditional narrative goes, if you like bunts, stolen bases and the running game, the National League (or the Anaheim Angels) are for you; if you like big home runs and lots of scoring, the American League is what you want to follow.
So is the DH a good thing?
It remains a question with no clear answer. From the perspective of safety for a pitcher, and for the caliber of hitting, it seems to be yes, but from the perspective of tradition and sentimentality-which, when referring to baseball cannot be understated-the answer is still no.
The Yankees have signed Nady to a one year deal which basically doubles his salary from last year.
Monday, January 19, 2009
In late 2001, when the TV show 24 first aired, the season's premise revolved around a plot to assassinate the first major African American candidate for the presidency. At the time, the plot seemed just incredulous enough to make a good escapist TV show without truly jarring our senses.
It's only been eight years.
A lot can change in eight years.
Teams can go from worst to first to worst again or first to worst to first again, players blossom, hit their prime and retire, new stadiums are built, new front offices are assembled, and newspapers can die while blogs are born.
As baseball fans, we know how true this is, how the days of Sosa and McGwire and Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez and Randy Johnson in his prime can simultaneously seem both like yesterday and like another era.
We can remember what it was like eight years ago, when the idea of the Red Sox winning the World Series was as unthinkable as the Yankees losing it, when Derek Jeter was hands-down the best shortstop in the game and the Seattle Mariners could win 116 games in the regular season.
Eight years ago, not many would have guessed that the Red Sox would have two more World Series rings, that Alex Rodriguez would still have none, that the Rays would seriously contend for a World Series title or that Jaime Moyer would still be pitching and pitching well.
Eight years ago, not many would have thought that we'd be here, on January 20th 2009, and hours away from inaugurating an African-American president who won his campaign with a three word phrase, albeit the powerful phrase in the English language: Yes we can.
We can't any more guess what the world will be like in 2017, although we do know that Alex Rodriguez will still be under contract for the New York Yankees (no, seriously!).
What we do know, though, is that the next four or eight years, whichever they may be, will only be as good as we can make them. If we use baseball as our barometer, we can guide ourselves by the ideas of hope, the idea that even in the bottom of the ninth with two outs the game is still not over, that on any given day the underdog can triumph. Baseball is a sport for the fearless, so, in the spirit of hope and optimism, we can stop living under a policy and a cloud of fear.
No, we don't know what will happen. Yes, things can get bad, but if you keep the optimism, if you remember that just as bad as things can get, they can also get better, that a last place team one year can be a first place team the next, then things will get better. That's the baseball way.
That's why you can win an election with hope.
Provisional rosters for the 2009 World Baseball Classic have been set and can be seen here.
Things you want to know:
Eight active Yankees are playing.
USA: Derek Jeter
Dominican Republic: Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Damaso Marte, Edwar Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Veras
Mexico: Alfredo Aceves, Jorge Vazquez
Panama: Jahdiel Santamaria
China: Liu, Kai , Zhang, Zhenweng (for the few unfamiliar, in Chinese, the surname comes before the first name. So if Jeter was playing for China he'd be listed as Jeter Derek on the roster).
Italy: Francisco Cervelli
Also, the Dominican roster is sick.
Seriously. Imagine fielding this line up (I have no idea if they play with the DH but if I'm Dominican then I'd fight for it just so I can have Hanley, A-Rod and Pujols hitting back-to-back-to-back):
Jose Reyes SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Albert Pujols 1B
Vladimir Guerrero RF
Miguel Olivo C
Melky Cabrera CF
Alfonso Soriano LF
(So they're weak in the outfield, what can I say?)
Either way, the Dominican team has got to be considered one of the favorites.
Seriously, though, they can afford Melky Cabrera when the rest of their roster is so good anyway.
Then imagine having Ervin Santana or Edinson Volquez start with Jose Valverde (among a plethora of others) in the bullpen?
The full Dominican roster can be seen here
As for the US roster...you could put together a line up like this:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Derek Jeter SS
Evan Longoria 3B
Carlos Quentin OF
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Chipper Jones DH
Brian McCann C (I don't really know about any of these catchers...)
Ryan Ludwick OF
Grady Sizemore OF
And then you could have Scott Kazmir or John Lackey start, with Brian Fuentes, JJ Putz and George Sherrill in the bullpen. The full US roster can be seen here
It's not a half-bad roster, but, still, the Dominican must have something in the water...
Translated from El Nuevo Dia
As before, please feel free to inform me of any errors in my translation.
Posibles bajas en Dominicana
Jugadores como Pujols, Ortiz y Soriano podrían verse afectados.
World Baseball Classic Possible Scratches in the Dominican: Players like Pujols, Ortiz and soriano could be affected
SANTO DOMINGO — La República Dominicana perdería al menos seis de sus principales estelares para el Clásico Mundial de béisbol debido a problemas físicos, informó el domingo el gerente general, Stanley Javier.
The Dominican Republic will lose at least six of its principal stars for the WBC due to health problems, the team's general manager Stanley Javier said Sunday.
“Hay varios casos que serán analizados como son los de Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Fausto Carmona, Francisco Liriano, Alfonso Soriano y Carlos Peña”, dijo Javier en una entrevista con el programa La Semana Deportiva, del canal 13 de la República Dominicana.
“There are various cases that will be analyzed, like those of Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Fausto Carmona, Francisco Liriano, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Peña”, said Javiar in an interview with the program “La Semana Deportiva (The Week in Sports), on channel 13 in the Dominican Republic.*
Los citados jugadores estuvieron en la lista de lesionados por períodos prolongados de tiempo en las temporadas del 2007 y 2008 y en los casos de Pujols y Peña, ambos fueron operados durante el receso.
The players cited above were on the DL for prolonged periods of time in the seasons of 2007 and 2008 and, in the cases of Pujols and Peña, they had surgery during the break.
MLB anunció ayer en su portal en la internet que hoy se pondrán a la venta las taquillas individuales para los Juegos del Clásico Mundial que se jugarán en Puerto Rico, Toronto, Miami, San Diego y Los Ángeles. En el caso de Puerto Rico, los boletos pueden ser adquiridos a través de Ticketpop y sus precios fluctúan entre los $12 y $96.
MLB announced yesterday on its website that today people could purchase individual tickets for the WBC games that will be played in Puerto Rico, Toronto, Miami, San Diego and Lost Angeles. In the case of Puerto Rico, tickets can be acquired through Ticketpop and the prices are fluctuating between $12 and $96.
Según Javier, el Clásico tiene una regla que establece que peloteros que hayan estado más de 90 días en la lista de lesionados en las dos temporadas previas no pueden participar en el torneo.
As Javier said, the Classic has a rule that establishes that players that spent more than 90 days on the disabled list in the two previous seasons cannot participate in the tournament.
El receptor boricua Jorge Posada confirmó el sábado que no jugará debido a dicha reglamentación.
The catcher Jorge Posada confirmed Saturday that he will not play owing to the said rule.
Sin embargo, el ejecutivo dominicano estableció que la regla no es absoluta.
The hope of Javier
However, the Dominican executive established that the rule is not absolute.
“Eso es algo que será analizado durante los entrenamientos de primavera y no es algo automático, por lo que nos mantenemos optimistas de que ellos estarán en el equipo”, aseguró.
"This is something that will be analyzed during Spring Training and is not something automatic, for this we remain optimistic that they will be on the team”, he reassured.
La República Dominicana integra junto a Puerto Rico, Holanda y Panamá el grupo D que jugará en el estadio Hiram Bithorn de San Juan, en la primera ronda.
The Dominican Republic is entered together with Puerto Rico, the Netherlands and Panama in group D that will play in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan in the first round.
According to Jayson Stark, the Seattle Mariners avoided arbitration with starter Felix Hernandez.
While this, itself, would be interesting for mariners fans, perhaps the more interesting nugget is that Hernandez will be a free agent in 2011--at the tender age of 25.
This would, of course, make King Felix prime fodder for a long term deal, and if we suspend reality for a moment and pretend that the Mariners will have no inclination to re-sign him (the Mariners' payroll last year was +$100 million, which means they're not exactly strapped for cash), we can consider whether or not the Yankees should be interested in signing him.
Now, I've been told to be wary of statistics, and there is good reason for this.
For example, Hernandez was 9-11 last season, but that doesn't take into account the fact that he played on the very last place Mariners.
What's more important, though, is that in each of the past three seasons, Hernandez has pitched 190 innings or more, and that includes last year after hurting his ankle in a game against the Mets.
Fanball's 2009 Fantasy Guide offers this take on King Felix:
Twenty-two. That will be King Felix's age on opening day...People tend to forget that fact and look at him as some type of failure over the past three seasons. But think of it this way: Felix is two years younger than Tim Lincecum, but he's made 46 more appearances. Hernandez is one of only seven hurlers with at least 165 strikeouts in each of the past three seasons, and his career 8.01 K/9 mark is superb. One negative is that he walked far too many batters in 'o8...but as pitchers age they generally learn how to put away batters. Moreover, Felix owns a tremendous 2.33 career G/F rate, and power pitchers who keep the ball on the ground can become legendary...(p 135)
Young pitchers are certainly a gamble. The Yankees discovered this the hard way with Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes, but the three years between now and when Hernandez would become a free agent (again, we have to suspend reality for a moment) is a long time. Hernandez could blossom, bust or get hurt, but the fact is he's only two months older than Phil Hughes and no one is suggesting that Hernandez ought to start the 2009 season in the minors.
Most people tend to not pay attention to players on a last place team, and the only mention you might remember of Hernandez last year was when he hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana.
It's obviously too early for the Yankees to make any tangible plans for 2011; anything can happen between now and then and they will have other, more pressing concerns, such as where to place Jeter, should his defense at short no longer be adequate and most importantly, trying to replace Posada and Rivera (you can't). However, "anything's possible" does, in fact, mean that anything's possible, and if there's a top-quality pitcher, that even has a chance, no matter how small, of becoming a free agent at age 25, the Yankees would do well to keep an eye on him.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Memorials are for the living.
This is what my friend V. tells me when I tell him about Todd, about Todd's death and how I was having a hard time with it.
Memorials are for the living.
So it was today.
The service was for the memory of Todd Drew, and the service was also for the living.
It was for Todd's wife, for his father-in-law, for his brother, for his sister, for his closest friend, for his colleagues at the ALCU and even, yes, for those of us that knew him only from the blogging.
Todd had a gift for storytelling, so it's only fitting that the stories told about him, about his love for the Yankees, about his love for justice and freedom in all forms, about his childhood, about his writing, were so colorful and so wonderful. As though, for that brief hour or two, Todd was with us yet again, telling us about Javier and Henry and Carlos and the Stadium and the coffee shop and the ALCU.
There were songs, too, and we ended by standing and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", and I'm not sure there could have been any other way or any better way to finish.
See, Todd understood about baseball. He understood that it wasn't just about the score or the stats or the season ticket holder.
He knew it was about the workers building the new stadium, the kids playing in a parking lot because their parkland is gone, the bond between parent and child, cheering for their favorite players because they're from Puerto Rico or whatever reason, no matter how arbitrary. He knew it was about the conversation the next day, about the peace brought by the cracker-jack man and the ritual of the seventh inning stretch.
And for a little while today, we all got to know, too. Pete Abraham got to know it. Alex Belth got to know it. Anthony Romero got to know it, and so too did everyone there.
I'll keep singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", long after the season starts. I'll sing it, and I look to the tier, where Todd should be sitting, and I'll make Todd live again, just for me, just for that moment.
Got so caught up in writing I nearly forgot:
Donations can be made in Todd’s memory to any of these organizations:
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor,
New York, NY 10004
Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club Inc,
1930 Randall Avenue,
Bronx, NY 10473
The Doe Fund,
232 East 84th Street,
New York, NY 10028
(Helps the homeless)
According to MLB Trade Rumors and the St. Louis Dispatch, the Cardinals inquired after Yankees' second baseman Robinson Canò. The Yankees' asking price?
One Adam Wainwright.
As you might imagine, the conference didn't last very long.
At the very least, if this story is true, it shows how highly the Yankees value Canò. They obviously think that his 2008 season was a fluke; as fans we certainly hope that was the case.
There's no question that if Canò ever figured out how to hit in April and May, he could easily contend for a batting title, but he was in such a rut last year that even his normal second-half surge was not enough to really help the Yankees.
Maybe this year they should just tell him the season starts in January...
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Earlier today, CC Sabathia talked about the Yankees before receiving the Warren Spahn award.
One small problem: CC, in all of his excitement as a Yankee, said--
Before Saturday night’s ceremony, he said he’s looking forward to having Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera there to close out games for him, and he’s already talked to Chamberlain about it.
“To have that bullpen and have just the support of that team, that team is unbelievable,” Sabathia said. “To add me and A.J and put Tex in that lineup, I think it’s going to be an unbelievable team. Hopefully we have a special year.”
So there are three possibilities here:
1) CC never got the memo that Joba is going to be a starter
2) The reporter never got the memo that Joba is going to be a starter
3) Joba is not going to be a starter
It seems like we should have come such a long way from that debate; that there shouldn't be an issue here at all, but old habits die hard, I guess (though this should hardly qualify as an old habit).
We'll find out soon enough.
I actually bought a fantasy baseball preview today. It seems like it's too early for that, but I guess it never really is too early.
I plan to go to Todd Drew's memorial service tomorrow. If you are going, I've been told that the dress is casual-Yankees gear, especially.
Friday, January 16, 2009
It was cold in the Bronx today.
It was like the cold I experienced in Syracuse, but, at the same time, it was different.
In Syracuse, you don't really talk about the weather a whole lot. It snows and snows and snows, it's dark, and it's cold. It's the type of cold that makes it hard to breathe, that physically hurts you when you're outside.
It was that type of cold today in the Bronx, but, strangely, awkwardly, unexpectedly, the sun showed up and stayed most of the day.
I'm not used to this, this reminder that yes, this, too shall pass, this hint that in half a month baseball will regale us yet again and in three days we'll see something many people thought that they would never see in our lifetimes.
Although this off-season for the Yankees has been longer than the 2007-2008 off-season, it feels shorter.
I don't know why. It just does. Maybe it's because it hasn't been this cold for weeks on end, maybe it's because it hasn't snowed for months on end, maybe it's because I know this year's not a leap year.
See, that's the thing about baseball. No matter how dark or cold the night in the dead of winter, you know that spring will come again.
It's a sport that's built on hope--it has to be, because otherwise the Chicago Cubs would have gone the way of the St. Louis Browns a long time ago.
Unlike basketball or football or hockey or soccer, there's no clock in baseball. A game can be played in two hour or five; it can be played in five innings due to rain, nine or go as long as twenty-two. A team can be up by six runs in the ninth and still lose the game, and it's not something that only happens once every ten years--it happens, almost without fail, every season.
There's a reason that Dodgers fans could always get away with "wait 'till next year!"--because they understood that next year would come. They never gave up hope, and in 1955, next year came.
It came for the Red Sox in 2004 (obligatory shudder, of course), and it will come for the Cubs.
Even when the temperature dips below 0, when I'm outside wearing four layers and two scarves, when it's so cold that it becomes exhausting just to walk three blocks, the sun can still come out and remind us that baseball will be back again. That the hope inherent in a baseball season will be back again, one more time.
This is baseball's gift to us, and why the issue of who you're a fan of isn't nearly as important as the fact that you are a fan.
Because if you're a baseball fan, you already know that there's nothing in the world more important than hope.
(Apologies if you have seen this announcement already)
The memorial service for Todd Drew will take place this Sunday 18th at 3 PM
At Riverside Memorial Chapel, on 76th and Amsterdam.
If you're like me and going to take public transit, there is a subway map here and a bus map here, which opens in a .pdf.
The Riverside Memorial Chapel page, with phone numbers, can be found here.
I will make every effort to be there.
Yesterday morning I analyzed the Yankee line-up in comparison with the Red Sox and the Rays. It certainly provoked some disagreement, though that's kind of what's supposed to happen with baseball discussion. Anyway, one of you asked me about the Yankees' bullpen, and since I've not got enough time to think of my own topic, I'm going to steal this one from Geim.
Much has been made over the Yankees' made-over starting rotation and their improved line up, but not a lot of thought has been given to their bullpen.
There's a good reason for this: they don't need to.
Right now, the Yankees have the following relievers ready to go:
Let's not forget that they also have Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves in their system (they'll becoming to Spring Training as starters), and they have guys like Mark Melancon and Humberto Sanchez waiting in the wings, so to speak.
I don't need to tell you about Mariano Rivera and the numbers he posted last year, like 317 ERA+ and his 0.66 WHIP. We already know he's headed to Cooperstown.
The other guys did a pretty good job, too.
The team, as a total had a bullpen ERA of 3.79 and WHIP of 1.27, and this includes rather disastrous numbers from Scott Patterson, Billy Traber and LaTroy Hawkins.
The bullpen basically averaged a strikeout an inning, and, again, this includes the likes of Traber and Hawkins, among others.
Could the Yankees use another reliever? Every team can. However, the Yankees are lucky enough to have guys like Mark Melancon in the minor leagues, and while Melancon may not make the team out of Spring Training, if he keeps pitching like he's been pitching, we may very well see him at the New Stadium come September, if not sooner.
The 2009 Yankees have a lot of concerns right now--but the bullpen is not particularly high on that list.
If you haven't seen it, Curt Schilling wrote a tribute to Todd Drew.
Todd certainly managed to touch a lot of people. Here's hoping he finds his peace.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
There are unsubstantiated rumors that NY Mets 3B David Wright was on the plane which made an emergency landing in the Hudson River earlier today.
At least we know that everyone survived the crash, and when you're thanking the heavens for small mercies, I guess this is a fairly large one.
Anyway, not sure why Wright would fly commercial for security reasons given how recognizable he is in New York, but it'd be a pretty cool thing if he did.
[Edit]: According to the Mets, Wright wasn't on the plane. Hat tip to Mike A of River Ave Blues .
MLB owners today were to vote on two rule changes
The changes, which according to LoHud have passed, are the following:
1) In the event of a tie between wild card teams in a season, the head-to-head record, instead of the ubiquitous coin toss, will be used to determine who hosts the one game playoff.
2) All playoff games will be played to conclusion, ie, no rain-shortened games.
The first rule is one that should have been enacted ages ago, and the second seems blindingly obvious, but we still needed the 2008 World Series to implement it.
Of course, if two Wild Card teams split the season series (I'm not sure it's possible, but let's say for sake of argument it is), then you may get to see your old friend "the coin toss" again.
I was received the following email this morning from a close friend and colleague of Todd Drew:
Subject: Todd Drew (May 13, 1967 - Jan. 15, 2009)
Todd, our beloved friend and colleague, died this morning at 12:37.
I will send more complete information in the next couple of days about a memorial for Todd.
Todd was one of the kindest people that I've ever had the honor of meeting, and his writing on his blog, Yankees for Justice, and Bronx Banter is extraordinary.
He was one of the first to link here, and I can never thank him enough for his extraordinary kindness.
Please keep his family in your prayers. The world has truly lost something.
Yesterday both Pete Abraham and River Ave Blues did a great job comparing the Yankees-Red Sox and Yankees-Red Sox-Rays rotations if the season was to start today.
So today, I thought I'd do a little line up comparison.
To note: the line ups are based on current rosters; I have no idea if this is where these players would hit, nor am I advocating it...Also, here I am comparing offenses, not defenses.
Anyway, to start with, you have the New York Yankees:
1) Johnny Damon
2) Derek Jeter
3) Mark Teixiera
4) Alex Rodriguez
5) Xavier Nady
6) Hideki Matsui
7) Jorge Posada
8) Robinson Canò
9) Brett Gardner
Any time you've got a line up where Robinson Canò hits eighth, you've got a really potent line up out there. That said, everyone listed here except for Teixiera and Nady underachieved last year, and Nady wasn't on the team for half the year--and Teixiera at all!
That said, I think there's an argument to be made for hitting Teixiera fifth--to me, at least, he'd offer better protection for A-Rod than Nady. However, Nady's not really a three hitter and until Canò gets his act together, he's also a risky proposition for that spot.
Here I like Gardner over Melky-he might not have Melky's power, but you're not looking for power in a nine spot, and Gardner offers a better eye and better speed on the bases. If he can find just a little bit of power, having him and Damon as nine/one would mean a circular line up with no real landing spot for the other pitcher.
Next, let's look at the Boston Red Sox:
1) Jacoby Ellsbury
2) Dustin Pedroia
3) David Ortiz
4) Kevin Youkilis
5) Jason Bay
6) JD Drew
7) Jed Lowrie
8) Mark Kotsay
9) Josh Bard
Now, if we ignore the fact that I haven't the slightest idea in hell if this is how the Red Sox would really structure their line up, Boston's got a couple guys in Ortiz Bay, and in a good year, JD Drew that can mash, but their better strength is the speedy guys at the top of the line up that wreak havoc when they get on base, and the fact that Ortiz, Youkilis and Bay all have a very good eye.
The Sox have a weaker bottom of the line up, in part because they've had no real solution to the departure of Jason Varitek, and even if Varitek returns, he's not really a much better hitter than Josh Bard-last season, Varitek was even more of an automatic out than Melky Cabrera, and that's saying something.
Last, we have the Tampa Rays:
1) Akinori Iwamura
2) Carl Crawford
3) BJ Upton
4) Evan Longoria
5) Pat Burrell
6) Carlos Peña
7) Dionerr Navarro
8) Matt Joyce
9) Jason Bartlett
The Rays, like the Red Sox, make good use of speed at the top of their line up, and the addition of the power of Pat Burrell is an excellent offseason move, as it means other teams will now have to navigate through Longoria-Burrell-Peña in some order. Given that Upton and Longoria are still incredibly young, it's a line up that will likely only get more powerful as the season progresses.
If we are to compare all three line ups, my results look something like this:
Jacoby Ellsbury > Johnny Damon > Akinori Iwamura
Derek Jeter > Dustin Pedroia > Carl Crawford
Mark Teixiera > BJ Upton > David Ortiz with a bum wrist
Alex Rodriguez > Evan Longoria > Kevin Youkilis
Pat Burrell > Jason Bay > Xavier Nady
Carlos Peña > JD Drew > Hideki Matsui
Jorge Posada > Jed Lowrie > Dionerr Navarro
Robinson Canò > Mark Kotsay > Matt Joyce
Jason Bartlett > Brett Gardner > Josh Bard.
If we are to assign a point scale, with three for first place, two for second and one for third, we get:
Red Sox: 15
Of course, the above doesn't take into account Posada's bad shoulder, Matsui's bad knees or anyone underachieving, like Canò, Drew and others have all done. Nor do we know if these are what the opening day line ups will look like.
That said, if the Yankees are healthy and not underachieving, they clearly have the most potent offense in the AL East. As to who is second, the Rays or the Red Sox, it's a closer call. Right now I would have to say that the addition of Burrell for the Rays coupled with Ortiz's less-than-Ortiz-like numbers last year would make the Rays a favorite over the Red Sox.
Feel free, of course, to disagree. Having a potent line up does not automatically make the Yankees a favorite to win the AL East-all three teams have excellent pitching, and both the Red Sox and the Rays are better defensively. However, the Yankees are known as the Bronx Bombers for a reason...
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The Los Angeles Angels have come to an agreement with Chone Figgins, meaning that a) they avoid arbitration, b) the Yankees can't have him, and c) the Angels will continue to wreak havoc on the basepaths whenever they get on base.
Figgins would have been a nice addition to the Yankees' bench, with his ability to play the infield and his speed on the basepath, but his name was not mentioned as a serious possibility for the Yankees in most circles.
Figgins is an excellent fit for the Angels and their style of baseball, and Yankees fans can at least take heart in knowing that he will not be headed to a rival AL East team.
Per the Yankees and Lohud, the Yankees have invited 20 to take part in Spring Training.
The list includes:
Catchers: Kyle Anson, Kevin Cash, Jesus Montero, P.J. Pilittere and Austin Romine.
Infielders: Doug Bernier, Angel Berroa, Shelley Duncan, Justin Leone, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo
Outfielders: Colin Curtis, Austin Jackson, Todd Linden, John Rodriguez
Pitchers: Kei Igawa, Jason Johnson, Mark Melancon, Sergio Mitre
Top prospects are in bold; those that have previously appeared in the majors are in italics.
Notes: Sergio Mitre will miss the first 50 games after a suspension for PED use, Jesus Montero will be the youngest present (he's 19!) and Shelley Duncan apparently cleared waivers and will be outrighted to AAA.
Most of these players will end up in the minors for most, if not all, of the year, but it should be fun to get another look at Montero, Jackson and Melancon.
The issues facing the Yankees' rotation and starting line-up have been well documented--for example, check out LoHud's post on the rotation. While some still seem to be unable to rid themselves of the sign-Ben-Sheets mantra, the basic problem facing the rotation is still the lack of a quality fourth starter.
With the Yankee line-up, the questions are a little more subtle--do you start Nady or Swisher? Gardner or Cabrera? Where do you bat Canò?
However, one of the issues that is receiving relatively little attention is that of the Yankee Bench.
Sure, the bench might not be as critical as the rotation, but anyone that says the bench isn't important simply didn't watch Yankee baseball in 2008.
So, for the sake of discussion, let's assume that the 2009 seasons started on 14 January and that the Yankees decided to DH Matsui and to start Nady over Swisher, and Gardner over Cabrera.
That leaves us with a bench of Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Josè Molina and Cody Ransom.
The one guy listed there that you can almost guarantee the Yankees won't touch is not, in fact, Nick Swisher but Josè Molina.
Jorge Posada did have major shoulder surgery last year, and while he seems to be recovering nicely, we still don't know how his arm will respond in an in-game situation. If it responds poorly, not only is Molina an adequate back-up, he is, by some accounts, the best defensive catcher in the game. Hey, when you throw out nearly half of everyone trying to steal a base, I'm not complaining.
The other person that stands out on that list is Nick Swisher.
Swisher is clearly the best bat of the bunch, but that in itself presents its own problems. Teams don't generally give five-year, nearly $27 million contracts to players to come off the bench.
Had the Yankees been unable to sign Teixiera, Swisher would have been a very viable plan B, but as it is, the Yankees did sign Teixiera and now there are rumors rampant that the Yankees are looking to move either Nady or Swisher. Swisher is drawing more interest than Nady-which should tell you something about whether or not other teams think Swisher belongs on the bench.
Guess it also says something about the Yankees, that they can afford to have Swisher on the bench...
Cody Ransom was a great story when he came up last season and started Shane Spencering everywhere, but at 32 he doesn't exactly have youth on his side, nor does he have very promising career numbers, just in terms of games played alone.
That said, right now Ransom is the only bench option that can fill in at third, short and second, which is a very good reason for the Yankees not to move him. Between Rodriguez, Jeter and Canò, one is historically not looking at a whole lot of playing time from the bench, but things happen. Players get hurt, ejected, etc. One only has to remember the beginning of last season-while there is certainly no replicating the bat of Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter, one hopes to have more production than, say, Alberto Gonzalez.
So while Ransom remains a great story and a likable fellow, he's probably not the guy you want to see come up in the ninth inning with a man on second and two outs.
This brings us lastly to Melky Cabrera.
For a time in 2008 it looked like Cabrera was going to have a break-out year, and then, all of a sudden, he stopped.
It got bad enough to the point that Cabrera was sent down to AAA Scranton-though at this point it was becoming pretty clear that the Yankees were not going to make the playoffs.
As one ESPN analyst said last year, theoretically Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner are both "warming the seat" for Austin Jackson...but Jackson is still likely a full season away from the majors, which means that the Yankees have a center field issue for 2009.
Since Nady has stated he doesn't play a good center and Cashman has stated that Swisher won't play center, that leaves the Yankees with the Cabrera/Gardner platoon.
Although Cabrera is technically a switch-hitter, his numbers suggest that he is much better from one side than the other. When you consider that Gardner has better speed and is patient enough to be a lead off hitter (although his power is sorely lacking), Gardner would seem like the better starting option.
The problem with trying to move Melky is that, after last season, the Yankees would be unlikely to be able to center a deal around him, unless they were trading for a player of a similar caliber--which isn't exactly what the Yankees need to do unless they are that desperate for a player at a certain position.
Defensively, Carera can be great--that is, as long as he's not getting distracted by the Roll Call (I should know, I was at that game!)--but right now neither his bat nor Garnder's offers anything like the power the Yankees are usually accustomed to getting from their center fielders.
The Yankees bench, if it started today, would be far from the worst that the Yankees have ever had--April 2007, anyone?--but it does present some concerns. There's only one player than can play all the infield positions (Ransom), a bat that is, from a cost-effective point of view, getting paid too much to ride the pine (Swisher) and the latter half of a center field platoon that might very well duke it out in Tampa to see who gets to hit in the nine spot.
Right now the bench is not the Yankees' overriding concern, but it is an issue that they should address in some fashion before the season starts.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
According to this ESPN Deportes report, Jorge Posada wants to play in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Rather than making you sift through a mangled babelfish translation, I did some translating of my own.
Please note, it might not be perfect--and if you're a fluent speaker, feel free to correct me--but it should be better than what you get from an automated translator:
BRISTOL—A diferencia del torneo anterior, el receptor puertorriqueño Jorge Posada afirmó el martes que sí jugará con Puerto Rico durante el Clásico Mundial de Béisbol 2009.
Unlike the earlier tournament, the Puerto Rican catcher Jorge Posada affirmed Tuesday that he would play for Puerto Rico during the WBC in 2009
“Sí, él va a jugar. De hecho, ya firmó para jugar, y está practicando en Tampa”, dijo Jorge Posada padre a ESPNdeportes.com.
“Yes, he is going to play. He has said he is going to play and he is practicing in Tampa”, said Jorge’s father to ESPN Deportes.
“Él sí estuvo operado del hombro, pero está recuperado”, agregó Posada. “Va a jugar como bateador designado, por lo menos. Él me lo ha dicho enfáticamente en dos o tres ocasiones”.
“He had surgery, but he has recooperated”, said Posada. “He is going to play as a designated hitter, for now. He has told me he has said so on two or three occasions . "
Según informó el martes un oficial de los Yankees, Posada, quien no jugó durante el torneo del 2006 con la escuadra boricua, tampoco jugaría con Puerto Rico en la edición del Clásico 2009.
After being informed on Tuesday, a Yankees official said that Posada did not play in 2006 with the Puerto Rican squad, nor would he play with Puerto Rico in 2009.
El receptor de los Mulos solamente jugó 51 partidos con 168 turnos al bate en el 2008 con los Yankees.
The starting catcher only played 51 games with 168 ABs in 2008 with the Yankees. (Note: I'm not quite sure if this is an accurate translation of 'receptor de los Mulos', but it would fit with the article).
“Él está lesionado y no va a jugar”, dijo una fuente del equipo a ESPNdeportes.com.
“He is injured and is not going to play”, said a source with the team to ESPN Deportes.
Posada sufrió una lesión en el hombro que lo llevó dos veces a la lista de incapacitados, hasta que finalmente fue operado en julio y perdió el resto de la temporada.
Posada suffered an injury that had him on the DL twice, and was finally operated on in July and lost the rest of the season.
Según la fuente, los Yankees no le han prohibido jugar a Posada y éste podría tener la opción de jugar en el Clásico 2009 si se siente recuperado.
Following the source, the Yankees have not prohibited Posada from playing and Posada has the option to play in the WBC in 2009 if he is feeling better.
The last bit doesn't seem to jive with the rest of the article, but what it's basically saying is that technically Posada is not prohibited from playing if he's healthy, even if the Yankees don't want him to.
Whether or not Posada should play is an issue--he does have at least two new pitchers to learn--but he has gone so long without game action that a few games at DH could not be an awful thing.
Randy Levine, among others, has been subpeonaed by a New York Assemblyman regarding the use of public funds in the construction of the New Yankee Stadium.
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky issued the subpeonas to determine whether or not public money should be used for the New Stadium, and mayor Michael Bloomberg was quick to criticize the move:
"I guess it makes for good political theater because it's the Yankees, but when it comes to valuable taxpayer dollars, decisions should be made on return, not rhetoric," Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent said. "The deal leverages a federal program and will result in New York City getting back more tax revenue than it will cost and the South Bronx getting thousands of new jobs and more than $1 billion in private investment."
Both the Mets and the Yankees have asked for more bonds to help fund their new ballparks, and both have provided a substantial list of reasons.
While this may not seem the greatest use of Brodsky's time, one has to remember that both the city of New York and the state are in dire financial straights (like nearly ever other state in the country right now), so where the city chooses to spend its money is a pretty pressing issue.
That said, one hasn't (yet) seen any subpeonas issued for the Wilpons or other members of the Mets' front office...
As Bloomberg says, it's the Yankees. It will always be good theater.
Late last night the Atlanta Braves signed Derek Lowe to a four year deal.
While this is good news for Atlanta and gives them a possible rotation of Lowe, Vasquez, Jurjens, Campillo, Reyes and the new guy Kawakami, which could easily challenge the Phillies for the NL East, it's not such good news for the Yankees and, of course, even worse news for the NY Mets.
For the Yankees, the signing of Lowe means that one of the options they had for the fifth spot in the rotation, should they be unable to come to terms with Andy Pettitte, is now no longer viable.
ESPN's free agent tracker provides a wonderful list of the starting pitchers still on the market; as you can see, there are not a whole lot of options.
One option, though, that seems to be continually glossed over is that of Braden Looper. Sure, he's no spring chicken, but the Yankees right now are not looking for a long-term option, since conventional wisdom states that by sometime in 2010 Hughes and Chamberlain would have established themselves in the rotation.
Let's take a look at Looper's numbers.
Last year, while pitching for the Cardinals, Looper went 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA. These aren't the most attractive numbers, of course, but when you consider what Pettitte did in the #2 spot--14-14, 4.54--Looper's basic line doesn't seem so far off.
Of course, the worst thing to do is judge a pitcher on a won-loss record, so let's look at some of Looper's other numbers.
Looper pitched 199 innings last year, which compares similarly to Pettitte's 204. Pettitte had more strikeouts--158 to Looper's 108--and Pettitte also had a better K/BB ratio, 2.87 to Looper's 2.4.
However, Pettitte was tagged for 112 runs, while Looper was only tagged for 101. Whether this has something to do with the defense playing behind them is entirely possible, given the Yankees' nearly league-worst defense last year and the type of pitcher that Pettitte is, but, even so, the ultimate results are similar.
In another statistic that SABR and stats geeks everywhere love, Pettitte's ERA+ was 98 for 2008, while Looper's was 102. Over the course of their careers, Pettitte's is higher-117 to 109, but Looper's career WHIP is lower, 1.35 to Pettitte's 1.36.
You can view Pettitte's complete stats here and Looper's here.
So what does this mean?
On the surface, the two pitchers seem remarkably similar, so the thinking would go that if Pettitte is the best fit for what the Yankees need, that, failing that, Looper would be a good option.
It is, of course, entirely possible that there's something I'm missing--Looper might want a long-term deal the Yankees don't want to give, or perhaps has a medical history of which the Yankees are wary (though I have not heard anything like that), but it does seem strange to me that names like Jon Garland and Randy Wolf are bandied about with more force than Looper, when Looper might seem to be the better fit.
[Edit]: This post, from LoHud gives a better take on the situation:
Looper isn’t good and he was nowhere close to as good as Pettitte was last year.
The numbers you’re looking at probably aren’t the best way to compare them.
By adjusted pitching stats in 2008 Looper was around 9% worse than a league average pitcher. In 2007 Looper was 11% worse. In 2008 pettite was 7% better than league average. In 2007 8% better.
So the past two seasons Pettitte has been Looper by 16% and 19%.
And that was while looper was pitching in the NL which is very difficult to truly adjust for.
A lot people keep talking about Looper (Cliff Corcoran in particular…) but they are simply looking at his ERA without considering the defense he plays in front of and the league.
Stupid numbers. Always getting in the way of everything...
Monday, January 12, 2009
According to an NY Daily News article, federal authorities are convening a grand jury to consider evidence that Roger Clemens perjured himself at hearing relating to the Mitchell Report and PED use in baseball.
Yankees fans will, of course, already know that the Rocket/McNamee saga is well documented from last December.
Honestly, though, one has to think that federal prosecutors have better things to do with their time.
Like, I don't know, trying to convictthis dude first?
Did Rocket use PEDs or HGH? Probably. Was McNamee kind of a weirdo for saving syringes? Oh yeah. Did Rocket lie under oath? Probably. In the grand scheme of things, does it matter to anyone that's not a baseball fan, lawyer or BALCO member? Probably not.
Congratulations go out to Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice on their election to the baseball Hall of Fame.
Rickey, as you might know, was a near unanimous selection, with 94% of the vote.
This is a day both Yankees and Red Sox fans can enjoy, and, with a little luck, Rickey will give his entire HoF speech in the third person.
Over the past few seasons one thing in particular has plagued the Yankees like no other: slow starts that leave the team battling to break the .500 barrier in May and June, when league-leading teams are beginning to pull away and the contenders for the playoff spots are taking shape.
There have been numerous theories as to why the team starts slow, ranging from the older players being slow starters to some of the Latino players not being able to play well in cold weather (which could explain poor October performances), to a tough schedule...
All of these theories have some merit, but the true answer, supposing there is one, is more complicated than that.
Let's take a look at some numbers provided by the fine folks at River Ave Blues.
As they state, the stats are BAA/OBP/SLG for April, and then the regular season:
Jorge Posada, C
Rest of Season: .276-.381-.472
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Rest of Season: .295-.383-.558
Robinson Cano, 2B
Rest of Season: .311-.341-.488
Derek Jeter, SS
Rest of Season: .318-.383-.461
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Rest of Season: .305-.388-.572
Johnny Damon, OF
Rest of Season: .291-.354-.439
Xavier Nady, OF
Rest of Season: .279-.332-.450
Nick Swisher, OF
Rest of Season: .242-.351-.446
Hideki Matsui, DH
Rest of Season: .300-.372-.491
There are a few observations to make:
1) If the Yankees believe that the players being slow starters is the primary cause of the spring malaise, they did themselves no favors by picking up Teixiera, who is an admitted slow-starter.
2) Of the players listed, Robinson Canò is the only Latino player born and raised outside of the US or a US territory, so even though his April numbers are historically worse than the rest of the season (young as he is, he's already known as a slow starter), it's impossible to blame an entire team's slow start on one player. Okay, so it's true that the best part of the Yankees' 2008 season, right after the All Star Break, also coincided with Canò remembering how to hit, but it also coincided with some excellent starting and bullpen pitching.
3) Matsui's numbers are also somewhat significantly poorer in April than in the rest of the year, but it's unlikely that the excuse that he can't play in the cold weather would hold much weight-Matsui is from Japan, not the Dominican.
So what you end up with is a line-up where some, but by no means all or even most, players are slow-starters, and the Yankees themselves don't seem too concerned about this-Teixiera's April/rest of the year split may, in fact be the most notable out of everyone listed.
The next thing to look at is the schedule that the Yankees have played in April over the past few years.
In 2007, the Yankees had a fairly favorable April schedule. Aside from opening at home and a traditional weekend series in Boston, all of the other games were either played in "warm" cities or domes. It should also be noted that half of their losses came against teams like Toronto and the-then last place Rays.
In 2008, you will, of course remember that the visit of one Pope Benedict XVI meant an extended road trip for the Yankees, a trip that included the likes of Kansas City, Boston, Chicago and Cleveland. In fact, over the entire month, the Yankees had only two games in a dome, and Baltimore, which is somewhere in between a cold and warm city.
The 2009 schedule presents similar challenges as the 2008 schedule--playing in a lot of "cold" cities in April--Kansas City, Detroit, Boston and, of course, New York. While the Yankees don't have anything like a 19-game road trip, they do play in three other teams' home openers--though, perhaps thankfully, the Red Sox are not among them.
So what does this mean? Do the Yankees have a legitimate gripe about the Aprils that they have been playing?
Well...no. The Yankees aren't the only team that plays in cold weather in April, and a schedule in which the Yankees only played in domes or on the West Coast before the middle of the month would probably attract more notice than last year's Road Trip of Doom.
Do some players have a harder time playing in cold weather? Sure.
Cold weather tends to favor the pitcher over the hitter since the ball doesn't carry as far, and in 2007, where Yankee pitching was such that Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa were the one and two starters, the simple argument is that the Yankees were not well-constructed in terms of pitching, which, among other, more noticeable things, meant that there was an inability to pitch around the cold weather.
However, 2008 doesn't really hold that weight, when both Wang and Pettitte were holding their own and Mussina was learning how to pitch like Jamie Moyer. There is the above argument that cold weather stifles offense, but last year's Yankee offense was stifled all year--it wasn't just April at work.
Perhaps, then, the answer to why the Yankees keep starting slow can't be answered by any one answer-each season is a unique case, and what causes the Yankees to start slow in one year might not be what causes the same slow start the next.
What is clear, though, is that the Yankees can't afford to start slow. They don't have to go 28-0 in April, but they can't go 11-17, not when divisions are decided by a game or less. It was, after all, a fairly common refrain last September--if only we had won that one game in April or that one game in May, we'd be in the playoffs right now!
Hopefully, in 2009, come September we'll be saying something else--something to the tune: "Damn, am I really glad we swept that homestand back in April, it means we're going to play in October." Only, you know, less forced than that.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
1) All conversation stops for THE BIG PLAY, and then starts again as soon as the play is done.
2) It is possible for ten people to empty a fridge of all alcohol over the course of eight hours and still remain sober enough to hold rational conversations.
3) It takes three graduate students (among a room full of them) to figure out how to operate the self-timer on a Canon Powershot.
4) The idea that there will be an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl is beginning to sound like a real one.
5) Steelers fans are crazy.
6) It is always possible to find Syracuse fans.
7) There is a feeling of disappointment when you can't help your parent, being "forced" to watch a football game at a convention, escape the boredom of a sport he or she doesn't like.
8) Kickers have an odd love affair with hand-warmers.
9) Between the Ravens, Eagles and Cardinals, it's a good year to be a (fan of a) bird (team).
10) There's no better way to end the day than with some old teen movies--like, for example, The Craft.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Alex Rodriguez has dropped the asking price to his Miami mansion from $14 million to $12.5 million.
What does $12.5 million buy?
Take a look.
Now, then, the way I see it, there's rich, super rich and then the type of rich that gets you your own private dock on Biscayne Bay.
I'm not sure I want to know how much it costs to hire cleaning help for that place...
Going to watch the football games today at a friend's party. Although I am not particularly a fan of either team, I will be rooting for the Giants and the Steelers.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Buster Olney, Peter Abraham and the folks at River Ave Blues have all had some fun putting together an All-Free Agent team, composed of the Free Agents that have yet to sign contracts.
Some of the players are quite good, so I figured I'd have my own fun and do a little analysis of the teams that have been proposed.
First of all though, there's something every team has in common: A good defensive infield, horrible defensive outfield and very shorthanded bullpen!
Buster Olney's Team
Some future Hall of Famers signed this week, but Bobby Abreu is still out of work, and so are Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hudson. With a little more than a month to go until spring training begins, you could start a 31st team with the available free agents and might have a shot at a respectable record:
SS Orlando Cabrera
2B Orlando Hudson
RF Bobby Abreu
DH Manny Ramirez
LF Adam Dunn
3B Joe Crede
CF Jim Edmonds
1B Sean Casey
C Jason Varitek
Rotation: Ben Sheets, Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, Jon Garland, Paul Byrd, Randy Wolf, Mark Mulder
Bullpen: Brandon Lyon, Juan Cruz, Dennys Reyes, Will Ohman
Bench: Garret Anderson, OF; Brad Ausmus, C; Eric Hinske, 1B/3B; Kevin Millar, 1B
The biggest here is Olney's proposed infield. While it won't score you much fantasy points, going Crede-Cabrera-Hudson-Casey, aside from being a tongue twister, would be the defensive infield par excellence.
Olney has, however, done a good job putting a theoretical line-up together (if we ignore how all those guys would mesh in a clubhouse). He has a legitimate 1-2 punch in Cabrera and Hudson; Abreu is an effective three hitter if he remembers how to walk and Manny is theoretically the perfect clean up man. Dunn is a little shaky as a five hitter given his all-or-nothing approach, but he's a better option there than the others in the line up. Varitek is a veritable hole in the nine spot, which would be a tremendous weakness in an AL lineup, but between him and Brad Ausmus, there's not much choice.
With a seven man rotation, Olney is playing with fire, but given that Sheets is not likely to make it past April without a DL stint, a six man rotation seems more do-able, especially when you consider that there's no other really #1 type-starter listed. Lowe and Perez are hit-or-miss, and the others are best used as back-end guys.
I don't know much about the guys in the bullpen, except that Olney will probably need to trade for another reliever--four-deep bullpens don't generally get very far.
Anderson and Ausmus are weak on the bench, but Millar is a weapon to use against the Yankees (since this is an AL line up) and Hinske had a bit of a renaissance in Tampa.
Pete Abraham's Team
First base: Kevin Millar
Second base: Orlando Hudson
Shortstop: Orlando Cabrera
Third base: Ty Wigginton
Left field: Adam Dunn
Center field: Ken Griffey Jr.
Right field: Bobby Abreu
Catcher: Jason Varitek
DH: Manny Ramirez
No. 1 starter: Ben Sheets
No. 2 starter: Derek Lowe
No. 3 starter: Andy Pettitte
No. 4 starter: Jon Garland
No. 5 starter: Oliver Perez
Closer: Brandon Lyon
Set-up man: Will Ohman
Set-up man: Juan Cruz
Unlike Olney, PeteAbe didn't order his line up, so let's do some basic managing here:
Like Olney, the top four should be Hudson, Cabrera, Abreu and Ramirez. With the rest of the options, I'd personally go Dunn-Griffey-Millar-Wigginton-Varitek. Griffey has, unfortunately become injury prone and given that this team seems to have no bench at all, hitting him fifth would create an issue when there's an empty hole in the line-up! Anyway, the only hard decision here is the Millar-Wigginton order since Varitek is certainly the nine hitter.
I tend to like PeteAbe's rotation better than Olney's because of the inclusion of Andy Pettitte over Paul Byrd, but, again, there's likely only so long Sheets can go without getting hurt. Can Lowe still be a #1-type? I don't know, and Pettitte, as we all know, is not a power pitcher.
As with Olney, PeteAbe's bullpen is massively shorthanded--how long can a team effectively run on three in the bullpen?
River Ave Blue's Team:
C: Gregg Zaun - the best of a bad lot, Zaun’s the only legit starting catcher option that posted an OBP north of .321 last year (he was at .340)
1B: Doug Mientkiewicz - I’ll take Minky’s avg offense and Gold Glove defense over Kevin Millar’s & Sean Casey’s mediocre bat/no glove offerings
2B: Orlando Hudson - no brainer, my specialty
SS: Orlando Cabrera - another avg bat/GG defense guy, he’s easily the best of a terrifying SS crop
3B: Joe Crede - not going to offer much OBP, but he might run into 25 homers … another stud glove guy
LF: Adam Dunn - it’s okay Adam, I love your perennial .900+ OPS
CF: Jacque Jones - might have a little offensive rebound in him, but more importantly I need a guy with a ton of range between these two corner OFers
RF: Bobby Abreu - what, were you expecting Brad Wilkerson?
DH: Manny Ramirez - no explanation needed
Rotation: Derek Lowe, Andy Pettitte, Ben Sheets, Braden Looper, John Garland - with above average defense all-around the infield, give me the ground ball guys … and Ben Sheets
Bullpen: Juan Cruz, Aquilino Lopez, Brandon Lyon, Will Ohman, Brian Shouse, Russ Springer, Matt Wise - it’s a collection of above avg K guys who throw strikes for the most part
Bench: Pudge Rodriguez (C), Gape Kapler (OF), Damien Easley (IF/OF), Ty Wigginton (IF) - outside of Pudge, everyone on the bench can play multiple positions adequately and hit the ball out of the park … only problem is no lefty hitter
RAB does a very nice job analyzing their own team here, so I'll keep my analysis fairly simple.
The top of the line-up, through the five hitter, is no different than the other two above, but the bottom half is a bit different.
Jacque Jones in Center means that defensively, RAB's team has the best outfield (though, that doesn't necessarily make it a good defensive infield), but that also means that there's a weaker bat there as well. However, RAB sort of makes up for that by including Gregg Zaun as a catcher; unlike Varitek he is not necessarily an automatic out.
Anyway, to order it into a lineup: Hudson, Cabrera, Abreu, Ramirez, Dunn, Jones, Mienty, Zaun, Crede.
RAB's is the only rotation to use Looper, and I like him over Wolf, Byrd or Perez.
RAB's bullpen is also the closest to what an actual ML bullpen would need, although Olney's bench is, IMO, better constructed--RAB's is heavily aged and can't, outside of Wigginton (actually I have no idea if Wigginton can run or not) steal.
If I were to rank these teams as to how I predict they'd due, I would have to say that Olney's team is best constructed to weather an injury to Sheets, while RAB's team is better poised to make up for that loss with offense and mostly solid defense.
I would have to say that RAB's would be most likely to end up in not-in-last-place, and, if everything goes right, possibly contend for a Wild Card. Olney's is second, and PeteAbe's, I'm sorry to say, needs a bit of help.