Thursday, March 6, 2014
After a delay of one hour and 26 minutes, the skies cleared and Tanaka was able to turn in an interesting three-inning outing against the Phillies. He allowed a solo Freddy Galvis home run and one other hit, recording a strikeout with no walks, but said that he did not feel at the top of his game.
Asked to explain, Tanaka replied with a smile, “Because I’m human. I just can’t be perfect every single day.”
Tanaka may be a harsher critic than Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who said that he was “very pleased” by what he saw from the right-hander. Tanaka threw 25 of 41 pitches for strikes, recording a swinging strikeout of Chase Utley on a nasty 0-2 splitter.
“Obviously, he understands how the ball felt coming out of his hand better than I did, and the pitches that he made, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Girardi said.
So far, so good!
TAMPA — With pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker sidelined by injuries, the Mariners are actively looking for help.
Their search led them to George M. Steinbrenner Field Tuesday night to take a look at Yankees starter David Phelps against the Orioles.
The Mariners had a scout watch Phelps, who is the leading candidate to be the Yankees’ fifth starter but who could be expandable with Adam Warren or, possibly, Michael Pineda finding his way into that slot.
Phelps danced in and out of trouble during a 2 ¹/₃-inning stint in which he allowed a run and five hits.
“It would be nice to get somebody out out of the stretch,’’ said Phelps, who worked on a changeup that got hit. “If that is as bad as it gets, I will take it.’’
Yankees scouts are searching spring training camps for help at third and second base. With Robinson Cano entrenched at second, the Mariners might move Nick Franklin, although it would likely take more than Phelps to pry Franklin away.
Franklin would be a nice pickup, but you wonder what else the Yankees would have to add to Phelps to get him.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Looking Ahead to 2014 - Brett Gardner
I was on vacation when the surprising news came that the Yankees had extended Brett Gardner for four seasons. Gardner’s become one of my favorite players and I was certain he would be gone after this year since the Yankees had signed Jacoby Ellsbury to his horrendous contract.
Extending Gardner was interesting for two reasons. The first is that it seems to signal a shift from the Yankees’ general aversion to extending players before they enter free agency. The second is that it gives us evidence that the Yankees are cognizant that a player that Gardner is valuable even if his value comes in ways that traditional offensive statistics don’t fully capture.
woba: Weighted on-base average
oWAR: Offensive wins above replacement level, position-adjusted
Gardner followed up a 2012 season essentially lost to injury with a very good 2013. He set a career high in plate appearances and slugging percentage, although his OBP was down a bit and he wasn’t very aggressive on the bases, stealing successfully only 24 times in 32 attempts compared to 47 of 56 and 49 of 62 in his preveious two full seasons. Gardner missed the second half of September with a rib cage injury but should be healthy to start 2014.
Gardner will be in left field this year, which means his offensive value relative to position will be a bit less. But he projects to hit a hair above the average LF with a wOBA of .321 (average LF is usually around .320). The significant amount of time he missed in 2012 is suppressing his playing time projections in CAIRO and ZiPS here. Then again, Gardner tends to miss time for various reasons so it’s probably not realistic to pencil him for 650 PA this year.
2014 CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
I think the gains Gardner made in power last year were real as his swing appeared a bit stronger. His line drive percentage of 23.3% was higher than the 18.6% and 19.4% he put up in 2011-2012, and he hit the highest percentage of fly balls in his career. Losing some grounders may cost him some batting average, but the increase in power may help him recoup some of that in other ways. Because of that, I think Gardner’s 65% forecast is reachable.
One of the points of contention regarding Gardner’s value is if he’s really as good as the defensive metrics think he is. I do think defensive metrics need to be taken with a grain of salt, but when all the systems come to the same basic conclusion I feel more comfortable that they are close to the truth. He projects more around average as a CF but elite as a LF. Keeping a second true CF on the team is probably important given Ellsbury’s frequent “fluke” injuries. As Gardner ages, we should expect his defense to get a bit worse, but he should be above average in LF through the duration of his contract.
Defense here is just adding his CF and LF projections. As a full time LF he may be worth 2-3 runs more. And you can add even more if he can exceed his average projected 548 PA.
The Yankees are likely valuing Gardner closer to 4 wins this year. That would put him around 12 wins over the next four seasons using a 0.7 win per year decline. That means his contract would pay him about $5M per win. It would also add a win to the Yankees’s in 2014 vs. his 3 win projection.
Can he do that? I wouldn’t bet against him.
My guess is Gardner will be hitting ninth this year, which is sub-optimal. But I can’t imagine the Yankees won’t lead off Ellsbury with Derek Jeter batting second so I don’t see anywhere else where he’d fit.
I’m happy Gardner will probably be a Yankee for the next few seasons although he does not have a no-trade clause so he could wind up elsewhere. I just find myself more emotionally connected to players who came up through the Yankee system and with the Core Four down to one there are only a handful of those guys on the team now.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Looking Ahead to 2014 - Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter made a somewhat surprising announcement a few weeks ago that he would be retiring after this season, although I suppose it’s not so surprising given his age and his health issues last season. While he could change his mind, I doubt it.
Because of his broken ankle in the 2012 ALCS, Jeter wasn’t able to do his normal conditioning work in the 2012-2013 offseason. Because of that he never got healthy enough to contribute much.
woba: Weighted on-base average
oWAR: Offensive wins above replacement level, position-adjusted
It was a disappointing followup to a great 2011 where he led MLB in hits. Jeter claims to be healthy now and ready to go, but his health is probably a major concern this season.
Jeter still projects to provide better than replacement level offense relative to other shortstops, but a large part of his value will be tied into how often he can play. CAIRO and Steamer are essentially projecting the same performance for Jeter this year, while Oliver and ZiPS are in agreement that he will be less productive.
2014 CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
I thought Jeter was done after 2010 but then he had a strong 2011 and an even better 2012. I would not be surprised to see him at his 65% forecast, but I would bet he’ll be around the baseline in both rate stats and playing time.
I’ve been blogging about the Yankees for 10 years. WTF? Anyway, in that time, I’d guess I’ve written more about Jeter’s defense than any other singular topic. Except maybe about how awesome Mo was. We can debate the precision of the various defensive metrics and how accurately they capture Jeter’s defensive value like we have for 10 years, but I feel comfortable saying Jeter will almost certainly cost the Yankees runs on defense this year, like he has throughout his career. If Jeter plays half of the games at shortstop he projects to be about 9 runs below average. It will be interesting to see if Joe Girardi is willing to use Brendan Ryan in late innings of close games.
Yankee shortstops hit .228/.286/.312 in 645 PA in 2013 and were somewhere around 20 runs below average defensively. I’d like to think the combination of Jeter and Ryan can do better than this year.
Jeter’s the last link to an era that was one of the best times ever to be a fan of the Yankees. Yes, he was overrated by many. No, that’s not his fault. The farewell tour will likely get nauseating at times, but I’m sure the Rays will make up for it with a hideous sand sculpture of some sort.
It will be tough to see Jeter go, but I prefer that to the alternative of seeing him playing past the point of usefulness and dragging the team down. I don’t think we’ll see that in 2014.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Anyone searching for a jarring visual experience should have seen CC Sabathia throw against the Phillies on Saturday.
The fact that his fastball traveled at a molasses-slow (for him) 88 mph wasn’t the real story. It was how he looked after cutting 30 pounds over the winter.
The folks behind the plate can tell you. When facing them full-front, no problem. But once the formerly corpulent left-hander turned into his windup, well, it looked like a baseball was thrown from the Invisible Man.
OK. You figured it out. We’re just making a joke about CC’s new, svelte figure. After all, 275 pounds and the word thin can only appear in the same sentence under relative conditions, such as “CC has trimmed himself to a thin 275 pounds from the three bills and change he soared to last summer.”
And so, the jokes. But there is a serious side to this, and it has nothing to do with a radar gun. Sabathia’s speed either will or won’t improve as the Yankees move closer to Opening Day. But whether it does or not, anyone who knows baseball knows that location and movement have just as much to do with pitching success as speed and power. Sabathia will never become a finesse pitcher, but if he hits enough spots and his fastball has enough action on it, regardless of speed, he’ll be fine.
I have no idea if we should be worried about CC’s velocity after one spring training start, but I am not exactly enthused by the fact that he was topping out at 88 mph. I’ll reserve my concern until we have a few more starts though.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
If you missed the game, don’t worry. We’ve Gif’d up every single pitch her threw so you can experience his first public outing just like you were there.
Before we begin, let’s quickly summarize the current scouting reports for the Japanese import:
- His primary pitches are a Fastball, Slider, Split-Finger, while he also mixes in a Curveball and Cutter, and is working on a Changeup.
- His Fastball often sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but can rear back and hit 97+ when he needs to. Not a whole bunch of movement.
- The Split-Finger is the special pitch that sets him apart. It’s his bread-and-butter, and he will find success if he’s commanding it effectively. It’s the pitch everyone is dying to see.
- His best breaking pitch is his Slider, with his Curveball acting more as a ‘show me’ pitch. The Slider isn’t the most consistent pitch, but can be devastating when mixed properly with his Splitter and Fastball.
What a neat resource! Tanaka definitely looked good. The splitter he threw to Revere was amazing. It would be like porn if you were turned on by really good pitches.
Tip of the hat to Snuggles, who gave us the head’s up of this awesome article.
CC Sabathia has grown tired of discussing the diminished velocity of his fastball, so the Yankees left-hander shrugged when he was informed that it had topped out at 88 mph in his first start of the spring.
“My fastball is what it is. If it gets better, it will,” Sabathia said. “If it’s not, it won’t. I can pitch. I’m fine. As long as I’m healthy, I’ll be good.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that any chatter about Sabathia’s velocity does not concern him.
“I don’t make much of it,” Girardi said. “That was something people wanted to make a ton about last year, and I’m not going to make much of it. To me, if he’s downhill and locating, I don’t care what his velocity is. He’s going to get people out.”
My issue with these quotes is not that I think that CC throwing 88 right now is a major deal, as I do not. He has plenty of time to add some speed to the fastball. But this notion that it doesn’t matter how fast CC’s fastball is is just not accurate. It is an issue if CC’s fastball tops off at 88 MPH. Is it as significant as CC not locating the fastball? No, I would agree with Girardi that that is a bigger concern, and obviously plenty of pitchers used better locating to make up for their reduced fastballs as they got older and CC could easily be one of those pitchers. But reduced velocity on your fastball not only makes the fastball easier to hit but it also hurts CC’s excellent change-up, since there is less of a difference in speed between the changeup and the fastball. I do not believe that it was a coincidence that last year, with his fastball velocity at the lowest it has ever been (just over 91 MPH), that not only did hitters drive his fastball more than ever before (an ISO of .194 - up from .184 the year before and .144 the year before) but right-handed batters also crushed his change-up (an ISO of .187 after being under .100 for the previous six seasons).
So while I don’t think anyone should be freaking out or anything like that, as we have to see how CC will adjust to his new velocity (not to mention the possibility that he will gain MPH the more he pitches), I also don’t think anyone should be blowing it off as if the velocity of his fastball is not an issue at all.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
When Masahiro Tanaka tried on his Yankees pinstripes earlier this month, he said that there was no particular team or player that he was looking forward to facing. They’d all be new, and so each assignment would be a terrific challenge.
Tanaka is preparing for the first of those tests. The right-hander is scheduled to make his highly anticipated spring debut on Saturday against the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field (1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV), entering in relief to begin the fifth inning.
“I understand there’s going to be a lot of attention on the results, the numbers of what I do out there,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “But for me, I’m not looking at it at all. I just want to go out there and pitch my style out there and see how it is on the mound.”
I am pumped!
Girardi also hinted as to when Tanaka would pitch in the rotation during the season:
While Girardi has not yet locked in his rotation for the regular season, he revealed on Friday that it is “pretty safe to say” that Tanaka’s first start is lining up for the third or fourth game of the year—either April 3 in Houston or April 4 in Toronto.
I think that that is very smart. Anyone know how that lines up with the Yankees’ first game against Boston?