Worth a Read

SI.com has posted their article about Brian Cashman online. It got a lot of press last week because it includes an anecdote from 2010 when Cashman told Jeter that he would rather have Tulowitzki at short than Jeter. That’s an interesting story, and the article is loaded with them.

One interesting note is Billy Beane’s contention that Brian Cashman should be a future Hall of Famer. He says, “If anybody else had done what Brian’s been doing, you know what’d be in front of his name? Future Hall of Famer

That’s a complicated argument. Clearly, the Yankees have financial resources that other team, at least until recently, couldn’t match. But, it is worth remembering that the Yankees haven’t finished under .500 since 1992. That’s impressive.

I think managing and general managing the Yankees is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have almost unlimited  resources and your brand is the biggest in the game. On the other, you have insane expectations, and you will never get enough credit for what you do because of all of those resources. I don’t know if that’s a job many people would really want, and it amazes me that Brian Cashman has been doing it for 17 years.

Saved By A Knee?

You never want to see a player get hurt. And you really don’t want to see someone who has been a great pitcher for your team get hurt. But, CC Sabathia’s injury yesterday may turn out to be a positive for the Yankees. For one thing, Sabathia simply isn’t a very good pitcher anymore. Yankee management doesn’t want to admit that, but the numbers tell the story. Much was made about a recent surge in his performance, but four starts in August with a 3.80 ERA tell us very little about what the future holds.  But beyond his general ineffectiveness, the Yankees were about to adopt a six-man rotation because of Michael Pineda’s return and this injury should prevent that. (More on the “should” in a minute)

The Yankees have a mediocre rotation. There are flashes of brilliance from all of them, but the overall numbers show a team that gets about average results. Using ERA as a benchmark, the four starters other than Sabathia have ERA’s within 10% of the league average, plus or minus. Tankaka and Nova are ahead of the league, while Pineda and Eovaldi are below it. (I’m keeping Severino out of this conversation for the minute because he has only four starts.) Dig a little deeper and FIP flips those names around. Pineda has a 3.00 FIP, Eovaldi a 3.53, Tanaka a 4.11, and Nova a 4.12. But the Yankees have a really good bullpen. Of their five major relievers (Miller, Betances, Warren, Wilson, and Shreve) only Shreve has a FIP significantly higher than his current ERA. And they have employed a number of other arms effectively throughout the season. A “smart” team would emphasize the relievers and deemphasize the starters. The Yankees have mostly done that by pulling their starters early in games, or at the first sign of trouble.

And that’s the problem with a six-man rotation. Adding another starter to this mix gives the rotation more rest, but do they really need it? The Yankees are already leaning on their bullpen and minimizing starter innings. With an extra day off between starts, Joe Girardi might be tempted to push his starters deeper into games. That would be a mistake. Rosters are expanding in a week and the Yankees will be able to formalize their multiple-arms approach in the bullpen thanks to that. Keep pitching the starters for six innings and then bring in the bullpen to figure things out. It’s a good formula for this team.

As for the “should” part….It sounds like the Yankees might use Bryan Mitchell as a sixth starter if he is recovered from getting hit in the face last week. <sigh>

 

Remember Montero

As Greg Bird rounded the bases for a second time yesterday I wondered to myself how long would it be before he was anointed the next great Yankee. It didn’t take long. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what Bird did yesterday and I love the idea of Greg Bird becoming a long-time Yankee, but things have gone from silly to crazy in one day.

First off, let’s start with the idea that Bird has somehow “Wally Pipped” Mark Teixeira. In 1925, Wally Pipp hit .230 with a total of 12 extra base hits, Lou Gehrig was an easy choice to replace him. In 2015, Teixeira is hitting .257 with 31 home runs. He is in the Top-10 in a number of offensive categories and plays gold-glove caliber defense. That is not someone you take out of the lineup when healthy, no matter how good a rookie looks.

Second, let’s remember that this was one game and Bird now has a total of 39 games above AA ball in his career. Yes, he could hit like this for the rest of his life. More likely, he will struggle as pitchers adjust to him and perhaps even need some more minor league seasoning. That’s not a knock, Mike Trout hit .220 in his first season in the bigs. Sometimes it takes time and Bird might need that.

And finally, let’s think of when we have seen this before. Jesus Montero ring a bell? How about Shane Spencer or Kevin Maas? Rookies have come up and blasted the ball before only to struggle and turn out to be much less than the Yankees thought they might be. Bird seems like a better bet than any of those guys, but we shouldn’t hand him a starting spot next year yet. For one thing, there isn’t one right now with Teixeira and A-Rod under contract in 2016. For another, let’s see him hit like this a bit more before making long-term decisions.

This is all a good thing for the Yankees. Teixeira’s contract expires after 2016 and Bird would be all of 24 heading into 2017. The job is his then at the latest. Between 2017 and now there will be opportunities for him to contribute, but he may also spend time in the minors. That’s ok, the exciting thing is you are starting to see the outlines of the Yankees infield of the future and it looks like a good one.

That John Henry is Full of…

Remember the line when Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn are driving into what they think is the Rockies only to see a vast plain?  “That John Denver was full of crap!”  Well, John Henry is too.  Just 2 months after saying this about Ben Cherington, “The GM is going to be the GM of this club for a very long time,” we find out that Dave Dombrowski has been hired as President of Baseball Operations and Ben Cherington is out.  Apparently Cherington was given the option of staying but when you lose your – authority, it probably makes sense to move on…along with your recently signed 3 year extension.

What does this mean for the Red Sox?  Dombrowski, fired by the Tigers in June, is a more traditional baseball mind, preferring old-timey scouting vs. modern analytics.  The Red Sox under Cherington had become heavy in analytics and sometimes I felt that the numbers were the only reason for moves.  Things like personalities and hard work were overlooked as long as a player’s Fenway splits were solid.  Hanley Ramirez is a good example of an analytic signing whereas a traditional baseball mind might have said his tendency to dog it is a reason to stay away.  Heck, even Hanley warned a Dodger teammate not to be like him, hated by his teammates…wasn’t that warning enough Ben?

This calls into question what will happen with analytical people like Bill James.  Will they leave, get fired or figure out a way to co-exist with Dombrowski?  Regardless, this all happened very quickly and came out of nowhere.  When Dombrowski left Detroit, a fairly well-known writer (can’t remember if it was Ken Rosenthal or Buster Olney) tweeted that the Red Sox had no interest in him.  Well that turned out not to be the case and today we have a decidedly new way of doing things.

Dombrowski, won a World Series with Florida in 1997 and went to 2 others with Detroit in 2006 and 2012.  There will be, most likely, many other changes with the Red Sox between now and the start of the 2016 season.  That can be said of any season, but the front office, which has been largely stable since Henry took over save for the moving of Theo Epstein, is undergoing a makeover and one that was needed as continuing this trend of feast or famine can’t be allowed.

It’s Not About Baseball

I think my favorite Yankees-Red Sox moment had nothing to do with a game result. It was the night that Joe Torre returned from cancer treatments to manage the Yankees. The game was at Fenway and I was there. The Boston crowd was absolutely perfect, cheering Torre and giving him ovations whenever he came out of the dugout.

I thought of that last night when I heard the awful news about John Farrell. Cancer is an awful disease and it has affected both sides of this blog profoundly. I hope John Farrell gets well very soon. I hope that we see him managing the Red Sox next season and that Yankee fans get to give him a long ovation.

 

Bird is the Word

The Yankees are calling up Greg Bird. Now the question is, where does he play?

This is a really interesting move. On one hand, Bird has hit incredibly well and is a highly-touted prospect, so why not get him up here and see what he can do? Furthermore, the Yankees DFA’ed Garett Jones for the second time yesterday, so they didn’t have a true backup first baseman on the roster.

But again, where does he play? He is a first baseman only, so unless you are going to sit Teixeira or A-Rod and let Bird DH, he is on the bench and that doesn’t make sense development-wise.

So, let proceed from the idea that he is going to play, at least temporarily. A-Rod has played every game except one since the All-Star Break, so I could see Bird at DH tonight. The Yankees won’t want Teixeira to play three games on the turf in Toronto, so I could see Bird at first tomorrow or Saturday. After that, I would bet that they send him down again and call up someone like Pirela to cover multiple positions.

That would make sense and since Bird had to be added to the 40-man roster after the season anyway, this is a worthwhile move. The hard part will be if he hits well the next two or three days and then gets sent down. Talk radio will love that, but what else can you expect if Teixeira and A-Rod are healthy?

Amazing

If this were the late September, we would be talking about the last ten days in historical terms. To lose 6-1/2 games in the standings in ten days is absolutely stunning, but that is exactly what has happened to the Yankees. They woke up on Monday, August 3rd with a six-game lead. Thanks to going 2-6 while Toronto went 9-0, they wake up this morning 1/2-a game behind Toronto.

And the fact that it isn’t late September should be consoling to Yankees’ fans. That and the fact that they actually still lead Toronto in the loss column. Toronto will cool off from this pace. The Yankees will hit again. The problem is with three games coming up in Toronto starting Friday, the Yankees will need both of those things to happen quickly. A three-or-four game lead at this stage really is significant, no matter what the last ten days have shown us.

It’s Just Probability

There has been a lot of press about the fact that last night was the first ever time in baseball history that all 15 home teams won. It was written about a bunch this morning and even made the national news casts. It’s a neat thing, but the fact that it has never happened before isn’t a surprise.

Start with the fact that baseball has had 30 teams since the 1998 season, meaning this is the 18th season that you could have 15 home teams win on the same night. Now estimate the expected winning percentage for a team at home. Let’s say 60% is probably the highest average you could justify. You would therefore expect all 15 home teams to win 60% raised to the 15th power. That’s would put the odds at roughly 1 in 2,500. If you assume that all 30 teams played on the same night 162 times a season, you would have had 2,916 times that all 15 home teams could have won on the same night since the expansion in 1998.

But it is worth remembering that if you have odds of 1-in-2500, trying something 2500 times doesn’t guarantee you will experience it. Vegas makes a lot of money off of people watching roulette wheels and expecting that eight-consecutive reds will result in the ninth spin being black, but it doesn’t work that way. Each spin has the same odds as the last. (And Vegas diabolically has two green numbers so your odds of black and red are not even 50-50 but about 47.5%-47.5% with a 5% chance that green comes up and ruins you.)

All of this is another way of saying I am bored and too depressed to talk about the Yankees right now. Hopefully, that changes tonight.

Swept Away

Last Sunday the Yankees had a six-game cushion in the AL East. Today that cushion is down to 1-1/2 games. Toronto came in and swept the Yankees, winning their sixth, seventh and eighth-straight games in the process.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this series was what wasn’t the cause of the Yankee losses- starting pitching. Well, maybe you can say Nova didn’t pitch well on Saturday, but it was the complete disappearance of the offense that killed them this weekend.  Since the Yankees scored 13 runs on Tuesday, they have scored a grand total of 4 in 5 games. That is terrible.

The good news for the Yankees is they get a day off to recoup and they get a chance for revenge next weekend in Toronto. The bad news is that things have gotten a lot tighter in the division.

Severino Arrives

Last night was a fun night to be in the ballpark. There was a huge crowd- it looked like almost every seat was full- and they were into things. Let me get to that in one second with a rant first.

Start of rant. The Yankees, just like every other MLB team, have decided to use metal detectors at the ballparks this year. I won’t get into the reasoning behind that, but if they are going that route, they need to speed people through them. Last night was an epic fail. I arrived just before the gates opened and had to stand in a line that stretched the length of 161st-street from River Ave to Jerome Ave. What made this especially infuriating is that the Yankees had people and metal detectors completely unused. I would say there were more than 50% of the detectors sitting there, with people in front of them, closed to anyone who wanted to use them. I suspect this was a trial for this innovation which is starting Friday. and while supposedly free to enter Yankee Stadium, costs $179 per year everywhere else. So, MLB and the Yankees are now going to make money off of ballpark security. Ugh, and end of rant.

As for the game, Severino looked really good, but I was reminded of that line from Bull Durham- “Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.” The seven K’s were good, but not having enough pitches to get into the sixth inning was bad. It’s part of the process of learning to pitch, and when Severino does that, look out!

Kudos to Steven Wright who kept the Yankees off-balance all night. You could tell how effective his knuckler was by the fact that he kept throwing it, at about 77-mph, and nobody could touch it. Wright is now 2-1 versus the Yankees in his career with a 1.50 ERA. Not bad for a pitcher with a career line of 7-5 3.97.

So a fun night at the ballpark, and a good game, that’s win-win no matter what the scoreboard says.