Honestly, I can’t find myself too mad about this. Yeah, I know, we’ve seen this movie before and it didn’t have a good beginning, middle, or end. But, that was in the past. Since then, Pavano’s thrown 420.1 innings of healthy ball. In that time span, he’s displayed great control (1.6 BB/9) and has kept a beyond solid 4.03 FIP. If his name wasn’t “Carl Pavano” we all would’ve been on board with signing this guy to be the fifth starter; he definitely passes the “Better-Than-Mitre” test, too.
Look, I know many of you are going to be pissed about this because of what happened in 2004-2008. But, honestly, I can’t find myself getting mad about this. I understand the bad taste many of you still have in your mouths, but as I Tweeted earlier, a GM’s gotta do what a GM’s gotta do. It would’ve been irresponsible for Yankee GM Brian Cashman to not at least look into the idea of re-acquiring Pavano.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that much. Pavano took a guaranteed second year to return to the Minnesota Twins. This more or less came out of no where, and it’s ending no where. Would I have loved Pavano coming back to the Yankees? Maybe not, but that would have more to do with the price–the MLBTR article indicated a high salary deal was discussed–rather than who the pitcher was.
Note: Excludes relievers with games started greater than 0 and games finished greater than 20. Source: Baseball-reference.com
Assuming Mariano Rivera remains healthy, Soriano will have the chance to gun for the immortal closer’s 5.4 WAR, which was compiled asJohn Wetteland‘s set-up man in 1996. At the very least, he’ll be expected to make up for the loss of Kerry Wood, whose contribution was pretty incredible in only 26 innings. Along with Rivera, Soriano will join two other relievers on this list: David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain. If all three right handers can pitch to top form, the Yankees bullpen could feature the best quartet in recent memory, not to mention one of the better one-two punches in franchise history.
At this point, Ivan Nova is probably New York’s #4 starter. That’s important because even if the Yankees go out and sign a reclamation project or innings eater (or Andy Pettitte), Nova will still probably edge out Sergio Mitre in the Yankee rotation. He will be an important piece of the 2011 team. I’ve never been Ivan Nova’s biggest fan, but I finally caved in and ranked him the #8 overall prospect in the Yankee organization. I acknowledge the two major things that Nova brings to the table: he is a healthy, MLB-ready starting pitcher, and he’s got the ability to get hitters out fairly consistently. There’s a lot of value there – Nova’s a pretty sure bet to hang around the majors in some capacity for some time. I think (mainly due to his very strong fastball) that he’s got a better than average chance of being a mid-4s ERA type pitcher, who pitches a decent number of innings while keeping the team in the game. I recently compared him to Joe Blanton in that regard.
Unlike Blanton, who mixes his pitches, Ivan Nova mostly relies on a really good fastball to get hitters out. It averaged 93 mph last season according to Fangraphs, spiking as high as 97. Both his 4-seam and 2-seam fastballs move pretty well, and when Nova is doing well he generates ground balls from that movement. He also throws a curveball – a robust 25% of the time last season – even if its fairly lackluster. He doesn’t get any serious number of strikeouts from it, and doesn’t really throw it for strikes much. Nova’s bread and butter will always be throwing hard, moving fastballs, and at this point there’s not much hope of changing that. However, I think that marginal improvements in control, his curveball, and possibly his changeup could have big impacts on his performance.
I think that small improvements can have a big impact for one main reason: Nova’s biggest problem is that he threw too many pitches in the major leagues. In a season where he averaged 6.3 innings per start at Triple-A, Nova failed to pitch 6 innings in 6 of 7 starts. He ran pitch counts up high in part because he was afraid to throw strikes to batters – something that he only sometimes struggled with in the minor leagues. Despite not striking out a ton of batters, Nova has always been generally hard to hit hard. If he can grow a little more efficient, he’ll give up 3 or 4 runs a game, but if he pitches into the 7th inning no one will notice too much.
If Nova can find a way to pitch 6 innings per start on average, he should be able to put up something like 200 innings (Shouldn’t be too hard – he pitched 187 in 2010) and a 4.40-4.70 ERA per season. That’s valuable. He’d be the best starter on the Royals right now, and better than AJ Burnett was last season. If he’s a little worse than that, the Yankees may want to consider a bullpen conversion. He’s a flame thrower, and his fastball would play better in short stints. Still, we’re not anywhere near that point right now. The Yankees have a cheap, young, flexible option who has never had a hint of health issues right now ready to pitch in the major leagues.
My first thought was “Wow, I’m surprised they did that.” My second thought? “Sucks to be him.” My third thought? “The Yankees better not even think of signing this guy.” There are probably some people who want to do it, but I just don’t see Galarraga as any sort of good fit. The “Better than Sergio Mitre” bar is a pretty low bar to clear, but I’m not sure Galarraga does.
In his third year with the Tigers, Galarraga’s put up a semi-respectable 4.49 ERA (93 ERA+) in 144.1 innings. Both of those totals are ones for which the Yankees would sign up for to get out of the fifth starter. However, I do not think that Galarraga can put up those numbers again? Why? A bunch of reasons.
Galarraga strikes nobody out. And I mean NOBODY. His K/9 this year was under 5 (4.61). He didn’t walk many in 2010 (3.18/9; 3.52 for his career), but he served up his fair share of homers: 1.31 per nine, and that was actually a drop from the previous year’s 1.50 mark (1.42 career). His FIP? 5.09. His xFIP? 5.44. Those marks look very similar to those from ’09–5.47 and 5.02. His ’09 ERA was 5.64. In 2008, his ERA/FIP/xFIP combo reminds me of his 2010 slash: 3.73/4.88/4.49. In 2010 and 2008, the years in which Galarraga had acceptable ERAs, we see him outperforming his peripherals. EDIT: 11:20 AM: I forgot to mention this: Galarraga also doesn’t get many grounders. His career GB% is 40.4, but that’s buoyed by a 43.5 mark in ’08. In both ’09 (39.9) and ’10 (37.3), he was under 40%.
Basically, the only positives for Galarraga are that he’s (at least temporarily) available and has decent control. The negatives? No strikeouts, too many home runs, not enough grounders, and crappy peripherals. This is an easy, easy pass–or at least it should be.
"Let's flip a coin. Heads they win, tails we lose"
EJs piece from yesterday presents an opportunity for me to delve into what I think is a much misunderstood topic, and that’s how most MLB managers use their relievers and bullpen. Let’s start out by saying we all understand that much of what goes on in the bullpen is overrated. For those who need a refresher course, check out this review of a Bill James’ piece on THT. As the old saw goes, most relievers are failed starters. The reason some of them failed as starters is they couldn’t get hitters from both sides of the plate out. In other cases, they didn’t have a 3rd (or sometimes 2nd) pitch of MLB quality, so they can only go once through a lineup, if that. Still others are situational pitchers, where a guy throws a sinker/slider combo and can get you a ground ball when needed. So you begin from the premise that you’re generally dealing with a bunch of pitchers with enormous platoon splits and/or limited weapons to work with. With that out of the way, here were EJs rules for using Soriano:
In a close game, Soriano comes into innings 5-7 in any situation with the starter out (or gassed) with less than 2 outs, a runner on second or third base and a right-hander coming up to the plate.
If no situation presents itself by the 8th inning, Soriano pitches the 8th inning.
Against top lefty hitters with runners on base in a close game, Feliciano or Logan relieve Soriano. He stays with no runners on base and against most lefty hitters.
Most of his rules are solid, but using your best relief option in the 5th and 6th inning is a bit extreme. First, you have to consider where you are in the other team’s batting order, which EJ doesn’t address. It may be a high leverage situation, but if you’re facing the opposition’s #8 and 9 hitters then you should be able to trust one of your setup men to get the job done, or they shouldn’t be on the roster. Leverage looks at the situation, but not the batters due to come up. A manager has to consider that as well. Facing Adrian Gonzalez with men on base in a one run game is a more worrisome to me than facing Jed Lowrie. Lowrie can’t hurt me the way A-Gon can. I’m not using Soriano for Lowrie, but might for Gonzalez (though Soriano’s platoon splits are an issue there).
But the biggest problem I have with this is using your best reliever so early. If you spend your best option in the 5th and pull him for a Lefty in the 6th (as he suggests) then what do you do when one of your lesser relievers gets into trouble in the 7th? You’re too far away from Mo, and have now managed yourself into a menu of bad options. Everyone from fans to broadcasters to beat writers will be killing the manager for panicking in the 5th, and since they’re dealing in the facts of what transpired and you’re arguing game theory, it’s a losing argument. Yes, even if Soriano bailed you out of a jam.
I’m all for the ‘fireman’ role, but freely admit there is a fundamental flaw to it. You’re using your best weapon too early, so if you get into trouble in the interim between him and your closer, you’re screwed. ‘Firemen’ make more sense in the NL, where you have weak bottoms of the order to deal with and can call upon a lesser pitcher to bridge the gap between the fireman and closer. In the age of deep lineups and the AL East it’s much harder to pull off. People forget that bullpens have pecking orders for good reason. The idea is to husband your limited resources in the bullpen, and always have a better option backing up the pitcher who’s on the mound should he get into trouble. If you reach the 9th with a lead, you don’t mess around and bring in your best to put the hammer down. That’s solid reasoning. If a manager uses his bullpen that way and it doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean the thought process was bad, just the result. Nothing works all the time.