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Jan 242011

We pretty much know what the 25 man roster is going to be at this point, so let’s see what the different lineups will be. Using the latest round of CAIRO Projections from RLYW.net, I’ll put the player’s projected wOBA vs. RHP/LHP next to his name/position.

These projections are a combination of what I think the lineups WILL be:

vs. RHP

1. Jeter, SS .334
2. Swisher, RF .353
3. Teixeira, 1B .381
4. Rodriguez, 3B .382
5. Cano, 2B .379
6. Posada, DH .352
7. Granderson, CF .363
8. Martin, C .333
9. Gardner, LF .336

So against RHP, everyone projects to be at least average, with the middle of the lineup solidly above that mark. The median wOBA is .353. Let’s see what they could do versus LHP; there are a few ways this could go.

Option 1 vs. LHP (Granderson sits, Gardner to CF, Jones to LF)

1. Jeter, SS .364
2. Swisher, RF .367
3. Teixeira, 1B .393
4. Rodriguez, 3B .392
5. Cano, 2B .354
6. Posada, C .358
7. Jones, LF .332
8. Martin, C .357
9. Gardner, CF .310

The median wOBA here is .358. That’s not much of a change from the vs. RHP lineup, but it’s still a slight uptick. If we replace Gardner with Curtis Granderson (and his .297 projected wOBA vs. LHP), the median wOBA stays the same, since his would then be the lowest wOBA instead of Gardner’s. So, quickly, that tells us no matter which lefty outfielder is replaced, there won’t be much of a difference in the lineup. I suspect Joe Girardi will just keep the hot hand in there until he cools. All three outfielders in that shuffle–Granderson, Gardner, and Jones, are good enough at what they do that neither will leave an extraordinarily huge hole when absent from the lineup.

Just about everyone, myself included, sees a bounce back for Derek Jeter. After all, how could we not? Last year was the worst year of his career and there’s almost no way he can be that bad again. I wonder, though, if his slide continues, will Girardi pull him from the leadoff spot? If he does, who takes his place? I say it’s one of Gardner or Swisher. Gardner could work because he sees a ton of pitches, walks, and can steal bases. Swisher could take it because he’s a switch hitter with no drastic platoon split and provides a little more power, which would be useful for those batting behind him. He does strike out a bit more, though, but he showed in 2010 that he can cut back on them.

The rest of the lineup is just fine if you ask me. You could switch Tex/A-Rod if you wanted to, but the difference would probably be negligible. If anything, this lineup gives me confidence that the Yankees can still make the playoffs. Any lineup that features those hitters has more than a puncher’s chance at making it to October. Making it through October with that (current) pitching staff would be a challenge, but this team can definitely make it there. And once you’re there, anything can happen.

Jan 032011

A new year is upon us and soon, a new baseball season will be upon us. We’re going to have expectations with certain players, as we always do. We have to think of realistic expectations, though. For this post, I’m going to look at each player still on the Yankees from the 2010 team, examine his 2010 wOBA and see if that’s a reasonable expectation for 2011.

Robinson Cano, .389 wOBA

Last year was a career year for Robinson. He ripped the cover off the ball and everything seemed to click for him on offense. He ripped righties and lambasted lefties. He hit for a high average. He hit for power. Expecting another year like that would be unfair, but, Cano is in his age-based-prime and clearly has an incredible talent for hitting. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a .389 wOBA from him again. Somewhere in the .375-.385 range seems right for Robinson.

Nick Swisher, .377 wOBA

Cutting the fat, yeah, I think this is definitely do-able. His 2009 wOBA was .375, just two points off of last year’s career high mark. He had basically the same year production-wise, he just did it differently. I’m confident that Swisher can definitely put up a .370+ woBA again in 2011. What I’m not sure of is if it will look more like 2009 with a lot of walks and a lot of power or if it will look like 2010, with similar-but-slightly-diminished-power and a higher average.

Mark Teixeira, .367 wOBA

I have no problem saying this: Mark Teixeira will have a wOBA higher than .367 in 2011.

Alex Rodriguez, .363 wOBA

I have no problem saying this: Alex Rodriguez will have a wOBA higher than .363 in 2011.

Brett Gardner, .358 wOBA

This is the most interesting case. Obviously, Gardner proved himself in 2010. He survived the entire year and hit much better than we all expected him to. His super-plus defense made him a huge value for the team . Part of me thinks that Gardner can do it again. Part of me doesn’t. If I’m setting an over/under for Gardner’s wOBA, I’m going to say .340.

Jorge Posada, .357 wOBA

Posada’s another catch-22 of sorts. In one way, we should expect equal or worse performance from Posada in 2011 because he’s getting old. Older players, especially catchers, tend not to hit at .357 wOBAs with regularity. On the other hand, Posada is a good hitter who’s stayed above average in terms of offense for a while. As a full time DH, he’ll be without the physical burden of catching. Because of that, we could see a rise in offense from Jorge. I think .357 is a fair over/under and I think Jorge will be over. I may be in the minority there.

Curtis Granderson, .346 wOBA

Curtis Granderson’s season was a bit odd, wasn’t it? There were some good things–10% walk rate, .221 IsoP–but some bad things as well (most of the season against LHP). All together, it added up to an above average, but not spectacular, .346 wOBA. Call me an optimist, but Granderson will out do that .346 wOBA. I’ll put the over/under at .355 and take the over.

Derek Jeter, .320 wOBA

I have no problem saying this: Derek Jeter will have a higher wOBA than .320 in 2011. Jeter may be getting older and 2010 may’ve been a career worst year, but there’s no way he can hit that poorly again. At least, I hope there’s no way he can hit that poorly again.

Francisco Cervelli, .315 wOBA

This is fair and I expect him to do that again. If he does, with less playing time, I’ll be happy.

Russell Martin, .306 wOBA

His 2009 wOBA was .307 after a .351 wOBA in 2008. Martin’s bat seems to be trending downwards, which is troubling. Despite a super low wOBA though, he was able to put up over 2 fWAR in 2010, thanks to his defense. In the last two years, Martin has had a low BABIP despite relatively high LD%s, so maybe 2011 is when he gets a BABIP rebound. That would definitely cause a wOBA rebound. Given the last two years, I think we should expect around a .310-.315 wOBA for Martin, but he could easily out perform that.

Ramiro Pena, .233 wOBA

Same as Cervelli.

The full quote, from @LohudYankees:

“He’s our DH. That’s what he is, unless he plays himself off it.”

This sounds like Jorge is not going to do any catching, something that I do not think many of us expected. Jesus Montero will likely be given the opportunity to win the full-time job, with Francisco Cervelli being his backup. This helps explain why the club is continuing to show interest in Russell Martin. If Montero fails to earn the starting job during spring training, Brian Cashman wants the team to have a legitimate starting option on the roster. Martin would represent such an option, while Frankie Cervelli spent 2010 showing himself to be an ill-fit for an everyday job.

One other implication of this is that it may make it more difficult to get a platoon player in the Matt Diaz or Scott Hairston mold to come to NY. If Jorge was also going to do 30-50 games of catching, the platoon player would likely soak up the DH at-bats during those games. With Jorge being the everyday DH, that platoon spot will be a bench spot that only sees time against the most difficult lefties. I cannot see a player such as Diaz, who has multiple suitors, coming to NY for that limited a role.

Nov 292010

We’re all focused on the present. The Yankees have a bunch of pending transactions. They’ve made an offer to Derek Jeter; they’ll probably do the same to Mariano Rivera and Cliff Lee shortly. I’m sure there are other signings and trades that the front office is mulling over right now, too. But what about next year? There are some interesting personnel decisions to be made in a year’s time. Let’s run down some of them.

The biggest one involves CC Sabathia. While his contract does run to 2015, CC does have an opt out clause he can use after the 2011 season. No matter what, I think CC is going to exercise this option. I can see him hanging on if he has a bad year just because his value will be a little down. However, if he has an average CC year, I think he’ll opt out. If he does, the Yankees could just let him walk, or try to renegotiate at a lower AAV. While he’s been nothing but reliable in his career, CC will be approaching his mid thirties. Maybe the Yankees will want to let someone else pay for Sabathia’s decline phase.

Jorge Posada’s four year deal is up after 2011. Hopefully, this one won’t be an issue. Jorge will ride off into the sunset (hopefully to a sunset in Cooperstown) and Jesus Montero (happy belated birthday, Jesus!) takes over. Whether or not he retires, though, I’d bet on 2011 being Jorge’s last year with the Yankees. The only way I see him coming back is if he really mashes the ball as a DH and Jesus Montero can handle catching 120+ times a year, letting Jorge DH full time.

After 2011, Robinson Cano has a $14MM club option with a $2MM buy out. This is going to be a tough one. Cano just had his best season and it’s unlikely for him to repeat it. He’s still the best second baseman in the A.L., though. Unless he just tanks or gets injured, I’m relatively sure the Yankees will pick up Robbie’s option.

Like Cano, Nick Swisher has an option for the 2012 season ($10.25MM) with a $1MM buy out. The OF FA class of 2012 doesn’t look particularly strong and Swisher’s got a skill set that should age well. He’s also gotten himself into very good shape and doesn’t have a body that is likely to break down. I’d bet on the Yankees picking up that relatively cheap option and keeping Nick on patrol in YSIII’s right field.

This isn’t worth discussing much, but let’s give it one sentence. Damaso Marte has a $4MM option for 2012 with a $0.25MM buyout; it will be bought out.

With Jesus Montero being given a chance to win the starting catcher’s job in spring training, the development of his defense has become an important issue facing the Yankees going into 2011. A few days ago, Joel Sherman raised a point that many have brought up:

The Yankees, for example, want Montero to win this job. But he will play at 21 and — at best — has a lot of rough defensive edges. Last year it took him half a season as among the youngest players in the International League to gain comfort and shine at Triple-A. So the same growing pains should be expected in the majors, at the least. Will the Yankees tolerate such growing pains when they have championship aspirations?

In terms of offense, Montero will largely be taking plate appearances that belonged to Frankie Cervelli, so I think the club and the fans can handle some growing pains in that area. However, considering that there have been significant doubts about his ability to field his position, a disastrous start behind the plate could make for a major blow to both his confidence and his value. I do think that if the Yankees are able to sign Cliff Lee and bring back Andy Pettitte, they can set up a catching rotation that would help ease Montero into the big leagues.

The element of a catcher’s game that tends to get noticed the most by fans is his ability to handle the running game. A catcher who is being run on constantly will be deemed an awful catcher who is turning singles into doubles by dint of his slow and inaccurate arm. One thing that helps slow down a running game no matter the talent of the receiver is to have a left-handed pitcher on the mound.

Right-handed pitchers faced 133,598 batters in 2010, and allowed 2306 stolen bases against 834 caught stealing (73.4% success rate). That means 3140 attempted steals, or one attempt every 42.5 plate appearances. Conversely, lefties faced 51,927 batters and allowed 653 steals to 295 runners caught (69% success rate). That means 948 attempted steals, or one attempt every 54.8 plate appearances. While these stats do not account for a variety of factors, they do suggest that the idea that lefties help diminish the opponent’s running game is accurate. Runners steal less frequently and at a lower success rate when a left-hander is on the mound.

Taking that fact into account, the Yankees should help ease Montero into the major league catching position by allowing him to catch all of the lefties in the rotation. Hopefully, there will be 3 of them, all of them very good pitchers who limit baserunners to begin with. Cliff Lee has seen an average of 10 baserunners attempt to steal on him per season, while Andy Pettitte is a pickoff artist who averages 18 attempts against. CC Sabathia averages 23, but that number is skewed by 2 poor seasons to starts his career, and he is typically somewhere around 18-20. By comparison, righty pitchers such Tim Lincecum, Carl Pavano, and Jered Weaver had 30+ attempts against them in 2010, and AJ Burnett was on the hill for a whopping 42 attempts this past season.

The Yankees can have Montero catch most of the starts by Sabathia, Lee, and Pettitte, assuming the latter two sign. Jorge Posada would catch Phil Hughes, while Frankie Cervelli can handle AJ Burnett. The idea is not to hide Montero or have him do this for his entire career. Rather, this is an attempt to have Montero adjust to catching at the major league level by working with pitchers that can help the limit the damage that his inexperience and weaknesses might otherwise cause. Once Jesus feels comfortable behind the plate, the team can move to a different arrangement.

What do you think of this idea?

Nov 152010

Let’s play a game here. The Bill James projections for 2011 are out on FanGraphs. They’re a bit rosy for my liking (and everyone’s I assume) but I still wanna take a look at some aspects of them to see if I’d “take it or leave it” for 2011.

The first thing I’ll do is assume that Andy Pettitte is pitching for the Yankees in 2011. The category I’ll go for here is innings pitched. James has Andy pegged for 140 innings pitched, probably because he’s coming off of a season in which he pitched his fewest innings ever (min. 20 games started). Given Andy’s age and health from last year, I would take 140 innings from him. I’d like more, but I’d take what I could get from a guy as old as Andy.

James foresees 42 walks from Robinson Cano. He had 57 total in 2010. However, his previous career high was 39. I’d like to see if Robbie could push it to 60 walks in 2011, but I won’t take my chances. I’d take 42 and be on my way.

A .344 wOBA for Derek Jeter? Oh HELL yes I would take it. Not only would it be a 24 point increase from 2009, it would likely make Derek the most valuable offensive SS in the American League.

144 games from Alex Rodriguez. That’s not a lot, but it’s more than he played in during both the ’09 and ’10 seasons. Like Pettitte, given his age, yes, I’d take that. Expecting more could be greedy.

111 games for Jorge Posada? No, I’ll leave that one. By being able to DH, I think Jorge will be able to crack at least break the 120 games mark for the first time since 2007 (he played in 120 games in 2010, but I’m saying MORE than 120 games for 2011).

A 3.76 FIP in 177 innings for Phil Hughes. Yes. Without even thinking twice. I think Phil CAN break those marks, but I’m not sure if he WILL break them in 2011. He may be able to break the innings mark easily, but that’s a good FIP goal for him.

Nov 112010

Here’s some Hot Stove stuff from the last few days…

From the Daily News:

Yankees and Jeter open negotiations

In the words of “Lord of the Rings,” so it begins. While I don’t think the negotiations will be as epic as the Battle of Helms Deep, I think we’re in for a bit of a ride. No matter what, though, that ride will arrive back at a familiar station: the one in which Derek Jeter is a part of the New York Yankees.

Brian Cashman flew to Arkansas to meet with Cliff Lee

So it beings…again. These negotiations should be more exciting than the Jeter negotiations because there’s going to be at least two suitors: the Yankees and the Rangers. The Nationals are apparently trying to get into the mix, as are the Red Sox. At the end of the “day” though, I think it’s going to come down to the Yankees and the Rangers.

Jorge is going to DH

I’m okay with this. Jorge’s bat may not be prototypical for a DH, but without having to worry about the wear-and-tear of catching, Jorge’s bat could pick up a bit more. If Jesus Montero’s bat is as good as advertised, this could look like a great move. I’m getting way ahead of myself here, but I wonder what happens if Jorge has a good year. He’s in the last year of his contact, but if he has a good year at the plate in 2011 and takes to DHing, will he be interested in extending his career? Most of us just assume that Posada will hang it up after 2011, but could he hang on longer? If he does will it be with the Yankees?

Over at LoHud, Sam Borden gave a brief history of Andy Pettitte’s decision dates from 2007-2009. Sam expects a one year deal signed sometime in December. I’ll agree with Sam here. I thought the only way Pettitte would leave was if the Yankees won the World Series in 2010, and they obviously didn’t do that. I’m cautiously optimistic for Pettitte to perform strongly in 2011.

Also, I’m sure you’ve been reminded a bunch today, but take at least a few moments and reflect on the fact that it’s Veterans Day. If there are any vets reading this, thanks for all you’ve done to make it possible for me to write this. We may not express it well, or even often, but we’re all grateful for your service and sacrifice.

The Yankees’ plan for the 2010 offseason has taken some shape over the last 24 hours, with the ball beginning to roll on three of the most important issues facing the club:

1) Brian Cashman told Jorge Posada that he will be competing with Jesus Montero for the starting catcher job:

“Cashman told Posada that he should come in preparing to catch, but they are going to give Montero a real shot,” the person said. “And Cashman said that Posada should prepare to D.H. a lot.”

Posada started just 78 games at catcher this past season, missing time with several injuries, including a fractured knee and a mild concussion.

“Posada said great and he was willing to do it,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his access to sensitive information. “He was happy to know what the situation is.”

Posada has a reputation for being somewhat selfish, but I have always believed that he acts with the best interests of the club at heart. When he shows displeasure about Jose Molina starting a playoff game, it is because he knows that the team would be better if he was starting instead. At this point, I think he is aware that his age makes catching every day an impossibility, and that Montero winning the job would probably be what is best for the team. I am sure he will not concede the position easily, but he is unlikely to be a problem should Montero seize the opportunity.

2) According to MLBTR, Brian Cashman is flying to Arkansas for a meet-and-greet with Cliff Lee and his agent. The Yankees were similarly aggressive with CC Sabathia, and it is pretty clear that Lee is the Yankees top free agent priority. The process is likely to take a while and it may be a few days before the bidding even begins, but it is good to see that the Yankees are being proactive. As Joe Pawlikowski notes, while it is almost always about the money, players want to be shown the love.

3) Jon Heyman is reporting that Derek Jeter and his agent met recently with Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, and Randy Levine. Everything we have heard suggests that while it may take some time, a deal will get done. Stop fretting, Yankees fans, Jeter will finish his career as a Yankee.

Nov 082010

With the Yankees seemingly ready to use Jesus Montero as the number one catcher in 2011, let’s think about how he will be deployed, both in a catching platoon and in the lineup.

Ideally, Montero will catch 100 games”, so let’s go on that assumption. Like I did in the comments of that article from River Ave. Blues, let’s assume that we have a normal week with one off day (Monday) and two day games after night games (assuming Thursday and Saturday). The catching rotation, in a typical week, will probably look something like this:

Monday: OFF
Tuesday: Montero C, Posada DH
Wednesday: Montero C, Posada DH
Thursday: Montero DH, Posada C
Friday: Montero C, Posada DH
Saturday: Montero DH, Posada C
Sunday: Montero C, Posada DH

Of course, that could be rather flexible. There are times when Montero will likely be able to play some day games after night games. He is going to be only 20 years old and we can assume that he’s not going to be too worn out by the catching grind.

There are also times when both players will need full days off and Francisco Cervelli will get a start behind the plate while someone else gets a shot at DH.

Jorge Posada could also take some games at first; he’s done it before and it’s a good way to keep a good bat in the lineup. Jesus Montero could do the same, though he’s never played first before. While the primary focus will be on catching for Jesus in Spring Training (as it damn well should be), I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he took some reps at first base, just to make him a little more flexible.

Hopefully, Montero plays well enough behind the plate and hits well enough to justify the Yankees making him the first string catcher. I have a lot of faith in him doing the latter. As for the former, I’m not so sure. So long as he can replicate Jorge’s defense back there (yeah that’s a really low standard, I know) ,I’ll be content.

Next, there’s the issue of where The Jesus will hit when he’s in the Yankee lineup. I assume that the Yankees will break him in rather lightly. Not one bit of me expects Montero to hit in the top two thirds of the lineup. If it were up to me, I’d throw together this lineup:

1. Jeter, SS
2. Swisher, RF
3. Teixeira, 1B
4. Rodriguez, 3B
5. Cano, 2B
6. Posada, DH
7. Granderson, CF
8. Montero, C
9. Gardner, LF

This represents what I think is a likely lineup for the Yankees in 2011. For Montero, it gives him a chance to hit with guys on and drive runs in, but also doesn’t put pressure on him to be a big time producer like a 4-6 hitter, which would be pretty unfair to assume in his first season.

Putting him eighth also helps to keep managers from using LOOGYs against both Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner without going through Montero first. In 2010, Montero had a .902 OPS against LHP.

No doubt, we are incredibly excited for the arrival (ascension?) of Jesus to the big leagues. There’s no question about his ability and potential, now we just have to wait for the results.

Jorge the DH?

Posted by Steve S. at 7:35 am 4 Responses »
Nov 082010

Yankee fans have been abuzz with the news that super-prospect Jesus Montero will get an opportunity to win the starting Catchers position out of Spring Training. Jorge himself was asked about this at a charity function over the weekend, the Daily News has the story:

But when blue-chip Yankee catching prospect Jesus Montero’s name was broached Sunday, and that there have been reports the Bombers’ front office wants Montero to assume the starting role behind the plate in 2011, Jorge Posada didn’t cede the baton yet and accept a new role as full-time designated hitter.

“I’m going to prepare for (the starting catching job). I love catching, love being behind the plate. I take a lot of pride – that’s my position,” Posada said at the charity bowling tournament at Chelsea Piers to benefit his foundation. “If (the Yankees) want me to be DH or catch, just be honest and let me know what’s up.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the idea from Jorge, and clearly he doesn’t plan on losing his starting gig without a fight. As fans familiar with his personality over many years, we would expect nothing less from Mr Posada.

But how has Jorge fared as DH? Is this an area of the game where he’s enjoyed success in the past? Here’s the numbers, courtesy of BR:

I          Split  G GS   PA   AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR RBI SB CS  BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS   TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+
            as C  1517 6198 5274 824 1471 344  9 246 954 16 19 818 1235 .279 .380 .487 .868 2571 156  66  1 39  66  58  .320   102
           as 1B    21   68   56   7   19   5  0   1   7  0  0  12   11 .339 .456 .482 .938   27   0   0  0  0   1   0  .409   122
           as DH    90  351  296  33   66  13  0   9  34  1  0  47   89 .223 .336 .358 .694  106   7   5  0  3   4   0  .284    64
           as PH   152  152  127  15   28   3  1   5  26  2  0  21   45 .220 .329 .378 .707   48   6   1  0  3   3   1  .288    66
    as PH for DH     6    6    5   0    1   0  0   0   0  0  0   1    3 .200 .333 .200 .533    1   0   0  0  0   0   0  .500    30

While the sample size (351 PA) is pretty good, I still wouldn’t take these numbers as gospel as an indicator for how we should expect him to perform as an everyday DH in 2011. Throughout his career, Jorge gets banged around behind the dish like all Catchers do. DH will often be a spot where a manager will use him when he can still swing the bat, but is otherwise injured. So it’s safe to assume many of these ABs were logged when Jorge wasn’t 100% healthy. The whole point of DHing Jorge in 2011 is to keep him healthy, and get use of his potent bat without the wear and tear of daily catching on his 39 year old body. As a practical matter, it’s apples and oranges.

But it’s also something I wouldn’t dismiss entirely. As he said, Jorge prides himself on being an everyday player. As Catcher, your mind is in the game on every pitch and your daily focus is different, much more intense than that of other everyday players. Riding the bench can make it difficult for him to get in the flow of a game and be prepared to hit. The fact that he’s had almost as much trouble as a Pinch Hitter as he’s had as DH is further evidence along these lines. Jorge has always been an outstanding performer at his position, but if he repeats his past performances as DH/PH then a .700 OPS out of DH spot is going to be a problem for the 2011 Yanks. He should be given every chance to get comfortable at the position, but there’s a good chance the role of DH may not wear well on Jorge, and at the very least a period of adjustment should be expected.

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