Monday, July 31, 2006

You're very very sleepy.....

I'm more and more of a fan of this trade deadline as it all has time to sink in. What hypnotism book was Brian Cashman reading that allowed him to acquire:

Bobby Abreu
(leads MLB in walks, .427 OBP)

Cory Lidle
(solid back end of the rotation starter)

and Craig Wilson
(outstanding utility player with .306 avg/RISP)

for a combination of players including:

C.J. Henry
(athletic, but struggling with baseball related skills)

Matt Smith
(27 year-old converted AAA reliever)

Jesus Sanchez
(expendable catching pros
pect at rookie level)

Carlos Monasterios
(solid baby pitcher with big question marks)

Shawn Chacon
(miserable 7.00 ERA, 1.8 WHIP)

We kept Hughes and Tabata. Wang and Cano are in the fold. Melky stays in left. The Red Sox did nothing. Matsui and Sheffield can take their time getting back. Bernie goes to the bench. Guiel and Bubba are out of the mix. Proctor is still around. Ponson is out of the mix. Phillips can go to the bench. What's not to like? Essentially, we subtracted nothing and ended up with the following new toys.

Bobby Abreu's VORP over the last 7+ years (MLB rank in parenthesis) is:

1999 64.3 (13)
2000 60.9 (25)
2001 54.0 (29)
2002 60.0 (17)
2003 43.0 (39)
2004 73.5 (7)
2005 47.0 (28)
2006 25.0 (57)

Further proof of his superior play was contibuted yesterday by mars2001:

PROOF (3 year split data):

RISP (runners in scoring position):
Abreu .329/.450/.566
Jeter .288/.380/.405
ARod .273/.381/.482
Giambi .273/.443/.535

Men on w/2 outs:
Abreu .324/.470/.540
Jeter .307/.395/.449
ARod .280/.381/.553
Giambi .230/.414/.473

Close & Late:
Abreu .288/.431/.464
Jeter .249/.352/.392
ARod .276/.392/.553
Giambi .237/.414/.460

The fact that this guy has underperformed this season, and his team is in a downward spiral, contributed to the salary dump that Gillick performed for our benefit. The fact is, it was one of the greatest steals in trade deadline history. Still in his prime, Abreu is one of the best players in the entire sport. He's been tested in a very tough Philadelphia market and ranks as one of the best players in the long history of that franchise. Statistically he is top 10 in virtually every major category. If Larry Bowa says you play the game the right way, you play the game the right way. Bowa is a hot-head in the mold of Sweet Lou and will destroy a guy for not approaching the game properly. All the mess about Abreu dogging it, or shying away from the wall, is so overblown it's laughable. Bowa knows it when he sees it, and this guy is going to be an impact player.

Baseball Prospectus wrote this about Cory Lidle in 2005:

"Lidle is durable and keeps the ball down, which makes him a reasonable back-of-the-rotation fit for a team with a power-friendly ballpark and an offense good enough to win games on its own. The Phillies re-signed him for two years and $6.3 million. That's not a terrible price compared to some recent doozies, but pitchers with this sort of strikeout rate tend not to age well."

That sounds like exactly what the Yankees need right now, doesn't it? Durable, great. Keeps the ball down, perfect. Reasonable back-of-the-rotation fit for a high scoring team, that's us. Won't be around for a long time, no problem. In fact, his current 13.8 VORP would rank him as the third starter on the ballclub behind Mussina and Wang. That speaks more to RJ's struggles than anything else, but it also means he'll help.

Craig Wilson for Shawn Chacon is a very funny punchline to a joke. I'm not sure what that joke is, but Cash Money does. Jettisoning Chacon with a little thank you and a box of chocolates for last season feels really good right about now. Getting a superb utility player with a live bat for him feels like getting away with murder. No Maas sponsors his page at Baseball Reference, and upon further examination of his similarity comparisons, I found that Trot Nixon is #5 on the list of players at age 28. How you like me now Boston? We just added Trot Nixon to our team for Shawn Chacon. Don't you guys have him starting on your club and hitting 5th? I know, he's on the DL and you replaced him with David Wells. Wellsie went 4.2 innings today with 8 hits, 2 walks, and 8 earned runs. Looking good Beantown. Nice work at the deadline Theo. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I am the walrus...coup-coup-ca-choo......

That's what Brian Cashman is running around the Yankee offices proclaiming today. Why? Because he managed to steal a couple of pennant race impact players from the Philadelphia Phillies for some fair minor leaguers who aren't ready for prime time, and a little of the financial breathing room in his wallet that reads "Bad Mother F*&^er". I think he got that wallet from Samuel L. Jackson for his birthday last year. That's what I call a coup.

Everyone keeps fretting about what Bobby Abreu can't do, when they should be more worried about what he's going to do for the Yankees. He can't play defense like Torii Hunter in his prime. He can't hit for power like Mark Mcgwire on Andro. He won't run headfirst into the fence to catch a ball.....(neither would I). So what. Let's look at what he does....

He sports a career .411 OBP which means he's going to be standing out their on the basepaths when his hulkish teammates come to jack balls into the right field seats. He's going to go first to home on a bunch of gappers to the deep part of Yankee Stadium. He's going to work counts into the 10 pitch range like a handful of his other OBP gifted teammates and knock out starting pitchers early so everyone else can feast on the bullpen scraps. (The caption on this picture should read, "My boy is wicked good. How do you like them apples Boston?)

He's going to hit a bunch more home runs, because his career averages tell us he's going to. He will hit a bunch of them into the short porch in the midst of a late summer pennant race. He's going to step into right field and stay there for the duration of the season so we don't have to think about what to do every bloody night. His acquisition also allows us to put a few guys on the bench that belong there and can contribute in pinch hitting or spot start situations. Thanks for the effort Bernie.

Cory Lidle is another part of the equation that solves big problems. He's not meant to be a frontline starter for the Bombers. He's just going to eat innings and keep the ballclub in the game so we can steal a few with the bats. He's an upgrade over Chacon, Ponson, and maybe even Wright.

All in all, Cashman has produced big for the Yankees without giving up anything of real value. He may not be done either. Rumors continue to swirl about pitching coming to the Bronx. Keep your eyes and ears peeled boys and girls. The ride may not be over.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Bat, an Arm, and a Rocking Chair

We've had some debate between COH and Bronx Banter about whether the Yankees need a bat or an arm most. My good buddy, singledd, wants the bat and I want an arm. Actually, we both want to make the team better whatever happens and somethin's a brewin' with the Phillies.

In my fantasy scenario, we'd give up some 2nd tier minor leaguers for Abreu and Lieber, taking on the rest of the money on their contracts, and both wishes would come true.....What do you think? We'll know soon enough.....

In the meantime, there's very little to say about the Intensive Care Unit's outing today. He sucked. Chacon continues to suck. The rest of the pen sucked too. Stop booing ARod as if the Yankees scoring 6 runs and losing by 13 is somehow his fault. Idiots. We'll come back and get them tomorrow. Don't sweat it. We're about to overtake Boston. Give it a few days.

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

It's Groundball Daaaaaaaaaay!

When a pitcher posts an 18-8 GO/AO rate with one strikeout, you know his sinker is working. When that pitcher gives up 2 hits and a walk, with one double play mixed in, you know that he was a breath away from a perfect game. That was Chien Ming Wang, and he's our ace.

Yeah, I know Moose is the ace this year. He's been the best pitcher on the team from Day One. The thing is, Chien Ming Wang is 26 years old and gets better by the start. He's going to be around for a very long time because good sinkers make long careers. Ask Greg Maddux. The Indians said that Wang's sinker was the best they saw all year when he beat them on June 13th. Prominent sinker ballers in today's game are Brandon Webb of Arizona, who has the highest VORP in the sport this season at 57.9, and Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, who is 8th with a 43.9 rating. Wang sat 30th in VORP prior to this start, sporting a nice 28.5 rating and among starting pitchers he is 4th in HR/9 innings. First is Jared Weaver, second is Jaret Wright, third is Roger Clemens, and 4th is Wang. Weaver and Clemens each have only started 7 ballgames, so it's hard to compare them to the other 2, but suffice it to say the ball stays on the ground and teams really have to earn their runs. (Jaret Wright is the best at keeping the ball in the yard among pitchers with more than 7 starts!)

As good as Wang was today, the Devil Rays manager, Joe Maddon, helped the Yankees out a lot by starting Travis Lee at 1B. Lee has been manning 1st all year for the hapless Rays, and is by far the worst regular player in the Major Leagues. His VORP is an atrocious -13.5 and he plays the easiest defensive position in the sport. You can almost close your eyes and pick a guy out of any minor league system that would do a better job than Lee. To illustrate his futility even further, his PMLV rating which Baseball Prospectus lists as "runs contributed by a batter beyond what an average player at the same position would produce in a team of otherwise league-average hitters" is a -25.0 and after his 0-3 against Wang he sports a .202/.293/.324 line. That hitting has contributed to a net loss of 25 runs(!) for the Devil Rays. Had they replaced Lee with a minor leaguer of average ability, they would have posted 25 more runs, and perhaps a number of extra wins. Stupid. Painfully stupid.

Exciting win today. Tomorrow is Big Unit against Jae Seo. Gotta like our chances against Seo. He's hovered at replacement level all year between the Dodgers and Rays. Let's replace his ass with a big day with the sticks. Go Yanks. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Harold Reynolds' Mentor

An off day for the Yanks means a more free-form post from my computer keyboard to you in digital wonderland. A few things have been on my mind lately, so I'll briefly touch on one of them in a Canyon of Heroes Grab Bag posting....

I have been thinking about the recent firing of Harold Reynolds from his Baseball Tonight desk job. I saw Reynolds the other day as a guest panelist on the ESPN program "1st and 10" going head to head in a "debate" with the ultra-hyper-annoying Skip Bayless, whose only schtick is to blow his lid in uber-caffeinated rants against instant replay in women's handball and the overuse of chalk on MLS sidelines. You get the point. Reynolds looked embarassed to be on the program and sat stoically watching Bayless spew foam like a rabid monkey. I thought the guest appearance was ill-conceived and slightly humiliating for a guy with Reynolds cerebral credentials. Not that he always makes the best analysis in the world, but he's at least trying to be cool. He sports the slick suit and tie and is well made-up. He's not a dime a dozen, coffee-slurping, nacho-chomping newspaper columnist trying to launch a tv career by out-outrageousing the next guy.

The next thing I know, Reynolds is out at ESPN for a sexual harassment claim. It was an iffy situation by all acounts, and the Outback Steakhouse is the only one to likely benefit from the whole smear campaign. I don't know the details of the incident more than any of the rest of you, but it sounds a bit suspiscious to me. The thing is, there is also word that Reynolds has a history of documented cases that exacerbates this incident.

Thinking about Harold Reynolds took me back to a great experience that I had regrettably forgotten for a number of years. (Nothing to do with harassment!) I was a young cameraman in 1996, travelling home from some promotional work in Phoenix during the days leading up to Super Bowl XXX. On the plane back to New York I found myself seated next to a married couple in their Autumn years. Quickly, they decided to strike up a conversation with me and I was taken by their easy charm. On airplanes it's not always desirable to engage in conversation with your neighbors, as many people don't read the clues to end the dialogue very well. There was none of that awkwardness in this cheerful discussion.

After exchanging pleasantries, the couple informed me that they were returning to Rhode Island to visit their family. They had made the move to the desert for the winter months, as many their age have chosen to do, and only returned to the East Coast to see their loved ones from time to time. I spent the early part of my childhood in Rhode Island, as I've discussed at COH in the past, and we made an instant bond. Whatever the chemistry stemmed from, I don't exactly know, but there was a real human affection between the three of us, and the man spoke to me like a grandson-in-law, if I might use that to illustrate my point. He spoke of his career in baseball scouting, and his continued interest in the process of evaluating and advising young prospects in his advancing years.

He told me that he had been a good friend to Harold Reynolds when he was a young prospect and that his family had grown quite close to him. It was as though Reynolds was his son. The two men obviously had a bond that comes about so rarely between people that are not blood relatives. He talked of the days he took the Mariners second baseman under his wing and guided him through the tough times a young player faces as he struggles to prove himself and navigate the murky waters off the field. He spoke with a proud glow.

The conversation turned to his recent work. He was still a consultant for a number of teams in the Arizona Fall League circuit, and he'd seen a lot of guys come through. He told me that he'd recently spent a great deal of time with a Yankees prospect that he thought was the next great player in the Bombers' long tradition. He called him, "Can't miss", and he explained that he meant on and off the field. He said that this player had Hall of Famer written all over him and would rival Mickey Mantle in terms of popularity in New York. The kid was the second player in this man's career to strike him with such an impression. That player was Derek Jeter.

It took a kind of random news item, and a downer at that, to help me recall this wonderful slice of life. I don't remember the man's name, but I'll never forget the 5 and a half hours I spent with him and his wife on the plane. In Reynolds' biographical information we read that he was scouted by Cincinnati Reds' scout Larry D'Amato. I can't help but wonder if it was he that I sat next to on the plane. I wonder what's going through his mind as this news is being bandied about in the press. I hope his family will be a part of whatever healing and reconciliation Reynolds must undergo to get his career back on track.

(Matsuzaka Watch has been updated with the latest pitching brilliance by the future Yankee ace. His WHIP over 117.1 IP is 0.92! Check it out today!)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Roller Coaster of Love

Well that was fun wasn't it? Nothing like a roller coaster ride of drama for a series sweep. We always seem to own the Rangers don't we?

Let's look at what transpired in pieces:

1. Jaret Wright continues to cling to his spot in the rotation like a cat hanging from a curtain over a bathtub. It's almost like we can replay the same start over and over and begin the game in the 6th inning. Yanks hand him a lead, he gives it back then settles down. He throws too many pitches a couple of times and can't make it out of the middle innings, bullpen fun abounds. I checked his VORP at Baseball Prospectus prior to the start and it seems that his 7.5 rating is good for 46th out of the 66 players in the American League who have pitched at least 60 innings this season. I chose 60 innings because it basically eliminates all but Scott Proctor from the relievers in MLB from consideration, and includes most of the legitimate 3rd and 4th starters in the league. (I'm serious about the Scott Proctor thing, by the way. He was the only full-time relief pitcher on the list.) At 46th, we can say that Wright is near the top of the list for 4th starters in the AL.

In a fairly unscientific analysis of this, I would argue that taking the top 3 starters from every AL team would net 42 pitchers. Tossing Scott Proctor out of the mix at 28th place means that Wright moves up to 45th and only has 2 pitchers between him and the 43rd spot, which I reserve for the top 4th starter in the AL. I know it doesn't work that way. There are some teams with an extra pitcher above Wright, and some with their 3rd starter below him. This is imprecise mathematics, but it may illustrate the point that JW is contributing a solid VORP from the 4 hole. It's Randy Johnson's 11.7 VORP that is dragging us down.

The only problem that I see with Wright is that he habitually leaves the game early, stretching the pen, and creating a chaotic environment each time out. Sometimes the pen is going to go 1-2-3, and then there will be days like today. We got the victory thanks to Shawn Chacon and the bats.

2. That brings me to Chacon. His VORP of -17.5 coming into the game was good for 7th worst in all of baseball among 60 inning pitchers (59.3 to be precise). That translates to 2 extra games in the loss column over his AAA replacement. Ugly. I thought we were done for sure with him coming into an inning with the bases loaded and no one out. Miraculous. If we win the division, we may need to keep a gold star next to that performance and remember that lady luck gave us a break tonight.

3. A note on A-Rod. He was huge to keep the scoring going with his 22nd home run. The Yankees looked flat, with only Jeter and the two rookies doing anything with the stick. Giambi and A-Rod to that point in the game had been pedestrian and it was getting late early. In the end, both guys look great in the boxscore, and their late inning fireworks gave us this game. I tried to imagine, once again, why fans are so quick to get on Alex and not Giambi, despite Jason's recent power outage. I still have no good answers that haven't been discussed ad nauseum already, but I began to look at some numbers that may subtely influence the fans' reaction.

Giambi has 20 multi-RBI games this season. A-Rod has 17. Not so different. The thing is, A-Rod's multi-RBI games are positioned in a way that lends to the perception that he isn't "clutch". Giambi has 4 or 5 such games every month this season. They are spread out. A-Rod had 8 of his 17 multi-RBI games in May, when he won the AL Player of the Month. That's 28 games, with 8 big run producing outings. The rest of the year, he has played in 71 games and has 9 multi-RBI performances. In May, he produced multi-RBIs in 29% of his games played. The rest of the season he has produced similarly only about 13% of his games played. Fans who follow the team a few games at a time see an RBI here and there, but no fireworks. Giambi will get a big highlight night about once a week. Just one little thought.

We are now the wildcard by a half game over both Chicago and Minnesota. Minny scares me, Chicago doesn't. Boston is in our sights. One final note from my browsing at Baseball Prospectus today. The Yankees are the best team in baseball by "Third Order Wins and Losses". That means that the teams are ordered by their Adjusted Equivalent Runs Scored and Allowed and their records are projected from the data. For non-statistical baseball fans, it means that the Yanks are right where we need to be with a couple of bats waiting in the wings to rejoin the team in August (Matsui and Cano). Go Yanks!

PS: Still no help from Blogger on the photo problem. I managed to sneak in pics at Matsuzaka Watch and Darvish Watch before the problems started again. I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blogger be Damned Update

I'm back from the wild wild West. I don't mean Cali or Arizona, but rather the relative West as is is situated to my current home in Japan.

Blogger technical issues are cramping my style, but I won't let that stop me. The Canyon of Heroes march must go on. To quote the Lord Rakim, "It's been a long time. I shouldn't have left you, without a strong to step to...."

What's happened in the 2 weeks since I last worked my magic at COH. Lightning style, we'll talk about the Bombers fortunes.....

1. As I predicted at Bronx Banter, the Red Sox and Yankees sandwiched the All Star Break with drubbings of the Chicago White Sox. Something told me that the White Stockings weren't up to the task of taking on the AL East, and my suspicions were right. I think they're an outstanding team with good pitching that has been masquerading as great pitching. Garcia, Buehrle, Contreras, Garland, and Vazquez are all serviceable starters that can dominate any game they enter on the right night, but I'd be hard pressed to call any of them as good as Schilling, Johnson, or Mussina. Beckett is on top of his game right now too, and the ChiSox are not. The White Sox 5 starters all post WHIPs in the mid 1.3's and have batting average againsts of .270-.275 or so. Contreras is the lone exception, but he was long overdue for a regression to the mean.

2. I went to the Seattle vs. Yankees matchup of Unit against Meche. Meche was brilliant, throwing a perfect game into the 5th inning. Unit was also stellar, striking out 11 over 8. Both guys threw into the 100s and Unit probably was in a little too long at 129 pitches. When Torre came out to talk to him he convinced the manager to leave him in and promptly disposed of Richie Sexson for his 1tth K. The crowd gave him a nice ovation, and the only thing between him and a victory was the dominating plate performance of Ichiro Suzuki who scored all 3 Seattle runs. That team is so far from good it's scary. What a waste of an All World talent. It's unfortunate that Ichiro will likely spend the next 5 or 6 years on a poor or mediocre ballclub. It wouldn't surprise me if the Mariners never made the playoffs again, while he was on the team. That division is leaving the Mariners behind, and the AL East and Central 1 and 2's are too strong to concede the wildcard to the West.

3. A-Rod has been absolutely putrid. I have been defending him and supporting him, but he's only gotten worse. That doesn't faze me though. He'll be fine, and once he's weathered this storm in his career will carry the team at some point late in the year. That will be his "clutch" redemption and you'll see the papers and fans finally say something positive about the guy. They'll still be wrong for booing him, and the press will still be a bunch of neanderthals for suggesting the Yankees trade him, but at least they'll be off his back.....for awhile.

4. The trade deadline is approaching, and I don't expect the Yanks to make a big splash. Matsui will be back mid-August, and Sheff may return in September. Melky continues to improve, even as Andy Phillips has been sliding below replacement level. The pitching could use an overall boost, but I think you'll see Cashman pick up on some mediocre 5th starter somewhere to eat innings for the club. Ponson was one such guy, but he needs to try a little harder. In the playoffs that player won't factor into the outcome much, as we'll still be leaning on Moose, Unit, and Wang (which sound like a roster of porno All Stars). The bullpen saga of Octavio Dotel is what it is, and I would also doubt that we'll see anything more than a marginal talent added. My suprise, Christmas in July, trade would be a couple of 2nd tier minor leaguers and cash for John Lieber. The Yanks and Phils have had dialogue about Abreu for sure, so you know Cashman has the phone number.

5. On my trip to the US, I dropped by Coliseum Books across from the NY Public Library, and bought two Baseball Prospectus books. I saw autographed copies of Alex Belth's "Stepping Up", and smiled to myself. I'll have to get an autograph on my copy when I see him. I did buy an autographed copy of "Mind Game" and squinted to make out Cliff Corcoran's squiggly signature. Both books are must reads, and I'll try to do a couple of reviews during the next off day, if I can. I also bought "Baseball Between the Numbers" which is next on my list.

6. The Yankees hired an associate scout by the name of Shoichi Kida, who is a former Japanese ball player, and high school teammate of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka has been tinkering with a two seam fastball to add to his already lethal arsenal and plans to unleash it on the 26th against Orix. He has been quoted as saying he has his eyes on the majors next year, and the perfect confluence of events seems to be pushing him to the Yankees. Let's not have a letdown.

7. I have debuted a new blog, dedicated to a 19 year old Japanese pitcher named Yu Darvish. His story is fascinating, and while he's not Major League ready or eligible, he's a guy to keep an eye on for the future. Please drop by Darvish Watch to support the blog, and keep yourself posted on this young phenom.

That's it for now. More later. My apologies again for the lack of photo support on all my blogs today. One day Blogger will get its head out of its backside and provide more reliable service. It is free after all, so we can only count our blessings. Go Yanks!

Blogger issues

I'm back everyone. I've been working hard on several pieces for you, but Blogger is imploding right now. Check back every so often for my updates, and hopefully I'l be able to get something out before too long. Hang in there folks.

Go Yanks!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

COH Pre-Season Review

This may be the last post at COH for a while. I’m leaving Japan for the US in a couple of days, and I may not have great access to a computer. If I can blog while I’m in the States, I will. If not, take this lengthy look back at my pre-season predictions and milk it. I’ll be at the July 19th 1:00pm game against the Mariners, sitting about 5 rows back on the 1st baseline. I’ll be the big guy wearing the navy “Matsui” batting practice jersey, sitting next to a Japanese woman (my wife). If you see me, say hello. I’ll be back in Japan and blogging daily on the 25th of July.

Back in March I wrote an AL East season preview. Some of the predictions have been remarkably accurate, while others a little dodgy. I thought the All Star Break would be a good time to reflect back on my pre-season ideas and comment on some of the more profound insights and idiocy. Without further ado, let’s start with the MLB predictions. Here’s what I thought would shake out in the larger picture:

American League

East: Yankees
Central: White Sox
West: Athletics
Wild Card: Red Sox

AL Champs: Yankees
AL MVP: Derek Jeter
AL Cy Young: Johan Santana

Okay. Sure I was going to pick the Yankees to win the AL East. I still think we’ll win the division. Blind faith in the home team? Maybe, but they’re still 3rd or 4th in baseball in Pythagorean wins. A lot of season to go. The White Sox in the Central was a fairly standard idea too. The World Champs added Jim Thome. What’s not to like. No one could have seen Detroit coming, and while they will probably still win that division, how will their magical pitching hold up in the playoffs? At least they’ll be there. They have a puncher’s chance, if not more. The A’s looked good to me on paper with the always reliable pitching of Zito, Harden, Haren and company. No hitting though. They are lucky to be in first in that terrible division, and truth be told, I expect the Angels to pull off a huge second half and overtake them and the Rangers.

As for individual player awards, I think Santana is the AL Cy Young as of today, but his rookie teammate Francisco Liriano may just steal his thunder before it’s all over. I wouldn’t want to face that rotation right now. Jeter was my AL MVP pick. I thought he’d contend for the batting title back in the 2 hole, and with that spot in the order I thought he’d transform his leadoff numbers into greater runs and RBI production as well. He started the season driving in runs at a previously unheard of pace. Before he went out for a few games with an injury he was on a 120 RBI pace or something. He’s cooled off on the RBI front, but it also has a lot to do with the fact that the later innings see the bottom of the order hitting in front of him and fewer chances to drive baserunners home. He still may win the batting title, but MVP will go to a guy with more thunder in his bat, like Thome, Hafner, Ortiz, or Giambi.

National League

East: Mets
Central: Cardinals
West: Dodgers
Wild Card: Braves

NL Champs: Cardinals
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
NL Cy Young: Pedro Martinez

The only surprise among my NL predictions is that the Braves died such a quiet death. They still have a few good starters to challenge a weak National League, but they’ve underperformed, as have the Joneses and Marcus Giles. Jeff Francoeur was hideously bad to start the season and had to go gangbusters just to get back to respectability. It’s too late for them to turn it around now, and I’ll take Cincinnati to win the wild card. Why not?

The individuals are no-brainers. Pujols is the best player in either league, and Pedro is dominating. If he can get himself back healthy, I think he’ll make a better case for himself as the NL Cy Young. Right now……..I think I’d give it to the Padres’ Chris Young, although I know Pedro will win out by October. He still has the lowest OBP Against among all starting pitchers in the NL.

World Series: New York Yankees defeat St. Louis Cardinals

This could still happen. The Yankees will need a healthy Matsui and/or Sheffield to get back the Fall Classic, plus better pitching from the Big Unit. St. Louis will need to outpitch the Mets in the NLCS to have a chance.

If I had to pick a World Series today, with a gun to my head, I’d probably go with the Angels against the Mets. I think the Angels havc sorted out their starting rotation issues with Jered Weaver looking like Cy Young, plus Guerrero hasn’t gotten hot yet. They have the best bullpen in all of baseball, and that counts in the post-season. The Mets are simply the class of a terrible NL. They are by far the best team and I think they have better front of the rotation pitching than the Cardinals. They also feature a far more well rounded lineup top to bottom.

AL East Preview

Predicted 2006 Order of Finish:
1. Yankees (97-65) (93-69)
2. Red Sox (92-70) (93-69)
3. Blue Jays (85-77) (87-75)
4. Devil Rays (72-90) (68-94)
5. Orioles (65-97) (71-91)

I stand by all of this, but I think the Yankees will come in at 93 wins instead of 97. The Pythagorean wins to date suggest this kind of pace. I’ve included the pace determined by Pythagorean Win Percentage in parenthesis next to the prediction above. I still think that the Rays will finish ahead of the Orioles. They’ve only recently had Baldelli, Cantu, and Gomes in the lineup together, and Huff is beginning to hit.

AL East MVP: Derek Jeter, SS-Yankees
AL East Cy Young: Roy Halladay, RHP-Blue Jays
AL East LVP: Corey Patterson, CF-Orioles
AL East Sigh Young: A.J. Burnett RHP, Blue Jays

So far the AL East MVP has been interesting. I’ll call the race as being between 3 players. Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Jason Giambi. All 3 of these guys has fueled the offense for their respective clubs, and all 4 have been nuclear at some point in the season. Right now it’s David Ortiz, so it’s tempting to pick him right out. Manny and Giambi each have a higher OPS than Big Papi though. I’m not swayed by the 9th inning fireworks that Ortiz sometimes produces. He’s still 3rd in OPS among these players and factoring in runners in scoring position, and RISP with 2 outs he’s also 3rd.

Both Manny Ramirez and Jason Giambi are statistically superior to Big Papi, despite the SportsCenter dramatics. In fact, the only place that Ortiz is a better player than Giambi or Ramirez this year is “close and late situations” where he is at a 1.054 OPS with 8 home runs in 52 ABs. Manny is .999 with 3 home runs in 38 ABs and Giambi is .821 with 3 homers in 32 at bats. I may have to give him the mid-season MVP for his overall play, including in big spots, but I think that Manny Ramirez is actually the more valuable player over the long haul.

Who is the AL East Cy Young? Is it Roy Halladay? I think it’s easy to say yes to that. He’s 12-2 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and a .244 BAA so far. The Jays have hung in the division race and are looking strong. His teammate B.J. Ryan also looks unhittable and is deserving of some recognition. You could also look to Jonathan Papelbon in Boston. Without him the Red Sox would have suffered through a number of meltdowns by Keith Foulke who looks lost sometimes, and probably would find themselves in 2nd place. I’ll stick with Halladay, but you could look at either closer as well.

The AL East LVP was predicted to be Corey Patterson, who I still can’t stand. He’s turned in a fair season so far, and has a ridiculous 32 stolen bases through the halfway point. He therefore can’t be the LVP of the AL East. Alas. That honor should go to Travis Lee of the Rays. He plays almost everyday while sporting a line of .197/.281/.291/.571 starting at FIRST BASE!!!!!!!! Oh my sweet heaven, if there is a baseball God please strike Tampa’s front office with a lightning bolt and get them some sense. How does this guy play in 71 games, getting 200+ at bats with those numbers, and play one of the premier power positions in baseball? Incredible!

The AL East Sigh Young could be A.J. Burnett considering he caught Pavano-it is shortly after signing his big off-season deal. He’s looked okay in his few starts though and there may be hope for him yet. The rest of the list would include in reverse order, best to worst, Matt Clement (6.61 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, .291 BAA), Shawn Chacon (6.71, 1.81, .296), Bruce Chen (6.78, 1.79, .341), and Seth McClung (6.81, 1.80, .304). That brings me to Mr. Awful, the 2006 Half Season LVP…..Josh Towers. Towers has produced, in 12 starts, a 9.11 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, and a stunning .355 BAA for the Blue Jays. If you check my comments on the Jays below, you’ll see that I predicted this as well. (Pats self on back.) Onto the team by team predictions:

New York Yankees Preview

I wrote:

The same pitching problems confront the Yankees in 2006, and there is no reason to believe we will see an improvement in the overall wins in the regular season. I believe the offense will stay strong and that the team will show improved results in beating the weaker teams in the division. Although Tampa is much improved under new ownership, there is no reason to believe they can post a winning record against the Yankees again.

The season will hinge on a return to form by Randy Johnson, more consistency from Mike Mussina, and solid contributions from a combination of Wang, Chacon, Pavano, and Wright. The bullpen appears to be improved and deeper, as long as Joe Torre uses his toys wisely and doesn’t wear them out by over-pitching them. The addition of Johnny Damon seems unnecessary at first glance and all the hype about him being a “real leadoff hitter” is ludicrous. The argument has been made ad nauseum that Derek Jeter’s numbers in the #1 hole were near the top in the league. Essentially, the Yanks look the same as they did a year ago with the same question marks, and the same strengths.

Same pitching problems: Yes.
Tampa vs. Yanks in 2006: Yanks up 6 games to 2.
Torre over-pitching bullpen: Check.
Yankees winning percentage in 2005: .586
Yankees winning percentage in 2006: .581

Looks like I made good on most Yankee points. How about players?

MVP Player: Derek Jeter – Look for a batting title, gold glove, and MVP trophy
MVP Pitcher: Mariano Rivera – No comment necessary

Bat to Watch: Bernie Williams – Can he get back near .300 for one more year?
Avert your eyes: The Yankees Bench – Who among these guys is a player?

Arm to Watch: Mike Mussina – Moose is 37 and seems to be slowly declining. We need him.
Duck!: Tanyon Sturtze – How long before Torre goes away from him in favor of new blood?

I’d say that the MVP player has been Giambi, and MVP Pitcher has been Moose. Bernie has been more important than anyone thought he would be and is hitting .282 as of today. That’s closer to .300 than I would have thought him capable. The bench has proved to be a sore spot, so I think I hit that one on the mark. Mussina has been the arm to watch, mainly because of his brilliance. Without him we’d be dead. I’d say the arm to watch in the 2nd half is Randy Johnson. Tanyon Sturtze speaks for himself. How long before Torre goes away from him… took a career threatening injury, exacerbated by Torre’s torturous overuse to take him from the bullpen.

Boston Red Sox Preview:

I said:

The Josh Beckett signing was the crown jewel of the winter for Boston, and he should account nicely of himself at the front of the rotation. His health is a gamble for the Sawx, but he’s got electric stuff as the Yankees well know, and could win some important ballgames for Boston this year. All those nice things aside, Beckett sports a WHIP of 1.235 for his career, and while his ERA is good, he’s about to enter Fenway Park and you should see a spike to a number closer to 4.00 this season. Like Pavano, Beckett is cashing in on a good arm and memories of the 2003 World Series.

Beckett’s ERA has in fact jumped to 4.75 so far this year, so the AL has been rough on him. His WHIP and BAA are right in line with his career numbers, but he’s given up 26 home runs by the All Star break. That accounts for the spike in his ERA. The odd thing is that my thoughts on Fenway haven’t panned out as he’s dominated his home games while giving up 22 of his 26 homers on the road. Hmmmm…..

The other holes in CF and SS were filled by Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzales, respectively. Crisp is a solid all around player that should see a spike in his offensive numbers in Fenway. He won’t put up the same kind of numbers that Damon leaves behind, but his 42 doubles last season were no fluke and he will hit to the gaps frequently in Southie. Gonzales is Silly Putty. He’s there to make sure balls don’t go through the infield. He has a career .682 OPS, which should tell the story.

Coco Crisp has not seen a spike in his offensive production with the Red Sox. In fact, he’s putting up some of the worst numbers he’s had since becoming an everyday player. There’s time for him to turn it around, but he’s got a .711 OPS so far and that looks bad. There are some injury issues that have affected his production, but he took a LONG time to return to the field, and it still didn’t seem to get him ready to play. Gonzales on the other hand is having a career year. It’s still a bad career, but he’s been better than advertised. I hope he returns to form in the 2nd half so the Yankees can overtake the Sox in the standings more easily.

The Sox are not as good this season as they were in either 2004 or 2005. Schilling is a year older and his famous ankle hasn’t improved. The rest of the pitching is decent but not lights out, with Clement, Paplebon, Wakefield, and the ever abrasive David “Tweedledum” Wells. Ortiz and Ramirez are as potent a 1-2 punch as there is in the league and virtually guarantee an above .500 season regardless of who you put around them. Mike Lowell is a favorite whipping boy in some circles, but I think he should account nicely of himself for the Red Sox. He has solid career numbers which should provide a better predictive sample than the dismal results he produced in 2005. To sum things up, the Sox are not the team they once were, but they are still a formidable opponent with a great home field and an aggressive front office. There’s no reason they can’t be near the top of the Wild Card race all year.

Clearly, I was wrong about Schilling. He looks exactly as he did in 2004, and his numbers reflect that level of play. Clement has been garbage. Wakefield has been so-so. Wells is the invisible man. How is this team in first again? Oh yeah. Ortiz and Manny. Plus, my prediction on Lowell was good. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t challenge for the division all year long.

MVP Player: Manny Ramirez – As good as Ortiz is, Manny is Manny
MVP Pitcher: Keith Foulke – If he doesn’t bounce back it’s over in Beantown

Bat to Watch: Adam Stern – “The Canadian Babe” could provide a welcome surprise to red Sox Nation
Avert your eyes: Alex Gonzalez – A career .291 OBP? Can you say Womack?

Arm to Watch: Curt Schilling – If 2006 isn’t better than 2005 by a wide margin the Sox are out of the playoffs.
Duck!: Tim Wakefield– Led the AL in home runs allowed last year with 35, and had 29 in 2004.

The MVP of this team in Manny, but you can see my division notes to see that Ortiz gets the edge on the half season. Foulke has only been the MVP Pitcher because he was so bad that the Red Stockings were forced to put Papelbon in the role of closer and found a gem. Blast. Schilling was the arm to watch, and like Mussina, has produced. The arm to watch for the 2nd half should be Beckett to see if he holds up. Adam Stern? Call it WBC fever. Wakefield’s homer total doesn’t look as bad as Beckett’s so I guess Beckett could be “Duck!”. Maybe Clement is a better “Duck!” though as he just plain “Sucks!”.

Toronto Blue Jays Preview:

I said:

There is enough hitting talent on this roster to succeed. A team that features Vernon Wells, Troy Glaus, Frank Catalanotto, Alex Rios, Eric Hinske, Lyle Overbay, Shea Hillenbrand, and Bengie Molina should have no trouble putting up runs. Likewise a rotation fronted by Roy Halladay, Ted Lilly, and Gustavo Chacin should prove tough on any team facing all three in a series. Add a healthy Burnett to the mix and you have the makings of an above average rotation. If Ryan can close effectively, you’ll see the Blue Jays become a thorn in the side of any number of teams throughout the season. They’re not in the same class as the Yanks or the Sox, but the fans should have some reason to cheer.

All of this has panned out according to my prediction, as the Jays are 6th in the Majors in runs scored, and the pitching has been good. Lilly is decent, but Chacin has struggled with some injury issues and has yet to string together a good run. Likewise, Burnett has only recently been reintroduced “to the mix” and the rotation gets an incomplete. Ryan has been effective and the Jays are indeed a thorn in the Yankees side.

MVP Player: Vernon Wells – Alpha and Omega for the Blue Jays offense
MVP Pitcher: Roy Halladay – If healthy, Toronto is in the Wild Card hunt

Bat to Watch: Alex Rios – Can he breakout in 2006 the way Toronto believes he can?
Avert your eyes: Russ Adams & Aaron Hill – Weak middle infield offensively.

Arm to Watch: Roy Halladay – The entire season depends on his health.
Duck!: Josh Towers– Posted a 1.71 WHIP in the Spring, and is always an adventure.

Wells is the best player on the club, and nothing has changed. Rios is challenging him for that honor, so the “Bat to Watch” was a good pick. Halladay is healthy, and the Jays are in the WC hunt. Check. Adams and Hill have produced .623 and .724 OPSes, respectively, so indeed avert your eyes. They suck. Finally, Josh Towers has been so bad that I earlier named him the 2006 AL East Sigh Young.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays Preview:

I said:

What they have now is a good start and should get them out of the basement this year. The Orioles will oblige them by fielding one of the worst teams in baseball, but they’ve also built a foundation. I like Jorge Cantu. His OBP isn’t great, but I think he’s a gutsy ballplayer who leaves it all out on the field. His power numbers are good and given some protection in the lineup he could turn out to be a solid regular for years to come. Sean Burroughs has always had the talent. He’s not a power hitter, but he can play ball. On a good team, he hits at the bottom of the order, but he’d do you proud down there. On this team he’ll be forced to hit higher up in the lineup than he should and that will hurt him. I expect big things from Rocco Baldelli this season. He never stood out as a Hall of Famer in the making, as Lou Piniella wanted us to believe, but he has a lot of tools and could evolve into a solid middle of the lineup guy, in addition to playing a good center field.

The pitching is the key. Scott Kazmir has a lot on his shoulders this season. He needs to turn into a legit #1 starter and show Tampa fans that there’s hope for the future. If he had a plus year, the Rays will go out and get a couple of real major leaguers to pitch with him. As it is now, Seth McClung will open the season as the #2, followed by Mark Hendrickson and Casey Fossum. Ouch. Kazmir needs to go out and post a win every 5th day to keep the momentum going. It’s a lot to ask of the young man. Is he ready?

Ugh. I actually called Cantu a “gutsy player who leaves it all out on the field”. Who do I think I am, Joe Morgan? Forget that crap. His OBP is bad, his power has gone south, and he’s been bad. I think Johnny Gomes stole it from him actually. I think Cantu will get his power back, but he needs to hit 6th on this team to avoid his crappy OBP destroying the team’s chances to drive in runs. I still like him though.

Sean Burroughs?!! I REALLY must have been drinking the Devil Rays Kool-Aid to talk about him. He’s not even a player on the team these days. He produced a typically crappy .190 average for the limited time he was in the lineup, and for all I know he’s a monk on some mountain somewhere. I also take back the line that I said, “Sean Burroughs has always had the talent. He’s not a power hitter, but he can play ball. On a good team, he hits at the bottom of the order, but he’d do you proud down there.” He sucks. He shouldn’t be on any team, anywhere.

Baldelli has come back and played very well. He doesn’t hit for power yet, and really never did in the minors, but he’s a legit talent that should be in centerfield and hitting at the top of the lineup.

MVP Player: Jorge Cantu – His attitude can keep a losing ballclub motivated to the end.
MVP Pitcher: Scott Kazmir – The team is on his young shoulders

Bat to Watch: Delmon Young – What does he bring to the table for this franchise?
Avert your eyes: Tropicana Field - The worst sports facility in major sports.

Arm to Watch: Jason Childers – Good minor league reliever who has looked strong in camp.
Duck!: Casey Fossum– Led the AL with 18 hit batsmen last year. (FYI…Derek)

Again, I talked out my ass about Cantu. Forget it. Forgive me. The MVP of this team is Carl Crawford, who is on pace for 20+ homers, 60+ steals, and is hitting for an .880 OPS so far. Johnny Gomes is a close second. Kazmir is the only pitcher that the team has, but he is a 22 year old phenom. He’s legit and they stole his ass from the Mets. Idiots. Delmon Young and his brother have both shown bats to watch this year, and have both shown criminal tendencies to watch as well. Delmon Young would be playing for the Rays right now if he hadn’t been a little spoiled psycho-punk and thrown a bat at an umpire. He remains the bat to watch for Tampa, as well as the rap sheet to watch. The Arm to Watch was Jason Childers, who started the season with the team out of a strong Spring Training, but wasn’t ready as got sent to Durham where he’s been completely mediocre. As for Fossum and his hit batsmen, he leads the AL East with 8 HBP, which is also good for 4th overall in baseball. In fact, he hit Jeter on July 9th in the final game before the break. I said, “FYI…Derek” didn’t I?

Baltimore Orioles Preview:

I said:

Gone are Sidney Ponson, B.J. Ryan, Sammy Sosa and Raffy “HGH” Palmeiro. Also gone are there chances of staying out of the basement in the AL East. Of Jeff Conine, Corey Patterson, and Jay Gibbons does not an outfield make. Javy Lopez is being counted on to play first, catch, and DH. The DH option is the only one that makes any sense to me. Brian Roberts had a fine year last season, by all accounts, but will never approach the same success again. There’s less protection in the order now. Count on the Orioles to give away as many runs on defense as they produce with their bats.

Let’s take this point by point.

1. The outfield has Jeff Conine (.845 OPS in 33 games), Corey Patterson (.741 in 80 games), Jay Gibbons (.807 in 48 games), and Nick Markakis (.683 in 78 games). Conine has played much more 1B this year, so I exclude him from the mix. Markakis has received a majority of the playing time and has been poor. Let’s quickly compare these guys to Melky (.733), Damon (.837), and Bernie Williams (.739). The average OPS for the Orioles starting outfield is .744, while the Yankees replacement players and Damon have produced a .770 average. That should tell you how bad the Birds outfield is.

2. Lopez has been fortunate to receive most of his time at DH, so the Orioles are saved his terrible defense. Ramon Hernandez’ bat has kept him in the lineup and at the top of the catcher’s lists for hitting as well.

3. Brian Roberts has put a nice half season in on the basepaths, but his .745 OPS is not much better than the middle infielders of the Jays. In fairness, he’s having a career year in steals, and is doing what he always does.

The first, second, and third rules of baseball are all the same. Pitching is everything. In Baltimore this season, pitching is nothing. Lopez, Benson, Bedard, Cabrera, and Chen are their starting rotation. None of those guys are top pitchers, and while each is solid in his own way, they will struggle in their 57 games against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays. That’s not to mention the games they will play against Oakland, Anaheim, Chicago, and Cleveland. They’ll be lucky to pick up 35 wins in those games. The final word is, trade Tejada and Mora and rebuild Baltimore. That stadium is too beautiful for such ugly baseball.

How have the Birds’ starters faired in games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Oakland, Anaheim, Chicago and Cleveland? At this point the starters named above factored in 33 decisions, producing a 12-21 record against those teams. The remaining 13 games were either decided by the pen or involved a replacement starter of some kind. It’s not looking good for 35 wins.

MVP Player: Miguel Tejada – Duh.
MVP Pitcher: Jim Palmer – Why not? I have to pick somebody.

Bat to Watch: Melvin Mora – A hitter’s hitter. Watch and learn.
Avert your eyes: Donald Corey Patterson – How does a guy with a career .293 OBP start?

Arm to Watch: Daniel Cabrera – Young kid should make an impression at some point.
Duck!: Anna Benson– Will make a bad season worse with her mouth.

The MVP is in fact Tejada. Duh. The MVP pitcher has turned out to be Bedard who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last month or so. The bat to watch hasn’t been Melvin Mora, who has been very bad, but rather Ramon Hernandez who is a pleasant surprise on an awful roster. Avert your eyes belongs to Luis Matos, who sports a .600-ish OPS. Daniel Cabrera has control issues that may or may not ever be resolved. Mazzone or no. Anna Benson’s mouth has been insignificant, largely because the Orioles are insignificant. She did file for divorce because her hubby is playing the field, but actually is anyone surprised by that. She was more interesting with the Mets.

That’s the end of this long review. It should be interesting to see how this whole thing plays out for the second half. The Yanks will finish in 1st. Jason Giambi will be the MVP, narrowly edging Manny Ramirez. Halladay will keep his club in the playoff hunt, but the rest of the rotation will fall short. The Rays will overtake the Orioles.

That’s it. See you again soon. I’ll make sure to leave the Buddha Babe Ruth at the front door when I finally leave for the States. Until then, enjoy the All Star festivities and see you on the other side. Go Yanks!

Don't Let this Happen!!!

There is no need to be alarmed, but I'd rather address this now so it is said. In today's Truth&Rumors over at SI, a report is quoted from the Riverside Free Press, stating that the Angels are looking at Daisuke Matsuzaka. See for yourself:

"The Angels are eyeing star Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who earned a win at Angel Stadium on his way to becoming the MVP of the World Baseball Classic. -- Riverside Press Enterprise"

I found the original article entitled "Angels See Stars in the East" and browsed it for evidence of anything unsavory from a Yankee perspective. The Angels signed a young Korean pitcher and plan to get more active in Asia from here on out. I think that's on the mind of a lot of clubs these days, but the names I always hear associated with Asian scouting are the Mariners, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets. At this point there aren't many more serious players in the market, but that will soon change.

I don't mind seeing Asian talent spread out over a larger spectrum of the Majors. It's good to see the emergence of the Asian ballplayer in the modern game. It shows the international reach of the sport, and the ability of this new breed to cross the ocean and break the stereotype of Asian people as somehow athletically inferior. Someday you may see the same influence on the game that Dominicans have had in the recent past.

My problem is not at all with the Angels newfound love for the Asian market. My problem is that everybody better keep their filthy hands off Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's bound to draw ridiculous interest. The highest bidder gets to negotiate exclusively with young Daisuke, so teams have to submit secret dollar amounts to the Seibu Corporation and only after the highest number has been determined will the victor know they've won the sweepstakes. It gives the Japanese company a huge advantage when they have a hot commodity like Matsuzaka. Teams who want him badly enough are bidding against one another, but they're also bidding against the phantom value of exclusive negotiating rights. If you want to bring the kid to your team you have to outspend everyone else just to talk, so you will likely overpay Seibu to have a simple conversation. As to the question of whether Seibu will "post" him for bidding, the company is in serious financial straights, and hopes to win the Japan Series this year so they can more easily let him go and reap the profits. We should all be cheering for the Lions this season. Either way the bottom line may dictate selling him to the US.

Ordinarily, I'd say it isn't worth it to go over the top, but deep in my heart I know that this flamethrowing, knee-buckling 25 year old is one of the best 7 or 8 pitchers in the world. Think Francisco Liriano with more seasoning. He's championship ready today. Plug him into the front of the rotation, and do a better job of managing his pitch count, and you'll have yourself an ace pitcher for the next 10 or more years. Overpay George. For God's sake don't let these other Johnny-Come-Latelies get their grubby mitts on "The Future". He's a Yankee. Don't let him wear the Angels' Red.

Update: The Braves and Indians are in on the Asian signing action!!! Hurry up Yanks!

Cross-posted at Matsuzaka Watch.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Francisco Liriano

This is not Yankee related, but you should watch this if you are a baseball fan. Francisco Liriano features a bunch of Bugs Bunny pitches that should keep him a frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award for the next 15 years. If you haven't seen him pitch, click this link and watch the video of his 8 strikeouts. The kid is absolutely FILTHY!

Johan Santana and Liriano in the same lineup? Is that even fair? Interesting to see what the Twins do in the Wild Card race in the 2nd half. Stay Tuned.

Charles Schultz eat your heart out. ;)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ground Control to Major Wang

Our boy, Chien Ming Wang is on a roll. He throws in a poor start on occasion, but he's been one of the best pitchers in the league since the start of May. In fact, after his disappointing start against Boston on May 1st, Wang has done this:

8-3 record, 1 save
91 IP
3.66 ERA
1.22 WHIP
2.93 to 1 GO/AO ratio

Among pitchers who have made 15 or more starts, Wang has the lowest home runs allowed total(7 in 19 starts) of any pitcher with the exception of Jeremy Bonderman(6 in 18 starts)and Brad Penny (7 in 18). He's efficient too. He's 3rd among Major League starters in pitches per inning at 13.84 P/IP. Only Roy Halladay and Greg Maddux throw fewer pitches per inning than Wang. That's good company.

Just think. Last year Chien Ming Wang started the season at AAA and now he's as important a player in pinstripes as anyone on the entire team. Where would we be without this "homegrown talent"? Think about this. In 36 starts for the Yankees, which amounts to roughly a full season of healthy pitching, Wang is:

17-9 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and a .267/.317/.366/.683 batting line against.

Thanks for competing every time out CMW. Keep it rolling. Literally. By the way, while I'm on the subject of East Asian pitchers, Daisuke Matsuzaka made his latest dominating start on Saturday and pitched a 10 inning complete game for the victory. Read the details over at Matsuzaka Watch. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Saving Private Torre

It's looking increasingly like Matsui and Sheffield will be back in September. How good they'll be is anyone's guess. I've been watching the daily updates on Matsui's rehab here in Japan and he's actually wearing his glove and playing catch now. He was throwing a football to keep his arm in shape, but now he's got a fielder's mitt and is playing soft toss.

Sheff claims that he's training with a boxer, and is about 5 pounds overweight, but otherwise strong and healing quickly. Dotel will be back shortly after the All Star Break, and Cano will return at that time as well. Reinforcements are on the way....

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wilbur and Orville Would Be Proud

Was that the game of Jaret Wright's life? It certainly appears to have been. 6 innings, 91 pitches, 4 hits, no walks, 10 strikeouts. He did all that with a 1-0 lead and held it against a pretty good lineup. The last time he was even close to that good was.....last August 22nd against Toronto. He went 7 shutout innings in that one. He had a little more run support then, as the Yanks put up 7 runs for him.

Looking back over the last 3 and a half seasons, today was certainly the best he's pitched. In 2003 he was a bullpen pitcher splitting time between San Diego and Atlanta. In 2004, he caught fire with Leo Mazzone and the Braves and recaptured some of his former starting mojo to produce a 15-8 record and a career best 3.28 ERA. In 2005 Wright cashed in on his terrific year in Atlanta by stealing a free agent contract from the reckless spending Yankees. Pavano joined him in an offseason that looks more and more like a gigantic joke from a pitching perspective. He only appeared in 13 games for the Yankees with a 6.08 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP. Injuries marked the early part of the season this year for Wright, but he's come back to make good account of himself at the back of the rotation. He's thrown a few clunkers, but it's hard to complain about the outings he's had overall. From the #4 position in the rotation he's held his own and kept us from completely sinking.

Today's outing is also remarkable considering where Wright has come from prior to 2003. Between 2000 and the end of the 2002 season he appeared in a grand total of 24 games for Cleveland, throwing 99 innings with a 7.27 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP. Career over, right? Wrong. San Diego took a chance that he could provide long relief, and 3 and a half years later he pitches a 6 inning shutout with no walks and 10 Ks. Think he's going to celebrate tonight?

You have to award Wright the Yankee Medal of Honor for his performance and hope that he gives you outings even half that good the rest of the way. If he can go 6 innings each time and keep his ERA at its current 4.23 we'll have stolen a break in an otherwise tough season. By the way, if his ERA stays at 4.23 it will mark the second best average of his career. Thank you Jaret Wright. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Yankee Notes: July 7th, 2006

A couple of tidbits from SI's Jon Heyman. In his latest article, "Break Up the Phillies", Heyman talks about the Yankees a number of times. The article should probably be called, "Shake up the Yankees" given its trade deadline and free agent speculations. I'll cut and paste a few items and comment on each.

• When his name was first floated on the trading block early last winter, Abreu told people he was hoping to go to either the Mets or the pre-fire-sale Marlins. But now Yankees officials think he'd accept a trade to the Bombers. Abreu loves New York and owns a condo in the same midtown Manhattan building where Johnny Damon lives. "I don't think he'd mind [going to the Yankees],'' Wagner said. "Bobby Abreu's a good guy, but he's not a vocal leader. The one thing you have to know here [in New York] is, you have to come every day. He's got a real laid-back attitude.''

If the Yankees sign him, it means an end to Gary Sheffield in the Bronx. How fast will he hurry back from the DL if Abreu is sitting in right field every night. Try quicksand fast. Not that it matters. Abreu sports a career .302/.413/.509/.922 line, is left handed, and is 5 years younger than Sheff. For the record, Sheffield's career line is .298/.398/.525/.924, so you're basically replacing fire with younger fire if the Yanks pull the trigger. I see only two real problems with a move like this. One, if we have to give up Wang, Cano, or Hughes it's a bad deal. Two, it makes our lineup SUPER left handed, especially when Matui returns.

• Several teams, including the Yankees, are scouting Yomiuri Giants power hitter Seung-Yeop Lee, the biggest slugging star from the World Baseball Classic, who leads the Central League with 26 home runs and a .646 slugging percentage. Lee's a free agent at year's end. According to one scout, "He's good but not quite as good as [Hideki] Matsui.''

I've written about the Lion King a number of times at COH. He's a very good player and should be in the Major Leagues. If the Yankees were to go out and acquire him in the off season, it would spell an end to both Andy Phillips days in pinstripes and Giambi's days as a first baseman. One of those is good and the other is not so good. You decide which I'm talking about. Check the links in this section for my past pieces on Lee, but I'll tell you that he's on his way to an MVP award hitting cleanup for the Yomiuri Giants and spent the offseason shredding WBC pitching to the tune of 5 home runs in 7 games. Keep an eye out for news on this one. I think the Angels, Mariners, and Dodgers are the likely destinations for him, but the Yankees would be an intriguing situation.

• While Yankees manager Joe Torre said the other day he'd prefer obtaining an outfielder rather than a pitcher, GM Brian Cashman -- who, believe it or not, actually appears to still be calling all the shots -- puts pitching first. One big reason is the decreased production from Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small. The pair is a combined 4-7 with a 7.30 ERA this year, compared to 17-3 with a 3.02 ERA last season.

The recent debates both here and at Bronx Banter about acquiring a bat or an arm seem to be simultaneously occurring between the clubhouse and front office. Let's see what happens...

• Yankees fans may find fault with Alex Rodriguez, but A-Rod's popularity is strong enough to get him onto a Wheaties box. The deal will be announced next week at the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.

Boooooooooooooooooo.......Wheaties only give you nutrition in the morning when you're sitting around reading the paper. Wheaties never gives me what I need when it really counts....when I'm in a long meeting at 4:30 in the afternoon, and it's almost quitting time. I have no energy. The coffee I drank has long since worn off, and I need to deliver a presentation to the boss. Where is Wheaties then. Such an "unclutch" breakfast food.

(Sorry about the terrifying picture of Mary Lou Retton. It's so horrible, yet I....can't.....seem to......look.................away)

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Yanks Win with Guiel

The Yanks showed some guts in turning around their July 4th thumping and administered an ass-whooping of their own against the Tribe Wednesday,11-3. Moose was great. Melky was great. The hot dogs tasted better. The beer tasted better. All is right with the world.

One note of interest. You know this by now, I'm sure, but the Yankees claimed outfielder Aaron Guiel off waivers from the Kansas City Royals. He's a Canadian boy with a flair for the dramatic. I don't mean baseball drama, I mean like "Canada:World Police" kind of drama. Check out the picture from the 1999 Pan Am Games where Guiel and a Cuban player subdue a protester who ran on the field. Kick ass Aaron!

As for the baseball side of things, Guiel has showed he can handle the bat a bit. He's kind of a career minor leaguer, or a AAAA type player as some may like to call him. He's played in over 1100 minor league games over the last 13+ years, and only 263 Major League contests. At AAA, he went .285/.387/.516/.903 in 609 career games, but only managed to produce .245/.320/.412/.732 in 263 Major League games over 5 years. His minor league numbers show some promise, and he's a very good fastball hitter. You can say that about most AAAA players actually. It's the offspeed stuff that keeps them from a regular Big League job. Guiel is a solid bench player against right handed pitching, but shouldn't see any time against lefties. Against lefties his numbers are fugly.

That works out just fine because Bernie Williams is fugly against right handed pitching this year, but looks All World against lefties. Do I smell a platoon?

Guiel is an upgrade defensively, and the key factor is his power from the corner outfield position. He may not hit consistently, but in 128 games he hit 32 doubles, 4 triples, and 30 home runs at Omaha in 2005. He hit 17 home runs in 80 games between Rookie, AA, AAA, and the Royals in 2004. In 2003 he played a combined 151 games between KC and Omaha and hit 39 doubles and 23 homers. 30 of the doubles and 15 of the home runs were in the Majors. He can slug given the opportunity, so it looks like a great pickup for a platoon.

Go Yanks.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Bombs Bursting in Air

19-1 is no way to celebrate a holiday.....well, unless you are on the "19" end of things. That loss was totally inexcusable and should result in a ferocious series of phone calls between Steinbrenner and Cashman. I'm guessing that they will be placed at around 4am and that only one of the parties on the line will be "talking".

The debate that I alluded to in yesterday's post continued at Bronx Banter during the so-called ballgame, and I think has yet to be resolved. Not that it has to be resolved, but it tells us something about the Yankees right now that we're debating a number of problems all at once. Clearly the offense is struggling. It's expected on a day when Torre starts 4 AAA players at the bottom of the lineup. Phillips, Cabrera, Reese, and Green were all hitting in an awful bunch at the end of the order and didn't do a thing all day. There's plenty to worry about when we are sporting that kind of lineup on the Boss' birthday, in his hometown. Not smart.

The debate about the offense, and getting a bat, is still off the mark to me. We don't need another bat as much as we desperately need another decent starter. I'm not talking about a good starter. I'm talking about a guy that will give up less than 5 runs over 6 innings. We'll do the rest. Right now, Wright and Chacon can't get out of the 4th or 5th inning most nights, and recently Chacon can't get out of the 2nd. That forces us to overextend our already horrendously overworked bullpen, and probably severely hurts their effectiveness in ballgames that we have a chance to win. As I see it, the bullpen is mediocre, but managable. The pitching is abyssmal at the end of the rotation, and we need to use our resources to address that situation more than the hitting.

You may say, "The Yankees offense is bad since Matsui and Sheffield went down. We can't score. We are at the league average 4.3 or so per game in run scored in that time. We can't win."

The thing is, I just did a little research. The Yankees have been scoring plenty. Here's a little breakdown for you with some milestones to solve the mystery of our sluggish O.

May 12th Matsui is injured. From May 12th until the end of the month we scored 107 runs in 19 games for an average of 5.6 runs per ballgame. Not bad.

Sheffield joins Matsui on the DL on June 1st. From June 1st until the June 24th rainout against the Marlins, the Yankees scored 103 runs in 20 games for an average of 5.2 runs per ballgame. It seems that even injuries to our two power hitting corner outfielders couldn't dip us below 5 runs a game. (Over 162 ballgames, 5 runs per contest equals 810 runs. That's more than 2 of the last 5 World Series champions scored in their victorious seasons. Arizona scored 818.)

This is where things get ugly. June 24th sees the Yankees and Marlins get rained out. The game is made up as part of a split double header the next day. On June 25th, Mussina outduels Dontrelle Willis 2-1 in the first game. In the second game we lose 5-0 and Robinson Cano goes down with an injury. That is the key. In the 10 games since the rainout in Florida (including 8+ without Cano) the Yankees have scored 37 runs for an average of 3.7 per game. If you exclude the recent 16 run explosion against the Mets, we have averaged 2.3 runs over 9 games.

I think the key is Robinson Cano's absence. Or rather, the absence of 3 key hitters in our lineup. Our average dipped slightly from 6.2 runs over the 1st 32 games to 5.6 when Matsui went down. When Sheff joined Matsui on the DL the average went down again to 5.2 per game. Without Matsui, Sheffield, and Cano we have averaged under 4 runs a game. I would hold off on analyzing the effect of Cano's addition to the walking wounded until we played without him for 19-20 games, so the sample sizes match up better, but he'll be back soon and thankfully we won't need to find out how the data materializes.

I would argue that Bernie(.719 OPS) and Melky(.693) replace Matsui(.807) and Sheffield(.811) with slightly below average players, but the dropoff from Cano(.792) to Cairo(.564) is far more severe and has really hurt the hitting. You lose a combined .206 points from the order with the 2 replacement outfielders, but you lose .228 between Cano and Cairo alone. The loss of the outfielders created a 1 run deficit in the team average, but a similar drop in OPS from one regular position player has had a similar effect on the overall runs scored.

That's why I think you'll see the scoring increase with the return of Robinson Cano. If any bat needs to be acquired, it should be a good hitting backup infielder so we don't have to watch Miguel Cairo stumble around like a drunk with a Yankee uniform on. The pitching is where it's at. That having been said, I'd like to examine a few pitchers I think would help shore up the back end of the rotation. These guys would be available without sacrificing Hughes, Wang, or Cano in my opinion. Here we go, in no particular order...

1. Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates - LHP, 24 years old
Strenghts: Excellent GO/AO ratio, keeps the ball on the ground. 24 years old and lefty.
Weaknesses: 11 hits and 4.5 walks per 9 innings means a lot of baserunners.

I wrote about Maholm the other day as an option. I don't know if he'll end up sucking it up in the end, but I'll take a 24 year old lefty that keeps the ball on the ground anyday. His ERA in the minors peaked at 3.58 at AAA after being in the high 2's at the lower levels. He also had a 1:2 walk to strikeout ratio, which means he has it in him to locate the ball better. In his last outing against the Mets, he went 6 innings and only gave up one run, although his WHIP was 1.67 in that game.

2. Livan Hernandez, Washington Nationals - RHP, 31
Strengths: Good veteran pitcher who doesn't give up many runs.
Weaknesses: Lingering injury issues, high asking price, down season in 2006.

In the end, Livan Hernandez won't be a Yankee because the Nationals want too much for him. The price will eventually come down as offers fail to make headway around the league. Someone will throw away a perfectly good player to acquire El Duque's brother, but I don't believe it will be us. He'd help though....if he could stay healthy that is....

3. Jon Lieber, Philadelphia Phillies - RHP, 36
Strengths: Sick control. Doesn't beat himself with walks. Was good in pinstripes.
Weaknesses: Coming off a groin injury. A lot of balls in play...

Lieber was a good Yankee. It was a mistake to let him go. He's exactly what we need right now, a guy who can go 200+ innings when healthy who doesn't walk the ballpark. The Phillies are 5 games in back of the wild card chase and 6 games under .500, but they may want to hang in there until it looks worse for the post-season. He may be available near the deadline if the Phils look out of it.

4. Phil Hughes, Trenton Thunder - RHP, 20
Strenghts: No trades necessary. Wicked stuff dominates minor leaguers.
Weaknesses: A bad experience in the bigs could hurt his confidence. Is he ready?

I wrote a piece about bringing Hughes to the Bronx a little while back. I think it may be a bad idea, but it's out there. Liriano and Jered Weaver are carrying the load for their teams and dominating big league hitters. Liriano is 22, Weaver is 23. They have a little edge in maturity on Hughes. Highly touted guys like Cole Hamels and Chad Billingsly have seen mixed results in their limited MLB service this season, but have shown flashes. Others are doing it as well, and some are really helping their teams. Hughes, in his last 6 starts, has gone 3-1 with a 0.72 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. It's the mental part that will keep him in the minors until next Spring Training at the earliest. Still....he's out there.

One additional note: upon further review, Scott Kazmir is only 22 years old. He was brought up to the Rays when he was 20 years old and had only pitched in 8 games at AA. Overall he pitched in 49 minor league games, with 41 at the A ball level. Phil Hughes has pitched in 37 games with 12 at AA Trenton. Kazmir was both good and bad in his first callup with the Rays in 2004, but dominated Boston as he continues to do today. He's now one of the best ace pitchers in all of baseball. I'm not saying Hughes is Kazmir, but we might learn something from that experience that could help us THIS year.

Any ideas from the peanut gallery?

The MVP's not on the team?! What?!

That's the question that we'll all be asking if and when Jason Giambi is awarded the American League' sMost Valuable Player trophy at the end of the season. What team isn't he on? The All Star team. Why? Because Ozzie Guillen is a dick. Sorry to put it that way, but it's true. He's a dick. The uber-fantastic blog "Fire Joe Morgan" is an everyday read for me, and occasionally inspires me to write something scathing. They do it best. They wrote a great piece on Guillen's obnoxious and "dick-ish" All Star selection process. All White Sox, all the time.

Anyway, the tale of Jason Giambi's comeback started on July 4th, 2005. It is the one year anniversary of his big return, and the splits between Independence Day last year until the end of the regular season, and the start of the 2006 campaign until July 4th is strikingly remarkable for it's consistency. Check it out:

76 games - 66/231(.286) 154 TB, 27 HR, 65 RBI, 52 R, 67 BB, 11 HBP
72 games - 66/242(.273) 153 TB, 25 HR, 65 RBI, 53 R, 60 BB, 10 HBP

Overall, that's a line of .279/.451/.649 and an OPS of 1.100! The totals are:

148 games - 307 TB, 52 HR, 130 RBI, 115 R, 127 BB, 21 HBP

Still 14 games to go until he reaches 162! I guess that's not good enough to make it on Ozzie Guillen's All Star squad. I'd like to take a look at David Ortiz' last 148 games to compare. He's the guy that all the sports "experts" love the most after all, and he's starting at 1B. Plus, I'd like to look at Albert Pujols' numbers over 148 as well. It should give us some context for Giambi, since Pujols is universally regarded as the best player in the game today.

JG's 148 - .279/.451/.649/1.100, 52 HR, 130 RBI, 115 R, 127 BB, 21 HBP
DO's 148 - .280/.399/.608/1.007, 50 HR, 139 RBI, 109 R, 105 BB, 3 HBP
AP's 148 - .323/.443/.664/1.107, 49 HR, 126 RBI, 124 R, 107 BB, 6 HBP

So, there you have it. Giambi = Better than Big Papi, and hangs tough with the best guy in the sport. If he hit over .300, he'd be as good as Pujols. But, he's not an All Star. Konerko's an All Star. Good for him. Nice to have a raving lunatic for a manager.

In the end, Giambi will have the last laugh, as he becomes the 1st player in Major League history to win the MVP award without being selected to the All Star Game. The campaign starts today.

Happy 4th of July.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jesus Montero

FYI....The Yankees signed super-hyped Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero (16) on the first day of eligibility for international free agent signings. Players who will turn 17 by September 2006 are available to Major League ballclubs, and it's these moments that can often swing the future of an organization. Scouting and signing the right players via international free agency is key.

Montero is reported to be powerful and has talent beyond his years. It is speculated that he will eventually be moved from catcher to 1st. One of the bright spots about the Montero signing, beyond the immense talent, is that the Mets and Red Sox were after him as well. Sox fans will be disappointed after coveting him since he appeared in Spring Training at their camp. That's the Yankees advantage. We can throw a $2 million signing bonus at a 16 year-old kid that people BELIEVE is going to be a future star. If I had a dollar for all those guys out there, I'd have....well.....probably something like $2 million. Let's hope he's the next coming of Albert Pujols.

Tony Pena's son, Francisco, is also a highly touted catching prospect and has drawn interest from the Braves and Yankees.