Category Archives: Stats/Numbers/Contracts

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.

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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.

Aceves being primed to start?

It is expected that Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin will start games this weekend, but with Alfredo Aceves going 4 innings in his last relief appearance, you have to wonder if the Yankees aren’t ultimately grooming Aceves to take the 5th starter spot.  Is there any other possible reason why a guy who is traditionally a 7th/8th inning reliever would pitch 4 innings?  It’s not like there were no other relievers available; he was the only one used.

I think that while the Yankees recognize that Phil Hughes would be their best answer in the 5-spot, they don’t want to mess with his arm this close to the postseason, considering how well he has taken to the setup role.  Aceves is their next best starting option, and thanks to that 15-inning game where he pitched 3 innings, he was already on his way to being stretched out.

Also to consider is that Demaso Marte is due back in the coming days, so the Yankees will likely need to send someone down.  Hopefully having Marte also means Aceves won’t be needed in the bullpen, but this could be wishful thinking.

There are roughly 2 weeks left until the rosters expand, so the Yankees could choose to send down either Mitre or Gaudin (probably whoever pitches worse this weekend) or simply keep 13 pitchers and send down Pena.

One thing to note about Mitre:

Vs. RHB: .250/.281/.385

Vs. LHB: .500/.537/.700

That’s BA/OBP/SLG

So essentially he turns righties into a slightly worse version of David Ortiz (ie, terrible) while lefties become a better version of Albert Pujols.  Doesn’t that just scream middle reliever who should be brought in to face righties?  It does to me.

Aceves’ splits?

Vs. RHB: .222/.276/.419

Vs. LHB: .200/.252/.295

Of course Aceves’ numbers look better overall because he’s been a reliever for most of them, but it’s obvious from this that he has no real lefty/righty split; if anything he’s better againt lefties.  So it makes sense that he’d be a more effective starter.

Nate Silver’s run is over (hopefully)

Nate Silver and his PECOTA projections have had quite a year. Predicted a big year from the Rays. Then got into politics and projected Obama from the primaries to the white house.

Well, Yankee fans should be hoping his hot streak is over. Courtesy of the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, PECOTA has the Yankee lineup approximately 50 runs below other comparable methods.

In particular, PECOTA doesn’t like Jeter, Posada, Cano, and A-Rod (relatively).

Though then again, PECOTA did predict the Yankees would lead baseball with 101 wins last season. So there is hope.

Big Donkey, revisited

So the Yankees didn’t offer Bobby Abreu arbitration.  The more you start to read you can see why.  Buster Olney says Abreu might not get more than $8 million a year for 2 – 3 years.  So of course Abreu would consider taking arbitration and a $17 million, 1 year deal.  The Yankees have correctly assessed the market, it would seem.

So silver lining here, as noted by noMaas.org and RAB, is that Adam Dunn was also not offered arbitration due to similar concerns. 

As I’ve written about before, I think Dunn is a good fit for the Yankees.  He’s younger than Abreu and has more power.  He’s an equally bad outfielder (with a worse arm) but is a little more flexible in that he can play first base in a pinch, although he doesn’t do that particularly well either.  Let’s look at his numbers from the past 2 years:

.264/.386/.554
.236/.386/.513

And Abreu:

.283/.369/.445
.296/.371/.471

Dunn clearly doesn’t put the ball in play as much as Abreu, but he more than makes up for that by drawing more walks (which is saying something – Abreu is very patient) and hitting for considerably more power.  Dunn will never have Abreu’s number of steals, but Bobby was caught stealing in a third of his attempts last year and that part of his game is unquestionably declining.

Sure, playing Dunn everyday could require moving Damon to center or displacing one of their current “set in stone” starters, but it is good to have depth.  What if Nady turns out to be a bust in right?  What if Damon or Matsui get hurt?  It’s naive to think the Yankees will get through the entire year without incident and I’m sure Dunn would get his 550+ ABs.

Even if it’s not Dunn, I am confident that the Yankees will add one more bat this offseason.  But I think Dunn is a likely bet, because it’s obvious Cashman and the Yanks understand how the market is going and therefore it makes no sense to throw $150 million at Teixiera when Dunn could be had for perhaps less than 30.

CC and A.J. Burnett’s old contract

As is the case for most Yankees fans, I’ve been pondering what kind of an offer the Yanks should make to CC Sabathia.  There is a good chance it will take $150 million to make CC don the pinstripes.  Now, that is a lot of risk.  Every long term deal of over $100 million has ended badly, but there really haven’t been very many, so there might not be enough data to make an accurate judgment (kind of like A-Rod’s postseason at-bats). 

CC has had a large workload.  The chances of a pitcher breaking down are much greater than that of a position player.  The risks are high.  CC isn’t exactly a health nut.

However, I can’t help but look at some recent deals and wonder how Sabathia could NOT be worth that much money.  Carlos Silva got $48 million.  Gil Meche received over 50.  What about A.J. Burnett’s original deal?  When he received $55 million from the Jays, everyone thought it was proposterous.  He was injury prone and overrated from pitching in the NL.  Well, both of those things turned out to be true.  Burnett has had a tough time staying on the field and when he has pitched he has been inconsistent.  Yet, he is about to opt out of his once “ridiculous” contract to sign a more lucrative one

I guess the point here is that the price of starting pitching is kind of like real estate in Manhattan – it’s always going to go up.  So even if the Yankees end up giving Sabathia a gigantic deal (say $160 million), there is a good chance they’ll get relatively decent value for it even if CC underachieves a bit.  Because in the 5th or 6th year of the deal, even if Sabathia has regressed to an average pitcher, there is a good chance that average starters will be making at least over $15 million if not more.

So maybe signing starters isn’t quite as risky as it seems (though Carl Pavano might have something to say about that).

Where to put Posada?

One of the biggest reasons put forth by many that the Yankees should not sign Mark Teixiera is that they should leave first base open in case Posada has to be moved from the catcher position before his contract expires.

Bill Madden, in his ridiculous “trade for Holliday” article that I critiqued a few days ago, even said the Yankees should immediately transition Posada to first, just in case.

As I said then, Posada’s value is tied to his ability to catch.  There are lots of first basemen and designated hitters who are good at hitting.  Catchers?  Not so much.  So if Posada is moved, he becomes merely an average player at best and quite possibly below average.  His defense at first would likely be poor and we know he can’t run. 

So if this means the Yankees eventually have to make Posada a part time player, say catching 60 games, DHing 60 games, and being a bench player the rest, so be it.  Is that worth $13.1 million a year?  No.  But this is the Yankees we’re talking about.  A mediocre firstbasemen/DH isn’t woth $13.1 million either, so what’s the difference?

If it gets to the point where Posada absolutely can’t catch and he can’t be moved elsewhere (because he’s blocked, or whatever) then the Yankees might just have to eat some of his salary and send him elsewhere where he could DH.  Sure, that’s not ideal, but the Yankees have the financial resources to overcome such a situation. 

What would truly be impractical would be for the Yankees to pass on Teixiera if they can sign him to a decent contract.