An Interesting Point

Buster Olney (subscription required) points out that the Yankees could have a serious platoon advantage in the new AL East.

To summarize, the Yankees can trot out an all-lefty lineup now between switch-hitters and lefty bats. The AL East is projected to have 16-of-20 righty starters on teams other than the Yankees, much less than in recent years.

Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium clearly favors lefties, and it could be a solid advantage.

 

 

It’s Their DNA

Jon Heyman is reporting the Yankees have reached a deal with Stephen Drew. It sounds like a one-year deal for $5-million with an extra $1 or $2-million possible in incentives. I haven’t seen anything else about this, but Drew is a Boras client and Heyman has exceptional sources with Boras, so I would believe it.

Drew was terrible last year as we know, but a bounce back closer to his career levels is certainly not out of the question at the age of 32. The money is not a lot for the Yankees, but two things about this deal bother me.

1- All advanced metrics show that Drew wasn’t a very good second baseman last year. Now I am assuming he will play second, so that is a concern for me. (I don’t think they are trading Didi, but Cashman has been wheeling and dealing lately.) He had never played second before, so maybe he needed to learn the position, but it is something to worry about.

2- The Yankees had two young guys deserving of a shot to take over the position. Who knows if Refsnyder or Pirela would have worked out, but trying to beat Drew’s 2014 season wouldn’t take much. I am having a hard time seeing how this makes the club better.

And ultimately, wouldn’t it have been better to spend this money on starting pitcher?

An Interesting Question

Rob Neyer asks when we will put another starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame?

It’s hard to make a case for Clemens ever getting there based on his vote totals. Maybe Schilling has a chance, but Mussina doesn’t seem to.

And if those guys don’t make it, who will make it? Jamie Moyer has lots of wins (269) but he had to pitch into his late 40’s to get them. Andy Pettitte has lots of wins, but PED issues. Roy Halliday doesn’t have a lot of wins (203) but he was brilliant for most of his career. Maybe he breaks the streak in 2019.

Beyond that, here is the list of active win leaders. Looking at it, we probably won’t see a 300-game winner again. Take any of these pitchers and give them 15 wins a season until they turn 40 and the only three who would be projected to make it are Sabathia, Felix and Kershaw. Sabathia isn’t going to get there, and as great as Felix and Kersahaw are, that is an enormous projection.

 

So it really is a great question with no apparent answer.

The Votes Are In

The Hall of Fame has announced the class of 2015, and it contains four players. This is the biggest class since 1955, and the first time ever three pitchers were inducted at the same time.  The inductees, in order of votes received, are:

Randy Johnson-97.3%

Pedro Martinez-91.1%

John Smoltz-82.9%

Craig Biggio-82.7%

First off, congratulations to all four of them.

Mike Piazza almost cracked 70%, Jeff Bagwell was at 55.7%. Tim Raines 55%, Schilling 39.2%, Clemens 37.5,, and Bonds 36.8% rounded out the top-10.

Some observations

1- I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the writers who left Johnson off the ballot and assume they used the vote for other worthy candidates.

2- Mike Mussina was in the 20’s, as was Allan Trammell. Trammell will be in his last year next year so it seems like he will never get in. I also don’t see how Schilling and Mussina’s combined vote totals don’t even equal Smoltz’s.

3- Next year will be interesting because only Griffey is a lock. That should get Piazza in.

4- This was Don Mattingly’s last year on the ballot. <sigh>

5- Want a good example of what PED’s did to the way the game is perceived? Look at Carlos Delgado, 473 career HR’s, and he didn’t even stay on the ballot for a second year.

6- Seeing guys like Troy Percival, Aaron Boone, Tom Gordon, and Darin Erstad get votes makes me crazy. This is why ballots should be made public.

7- Pedro is the first player elected born in the 1970’s. Pretty soon all the Hall of Famers will be younger than me- yuck.

8- Pedro made a point of saying “I did it clean” in his interview with MLB Network. He also said the toughest guy he ever faced was Edgar Martinez.

 

 

My Hall of Fame Ballot

If I were a Hall of Fame voter, these would be my choices for the upcoming ballot. I am going to rank them alphabetically first and then explain.

Bagwell

Biggio

Bonds

Clemens

Johnson

Martinez

Mussina

Piazza

Schilling

Trammell

 

Jeff Bagwell was one of the best hitters in the NL during his career. He was an on base machine and won the Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, and MVP.

Craig Biggio was one of the best second basemen in the game and an offensive force.

I will bunch the next two guys together- Bonds and Clemens. They used PED’s, but it is silly to pretend that they were the only ones. I have long advocated that we put the whole 1990’s to present era in a separate wing of the Hall, or put PED admission and suspicion on the plaque itself. I also can’t get too worked up about their PED use, while the Hall has racists like Cap Anson and Ty Cobb among its membership. Clemens and Bonds were the best pitcher and hitter in the game for a large part of their careers and they deserve to be in the Hall.

I will bunch the next two guys together as well. From the late 90’s to the mid-2000’s if you had to win one game, who would you want to start? Pick RJ, pick Pedro, I can’t argue with either choice. They were the two best in the game. While RJ has the better stats, and 300 wins, Pedro has a 154 ERA+ which is simply amazing. They are both no-brainers for me.

Mike Mussina will set off protests, but here’s an interesting exercise adopted from this really good article:

Which pitcher is the best?

Pitcher A: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3,562.2 IP, 2,813 SO
Pitcher B: 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 3,261 IP, 3,116 SO
Pitcher C: 194-126, 3.46 ERA, 2,898.2 IP, 2,668 SO
Pitcher D: 213-155, 3.33 ERA, 3,473 IP, 3,084 SO
Pitcher E: 211-144, 3.28 ERA, 3,256.1 IP, 2,397 SO

The guy with the most wins, Pitcher A,  is Mike Mussina. The guy with the lowest ERA, Pitcher E, is Kevin Brown. The remaining three pitchers are (B,C,D) Schilling, David Cone and Smoltz. Using WAR, Mussina is 5th on this year’s ballot behind Bonds, Clemens, Johnson and Pedro. Using JAWS, he 7th behind the same four plus Bagwell and Schilling. Yet, Schilling and Mussina are stuck in the 20% range of the vote while Smoltz has a very good chance of getting into the Hall in his first year.

Piazza may have been the best offensive catcher in baseball history. He deserves to be in the Hall.

Schilling is in the Jackass Hall of Fame already, so why not baseball’s? I kid, I kid, but the guy was one of the best pitchers in the game and amazing in the postseason, he deserves it.

Trammell gets my vote here because of Hall of Fame rules. He is about to come off the ballot and I believe he deserves to be in. I could easily have voted for some other guys, but to me it will be awful if he falls off the ballot like Jack Morris did. Trammell’s numbers are not overly impressive until you remember that he was a shortstop and other than Ripken, shortstops didn’t put up hitting numbers like that.

There are plenty of other guys I could make a case for, but rules allow only 10, so those are mine. How about yours?

 

Bullpen Depth

Brian Cashman didn’t take today off, trading Manny Banuelos to Atlanta for David Carpenter and Chason Shreve.

Banuelos was once a top prospect, but injuries and surgery derailed him. After he had TJ surgery, he struggled to pitch effectively and he represents a lottery ticket for Atlanta. If he can find his old form, they will easily win this trade. That’s the risk the Yankees have taken to get two very promising bullpen pieces.

Carpenter has been the 8th inning guy in Atlanta and while his 2013 and 2014 ERA’s differed by two runs, his FIP’s were 2.83 and 2.94.  He has a huge fastball, averaging 95-mph and a good slider. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time this year .

Shreve is a lefty who came up at the end of 2014 for Atlanta and has shown the ability to get lots of K’s in the minors.

The Yankees now have a lot of power arms in their bullpen. They can close with either Miller or Betances. They have Carpenter to set things up for those two. They have Wilson and Shreve from the left side and Rogers and Warren from the right. They have some interesting arms in the minors that could contribute as well. The rotation will be full of questions, but the bullpen will be a force to be reckoned with.

Kuroda’s Heading Home

Multiple reports are out that Hiroki Kuroda will pitch in Japan next year. This is both bad and good news for the Yankees.

It is bad because their rotation is very, very thin. Right now we can project a rotation of- Tanaka, Pineda, Eovaldi, Sabathia and Capuano. Hopefully, Ivan Nova is back quickly and replaces Capuano. But even if he does, the Yankees are betting on two pitchers coming back from major injuries and a guy who has been in the NL his whole career. Kuroda would have been really helpful.

But, betting on 40-year old pitchers is not a great idea and while Kuroda was just as good in 2014, as he was in 2013 and 2012, at some point he is going to wear out. Maybe this will spur the Yankees to take a long look at Banuelos or even Warren in camp.

The only certainty now is that the Scherzer to the Yankees drumbeats will grow louder and louder. I still don’t think they do it, but until the Yankees actually sit out an offseason, I am not overly confident in that prediction.

Another Trade

The word is the Yankees have packaged David Phelps and Martin Prado to Florida in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi, Garett Jones, and prospect Domingo German. This trade has three big ramifications.

1- Eovaldi is now part of the rotation. I like that. While his strikeout numbers have been mediocre, he has one of the best fastballs in the game and has a FIP much better than his ERA. He is an upgrade over Phelps and he is not eligible for free agency until 2018  Add in German, the sixth-ranked prospect in the Marlins system also with a big fastball as well, and you have two more young, power arms in the system.

2- Second base now appears to be a competition between Refsnyder and Pirela. I like that too. I wanted a younger and more athletic team, and the Yankees are starting to create that. I also was a bit worried about Prado’s defense at second.

3- Jones gives the Yankees a legitimate backup first baseman for the first time in a while (thank you!) and a very nice lefty bat for the bench. He mauls righty pitching, and can also play right field- where he would  be a good platoon choice with Young.

And here’s a really interesting undercurrent of it all. Look at the bench for a minute. It’s full with Young, Jones, Ryan, and a backup catcher. This assumes Pirela or Refsnyder at second and A-Rod at DH. But the Yankees may have also made A-Rod even more of an afterthought. In his career, Jones has hit .267/.333/.479 vs. RHP. Young has hit .254/.357/.460 vs. LHP. Putting that platoon in right gives the Yankees a way to mitigate Beltran’s eroding defense. Putting Pirela on the bench gives you another Prado-type defender. Unless A-Rod hits, it is getting harder and harder to see where he can add value. Perhaps the Yankees have realized that $61-million is purely a sunk cost and forcing Alex onto a roster where he doesn’t fit is not going to help? There’s still plenty of time until the roster is finalized, but it will be very interesting to hear what Brian Cashman has to say about this trade when he holds his usual conference call.

Build A Lineup

Let’s say the Yankees are done for the offseason offensively and the lineup is going to be made up of the players on the team currently. How would you slot them 1-9 in a lineup? Here’s my take:

1- Gardner- LF

2- Headley- 3B

3- Ellsbury- CF

4- Beltran- RF

5- McCann- C

6- Teixeira- 1B

7- A-Rod- DH

8- Gregorious- SS

9- Prado- 2B

Thoughts:

This lineup provides a perfect balance of lefty-righty bats. It would go: L-S-L-S-L-S-R-L-R. Obviously, if Beltran and Prado hit like last year, you might actually swap them, but for now let’s rely on their career numbers and not their 2014’s. I like Headley in the #2 spot because he has been a good OBP guy in his career and he breaks up Gardner and Ellsbury. If Ellsbury is set on leading off, you could always swap him with Gardner. If A-Rod is finished, I would put Prado seven and play him in RF with Beltran shifting to DH on most days. Refsnyder or Pirela could then hit 9th

 

 

 

Chris Capuano

I speculated the other day that if the Yankees brought back Chase Headley they would shop in “the bargain bin of starting pitching”. So I am not surprised that the Yankees did that today, but I am surprised that the pitcher they chose to do it with was Chris Capuano.

Capuano wasn’t terrible in his 12 starts for the Yankees last year. And sadly, $5-million doesn’t get what it used to, but it seems a lot for a guy who made half that last year, and was released in July. He is also 36, so he is a strong candidate for regression. Furthermore, with the addition of Didi and the retention of Headley, the Yankees have a very good infield defensively. Wouldn’t it make sense to sign a ground ball pitcher to take advantage of that? (Capuano really isn’t one). Perhaps the Yankees are expecting Capuano to straighten out his lefty/righty splits from 2014, when he got creamed by lefties. This move certainly adds depth, but it doesn’t seem to be very good depth.