Another position change

On the heels of Pete Abe announcing he will be leaving The Journal News, I have an announcement of my own: I am going to start writing for Bronx Baseball Daily.  (Link here: http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com/ )

I enjoy keeping up this site, but at the end of the day, being able to join up with other writers makes a lot of sense for someone like me who has a limited amount of time to devote to Yankee-writing.

I don’t know what that ultimately means for this site – that I have to figure out – but for the time being I will be posting content over at BBD.

So update your bookmarks and RSS readers.

Pete Abe leaving The Journal News

As you may have heard, Pete Abraham will be leaving The Journal News to cover the Red Sox (gasp) at The Boston Globe.

I would just like to say that Pete will be sorely missed in Yankee-land.  His blog is my one must read site.  Pete was also nice enough to let me write a guest spot for him back in January of ’08 and he really supports the Yankee online community.  He understands that bloggers and newspaper people are not, by nature, opposed to each other; in fact, the passion of the fans help make his job easier.  It’s no accident that, in a time when newspapers are suffering, Pete and his ability to harness the passion of the fans and balance both internet and newspaper mediums, receives a promotion.

Pete tends to be one of the few sane voices when discussing the Yankees and he’ll need that calm and reasoning now that he’ll be dealing with all those hooligans in Boston.  Was the opportunity to boo A-Rod from Red Sox Nation the final factor in Pete’s departure?  Well, that we may never know.

Seriously though, I may now have to add a Boston blog onto my google reader as I’m not sure I can imagine NOT having Pete’s blog to read.

Thanks Pete, and good luck.

Give Pettitte credit for taking time

Word is Pettitte has a bit of a cranky shoulder and will take a few extra days off before his next start.

Earlier in the year it seemed that Pettitte’s back was bothering him and I speculated that he refused to sit because he had a contract that rewarded him based on starts (and I don’t think that is his fault – it’s the fault of that type of contract).  Give him credit here for taking the time he needs to get ready for the playoffs.  Obviously he is still on track to hit a majority of his incentive clauses, but still.

Swisher and batting average

During the offseason, as anyone who has been reading this blog knows, my favorite acquisition was Nick Swisher.

Well, I would  be remiss if I didn’t gloat a little, as my predictions regarding his success as a Yankee have been pretty much spot-on.  He gets on base, he hits for power, and he is a fun guy to cheer for.  What more could you ask for?

Well, I attended Saturday’s Yankee game (oh, and thanks to AJ Burnett for moving his season mark to 0-2 in games I attend) and couldn’t help but listen as the people behind me went through every player in the Yankee lineup and explained why they were either great or stunk.

Swisher?  Big disappointment apparently, because he’s only batting in the .250s.  Yeah I know, naive fans only understand batting average, but what I found troubling is these guys were otherwise pretty knowledgeable.  They knew the team well and clearly follow them closely.

So the question I came away asking: how long before the average fan who follows the team – essentially a fan who, if you ask them, knows how the Yankees did last night – understands how to actually value a baseball player?  It simply amazes me that, after all these years, most people can’t tell if a player is good or not with any sort of accuracy.  I’m sure the scoreboard itself doesn’t help – it only shows a batting average after each player’s name.  Shouldn’t the Yankees switch to showing on-base percentage, considering the way their team is constructed?

The same fans also decided that A-Rod is having a bad year because “he’s not being paid $30 million to hit .286.”  Of course, he’s being paid $30 million for his .411 OBP and his .520 slugging (though that is a little low for typical A-Rod standards).

That A-Rod and Swisher both, despite their unimpressive batting averages, are key cogs in the best offense in baseball, should be proof enough that there is more to evaluating a player than batting average.

Damon’s return would make sense

It’s early to be speculating about the offseason, but the Yankees have been cruising along pretty well and we still have awhile before the playoffs start, so why not.

Coming into the season, I, like most people, assumed this would be Johnny Damon’s last in pinstripes.  However, Damon is having a great season and the Yankees will need to sign at least one outfielder.

But is it really worth it for the Yankees to sign an aging outfielder to a big money deal?  Probably, if it’s only a 1-2 year commitment.  Since Scott Boras is Damon’s agent, we know he’ll follow the money, but if Boras is smart, he’ll do everything possible to keep Damon a Yankee.

Damon has significantly better numbers at home; the New Yankee Stadium is perfect for him.  The Yankees won’t let themselves get into a bidding war over Damon, but they will certainly give him a respectable amount of money.  Most importantly, playing another year or two in New York will be the best way for Damon to post great and get exposure and continue being able to get big money deals.

So yeah, the Yankees could use Johnny Damon, but Damon also would benefit by staying with the Yankees.

Buster Olney suggested the Yankees should offer Damon and Matsui the same contract and sign whoever takes it first; with Matsui unable to play in the OF, such an offer doesn’t really make sense – the two players occupy different roles.  Damon is more versatile and therefore signing him should be a higher priority.

Lining up the rotation for the playoffs

Interesting factoid from Pete Abe today: if the Yankees go .500 the rest of the season, they’ll win 99 games. So a 100+ win season is a pretty good bet, as is a playoff berth.

So how does the rotation line up for the playoffs?

The beginning of the year, you’d think it would go 1. Sabathia, 2. Burnett, 3. Joba, 4. Pettitte. Right now, based on performance, it should go 1. Sabathia, 2. Pettitte, 3. Burnett, 4. Joba.

However, consider the following:

AJ Burnett Home ERA: 3.47
AJ Burnett Road ERA: 5.12

If the Yankees secure home-field – and right now they have a 5.5 game lead on the Angels – wouldn’t it make more sense to let AJ pitch game 2, at home, and let Pettitte pitch on the road? Plus, in a 7 game series, that would line up Pettitte to pitch a potential game 7.

The workloads of Coke and Hughes

Two very questionable decisions by Girardi the past few games:

1) Bunting Nick Swisher in the bottom of the 9th in Monday night’s game.  I am not going to go into this one too much, because it’s something I’ve ranted about extensively in the past.  The Yankees are not a bunting team.  You can’t give away outs.  Etc, etc.  This is the most obvious example though of it costing them a game.  The Yankees have a great team this year; I worry about stupid decisions like these derailing them in big spots.

2) Letting Phil Coke face a right-handed batter in yesterday’s game.  I’m not sure you use Coke at all in that spot anyways, but at best in a close game he should only face lefties.  Remember what happened when he was allowed to face Victor Martinez?  Everyone saw that coming.  The move there is to either let AJ face another batter or two or you go to Phil Hughes.  Remember him?  He’s probably the 5th or 6th best pitcher on the team, yet he rots in the bullpen when the Yankees need him to pitch innings this year.

In a 3-2 game with 3 innings left to play at home, Girardi needs to treat that game like a tie or a lead, unless his bullpen is depleted.  Because let’s face it: the odds of the Yankees pushing one run across is pretty good.  Yes, I understand they didn’t, but if the game was 3-2 the whole time, their approach may have been different.

Really, this leads to the question, are the Yankees purposely trying to save Hughes and Rivera for the playoffs, figuring they could potentially turn games into a 6-inning affair (or less if both pitchers pitch 2 innings)?

This isn’t a terrible idea of course, but right now Girardi is abusing Phil Coke and we’re seeing the effects of it.  Coke is the only reliever who seems to pitch in any game situation and it’s catching up with him.  He leads the Yankees in appearances by a large margin, which would be fine if he was simply a lefty-specialist; but he’s not being used as one, and Girardi needs to figure out a more suitable role for him.

Right now, I think they just need to give Coke some rest and perhaps rely on Marte some more – they need to see what Marte has to offer at this point anyways.