Category Archives: Statistical Analysis

Stats & Sabemetrics

Michael Bourn vs. Brett Gardner: Who’s the better option?

For a baseball fan, this MLB offseason has been far from dull. Players have been picked up faster than you can say “2013 World Series”, teams are beginning to look good (on paper) and some of the biggest trades have stunned the baseball nation. However, there are still players that are on the market looking for a team to play for in 2013. A name that has been popping up a lot? No, not Nick Swisher. Michael Bourn. Since Josh Hamilton signed with the LA Angels last week, Michael Bourn has quickly become the top free agent, which means many teams are pining for him according to MLB Trade Rumors. I mean, why wouldn’t a team want Michael Bourn? He is a great defensive outfielder; he has a good bat, an outstanding glove, fast blazing speed. Wait a minute, it sounds like I am describing a player the Yankees already have and he is under team control until 2015: the young, talented and underrated Brett Gardner.

The Yankees may have “quiet” interest in Bourn but Gardner practically is almost similar to the free agent outfielder–even the numbers speak for themselves. Let us compare the free agent to the Yankees LF (who could be the CF on Opening Day since the Yankees reportedly plan to switch him and Curtis Granderson) and see who is the better option for the Yankees.

Is Brett  Gardner the better option for the Yankees...

Is Brett Gardner the better option for the Yankees…

Brett Gardner

Let us start with Gardner since he is already on the team. Now, Gardner had a disappointing 2012 season and it was not because he played horrible (because he did not). He was injured almost the whole season after landing awkwardly on his elbow during the Yankees/Twins game on April 18, 2012. Overall, his career numbers are decent: .266 BA/.355 OBP/.368 SLG. In 5 years, Gardner also swiped 137 bases, which is very impressive considering he wasn’t a full time player until the 2010 season. Now, let us look at my favorite defensive stat: WAR (Wins above Replacement). According to Baseball-Reference, throughout Gardner’s 5 years in service to baseball, his dWAR is 7.4. Not bad for a speedy left fielder with a great glove (who has yet to win a Gold Glove award, which I’m still mad about).  Gardner’s numbers are what the Yankees are looking for (even though he doesn’t hit home runs), but let’s go to Michael Bourn and see what his numbers are.

Michael Bourn

Now before we continue, let us keep in mind that Michael Bourn played two more years than Gardner did and played double the games than Gardener did. All right, with that being said, here are Bourn’s career numbers: .272 BA/.339 OBP/.365 SLG.  According to Baseball-Reference, throughout his 7 years in the Major Leagues, Bourn swiped 276 bases, which is also impressive. Looking at Bourn’s defensive stats now, throughout his 7 years in service to baseball, his dWAR is 8.6. Yep, Bourn’s speed helps him become one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.

...or Michael  Bourn

…or Michael Bourn

So Who’s the Better Option

Looking at both Gardner and Bourn’s numbers, the offense is almost a carbon copy to one another. If not for the 2012 season, Gardner could have had approximately 20 steals shy to 200 SB and could have improved his dWAR significantly. However, although Bourn has better numbers in different departments, I would have to go with Gardner as the better option for the Yankees. I know you are asking, ‘Why Gardner? His numbers are a bit lower than Bourn’s. What’s the reason?’ The answer is simple: Gardner is cheap. Bourn is not. Gardner fits into the Yankees 2014 budget plans in which his contract could be about $3+ Million. Bourn made $6.8 Million last season and he probably won’t take a pay cut just to play for the Yankees. So the bottom line is, the Yankees have all they need in Brett Gardner without having to go out there and spending extra money on Michael Bourn. In Yankee Land these days, the less money you make, the better option you are (especially if you are trying to avoid a luxury tax in 2014).

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How should the 2012 postseason roster look?

Right around the corner is the most exciting time of the year for any team—the postseason. While there are teams that have clinched their spot in the postseason, there are teams like the Yankees that are so close to clinching that they could taste it. However, they still have to battle to stay in 1st place in the American League East. While it is almost certain that the Yankees will be in another postseason, the Yankees have other things on their minds as in after they clinch a spot. What will they be doing? They will be preparing their 2012 ALDS roster (if they are in first place by the end of the season). After observing the Yankees for a while, I decided to compile a list of who would make the 25-man roster for the ALDS series against what looks to be the Detroit Tigers. (Statistics are as of the morning of September 28, 2012).

Infield

Derek Jeter (2012 Season: .318 AVG, 15 HR, 57 RBI): Of course, you cannot be in the postseason without the Captain Derek Jeter. Jeter has had a phenomenal year and will end the year with an average over .300. The last time Jeter finished with an average over .300 was in 2009. How did that end out for the Yankees? Jeter had silenced the critics and had done his thing, but can he continue into the postseason and lead the Yankees to another championship?

Robinson Cano (2012 Season: .300 AVG, 30 HR, 82 RBI): Robinson Cano is one of the best second baseman in the game and he knows how to hit. While Cano has been up and down this year, he has been consistent defensively and can help Yankees pitching by preserving runs and getting double plays with a flick of a wrist. He makes that pivot to first base better than any second baseman than I have seen. Cano was one of the very few Yankees who had a hot bat during last year’s ALDS (along with Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner respectively), so it would be nice to see Cano get on a tear.

Mark Teixeira (2012 Season: .255 AVG, 23 HR, 81 RBI): Comparing Teixeira’s numbers from 2011 and from this year, this year has not been Teixeira’s best. But can you blame the guy? He has been sidelined with a Grade 1 strained calf. While he will make the roster for the play-offs, I doubt he will be 100 percent healthy. Teixeira also is one of the few culprits that seem to mysteriously lose his hitting talents in the play-offs. He needs to have a hot and consistent bat in the play-offs or else it could be an early exit for the Yankees—again.

Alex Rodriguez (2012 Season: .276 AVG, 18 HR, 56 RBI): Now, if the stats were for another player say maybe Eduardo Nunez, Chris Dickerson or Brett Gardner that would be a hell of a year. Unfortunately, it is for the guy that the Yankees gave a lucrative contract that last for another 5 years and did not hit the way that the Yankees were expecting. A-Rod is going to make the roster…but all season he has looked terribly lost at the plate. He is also another culprit that has not hit in the postseason in recent years (no, I am not counting 2009). A-Rod needs to get his act together and very quickly or else…you know. A first round exit for the Yankees.

Russell Martin (2012 Season: .209 AVG, 19 HR, 49 RBI): So this hasn’t been Russell Martin’s best year offensively (the 19 HR’s make the .209 AVG look less hideous) but the reason he makes the postseason roster is because of his defense. He also has been heating up at the plate as of late which means he could be on a tear any day now. He also was the only one that did not look lost during the ugly 6-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday night, cranking 2 hits off Morrow. Martin could add to the offense, which could be something that the Yankees need.

Prospect Profile: 2B Corban Joseph

Vitals: Born 10/28/1988  Ht/Wt: 6′ 0″  180 lbs.  Bats: Left  Throws: Right  Drafted in the 4th round (140th overall) in 2008 and signed for a $207,000 bonus

Numbers: Corban made his debut in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League and got off to a rocky start, but managed to finish the year with 159 AB’s and hitting to the tune of a .277/.359/.434/.793 line, good for a .359 wOBA and 118 wRC+. His plate discipline was already apparent as he walked 10.9% of the time while striking out at a 13.1% clip. The following year he played for the RiverDogs, and saw his isolated power (ISO) take a slight dip, but increased his batting average to .300. This brought his wOBA up to .368 and his wRC+ up to 130 despite the drop-off in HR’s. After another promotion in 2010 Jospeh maintained his batting line in Tampa which prompted another bump up the ladder, landing him in Trenton at the age of 21. He scuffled a bit in his first 130 PA’s in Trenton, and hit to the tune of .216/.305/.342 with a .298 wOBA and 79 wRC+.

In his first full season playing for the Thunder Corban turned his performance around settling in to hit for a .277/.353/.415/.768 batting line with a .346 wOBA and 113 wRC+. While his average dropped a bit in AA from his previous highs in A-ball, his walk rate remained solid at a 10.5% clip, and his BB/K rate was very similar to his previous season where he walked 58 times and struck out in 107 AB’s. He started out the 2012 season repeating AA, but that didn’t last long; after just 23 games he was sent to AAA where he continued to show off his ability to control the zone as well as realize a spike in power. He put up his best overall numbers, a .374 wOBA and 133 wRC+ along with a 13.7% walk rate and 14.8% K rate. His ISO took a big leap, going from a ~.130 over his previous 4 seasons to a .208, hitting 25 doubles and 13 home runs, both career highs.

Skills: After reviewing the raw data, the thing that jumps out the most is his ability to work the count and look for a pitch to drive. If it’s not there Joseph will gladly take his base. I’ve seen it mentioned that Corban is one of the systems best pure hitters; between his plate discipline and his quick compact swing and his ability to drive the ball to the gaps, the only thing that was missing was a power stroke. That became apparent in his 2012 campaign as he bested his career power numbers. He wasn’t hitting the “just enough” home runs either; this kid can put a hurt on the ball. Earlier this season he recorded one of the longest home runs playing in LeHigh Valley. He also hits a ton of line drives, ranging between 19-22% in his minor league career. The onset of power, his already excellent ability to choose his pitch and make solid contact along with a high line drive rate bode well for a major league career.

On the other side of the plate is where Joseph falls short. While he does have good athleticism and arm strength for the position, he lacks that quick first step and reaction times for a second baseman. He’s spent the majority of his tenure at second, but has also been positioned at 3B, as well as LF, possibly in the hopes that he can be used as a utility player for the big club as second base is currently occupied in the BX. While he may never be an above average defender, his bat could more than make up for an up the middle guy. Corban doesn’t possess incredible speed and will never be a stolen base threat, but he’s good enough on the bags that he isn’t a liability either.

Overall: Drafted as a shortstop and quickly moved to second base, Co-Jo will never amaze anyone with his glove; it’s his bat that will carry him to the majors and from what i’ve seen so far that’s a real possibility. One of the things I noted in researching Corban was his work ethic and his neverending pursuit of improving himself at the plate. It’s one of those “skills” i’ve come to value rather highly; you can’t teach certain things, and #want is one of them. He’s been known to spend hours in the video room looking for ways to improve at the plate, and preparing for his next matchup.

With second base likely locked up for several seasons by some guy named Robinson Joseph will end up a utility player or trade bait in the next year or two, barring injury or the slight chance that the Yankees let Cano walk. If by rare chance Cano does leave the Bronx, Joseph could find himself manning the position alone, or as a dangerous end of a platoon split with David Adams. He absolutely raked against righties this past season, posting a .299/.401/.560/.961 line hitting all of his HR’s (13) against opposite handed pitchers. He also walked more than he struck out (43/38), which is pretty awesome. A five time All Star between the MiL org. lists, EAS, FSL and SAL, Corban made a big step forward by adding power to his already impressive work at the plate. He likely won’t be in line for any Gold Gloves or turning heads over at The Fielding Bible awards, but his stick should be enough to carry him through a big league career. Afull time future in the Bronx would certainly be dictated by what happens with Cano, but a possible utility role is not out of the question. If not the hope is that he could bring a decent return in trade, as his skill set could net him a sarting job elsewhere.

Prospect Profile: 2B Angelo Gumbs

Image

Vitals: 6′ 1″ 185 lbs. Bats/Throws R/R  Born 10/13/92 2010 2nd round draft pick

Numbers: Gumbs made his brief debut in 2010 in short season ball for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, logging 26 PA’s after being selected in the second round and signing for a 750,000 bonus as one of the youngest players to get drafted. He got off to a slow pro career posting a .192/.222/.231/.453 slash line. The following season found him in Staten Island where he was a bit overshadowed by fellow teammates Mason Williams and Dante Bichette Jr., and put up a respectable .272/.320/.432/.752 slash, good for a wRC+ of 109 and a .341 wOBA. He struggled on the basepaths however, getting nabbed 7 times out of 18 attempts for a 61% success rate. He managed 11 doubles, 4 triples and 3 home runs over his 197 AB’s, taking 20 walks and striking out 57 times. 2012 marked his debut in full season ball at the rip old age of 19. He upped his production a bit and posted a .272/.320/.432/.752 line along with a .352 wOBA and 113 wRC+ over 257 AB’s. He showed a bit more power, hitting 7 HR’s, but the big improvement was in his baserunning as he stole 26 of 29 bags, good for a 89.7% success rate. His walk rate tumbled a bit, walking only 18 times on the season, as did his K rate ever so slightly striking out 60 times.

Skills: Originally signed as a CF’er, Gumbs has tools, but is very raw which you would expect from a kid that was drafted at 17 years old. His biggest asset is his bat speed, which Mike Newman over at Fangraphs compared with that of Bryce Harper and Mike/Giancarlo Stanton. Newman went on to say that although Gumbs can easily get his bat head through the strike zone, his high leg kick and excessive waggle in his timing mechanism keeps him from barreling the ball as well as you would expect with someone with his bat speed. He also has some work to do on his pitch recognition, as he has been noted to flail at breaking pitches out of the zone. Considering his ability to get through the zone and his quick hands, these kinds of deficiencies can be improved upon as he continues to gain experience.

Considered an above average athlete, Gumbs has moved around the field a bit before settling into second base. If he were to stick at the position he’d be considered a bat first guy, but he does have good range and a strong enough arm so as not to embarrass himself out there. He needs to work on his reaction to the ball and his somewhat stiff hands, but to be fair he hasn’t exactly spent a ton of time at second base and his athleticism and potential will allow him time to get it worked out. Speed wise, he’s looking at a 50/80 rating and has improved on his base-stealing skills at low A ball. He’s not as advanced as those who are natural to the position, but with good range, a solid arm and a smooth turn on the double play he has a good base to work with and could make big steps forward given the commitment.

Makeup: Angelo has drawn raves over his work ethic and desire; over the 2011 offseason Gumbs spent the winter adding some mass to his wiry frame and hit the batting cage to try and improve his swing. His coaches took note of this when he showed up to spring training, and it showed in his batting practice sessions as well as in the field. He still has a ways to go, but if he takes strides like this each year he may just find his way to the major leagues. As reported by Dayne Huber over at Bronx Baseball Daily, Gumbs drew praise from none other than Reggie Jackson. “Mr. October noted that he played with a lot of maturity, and was humble and appreciative of the opportunities and instruction he was getting. Jackson also went on to state that he saw potential in Gumbs on both sides of the ball.” Reggie went on to praise his approach and believes he has a great body type for a second baseman.

Overview: Like pretty much every prospect out there, Gumbs is all about dreaming on potential, but there’s plenty of it. He does have a lack of polish, but considering his age vs. level, he has plenty of projection. He could end up anywhere from an above average second baseman to a AA flameout; welcome to the world of prospects. Mike Newman drew comps of Ricky Weeks as they posted a similar OPS and shared a bit of a plate discipline issue early on, and entertained some comparisons to a young Alfonso Soriano albeit with a bit less power. These are at the top of the list though, so take them with a grain of salt. He’ll have to continue to spend time on his glove work and quiet his swing down in order to take advantage of his quick hands. The good news is that you can develop plate discipline and pitch recognition, but you can’t teach bat speed. Having the luxury of allowing the ball to travel deep into the zone is a huge bonus for him, so if he can get his leg kick down and his swing a bit more simplified he could be a real force at the plate. His lack of polish would be troublesome if it weren’t for the fact that he’s young for his level and has finally settled into a position.

Overall I believe Gumbs is one to keep an eye on. Aside from the physical tools, which are there but need to be refined, he shows a level of maturity and dedication that bode well for someone trying to climb the ladder to the majors. He’s young for his level and has yet to spend a significant amount of time at his current position so there is plenty of ceiling for him to realize. Having garnered rave reviews from his coaching staff and the likes of Mr. October himself is always a bonus, and if his future is realized by his determination and raw talent we could hear him knocking on the door behind some of our other more highly touted prospects.

If he were to roll through Tampa next season and spend a year per level from here on out he would be making a ML debut in late 2015/spring 2016 which would have him taking big level swings at age 22/23. It may seem like he’d be in the system forever, but remember, when he took his first cuts as a professional he wasn’t even allowed to buy tobacco.

Is Granderson becoming Adam Dunn?

Despite what he says, Grandy’s a HR hitter (Zimbio photos)

Almost every time ESPN shows a highlight of one of Granderson’s HRs they say “but he’s not a HR hitter”.  This is in reference to Grandy stating over and over again that he doesn’t consider himself to be a HR hitter despite the fact that he has more HRs than anyone in MLB since Opening Day 2011 (tied with Jose Bautista with 70).  Curtis doesn’t consider himself a HR hitter because he thinks of himself of a more complete player – someone who hits for average, gets on base, hits doubles & triples, steals bases, etc.  However, with each passing month this season, his HRs are going up while he has regressed in most of those other categories.  Right now, is their much difference between Granderson and someone like Adam Dunn at the plate?

Grandy has always been a dynamic offensive player who racked up Extra Base Hits.  Last year’s season was excellent but not far off from the season’s he had in Detroit in 2007 and 2008.  This year he is on pace for a career high 43 HRs but is also trending in the opposite direction in a number of key areas and the numbers are closer to his disappointing years of 2009 & 2010.  His rise in HRs has coincided with a drop-off in Doubles & Triples.  He has just 11 Doubles & 3 Triples this yr which puts him on pace for career lows of 16 & 5.  By comparison, he has averaged 27 & 12 over his 6 year career.  Could it be that the short porch in YS is turning those 2 and 3-baggers into 4-baggers?  That seems like a likely scenario but last yr he had 77 total XBHs and this year he’s on pace for 64, so there is a drop-off from last year.

Grandy is also hitting a career-low .247 (also hit .247 in 2010) but not that far off from last year’s .262.  But the reason for the lower BA and the lower XBHs is his contact rates.  Granderson is striking out at alarming rates.  Not only is he striking out more every year, but this season he has gotten worse every month.  He’s struck out in 28% of his Plate Appearances and is on pace to fan a whopping 195 times!  The below chart shows that while his HR% has increased the last 5 seasons, so has his K%.

Year HR% SO% BB% AB/HR HR/FB
2008 3.5% 17.7% 11.3% 25.1 9.6%
2009 4.2% 19.9% 10.1% 21.0 10.8%
2010 4.6% 22.0% 10.0% 19.4 11.3%
2011 5.9% 24.5% 12.3% 14.2 17.7%
2012 6.3% 28.0% 11.9% 13.8 18.1%
9 Yr Career 4.3% 22.6% 10.2% 20.6 11.7%
MLB Averages 2.7% 17.6% 8.5% 33.4 7.7%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 8/2/2012.

The added strikeouts may be worth the extra HRs but it’s also causing a lower BA, OBP and less 2Bs and triples.  Curtis has also stopped stealing bases.  So much of his worth is now tied to the HR.  Not exactly a prototypical #2 hitter which begs the question, should he be moved down in the order to capitalize on those HRs in better RBI opportunities?  Last year he drove in a league-high 119 runs but this year he has only 60 and is on pace for 92.  Jeter is getting on base in front of him at a solid .361 rate but the bottom of the order is much weaker this year.  Martin, Nix, Stewart and now Ichiro are the guys most often hitting 8th and 9th and they all have sub .300 OBP’s.  Last season Brett Gardner hit 9th with a .345 OBP.  It’s no coincidence that 20 of his 29 HRs this year are Solo shots while last yr only 20 of his 41 HRs were with no one on base.

What is the reason for Granderson’s regression as the season wears on?  Is he worn out from having to play CF so much this year with Gardner out?  Or is it an escalation of his natural regression to a hitter who strikes out a ton, walks a lot, and is a big HR-hitter?  Whatever the reason, I don’t believe it’s the best thing for Granderson or the team.  I think a dynamic Granderson who puts the ball in play more, hits more doubles and triples, gets on base more and has a higher average is better than the Grandy we have seen this yr with a few more HRs but drop-offs in every other major category.  Here are his month to month numbers this yr:

2012  K% OBP%

April 24.9 .380

May 26.0 .341

June 27.0 .325

July 33.9 .321

That’s not a misprint – Curtis struckout in 34% of his PA’s in July!  Certainly not a trend we’d like to see continue.  But what do the rest of you think?  Are you fine with Granderson becoming an Adam Dunn type of hitter who has 3 outcomes (Walk, SO, HR) 47% of the time and who stops hitting Doubles & Triples as long as he hits around 40 HRs per year?  And if that’s the type of player he is now, does he belong hitting in the #2 hole?  If you’d like to move Grandy down, who hits #2 and what is your new lineup?  The Yanks don’t have a clear #2 hitter but maybe Swisher, Ichiro or when/if healthy ARod would be a better fit than Curtis.  Let’s hear what you think.

Kuroda’s exceding expectations

Kuroda went 8 strong last night in ND vs Boston

When Brian Cashman signed Hiroki Kuroda in January on Friday the 13th, the move was totally overshadowed  by the trade of Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda announced on the same day.  While most were patting Cash on the back for acquiring a possible #2 for the Yankee rotation, they were talking about Pineda.  Kuroda was thought to be a decent veteran pick-up who could eat innings as a back-end starter.  While we all know what happened to Pineda, Kuroda has done his utmost to pitch like that #2 starter the team was looking for.

While Kuroda had some ups and downs early in the season, he’s found his groove and is currently one of the top pitchers in the American League.  He leads the team and ranks in the Top 10 in Wins (8th), ERA (10th) & WHIP (8th).  Coming from the NL West to the AL East, most thought his numbers would suffer as the competition is greater and the ballparks are smaller.  However, thus far his numbers are nearly identical to his career numbers in the N.L. in almost every category.  This is astounding since even if he wasn’t facing better lineups (which he is), just moving from Dodger Stadium to Yankee Stadium should cause a stark change in his performance. But Kuroda has been even better in his new, smaller home park going 7-3 with a 2.63 era, 1.02 whip and tidy 0.77 HR/9. Read the rest of this entry

Yankee bats own the 1st Inning

Jeter crushes the ball in the 1st inning

Jumping out to an early lead is a great luxury to have in baseball. It puts your pitcher at ease and immediately puts the opposing team on the defensive.  This year the Yankees have been scoring in the 1st inning more than any team in the A.L. with 76 first inning runs in 97 games.  The first has been their best offensive inning this year as they have not scored more than 65 runs in any other frame.  It often seems like the team will score early then go silent offensively for much of the game.

What could be the reason for their 1st inning success?  The first thing that comes to mind is that the Yankee lineup is very top-heavy.  For much of the past 16 years, they have had a circular lineup that was strong from top to bottom.  However this year’s team has been the lowest scoring Yankees team in years and much of that is due to a poor bottom of the order.  Ibanez,  Jones, Nix, Stewart & Martin have all produced at one time or another but they all have OBP below .300 and batting averages .245 or less.

But a weak bottom of the order shouldn’t account for why the team scores most often in the first.  The top half of the order comes to bat throughout the game, not only the 1st.  However, when you look closer at the stats for the guys at the top of the order, they all excel in the 1st inning.

Derek Jeter may not be the most patient of leadoff hitters but he has been an absolute beast leading off games for the Yankees this year.  In Jeter’s 94 games hitting leadoff, he has hit .419 (39-93) with 7 Doubles, 5 HRs  and a 1.067 OPS opening the game.  During the rest of the time, he’s hit .276 with 3 HRs in 315 ABs so why the big difference?  It seems he is incredibly aggressive in the first inning as he’s only walked twice.  His aggressiveness coupled with a pitcher’s tendency to want to get ahead and throw a lot of fastballs seems to be the recipe for Jeter’s success as he tends to jump on the first fastball he sees.

Having a leadoff man hit like that would be enough to account for the 1st inning outbursts but the usual #2 & #3 hitters – Curtis Granderson & Alex Rodriguez, are also much better 1st inning hitters.  Grandy hits .312 with 8 HRs (1 per 10.8 PA) and a 1.066 OPS in 88 opening frame PAs while hitting just .232 with 19 HRs (1 per 18.2 PA) and a .800 OPS  the rest of the game.  ARod’s 1st inning batting line is .359/.488/.469 with a .956 OPS while he hits just .257 the rest of the game.

So what does it mean that the 1st, 2nd & 3rd hitters in the lineup rake in their first AB and are mediocre at best the rest of the time?  It’s difficult to know what to make of these numbers.  Part of it could be small sample size coincidence.  But I think it could also have a lot to do with pitcher’s tendencies to throw a lot of Fastballs early and mix it up more as the game goes along.  All 3 are veteran hitters and with Alex & DJ having lost some bat speed, they may be cheating on those fastballs early in the game.  The only other possibility could be that they wear down and tire a bit over the course of the game since they have all played a lot this year.

But your guess is as good as mine.  Does anyone else have any theories why these guys crush the ball in their first ABs?  In general, pitchers are usually toughest their 1st and 2nd time facing hitters before getting hit much harder their 3rd time through the order.  This hasn’t really been the case vs the Yankees lineup.  Whatever the reason it’s good that the team is jumping out to early leads but their tendency to not tack on runs as the game goes along is troubling. With ARod out for a while now, it’s probably best to bat Granderson down a bit in the order to benefit from his HR power in more of an RBI slot so the 1st inning trio will be broken up for a while and we’ll see if the runs continue.

Rotation jelling at the right time

Andy’s perfect balance & mechanics have been a big boost

Things have certainly changed for this Yankees team over the last 2 weeks.  On May 21st, they had just been shutout by the lowly Kansas City Royals 6-0 to drop them to 21-21 and into a tie for the basement in the AL East – 5.5 games out of 1st.  The team had just gone 1-6 over their last 7 and the bats were failing at a miserable rate, having scored 2 runs or less in 5 of those 7.  But since then, the team has picked things up.  Thanks to 5 straight wins over KC and the Oakland Triple A’s, they have found their stride and have won 10 of their last 13 to put them a half game behind Baltimore for 1st place.

So what has changed  in the last 13 games to propel this team?  Well the offense has picked it up scoring 5.4 runs per game but it has been the pitching staff that has done the heavy lifting.  They have an American League-best 3.06 ERA with 10 Quality Starts.  Except for Phil Hughes’ clunker in L.A., the starters have pitched at least 6 innings of every game which is a huge lift to a bullpen that has lost its top 2 arms.

Below are the numbers for the starters over that period and it seems everyone is pitching well at the same time.  I believe Pettitte has been a big stabilizing factor for this team and the rest of the staff.  It seems both Nova and Hughes have begun to work faster, be more aggressive and concentrate more from pitch to pitch in their last few outings – all Pettitte trademarks. It could be just a coincidence but I think Andy’s presence and value to the team goes beyond taking the mound every 5th day.

With the rotation throwing well, if some of the bats start to heat up this team can go on one of their typical hot summers and begin to build a lead in the division that no one seems able to run away with.  The rotation and pen seem strong and if Cashman wants to make a deal, he may look to add something to the offense.  A lot will be learned in the near future with David Robertson & Brett Gardner attempting comebacks.  If Brett has another setback, this team will definitely need another OF.  What do you all think of this team?  Is the turnabout in the last 13 games for real and what would you add at the trade deadline, if anything?

W-L

ERA

IP

H

ER

HR

BB

K

Kuroda

1-0

1.20

15

11

2

1

2

7

Pettitte

2-1

3.00

21.1

18

7

4

3

21

Sabathia

2-0

3.21

14

15

5

2

4

9

Nova

3-0

3.74

21.2

18

9

3

5

11

Hughes

2-1

4.43

20.1

20

10

3

5

18

10-2

3.22

92.1

82

33

13

19

66

Station to Station baseball has slowed offense

Yanks have missed Gardner’s speed

The Yankees offense has been abysmal as of late and many have bandied about reasons for it. They are still hitting HRs at a high rate and they are actually hitting for a higher average as a team this year than last (.269 to .263).  So what could be the reason why the team is averaging just 4.78 Runs per Game after scoring a 2nd best in MLB 5.35 per game last year?

One of the easy to isolate reasons is their collective lack of hitting with Runners in Scoring Position.  Over their last 3 games, they are a dreadful 3 for 33 and for the season are hitting .240.  For comparison’s sake, the new model of greatness in MLB Texas Rangers franchise is hitting .317 with RISP!  Last year’s Yankee team hit a respectable .273 with RISP to account for 6th best in baseball, so this is definitely a big factor for the drop in runs scored.  More hits in big situations will cure a lot of ills.  But there is another factor of the game that is slowing this Yankee offense – speed.

The team speed is gone.  Brett Gardner has been on the shelf for much of the year and Eduardo Nunez was foolishly jettisoned to the tour of NY AAA team recently.  This has left an aging team to totally play station to station ball, sitting back waiting for the HR.  Joe Girardi said after Tuesday’s game that the team must find ways to score runs without the HR.  He was right but he also has to be the one to help facilitate that by calling some steals, hit and runs and even an occassional bunt.  The Yanks are dead last with just 3 sac bunts this yr. With Gardner & Nunez gone, team speed is poor but Granderson, Jeter and others can still run – give the sign!

The team is 19th in MLB with just 21 stolen bases this yr after finishing 4th last yr with 147.  They’ve been very successful when they run, at a 81% success rate.  The Yankee philosophy seems to be – don’t risk running yourself out of an inning when someone can hit a big HR at any time.  That’s understandable to a degree but how many times have Double Plays taken the team out of innings.  Starting the runner has the added bonus of creating holes in the infield and staying out of DP’s which have plagued the team as of late.  A few games ago, the team had 1st and 2nd with 1 out and Jeter at the plate with a full count. With Jeter’s propensity to hit ground balls and DP’s, I felt this was a perfect time to start the runners.  Girardi didn’t and Jeter hit a grounder to 3rd that was an easy 5-4-3 DP.  Had the runners been started, the 3B would have had to cover the bag and the ball would go into LF fort a run scoring base hit, putting runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out.  Of course if he struck out, it likely would have been a strike him out, throw him out DP but Jeter grounded into a DP anyway so why not take the aggressive gamble?

Obviously losing Gardner has led to less running.  The other strength of Gardner’s offensive game is his ability to work pitchers.  The Yankees have always been a team to work counts and drive up the pitch count of the opposing starter.  This year that has not been the case.  They are only 12th in MLB in pitches seen after finishing 2nd last yr.  They also had 4 of the top 17 players in Pitches Seen per plate Appearance last yr.  Granderson led MLB with 4.44 P/PA, followed by Gardner, Tex & Swisher in the top 20.  This yr, Granderson has dropped to 15th, Swisher to 46th and Teixeira all the way to 129th!

So, in addition to not hitting with runners in scoring position, the team is not working pitchers and playing severe station to station baseball with a big decrease in SBs.  Some of these issues will be improved when/if Gardner comes back but what else can be done?  Well, I was against sending Nunez down.  With Gardner out, the team could not afford to lose their only other dynamic baserunner, especially at a time when the team needed an offensive spark.  I believe the team was overloading him with all of these positions (especially 3B where he is extremely uncomfortable) and should have let him concentrate on 1 or 2 max.  With Gardner out, they had/have the opportunity to play Nunez everyday at either DH or LF. If they felt he couldn’t play LF, Ibanez & Jones could play LF with Nunez and Jeter alternating between SS & DH.  Since Nunez has been demoted, Jayson Nix has started 3 of the 4 games – 2 at SS and 1 in LF.  That should have been Nunez!

What does everyone think? Would more running, hit & runs, etc. help this team stay out of the parade of Double Plays they’ve been hitting into and spark them to score more runs?  Or should they just continue to play station to station baseball and wait for the HRs? And what about Nunez – should he be playing in the Bronx or touring NY State with the Empire State Yankees in AAA?

Rotation has been glaring weakness thus far

Freddy has stunk up the joint

The Yanks are off to a solid start at 9-6 but they still have much to be concerned about.  Their offense continues to be a bit streaky but they still lead MLB averaging 6.0 runs per game. Mariano blew the Save on Opening Day but the bullpen has been lights out otherwise, leading all of baseball with a 2.14 ERA.  Defense you ask? The Yanks have a MLB-low 4 errors through 15 games for a league best .993 Fielding %.

So with a League-best Offense, Bullpen & Defense, why is the team only 9-6? Well, the starting pitching has not done the job.  They have the 2nd worst ERA in all of baseball – even worse than the brutal Red Sox staff.   The Yankee starters have a combined ERA of 5.84, allowing Hits and Baserunners more than any staff in baseball. They’ve allowed a WHIP of 1.59, allowing 107 Hits in 81.2 IP.  The starting rotation was the main focus of the offseason and was supposed to be a team strength.  Obviously, it’s too early to draw any conclusions as we are not even 10% into the long season yet.  However, let’s take a look at where each starter is after 3 turns through the rotation.

CC Sabathia

1-0 5.59 ERA – 1.34 WHIP – 19.1 ip – 10.3 k/9 – 2.8 bb/9 – 9.3 h/9 – 1.4 HR/9 - .716 OPS against

CC has had trouble with his Fastball command in the early going which has led to more hits and runs.  However, all of his supporting numbers are strong – his Strikeout & BB rates are fine which point towards a 3.02 xFIP which is exactly the same as 2011.  His last start vs MIN was his best as he pitched into the 8th inning and got his 1st win.  Stuff-wise, his Velocity is down.  CC has always been a slow starter and takes a while for his velocity to build to his peak levels.  However, he is a little bit lower than where he usually starts averaging a mere 91.5 MPH.  I’m not concerned but it is something to keep an eye on to see if it climbs to his standard 93-95. So overall, I’d say CC is fine and just off to his annual slow start.

Hiroki Kuroda

1-2 5.00 ERA – 1.61 WHIP – 18.0 ip – 6.0 k/9 – 3.0 bb/9 – 11.5 h/9 - 1.5 HR/9 – .876 OPS against

Kuroda has been an enigma with 1 absolute gem and 2 terrible outings. Obviously the real Kuroda will fall somewhere in between. Thus far, he’s been getting hit much harder than usual but it looks like he has enough stuff to be successful in the tougher AL lineups.  I imagine it will take him a while to find out what works best for him.  As a veteran pitcher with multiple pitches, I believe Kuroda will eventually find the right mix to be a successful mid-rotation starter for the team,

Phil Hughes

1-2 6.75 ERA – 1.88 WHIP – 13.1 ip – 10.1 k/9 – 4.1 bb/9 – 12.8 h/9 – 2.7 HR/9 – 1.012 OPS against

Hughes has shown a better Fastball than all of last year but continues to throw too many pitches as he just can’t seem to put batters away without max effort.  He doesn’t have a pitch to get easy outs and it’s led to him averaging 21.5 pitchers per inning.  Phil needs to conserve pitches so he can go deeper into games otherwise he won’t last as a starter. None of his secondary pitches have been successful as he tends to leave them all up and in the hitting zone. His FB is hard to hit when he commands it and moves it around but without a good secondary pitch he may be best served in the pen where he can let loose for 1 or 2 IP.

Ivan Nova

3-0 3.79 ERA – 1.42 WHIP – 19 ip – 9.5 k/9 -  0.9 bb/9 – 11.8 h/9 – 1.9 HR/9 – .987 OPS against

Nova has won all 3 of his starts and 15 in a row dating back to last yr.  He has also gotten great run support in each of his 3 outings which helps.  With the exception of Nova’s sterling Walk rates, his supporting numbers are not too far different from Hughes’. Nova has allowed a lot of hits but he gets away with it by getting double plays and Strikeouts when he needs to and  by limiting walks.  He usually limits HRs too but this yr has been an exception so far. Nova does a fine job of pitching deep into games and has 4 solid pitches to go through a lineup multiple times. He’s a strong #3 starter.

Freddy Garcia

0-1 9.75 ERA – 1.92 WHIP – 12ip – 6.0 k/9 – 2.3 bb/9 – 15.0 h/9 – 1.5 HR/9 – 1.094 OPS against

Garcia has been downright awful.  All of his rates are in line with last year but he has gotten hit much harder.  36% of his batted balls have been hit for line drives as he has left a lot of Splitters and Curveballs up and in the middle of the plate.  One has to think that Garcia can adjust and pitch better but can the Yankees afford to keep throwing him out there to get beat up and eat up the bullpen?

Help on the Way?

Andy Pettitte is only a few weeks away as he’s scheduled to throw 80-85 pitches in Double A Trenton this week. Michael Pineda had a setback and is nowhere near returning.  David Phelps has been excellent in long relief for the Yanks while DJ Mitchell and Adam Warren are ready and able in AAA.  Right now, I would make no immediate moves.  Obviously Hughes and Garcia are on the hot seat but no move needs to be made just yet. When Andy is ready I’d make my moves. If Hughes cannot show improvement, Andy & Phelps go in the rotation with Hughes to the pen.  If Garcia is still struggling, I’d like to send him to AAA but he’d likely request his release.

Comparing Kuroda’s Pitch f/x Numbers from Start to Start

After his first start of the season, Yankee fans were already quite worried that Hiroki Kuroda would be unsuccessful in his transition from the NL West to the AL East. His command was all over the place and he was hit extremely hard by the Rays. He was immediately criticized as not being cut out to pitch in the heavy hitting AL East. However, Kuroda may just have silenced his critics with his terrific start yesterday. He looked very sharp and was able to keep the Angels’ hitters off balance in his 8 inning shutout. Now it doesn’t take a genius to know that one strong showing doesn’t foretell that a pitcher will pitch that way for the rest of the season. However, we can analyze his performance yesterday and determine what the key will be for maintaining a similar level of success.

4/13/12 game vs. Angels

4/7/12 start vs. Rays

Let’s make some observations, shall we?

Average Speed - From start to start, Kuroda’s average speed on his pitches was pretty similar. If anything, his curveball against the Rays was a bit faster than versus the Angels, and his spliiter was a couple mph faster against the Angels.

Max Speed - Like the average speed, the max speed was for the most similar from start to start, especially for his four-seam fastball and sinker. However against the Angels, Kuroda threw the slider with quite a bit more pop than in his first start. In addition, he juiced up the splitter a few mph against the Angels while throwing the curveball a bit slower.

Average Horizontal Break - The general trend of the above statistics is that Kuroda’s four-seam fastball and variations (sinker and splitter) typically had a lot more horizontal movement in his start yesterday than in his start versus the Rays. This could be the reason why these pitches were quite a bit more effective yesterday. His faster pitches ran away from lefties and rammed in toward righties. On the other hand, Kuroda’s slider and curveball both moved much less in the horizontal direction in yesterday’s start.

Average Vertical Break - What is somewhat surprising with these numbers is that Kuroda generated a ton more vertical movement in his terrible start against the Rays than in the effective one yesterday. It could be that the greater downward movement came at the cost of Kuroda’s command on April 7th. In that case, the sharper the movement we see from Kuroda’s pitches, the more success he will probably have across the board.

Pitch Count - In his start yesterday, Kuroda relied greatly on the sinker/slider combination as evidenced by the above pitch totals. In general, he used his four-seam fastball much less and did a better job of mixing in his secondary pitches than he did against the Rays.

Strikes % - It is fairly interesting that there is a correlation between the average horizontal break of Kuroda’s four-seamer,  and sinker, and their percentage of strikes. In yesterday’s start, Kuroda threw those two pitches with better horizontal movement and command. Aside from that, he also threw the curveball and slider for a greater number of strikes against the Angels than versus the Rays which clearly was a help.

Swinging Strikes % - The number of times Kuroda got swinging strikes with his pitches was fairly similar from start to start. However, this isn’t true in the case of his sinker. In the start against the Rays, the sinker got Kuroda 4 swinging strikes while that number was 0 in yesterday’s start. This is most likely a result of the sinker’s larger vertical break in the miserable April 7 start.

Linear Weights - Linear Weights are pretty complicated but to put it simply, the lower the number, the better that pitch was. Therefore it is clear that all of Hiroki Kuroda’s pitches were more effective in the Angels start. The sinker specfically was a very nasty pitch yesterday for him with a linear weight of roughly -2.3.

Several conclusions can be drawn from these observations:

1) Less seems to be more in terms of vertical movement for Kuroda’s sinker. It was a much more effective pitch at a vertical break of 5.29 rather than 5.85.

2) When it comes to Kuroda’s four-seam fastball, sinker, and splitter, the more horizontal movement the better.

3) The less Kuroda uses the four-seamer and the more he mixes in his secondary pitches, the more effective he will be.

4) Kuroda doesn’t need to get swinging strikes with his sinker to have success. He seems to be at his best when he just throws the sinker low and generates ground-balls.

It is important to acknowledge that although these conclusions are well supported by the Pitch f/x data, this is still a pretty small sample size. The four above points won’t necessarily be true all the time, but the data does give us a good idea of what to look for in Kuroda’s future starts with the Yankees.

Pitch F/x data courtesy of Brooks Baseball 

Who is the #1 Priority in 2014 – Cano or Granderson?

Cano connects for Granny in ALDS (Getty Images)

Since the signing of the new Collective bargaining Agreement, Yankee fans have been inundated with articles and talk about the team’s desire to get under the Luxury Tax threshold in 2014.  Hal Steinbrenner & Brian Cashman have stated they have every intention to get under $189 Million in 2014 and that they can still field a Championship team.  However to do so, the team won’t have the ability to re-sign all of their players when they become Free Agents and tough decisions will have to be made.

Those decisions will start after this season as Russell Martin and Nick Swisher hit Free Agency and will really get tough after the 2013 season.  That is when Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain & Boone Logan will be looking for new contracts.  With so many players reaching FA and so many different variables to consider it’s impossible to know what decisions will have to be made.  However for the purpose of this article, let’s look at the 2 most important players – Cano & Granderson.

It’s certainly possible that both players can be retained if some of the young pitchers reach their potential and the Yanks refrain from any other high-priced signings.  However, it could conceivably come down to a decision after 2013 of which important lefty masher they need most. If that’s the dilemma, who would you retain to be the leader of your offense going forward?

Robinson Cano

Cano, will be entering his age 31 season in 2014 and should be looking at plenty of still productive seasons remaining. By almost any metric used, Cano has clearly emerged as one of the Top 5 hitters in the American League over the last 3 years.   Since 2009, he has hit .314/.361/.529  and averaged  27 HRs - 104 RBI – 103 Runs for a .378 woba.  Despite an unflattering UZR, he is an excellent defensive 2B. His range is solid and his arm strength and ability to turn the double play are as good as anyone in MLB.

He is one of the most durable players in baseball having played more games over the last 5 years than anyone in MLB.  The fact that he is finally moving into a premium slot in the order will boost his production since he’ll have more PAs, more opportunities to drive in runs and better protection with ARod & Tex hitting behind him as oppossed to Jorge Posada or Nick Swisher.  Not to disparage those hitters but pitchers were not giving into Cano with Posada on deck.

The only weakness in Cano’s game is his plate discipline.  He swings at too many pitches out of the strike zone and doesn’t like to take the base on balls.  I like the fact that Cano is aggressive and goes up to the plate looking to get a hit rather than walk.  The Yanks have enough patient hitters and need someone to go up their to drive the ball, however, Robbie needs to just lay off the pitch he can’t handle to raise his game up another notch. Read the rest of this entry

Ranking AL East Infielders

In a series of articles this week we will be ranking the starting players in the AL East for every position. Today the infielders are the focus. These rankings should provide good discussion so please give me your thoughts on rankings you may agree or disagree with.

Catchers 

1. Matt Wieters, BAL

2. Russell Martin, NYY

3. J.P. Arencibia, TOR

4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, BOS

5. Jose Molina, TB

Matt Wieters started to live up to his potential last year. After a rough rookie season, Wieters stepped it up both offensively and defensively. Wieters hit .262, with 22 HR’s, 68 RBI, and a .778 OPS. He was also stellar behind the plate as he threw out 37% of all base stealers last season. It was a close call for 2nd but Martin got the nod over Arencibia due to experience and defense. Arencibia showed great power potential during his rookie year as he hit 23 HR’s, but needs to work on his average since he hit only .219. If he can take another step up like Wieters did, he can be quite good. Martin did a terrific job handling the Yankees pitching staff and provided timely offense. Saltalamachia has never lived up to his hype during his career, but did have his best year last year offensively. Molina is a great backup, but should not really be starting.

1st Basemen

1. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

2. Mark Teixeira, NYY

3. Adam Lind, TOR

4. Carlos Pena, TB

5. Chris Davis, BAL

Adrian Gonzalez definitely had a great first impression for the Red Sox last year with an MVP type season, batting .337, with 27 HR’s, 117 RBI, and a .957 OPS. Teixeira can definitely match Gonzalez’s excellent defense and has a similar level of power. However Teixiera batted 89 points lower so he is not really on the same level of production as Gonzalez. Since Lind hit .305 and 35 HR’s in 2009 he has just been ordinary, yet still pretty solid. Pena provides great power and defense, but has not hit above .230 for three straight years. Davis has been an all or nothing type hitter for his career.

Read the rest of this entry

Arbitration: Are The Players Worth The Asking Price?

On Tuesday evening, 3 Yankees filed for arbitration since they couldn’t reach an agreement with the Yankees: Brett Gardner, Boone Logan & Russell Martin. With the Yankees only getting 3 players (Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain) out of the way, we might not know how ugly it could have gotten if all 6 of them filed for arbitration. Each of the Yankees had an asking price which competed with what the Yankees had offered them and I couldn’t help but have mixed opinions. Here was what it got me thinking, are the players really worth the asking price?

1. Russell Martin (Wanted $8.2 million, Offered $7 million)

Yankees catcher Russell Martin

Russell Martin made approximately $4 million in 2011, so to find that Martin is asking for double of what he made in 2011 was pretty shocking. Martin was a good asset to the Yankees in 2011 since he was able to whip the rotation into shape but his offensive performance faltered since he was constantly used by Joe Girardi. Martin was good defensively and he did hit 18 HR’s in 2011, but I doubt we will see Martin hit 18 HR’s again in 2012 if he becomes overused once again behind the plate.

If I Were Russell Martin: If I were him, I would have taken the $7 million and walked. He was getting a $3 million raise, so trying to push it by adding $1.2 million kind of shows that Martin really wants as much money as he could possibly get. Martin is a great catcher, but if I were him, I wouldn’t expect to see $8.2 million in 2012.

2. Boone Logan (Wanted $2.4 million, Offered $1.7 million)

Yankees LHP Boone Logan

In 2011, Boone Logan made $1.2 million for doing what he is supposed to do: come in and face lefties and that was exactly what he did. During the 2011 campaign vs. lefties, in 27.1 innings pitched, Logan had a 2.96 ERA, struck out 34 batters, held them to a .260 AVG and had a 1.24 WHIP. If I was just basing his lefty numbers on whether he deserves the $2.4 million I would say “why not,” but we aren’t basing everything just off of his lefty numbers, are we? Versus right handed hitters, Logan had a 4.40 ERA while pitching 14.1 innings. Logan struck out 12, held batters to a .262 AVG & had a 1.53 WHIP.

If I Were Boone Logan: If I were Boone Logan, I would have taken the $1.7 million that the Yankees offered. There had to be a reason that the Yankees said no to the $2.4 million in the first place and that had to be because Boone Logan can only pitch to left handed hitters. Honestly, just take the money and go Boone. Why make things difficult.

3. Brett Gardner (Wanted $3.2 million, Offered $2.4 million)

Yankees OF Brett Gardner

In 2011, Brett Gardner was paid a mere $529,000 for his civil service in left field. Before the 2011 season, the Yankees were thinking of platooning Gardner & Derek Jeter for the lead off spot just to see how the experiment worked out. Girardi pulled Gardner from the lead off spot so fast, Yankees fans didn’t even have time to blink. But if you take away the abysmal start to the 2011 campaign, Gardner performed to expectations. He had 49 stolen bases, a .345 OBP (which matched his 2009 OBP) & played remarkable defense for the Yankees, taking home the Fielding Bible Award for the second straight year.

If I Were Brett Gardner: If I were Brett Gardner I would have filed for arbitration the moment the Yankees tried to offer him $1.2 million less than what he deserves. Gardner has given service to the Yankees since coming up to the big leagues in June of 2008 and he is still making minor league money. It was time that Gardner got the raise that he deserved going into the 2012 campaign and hopefully the arbitrator can see that for himself.

These 3 Yankees are scheduled to meet with arbitrators sometime starting in February in Tampa, Florida. It is up to the arbitrators to see if they deserve the money, or if they should get what the Yankees offered them and stay quiet until next off season.

Brian Cashman Strikes Gold

Brian Cashman recently proved why he is not just one of the best GM’s in baseball because of his checkbook. He made the shrewdest move of the offseason and fixed the Yankees rotation problems in one night. On Friday night, Cashman traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle for Michael Pineda and prospect Jorge Campos. Cashman also signed Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a 1 yr deal for 10 million dollars. This was a trade you don’t see very often. Money was not involved; it was just a deal where studs were traded for each other to help each team’s needs.  There was some risk involved of course, but this was the right move for Cashman to make.

Cashman, amazingly enough, was able to accomplish two huge things in this trade. He greatly improved the team in 2012 and for the future without raising the payroll. You do not often see 23 year old studs like Pineda available on the market often, especially when they are under contract until 2017. Funny thing is- nobody even knew he was. Cashman swooped and stole him, leaving  the rest of MLB in shock. I say stole him because when you look at the trades made for aces Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos this offseason, that is exactly what it was. The Reds and Nationals gave up more talent in their farm systems for lesser pitchers then Pineda in my opinion. The Yankees also did not have to kill their farm system to get him. I am not saying Jesus Montero will not be an elite hitter for years to come because in all likely hood he will be. However, you always take the elite pitcher over the position player, especially when the position might end up being DH. Also, do not underestimate getting Jose Campos in this deal. He is a guy scouts are loving and is probably already a top 10 Yankees prospect. His upside is better than Hecor Noesi, whom the Yankees traded to Seattle.

Pineda had a great rookie year going 9-10, with a 3.74 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 (2nd in the AL).  At 6-7 260 lb., Pineda is an intimidating force with a great arsenal of stuff.  Pineda has a terrific fastball that averaged 94.7 mph, which was the fourth fastest fastball in MLB. Pineda can get it up to almost triple digits when need be. Pineda also has a devastating slider that righties cannot touch. Righties only batted .184 off of Pineda, which leads the AL, and whiffed at a ridiculous 41% of his sliders. Pineda does need to develop a better changeup in order to deal with lefty hitters. I would say that is his biggest weakness right now. Developing that 3rd pitch is a big key for him. Pineda showed the capability to eventually be a number one starter, but right now he will be just fine as their number 2.

The two knocks on Pineda last season are that he pitched in a pitchers park and that he fell off in the 2nd half last season. A 9.1 K/9 translates to any ballpark. His 2.89 BB/9 is not elite per say, but very good for a rookie who struck out all the guys that he did.  Pineda will have to improve his fly ball% (44.8%) because more of those fly balls will turn into home runs at Yankee Stadium.

Many people are using the argument that Pineda had a very poor second half of 2011. However, his ERA of 5.12 during that time does not tell the whole story. His peripherals were much better than that ERA suggests.

Split

BB%

K%

GB%

HR/FB

BABIP

LOB%

FIP

xFIP

Mar/Apr

9.5%

23.8%

30.9%

0.0%

0.262

76.5%

2.26

3.90

May

5.6%

28.6%

36.6%

10.8%

0.231

82.0%

3.15

2.98

Jun

8.3%

21.2%

26.5%

7.5%

0.243

76.1%

3.90

4.28

Jul

9.3%

28.8%

40.6%

14.3%

0.294

46.1%

3.74

3.14

Aug

7.4%

24.2%

46.8%

19.0%

0.262

65.4%

4.20

3.09

Sept/Oct

6.7%

22.7%

45.3%

9.5%

0.275

71.4%

3.41

3.44

Graph by Dave Cameron- Fan Graphs

Looking at this chart suggests that the reason for Pineda’s high second half ERA was because he had a higher BABIP. However, his FIP and xFIP  in the second half were not really bad at all. In July, Pineda’s ERA was 6.75, while his xFIP was an excellent 3.14. Besides, it is common for a young pitcher to wear down a little bit as his innings go up to where they have never gone before.

Pineda makes the Yankees a better team in 2012 and in the future.  A rotation of CC Sabathia, Pineda, Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and a TBA 5th starter is much better then they had last year. Barring a trade, A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes will battle it out for the 5th spot, and give the Yankees great rotation depth. This also gives Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances another year to develop in the minors.  Even without Montero the Yankees will still boast one of the games best offenses around Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez. As for replacing Montero at DH, my choices in order would be Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees have reportedly been in contact with all of them.

Brian Cashman has once again set up the Yankees to be a championship caliber team.

MoneyBall: Comparing Granderson’s Contract

In 2012, Curtis Granderson is scheduled to make $10,000,000 for doing what he does best; playing baseball. As a matter of fact, Granderson is banking some big bucks. Granderson may have good offensive power and may field the ball well, but there are other players that make less than Granderson and still have the skills that Granderson possesses. Is it really possible to find someone who has similar heart, determination and skill as Granderson for less money? Yes. Yes it is. I’ve compiled a list of outfielders who have a similar skill level as Granderson but for a more economical price (something that the Yankees are interested in all of a sudden).

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox ($2.4 Million, 2nd Year Arbitration):

I am probably going to get booed for this, but I chose Jacoby Ellsbury as

Jacoby Ellsbury doesn't make a lot; but he provides a lot

another player who has skill (and a small contract) to compare to Curtis Granderson.  Ellsbury is the center-fielder for the Boston Red Sox and even though the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry gets to the best of us, you have to admit that Ellsbury has *cough* Talent *cough.* Ellsbury was exactly what Granderson was in the beginning of 2011, a player that no one would expect to shine and do well. Here are the comparisons of Curtis Granderson & Jacoby Ellsbury’s offensive numbers, and yes Ellsbury’s numbers will surprisingly shock you:

Curtis Granderson: .262 AVG, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, .394 wOBA, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 146 wRC+

Jacoby Ellsbury: .321 AVG, .376 OBP, .552 SLG, .402 wOBA, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 150 wRC+

Looking at the numbers, Ellsbury is a big offensive force for his team and for a small cost. Now let’s take a look at Ellsbury’s and Granderson’s value and defense numbers:

Curtis Granderson: 7.0 WAR, -5.3 UZR

Jacoby Ellsbury: 9.4 WAR, 15.6 UZR

Ellsbury made $2.4 Million in 2011, but his 2012 pay has not been released yet as he is entering his second year of arbitration. It’s actually unfortunate that Ellsbury is a Red Sox. He’s very good at what he does (but seriously, Ellsbury consider changing uniforms…maybe preferably pinstripes?)

2. Jeff Francouer, Kansas City Royals ($6 Million)

We all remember Jeff Francouer as that outfielder that was on the Mets but left to go to Kansas City right? Well, Francouer…isn’t bad at his game. He has less talent as Granderson, but hey, he’s going to make $4 Million less. Here are Granderson and Francouer’s offensive numbers in comparison:

Curtis Granderson: .262 AVG, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, .394 wOBA, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 146 wRC+

Jeff Francouer: .285 AVG, .329 OBP, .476 SLG, .346 wOBA, 20 HR, 87 RBI, 117 wRC+

Now, let’s compare Granderson & Francouer some more, shall we?

Curtis Granderson: 7.0 WAR, -5.3 UZR

Jeff Francouer: 2.9 WAR, 0.6 UZR

In 2012, Francouer is scheduled to make $6 Millon. Not bad for a player who played well in 2011. Francouer is not the greatest fielder, but offensively he is fairly legit. Now, if I were the Yankees offering this to Francouer, would he like to sign now or later?

3. Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins ($414,000, 1st Year Arbitration)

Not sure why, but Logan Morrison is my favorite subject. For his first full year in the majors he has shown 2 things. One, he has power and two with a little help he can become an RBI machine. Comparing him to Granderson wouldn’t be exactly fair since he only has one year, but just for the fun of it, I would say why not. So here are their compared offensive stats.

Curtis Granderson: .262 AVG, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, .394 wOBA, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 146 wRC+

Logan Morrison: .247 AVG, .330 OBP, .468, .344 wOBA, 23 HR, 72 RBI, 115 wRC+

Now, let’s move on to comparing their value and defense:

Curtis Granderson: 7.0 WAR, -5.3 UZR

Logan Morrison: 1.0 WAR, -13.1 UZR

Logan Morrison made $414,000 in 2011 and he as well has entered his first year of arbitration. With Morrsion’s numbers looking pretty good in 2011, can we say an outburst in 2012?

4. Hunter Pence, Philadelphia Phillies ($6.9 Million, 1st Year Arbitration)

Hunter Pence has the bat and the skills, but his price range is slightly lower than Granderson

Okay, so Hunter Pence isn’t all that cheap but what he did with the Phillies in 2011 was pretty sweet right? Coming from the last place Houston Astros to the 1st place Philadelphia Phillies was a big transition for him but he adjusted well.  When comparing Curtis Granderson to Hunter Pence, Pence’s numbers are a little lower than Granderson but he’s still a dynamic force. Here are Granderson & Pence’s numbers compared.

Curtis Granderson: .262 AVG, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, .394 wOBA, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 146 wRC+

Hunter Pence: .314 AVG, .370 OBP, .502 SLG, .378 wOBA, 22 HR, 97 RBI, 141 wRC+

Now let’s compare Hunter Pence’s value & defense to that of Curtis Granderson.

Curtis Granderson: 7.0 WAR, -5.3 UZR

Hunter Pence: 4.1 WAR, -4.8 UZR

When comparing Granderson’s contract to the other contracts out there in the league he makes quite a bit for doing what he does best, but we can all be fortunate that he doesn’t make an absurd amount of money.

I’ve only included just a few outfielders that are comparable in skill and money to Curtis Granderson. Feel free to discuss other comparisons in the below comments section!

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