Oct 272010

Joel Sherman and George King had the scoop:

CC Sabathia was diagnosed with a minor meniscus tear of the right knee that will require surgery, The Post has learned.

Sabathia was diagnosed yesterday at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days. The Yankees do not consider the procedure significant and expect Sabathia to recover within three weeks and be fully ready for spring training.

Nevertheless, the worry with signing Sabathia to the largest-ever pitching contract always had been the two Ws: weight and workload. He has carried a lot of both, and, thus, it is hard to look at any surgery — especially on a joint — as minor.

The Yankees already are planning a full-court press for free agent Cliff Lee, and any concerns about their ace, Sabathia, only would make the Yankees more motivated to solidify the top of the rotation.

While the writers do make a valid point about needing help at the top of the rotation, one could argue that injuries like this can help make a case against Cliff Lee. As EJ noted earlier, there are risk inherent to signing older players, one of which is an increased likelihood of injury. Even a minor injury to a pitcher who is considered a “horse” might drive home the idea that handing a large contract to a pitcher on the wrong side of 30 may not be the most prudent idea. I still prefer Lee and would not shy away from handing him a big deal, but I am sure that health and age are two considerations that Brian Cashman will weigh when putting together an offer for the star lefty.

As for Sabathia, I am not a doctor and therefore cannot comment as to whether we should be concerned about his health going forward. I will say that many have told me that this is an outpatient procedure and should not be indicative of an underlying problem that could cause a recurrence. Hopefully this surgery becomes nothing more than a footnote to an otherwise healthy Yankee career for CC.

We looked at the Yankee savers and drainers on the offensive side of things yesterday, so today, let’s look at the pitching side of things. Again, we’ll go top 9 guys in fWAR order.

1. CC Sabathia, 5.1 fWAR worth $20.4MM. Salary: $23MM. Value: -$2.6MM
2. Phil Hughes, 2.4 fWAR worth $9.5MM. Salary: $0.447MM. Value: +$9.053MM
3. Andy Pettitte, 2.3 fWAR worth $9.2MM. Salary: $11.75MM. Value: -$2.55MM
4. Mariano Rivera, 1.7 fWAR worth $6.8MM. Salary: $15MM. Value: -$8.2MM
5. Joba Chamberlain, 1.4 fWAR worth $5.6MM. Salary: $0.487795MM. Value: +$5.1122MM
6. A.J. Burnett, 1.3 fWAR worth $5.2MM. Salary: $16.5MM. Value: -$11.3MM
7. David Robertson, 0.7 fWAR worth $2.9MM. Salary: $0.462650MM. Value: +$2.437MM
8. Ivan Nova, 0.5 fWAR worth $1.8MM. Salary: N/A. Value: N/A
9. Kerry Wood, 0.4 fWAR worth $1.5MM. Salary (Yankees only): $8.3279MM. Value: -$6.8279 $2.0279MM. Value: -$0.5279MM.

Ivan Nova’s salary wasn’t listed on Cot’s, but we can assume he gave the Yankees at least decent value because there’s no way he made anything close to $1MM this season. Kerry Wood’s value looks a lot worse than it is because the Yankees picked up most some of his salary from Cleveland and with just 26 innings for the Yankees, there’s no way he could’ve come close to matching his value he came close to matching his salary with them, but couldn’t quite get there.

CC Sabathia’s high salary makes him look less valuable, but the fact that he came so close to matching it just goes to show how awesome a pitcher he is.

Phil Hughes was essentially the pitching version of Brett Gardner: cost controlled talent producing at a relatively high level and giving the Yankees a ton of value. Hughes hits arbitration for the first time this year, so it will be interesting to see what his salary is going forward.

Joba Chamberlain, also arbitration eligible for the first time, provided a good deal of value for the Yankees, too–the second most on the team after Hughes. It’s worth noting that fWAR likes Joba a lot more than bWAR which had him at 0.4 WAR.

A.J. Burnett…well, yeah. The numbers speak for themselves there.

Mariano Rivera’s numbers look odd because he’s so highly paid, yet as a closer, he doesn’t pitch enough innings to rack up a very high WAR. Rivera did have the fourth highest fWAR among AL relievers, behind Matt Thornton (2.2), Joakim Soria (2.1), and Neftali Feliz (1.8).

Oct 212010

Ed Price checks in with an interesting tidbit after speaking to CC Sabathia:

CC Sabathia says he is available in relief tomorrow for #Yankees. “I can probably throw 45 pitches, 50.”

While I hope that the need for CC does not present itself and that Phil Hughes can hand a lead directly to the primary relievers, this bit of information does highlight the way Joe Girardi needs to manage Game 6. With CC available for about 2 innings and the entire bullpen rested, Joe Girardi needs to have a very quick hook with Phil Hughes. If Phil starts to look shaky, puts a few runners on, and allows a run or two, a reliever needs to be ready to take his place and stop the bleeding.

In an elimination game, there is no use in planning for tomorrow. If Hughes needs to be pulled in the 3rd to keep the game in reach, Girardi must do so. If the situation calls for two innings from both Wood and Rivera, Girardi must do so. If you lose Game 6, there is no tomorrow, so you need to use your best options as early as possible to try and give the offense a chance to win the game against Colby Lewis and the Texas bullpen.

Game 6 is, quite obviously, a must win game. Joe needs to manage that way.

Oct 212010

CC Sabathia did not have his best stuff yesterday. In 6 long innings he allowed 11 hits, and frequently fell behind hitters because he could not locate most of his pitches. However, in the immortal words of Rangers manager Ron Washington, the Rangers had Sabathia bended, but he did not break. He did not walk any batters, and allowed just two extra base hits. In this way he was able to scatter baserunners over his 6 innings and allow just 2 runs. Let’s take a look at the key outs he got in this game and how he got them.

Top 1: 0 outs, Andrus on 1st, Young at plate:

Elvis Andrus reached to lead off the game, and it looked like the Yankees might be in for another poor first inning. CC threw 5 fastballs to Young, with the first two being high and the next two hitting the outside corner. The 5th came inside for the first time since the first pitch of the AB, and Young pulled it to short, where Jeter started a double play. The play became even more important when Josh Hamilton singled two pitches later.

Top 2: 2 outs, Kinsler on 2nd, Treanor at plate:

CC fell behind Treanor with 3 outside pitches, one of which nicked the outside corner to set up a 2-1 count. CC came inside for the rest of the AB, with a fastball for a strike and the a slider too far inside for a ball pushing the count to 3-2. CC came back with another slider close enough to the zone to force Treanor to swing over the top of it and end the inning.

Top 3: 2 outs, Andrus on 3rd, Hamilton at plate:

Andrus reached on an infield single, moved to second on a groundout, and then stole third. CC started the AB with a slider low and inside for a strike, and then moved to the low outside corner for four consecutive pitches, 3 of which missed to result in another 3-2 count. The next pitch was up and outside, but Hamilton bailed CC out and hit a soft liner right at Jeter, who snagged it to end the threat.

Top 4: 1 out, Cruz on 2nd, Kinsler, then Francouer at the plate:

Kinsler saw three fastballs on the inner half, fouling off 2 to fall behind 1-2. CC then came in with two sliders in the dirt, and Kinsler swung over the second to end the at bat. Jeff Francoeur was next, and he hacked at a first pitch fastball down the middle and grounded out to shortstop.

Top 5: 1 out, Andrus on 2nd, Young on 1st, Hamilton at the plate:

The Rangers had just scored their first run on a homer from Matt Treanor, and were trailing by just 4 runs when they put two runners on for their best hitter. One swing of the bat could have erased most of the Yankees lead, and Hamilton had already touched CC for a 3 run homer earlier in the series. Hamilton swung over a slider low and outside, and then let the same pitch pass for a ball to move the count to 1-1. CC then changed Hamilton’s eye level with a fastball up in the zone, and the likely AL MVP topped it to Rabby Cano to start an inning ending double play.

Top 6: 1 out, Bases Loaded, Treanor, then Moreland at the plate:

Ignoring the fact that neither of these hitters should have been allowed to bat by their manager, this was where CC showed his mettle by buckling down and not breaking. Treanor saw two changeups to the up and away portion of the strikezone, one of which went for a called strike and the other was fouled off. After three straight balls, two of which were actually strikes, Treanor fouled off one fastball before grounding the next one to 3rd for the RBI groundout.

The lefty Moreland then had an 8 pitch at-bat that represented CC’s last action of the night. Outside of a ball on the 2nd pitch that missed the inside corner, CC peppered the outer half with sliders and fastballs, throwing one ball while drawing a swinging strike and four foul balls. CC finally ended the at-bat by coming back inside with a beautiful slider that hit the inside corner and caught Moreland looking.

As you can see, CC had to deal with runners in scoring position in every inning but the first, and allowed just one of those runners to score. He got the big outs when he needed them despite not having his best stuff, and helped keep the Yankees alive for another day.

We’re just a few hours away from first pitch in Arlington for the ALCS and here’s what’s swirling around my head on a rainy Thursday night after a fourteen hour work day (you, of course, will be reading this on Friday morning).

Just to get it out of the way, I’m predicting the Yankees will win the ALCS in five games. I’m not sure which game they’ll lose, I just think they’ll lose one. Winning in five would be nice because it would mean a second straight ALCS victory at home, and the more the team can celebrate in Yankee Stadium the better. I wanted the Yankees to play the Rangers instead of the Rays and I’ve gotten what I wanted. Hopefully, the Yankees can follow through on their end of the deal. Of course, I’m very confident that they will. Still, one thing is puzzling me.

I’d rather the Yankees start CC Sabathia on three day’s worth of rest in Game Four instead of A.J. Burnett, regardless of the score of the series. This really has nothing to do with Burnett–okay, mabye a little–I just want the Yankees’ best starter lined up to start in Game Seven. That’s also not to say that I don’t think Andy Pettitte could handle pitching in a potential Game Seven, I’d just rather have the team’s best pitcher out there when the season is on the line. However, the way they have it set up is that no matter what, the worst SP of the bunch will only pitch once in the series. That’s fine with me.

This article by Brendan Prunty is a must read. It just goes to show (again) how great a hitting coach Kevin Long is and how hard even the most talented players, like Robinson Cano, work on perfecting their crafts. If I ever again hear anyone say Robinson Cano is lazy, I’m going to slap that person in the face with a tire iron. Who’s with me?

Lastly, there’s this tweet from beat writer Mark Carig. Answering that question is nearly impossible and you could make a case for each one. For example, Adrian Beltre didn’t lead the Red Sox to a playoff spot, but he had a fantastic season and provided great value considering his relatively low cost.

For the Yankees, we could argue that A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira paid for themselves by winning the 2009 World Series. The value/cost argument also holds true for the 2010 Yankees in regards to Marcus Thames. He was signed to a Minor League contract and ended up performing at a much higher level than we would’ve expected.

My ultimate answer, though, would be combining the value/cost versus raw performance arguments. After all, raw performance is what you really want, right? No matter how much or how little you sign a player for, you want him to put up big numbers. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs, that’s really not his fault, is it? I mean, do we blame the aforementioned Beltre for the Sox missing the playoffs? He did everything he could to make sure the Sox DID make it. If you can get a guy to play well AND have a relatively low cost, then you’ve won that signing in every way possible.

Brian Cashman’s disclosure that the Yankees would use four starters in the ALCS hardly comes as a surprise.  By eliminating the off-day between Games 4 and 5, MLB made it significantly more difficult for teams to use three starters in the first round as the Yankees did last year.  Of course, it’s still possible.  It would simply mean that Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes would all go on short rest in their second start, and Sabathia would be on short rest for Game 7, if necessary.  But Cashman simplified things for us when he seemed to announce that Burnett would make a start in the ALCS.  Chad Jennings reports:

This afternoon, Brian Cashman left a little bit of wiggle room on the Yankees using A.J. Burnett as their fourth starter, but he didn’t leave much.

“In this next round, the schedule dictates that we’ll have four starters,” Cashman said.

Does that mean Burnett will be the fourth?

“Yeah, that’s what I believe would be the case,” he said. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow, but yeah.”

A few minutes later in a 25-minute conference call, Cashmen went just a bit further: “We’re going to have our meetings, but if we have to go with a four-man rotation, it will be A.J. Burnett.”

There is a bit of wiggle room in Cashman’s words here.  It’s hard to decipher what “if we have to go with a four-man rotation” means.  The schedule is what it is, and it’s up to Cashman and company to decide whether they want to use a four-man or whether they want to push Sabathia, Pettitte, Hughes and then Sabathia out there on short rest in Games 4 through 7.  It’s probable that Cashman is simply hedging, not wanting to give away more information than necessary.  All indications appear that Burnett will start. So will he start Game 4 or Game 5?

As Steve S. laid out yesterday, having Burnett start Game 5 appears to be the most attractive option.  If Burnett starts Game 5, the rotation could break down like this:

Game 1, Friday 10/15: NYY @ TB/TEX: Sabathia v. James Shields/CJ Wilson

Game 2, Saturday, 10/16: NYY @ TB/TEX: Pettitte v. Matt Garza/Colby Lewis

Game 3, Monday, 10/18: TB/TEX @ NYY: Hughes v. David Price/Cliff Lee

Game 4, Tuesday, 10/19: TB/TEX @ NYY: Sabathia v. Wade Davis/Tommy Hunter

Game 5, Wednesday, 10/20: TB/TEX @ NYY: Burnett v. Shields/Wilson

Game 6, Friday, 10/22: NYY @ TB/TEX: Pettitte v. Garza/Lewis

Game 7, Saturday, 10/23: NYY @ TB/TEX: Sabathia v. Lee/Price

This operates under several assumptions.  For one, it slots in Pettitte ahead of Hughes in the rotation.  The Yankees ignored Hughes’ home/road splits in the ALDS and it worked out rather well.  Further, Pettitte pitched superbly in Game 2, so there’s no reason to suspect the order would change in the ALCS.  This order also assumes that the Rays or Rangers will not turn around and start David Price or Cliff Lee on short rest in Game 2 or in Game 6.  This is a reasonable assumption at least for the Rays, given that they didn’t do it facing elimination in Game 4 of the ALDS.  It appears reasonable for Texas and Cliff Lee, but it’s hard to handicap given that they have yet to face an elimination game with an inferior starter on the mound.

The advantages of starting Sabathia three times and Burnett in Game 5 are many.  The most obvious one is that Sabathia would start three games, including a potential Game 7.  The more CC the better (which is apparently the approach CC takes with his diet!  Zing!  Love you CC).  The second advantage is that it allows the Yankees to throw their best starter against the worst starter of the Rangers or Rays in Game 4, which becomes a big advantage for the Yankees.

The downside to this plan is that pushes Sabathia hard in the ALCS and lines him up to pitch Game 1 on the World Series again on short rest.  This would be his third consecutive short rest start, and if the Yankees were to continue the short rest pattern and have him start Games 1, 4 and 7 in the World Series like he did in the ALCS then CC would end up starting 5 consecutive games on short rest.  It’s unlikely that the Yankees would want him to do this, and it’s also unlikely that both the ALCS and the World Series will go to seven games.  Sabathia does have a decent record on short rest .  In 2008 he started three consecutive times on short rest for the Brewers at the end of the regular season and then started again on short rest in Game 2 of the NLDS.  In those regular season starts he pitched 21.2 innings, allowing only 2 earned runs for an ERA of 0.83, striking out 21 and walking only 4.  In Game 2 of the NLDS though he was less effective, giving up 5 earned runs in only 3.2 innings against the Phillies.  Perhaps the heavy workload caught up to him.  In 2010 he started on short rest twice, in Games 4 of the ALCS and the World Series.  In both games he was strong, throwing a combined 14.2 innings, striking out 11 and walking 5, and allowing 4 earned runs.

Regardless, the Yankees by and large need to manage the ALCS with the ALCS in mind.  Quite obviously, they need to win the ALCS before they can truly worry about the World Series, so they have to manage the ALCS to maximize their potential to advance.  If the ALCS goes to seven games it won’t matter how the rotation lines up for the World Series.  The team will need to win to get in.  As such, the Yankees should pursue this plan.   The only exception, I’d argue, would be if the club was up 3-0 going into the Game 4.  In that situation one could make the case that they should save Sabathia’s arm and start him in Game 5 on regular rest.  But the team will need to make the decision before they know what the series score is after three games, and the best course of action appears to be to have CC start Games 1, 4 and 7 and Burnett start Game 5.

One final thing to note is what happens if the Yankees win the ALCS in less than seven games.  In this optimal and awesome scenario, Sabathia will have started Games 1 and 4, the latter on short rest, and then would start Game 1 of the World Series on a week of rest.  Depending on Burnett’s performance, the team could decide to go with a three man rotation in the World Series, lining up Sabathia for Games 1, 4 and 7, Pettitte for games 2 and 5 and Hughes for Games 3 and 6.  Games 4 through 7 would all be started on short rest, but for Pettitte and Hughes it would be their last start of the season.  With the World Series on the line, one has to imagine the Yankees would at least consider this option.  Hopefully we’ll be talking about it in two weeks.

Oct 072010

Of all the moves that a manager makes throughout a game, the one that I think can be attributed most to ‘feel’ rather than pure statistical data is the decision on when to pull the starter. Often, the pitcher’s stuff will give clues that he is losing effectiveness, and it is up to the manager to gauge whether he can count on the pitcher to get a few more outs without losing effectiveness. It is a difficult decision that is ripe for criticism when it backfires, particularly because managers will often ignore the signals from the pitcher due to the favorable nature of a matchup or the reputation of the pitcher. During last night’s playoff game between the Yankees and Twins, both managers were faced with this difficult decision in the 6th inning.

In the top of the inning, Francisco Liriano struggled for the first time in the game, allowing 2 runs to score and putting runners at 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. The batter was Curtis Granderson, a hitter who traditionally struggles against lefties and has particularly bad numbers against Liriano. However, Liriano looked fairly gassed, and has been a 6 inning and 100 pitch pitcher all season. Additionally, lefty Jose Mijares was ready in the bullpen and could have been used to maintain the platoon advantage against Granderson. Ron Gardenhire decided to go with the previously favorable Liriano v. Granderson matchup, and Liriano’s tiredness cost Minnesota the lead. Granderson tripled to right-center to score two runs, knocking Liriano from the game for the lefty Mijares, who retired Brett Gardner.

In the bottom of the inning, Joe Girardi was faced with a similar choice. CC Sabathia had struggled with his command all game, but had been able to limit the damage to 3 runs over 5 innings. Now armed with a one run lead, he started out the inning by retiring Joe Mauer and then Delmon Young, with Young flying out to the wall in left. CC’s command then abandoned him, and he walked Jim Thome, allowed a double to Michael Cuddyer, and then walked lefty Jason Kubel. With rookie righty Danny Valencia coming to the plate and Dave Robertson ready in the pen, Joe Girardi had a tough decision to make. CC had clearly lost the plate, but Valencia had looked lost in two previous at-bats against CC, both strikeouts. Furthermore, CC did not look particularly tired, nor had he lost any movement or velocity. He simply was exhibiting the lack of command that plagued him all game. Girardi decided to stay with his ace, and just as that choice had burned Gardenhire, it cost Joe’s team the lead. Valencia walked on 4 pitches to force in a run, and JJ Hardy came to the plate to face Sabathia. Again Joe chose to leave CC in, and this move worked out as Hardy struck out on a beautiful 2-2 changeup.

As I said in my introduction, these sort of decisions are quite difficult. Managers tend to get lost in the head-to-head matchups of Liriano v. Granderson and Sabathia v. Valencia and ignore the fact that their pitcher has lost effectiveness and is not the same guy who has retired the batter in the past. On the other hand, I can understand why managers might have more faith in their ace pitcher than a reliever. The ace is a known quantity, as you have some feel for how he is pitching that night. Conversely, you never know if a reliever is going to have an off night until he serves up a fat one and costs you the game. Personally, I believe in a quick hook in the postseason and would have removed both pitchers from the game prior to the discussed at-bats. However, I do not think either manager made a particularly egregious decision is staying with their aces, and would not complain much if Girardi made the same “mistake” again later this postseason.

What would you have done?

Sep 072010

The flaws of the Win statistic are so obvious that it is hard to imagine anyone taking it seriously as a good indicator of pitcher talent. So much that goes into earning a Win is outside of the pitcher’s control – his defense, his offense, the quality of the opposing pitcher that day, and how his bullpen performs after he exits the game – that it’s far better to look at other stats when evaluating a pitcher’s talent or trying to compare pitcher to pitcher for awards purposes.  Even ERA, which has clear shortcomings, is far superior to the Win.

The mainstream usage of the Win continues, though, in spite of obvious evidence of its relative uselessness.  There are several reasons for this. The Win is easy enough to understand and interpret.  A pitcher with a lot of wins is supposedly good; a pitcher with few wins is supposedly not so good.  It’s a binomial stat – you either get a win or you don’t – and there’s no average to calculate, no linear weights to compute, no long division necessary.  The official scorer tells you at the end of the game who got the Win, and that’s the end of it.  It’s also popular because old habits die hard, and because as children it was one of the first stats we learned, right after Home Runs and RBI.  USA Today has a tiny box at the bottom of the MLB page in the Sports section listing the league leaders in Wins.  When I was a kid, I would study these tables and memorize the leaders.  It was a part of how I understood the game, and it’s repeated at the end of every game and on every highlight clip on Sportscenter.  “The winning pitcher was…Taking the loss was…”  It’s ingrained into baseball consciousness and even has some nostalgic value to it.  Discarding the Win means discarding the way you used to understand baseball.  It’s a good thing to grow up, but it hurts a little.

Yet one of the main reasons, I’d imagine, that the Win hangs on and stays relevant is its name.  Calling this statistic the “Win” is a branding coup because it’s hard for people to separate the idea that earning the Win statistic and causing your team to win are two different things.  Indeed, you don’t have to look very far to find members of the BBWAA citing some truism like “winning is what matters” and “the object of the game is to win” or “you play to win the game” as evidence for why the guy with the most Wins should get the Cy Young.  Of course, they’re conflating a pitcher putting his team in a good position to win with accumulating the statistic known as the Win, but they either don’t realize it or don’t care.  The distinction between the proper noun and the active verb eludes them.  Would they be so dogmatic about the importance of the Win if it was called something like the “LNB” for “Leads Not Blown”?  Probably not.  In this case, a rose by any other name would not be so sweet, and it certainly wouldn’t be one of the determining factors for whether a pitcher wins the Cy Young or gets into the Hall of Fame.

CC Sabathia toes the mound tonight against the Orioles with 19 Wins, or LNBs, under his giant belt this season. He’s on the cusp of accumulating 20 Wins for the first time in his career.  Like it or not, 20 Wins is a big accomplishment for baseball players, and it’s hard to get to 20 wins without being a good pitcher.  This is part of the reason the Win is so popular: the most convincing lies are half-truths.  Most 20 game winners are very good pitchers, but this is only an incidental fact.  On its own the Win won’t tell you very much at all.

Nevertheless, I’ll still root for Sabathia to rack up his 20th win on the year and not just because I hope the Yankees win today.  The Win stat and the pursuit of 20 Wins is a part of our baseball consciousness.  It will be interpreted as a major milestone for the big lefty, and any praise he receives as a result is well-earned.  Sabathia has had another excellent year and he remains one of baseball’s elite pitchers.  Despite the fact that his strikeout rate has dropped, he’s still dominating AL batters by inducing groundballs and keeping guys off-base.  He’s an ace in his prime in true form, and it’s a delight to watch him pitch every five days. I’ll be happy for him when he wins his 20th game, just so long as he doesn’t win the Cy Young as a result.

Aug 232010

Mark Hale of the New York Post interviewed CC Sabathia after his win against the Mariners on Sunday, and the big man discussed his future.  Interestingly, CC said that he would not even consider exercising the opt-out clause in his contract that permits him to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2011 season:

“I’m here,” Sabathia said. “Hundred percent.”

“I think you know I’ve built a house here, right?” he said. “My kids go to school here. We live here year round. So I’m not going anywhere.”

It’s easy to think about CC Sabathia as our ace who gives the team 35 solid starts every year.  It’s also easy to think that Sabathia will opt out of his contract if he thinks he can get more money and more years.  Yet, there is often more to it than that.  There are plenty of players that live year to year in different cities.  These types of guys aren’t good enough to secure long-term multiyear deals that would allow them the luxury of getting settled in a city.  Other players like Sabathia have been good enough to ensure long-term financial stability, and with that comes the option to pick an area, get comfortable and raise a family.  The Sabathias have children, and those children go to school and have friends and social lives and stuff going on outside of baseball.  The family has only lived in New Jersey for about a year and a half, barely enough time to learn their way around the area, figure out what restaurants are best for takeout, and to get settled in their mansion in Alpine, New Jersey.  The prospect of exercising the opt-out, becoming a free agent and packing up and moving across the country may not appeal to them as a family any longer.

This could change.  CC could see Cliff Lee pull in $100M guaranteed from the Yankees this year and decide to leave.  He could try to get a new deal from the Yankees with more guaranteed money and more years.   Yet for now it seems that, despite his stated preference of the West Coast, CC is at home in New York.  Commenting on his his undefeated streak in his last consecutive 20 home starts, CC said, “You can give my wife credit for that, I guess…Her cooking. And just being at home, being around my family and going out and being able to be relaxed.  It’s just one of those things. I love being home. I love playing in The Bronx. I love being at Yankee Stadium. But just one of those things that worked out like that.”

The latter end of CC’s contract will probably not be as good as the front end in terms of performance.  That’s just the nature of signing premier free agents to long-term deals.  Yet, Sabathia has shown the ability to adapt, and bringing in Cliff Lee alongside him could result in one of the best one-two punches in the game for years to come.  If CC is comfortable here, then I’m a happy fan.

Link Roundup

Posted by Stephen R. at 1:00 pm No Responses »
Aug 172010

Here are a few interesting things to read that I found on the World Wide Web.

CC’s Scorched Earth Policy

Over at Fangraphs, David Golebiewski reviews the change in Sabathia’s strikeout rate this season.  After noting that Sabathia is getting less whiffs on his secondary pitches, Golebiewski demonstrates that Sabathia is getting more groundballs and double plays this season than before.  This could be a harbinger of things to come as Sabathia ages, so it’s good to see him be able to adjust and get good results despite an apparent change in the way he approaches hitters.

Time to give Javy Vazquez a breather

At RiverAveBlues Mike Axisa argues Javy Vazquez needs to sit the next few plays out.  He recommends DLing Vazquez and bringing up Ian Nova from AAA.  Nova would make the next start against the Seattle Mariners and either be skipped the second time through the rotation (thanks to an off-day) or keep his spot in the rotation to give the starters and extra day of rest.  This seems like a capital idea to me.  I’d be in favor of bringing Nova up and having him make two starts.  I wouldn’t mind Sabathia, Burnett and Hughes having a little extra time off.  Last year, the starters seemed to point to extra rest down the stretch as a reason why they were able to stay effective deep into October.

Minor League Baseball: Investing in the Future

I’m linking this in the minuscule chance that you haven’t read it.  Mike Ashmore of Trenton Thoughts put together an incredibly detailed look inside the life of a minor league baseball player and it’s definitely worth the time it will take to read it.  One of the more bizarre things to me was reading about nutrition .  If I was in charge of a professional baseball organization, ensuring that players had access to healthy food would be one of my first goals.

The Bullpen Usage Chart

Joe Girardi’s birthday is coming up in October.  What do you get for the man who probably has everything he could want or need?  Just in time for the playoffs, you can create a bullpen usage chart for him to file inside his binder.  Via Hardball Times, Daily Baseball Data has created a tool to help you quickly evaluate which relievers are the best-rested and best-suited for coming into the game.  Click through and read all about it, and get your copy ready in October.

Expanded Horizons: Mariano Rivera, Outlier

Finally, from Baseball Prospectus (subscriber only, sorry) comes a piece by Tommy Bennett seeking to answer the following question: “who is the best relief pitcher in baseball?”  Bennett starts by looking at the WXRL and SIERA for all relievers in 2010, and then calcualting the how many standard deviations each reliever is away from the mean in each category and then adds the two scores together.  This is a simple enough methodology, and it yields a top 10 list of the following relievers: Wilson, Bell, Marmol, Soria, Kuo, Thornton, Benoit, Bard, Adams and Gregerson.  There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it leaves out an obvious contender for the top spot.  As Bennett puts it:

The problem with this list, and with any list like it created in the last 10 years really, is that you could just throw it out. Who needs a list like this when the answer to the question “who is the best relief pitcher in baseball?” is so simple? You could just give the same answer—Mariano Rivera—every year and be right in a very real sense every year. It’s not that Rivera does especially bad by this metric. He actually comes in 13th out of nearly 200 qualified pitchers. It’s that by not putting him closer to the top, the list fails to pass the smell test—it appears wrong on its face. Instead of a definitive ranking, we get a neat-o list with little meaningful difference between the individual rankings. That’s disappointing.

However, Bennett goes on to demonstrate that Rivera has tremendous skill in certain areas that probably causes him to “break” the system.  For one, Rivera is able to prevent hits and sustain a consistently lower BABIP.  As Bennett puts it, “These pitchers—who basically only pitch with maximum effort in higher than average leverage situations—can in fact show the ability to limit hits more than starting pitchers”.  However, this skill isn’t unique to Rivera : other talented relievers like Billy Wagner have the same tendencies.  What is unique to Rivera is his ability to prevent home runs.  Bennett labels Rivera is “a rate environment extremophile”, which is an awesome phrase.  The upshot of this is that good estimators can do a great job with mostly every player in baseball except guys like Mariano Rivera.  “A pitcher like Rivera, who is extreme in almost every way possible, simply doesn’t rate properly if you use the same metrics used to measure other guys.”  It’s a great read, and it will be interesting to see if future research bears this concept out further.

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