Create A Team From The Free Agent Class

Go check out Pete Abe’s new blog, where he is running a fun contest. The objective is to create a 25 man AL roster, with 12 pitchers, 13 position players, and an available manager from this season’s free agent class. I thought it would be fun to do one here, and hopefully you guys will put together your own clubs in the comments. The free agents pitchers and position players can be accessed by clicking the links.

1B: Adam Laroche
2B: Felipe Lopez
3B: Adrian Beltre
SS: Marco Scutaro
C: Bengie Molina
DH: Johnny Damon
CF: Mike Cameron
LF: Matt Holliday
RF: Jason Bay
SP: John Lackey
SP: Ben Sheets
SP: Andy Pettitte
SP: Jarrod Washburn
SP: Randy Wolf
Closer: Jose Valverde
RP: Brandon Lyon
RP: Mike Gonzalez
RP: Rafael Soriano
RP: Joe Beimel
RP: Justin Duchsherer
RP: Darren Oliver
Backup catcher: Greg Zaun
Backup infielder: Nick Johnson
Backup outfielder: Coco Crisp
Utility: Mark DeRosa

Manager: Bobby Valentine

And the whining has begun

Or, is the definition of “best pitcher” clouded in its definition much like the “most valuable” phrase is? Lincecum might be the best pitcher with the best “stuff”, but maybe Wainwright or Carpenter had the best year. Not saying this is the case, but perhaps that’s how voters voted. This is not black and white and for voters to raise such disdain for Law and Carroll for daring to think differently (and show their work: Law here, Carroll here) is amazingly hypocritical.

For eons, fans have been asking for transparency in voting, in all sports. We want those voting to care as much as we do, to look at things as closely as we do, to do the work requisite with such an honor of voting for a high profile award (or ranking, as the case might be). We rarely got it. With Carroll and Law, we did. I won’t skewer them for their decisions. I might disagree, but at least they provided the insight required to understanding their views, whether or not we choose to agree with them.

In a related story…

Good FOTB Lar from Wezen-ball was Neyer’d today with his amazing satire of “The Carpenter Travesty“. Sublime:

What’s worse is that these two “writers” are two of those new guys from the internets. Bill Carol writes for some place called “Baseball Protect Us” (which sounds like a cult to me), where they like to invent “statistics” in order to sound smart, and Keith Klaw is some Canadian scout who couldn’t even cut it with the Expos. I still don’t even understand how these guys have a vote.

But they do, and their irresponsible and ill-informed “votes” are going to have some long-term implications. I don’t like it. Baseball is changed, and only the likes of Bowie Kuhn or old Charlie Comiskey could change it back. And with those two departed, we’re plain S.O.L.

Just go read it. Come back, though.

The Yankeeist Interview with Replacement Level Yankees Weblog's SG

For this latest edition of the Yankeeist Interview series, I am once again pleased to bring you a stalwart of the Yankee blogosphere, SG of Replacement Level Yankees Weblog.

I found RLYW — which was founded by Larry Mahnken, who is a hell of a baseball analyst himself — shortly after discovering Bronx Banter in 2004, and have been reading the site on a daily basis ever since. As Larry began posting with less frequency as time wore on, eventually the day-to-day posting was taken over by SG.

During the last five seasons RLYW has been a revelation, essentially responsible for the transformation of the way I enjoy the Yankees. I no longer just watch baseball games, I now mentally statistically analyze every single pitch of every at-bat, armchair managing the hell out of every move along with the rest of the sabermetrically-inclined portion of the Yankee fanbase.

SG has been at the forefront of advanced Yankee statistical analysis, even creating his own projection system, CAIRO, which has routinely been more accurate than several of the more well-known systems. One of the biggest treats of the offseason is SG’s annual individual player projections as well as the Diamond Mind Projection Blowout. I imagine most people reading this blog already read RLYW, but if you don’t, you really should be.

Yankeeist: What compelled you to start writing about the Yankees on the internet, what was the date of your first-ever blog post and what was it about?

SG: It really started out by posting a lot at Baseball Primer (now Baseball Think Factory), which is where I found a few Yankee fans who were similar to me in appreciating the statistical side of baseball. It’s a lot more common nowadays, but back then it was a lot rarer. Larry Mahnken started the RLYW from there and we all just used to sort of read there and comment, then Larry asked a few of us if we’d be interested in helping him out.

My first official post is kind of embarrassing in hindsight, as I advocated signing Matt Clement and Odalis Perez as part of an effort to rebuild the Yankees on the fly in 2005. It was posted on August 11, 2004 and is still available here.

At least I also advocated signing Carlos Beltran.

Yankeeist: While Larry Mahnken founded RLYW, you have basically been its caretaker for the last several years. RLYW could have easily fallen into disrepair without a daily contributor. What made you decide to shoulder the burden of RLYW?

SG: I guess I never really saw it as a burden, I’ve always enjoyed blogging about stuff that popped into my head then having people discuss it and tell me what they think about it, good or bad. There was no official changeover or anything. Basically, Larry M. and Fabian just stopped writing as much and I started writing more.

I do wish some of the people that used to post more in the beginning would get back into it at times because it’s always good to get different takes on stuff. Even if it’s just a post every month or so.

Yankeeist: Are there any plans for Larry to post semi-regularly again? How and when did Jonathan join the RLYW team?

SG: I still consider the RLYW Larry M.’s blog, and hope that he will be motivated to post more often, but I have no idea if that will ever actually happen. Jonathan was one of our most prolific commenters (posting as “Cutter” at the time) and we thought he’d make a good addition since he seemed to have a good knack for finding news stories and stuff, and that’s certainly been the case. He also fits right in with some of the reverse jinx and superstitious stuff we are guilty of. He’s pretty much been a part of the blog since we moved over from Blogger in April of 2007.

Yankeeist: SG, your Monte Carlo simulations, CAIRO projections and other high-end analyses have made you the preeminent statistician among the Yankee blogosphere, providing tons of content and data that is literally unavailable anywhere else. You’ve also cultivated a very unique audience and community, with one of the few commenting sections in which almost every comment is worth reading and adds value to a given discussion. What were your initial goals in blogging about the Yankees and did you ever expect to become such an influential voice among Yankee fans and the site to become the go-to resource for statistically-inclined Yankee fans that it now is?

SG: I do appreciate that sentiment Larry, although I never really had any goals as far as where the blogging would go. I’ve always been a numbers dork, so that’s just where the blog headed over time. I know that the pure statistical stuff isn’t always interesting for a lot of people, which probably limits the type of audience the blog will ever have, but I never really cared about that. I’ve never really had any aspirations of this turning into more than a hobby.

In the five years I’ve been blogging I feel that I’ve learned a lot about the statistical side of baseball myself, and I don’t think the blog would be where it is now if not for the work of people like Tango Tiger, MGL, Sean Smith and Dan Szymborski, just to name a few of the people whom I’ve interacted with and whose work I’ve often used as the basis of the analysis I do.

Yankeeist: What Yankee and/or baseball blogs/websites do you check in with every day?

SG: There are a lot of good blogs out there, although I generally don’t like to check them before I do my own blogging for the day because I don’t want to risk stealing their work or having my own thoughts influenced, but going through the ones I generally look at at least once every couple of days.

Bronx Banter – Alex is a damn good writer, and I have a lot of respect for Cliff as an analyst.
Lohud – Still the best source for straight Yankee news.
River Ave. Blues – Ben, Mike and Joe are all sharp guys who do a great job.

Baseball Think Factory
The Book
The Hardball Times

There are a few other ones I check at least weekly:

Pending Pinstripes
Yankee Universe

Then there are others that I check out semi-frequently, too many to list, but we’ve got them all listed on our blogrolls off the main page.

Yankeeist: How old were you when you realized you were a Yankee fan for life, and what is your first vivid Yankee memory?

SG: Probably around 13, during the 1985 season. The August 8, 1985, game sticks out as the one that made me a fan — Dave Winfield hit two home runs and the Yankees won 8-1, and the whole pennant race with Toronto that went into the final series of the season really hooked me, even though the Yankees ended up falling a bit short at the end. I still remember being livid about Bret Saberhagen winning the AL Cy Young over Ron Guidry, even though he had TWO fewer wins.

Yankeeist: Favorite all-time game/season/moment as a Yankee fan?

SG: Favorite game ever is probably Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS against Seattle. It was the game where Mo the relief ace was effectively born, as he came in to fan Jay Buhner to get the last out of the 12th after John Wetteland gave up a HR to Griffey that broke a tie before the Yankees rallied in the bottom of the 12th to re-tie the game.

Mo then pitched the 13th through 15th, allowing no runs and striking out four. The tension and drama in that game was just amazing, and Jim Leyritz’s two-run home run after 5 hours and 11 minutes was about as big of a hit as I could have possibly imagined at the time.

Favorite season is probably 1998, although 2009 is pretty close. There was just something amazing about the methodical way that ’98 team destroyed the competition that year, plus I was living in New Jersey at that time and got to attend about 20 games in person. The Wells perfect game, El Duque’s MLB debut, Chuck Knoblauch’s defense. Well, maybe not that last one.

2009 was a close second for me for a few reasons. The walkoffs. The way the new faces (CC, AJ and Tex) contributed. Hughes becoming the best setup reliever in the AL. All that plus the continued excellence of Mo, Jeter, Posada and Pettitte at an age when they should all be fading. The redemption of A-Rod, even though it shouldn’t have been necessary, was also fun to watch.

Favorite single moment, probably Charlie Hayes catching the last out of the ’96 World Series. There was an inning in the ’96 ALCS where Mo gave up three straight singles to load the bases then struck out the next two hitters and got a pop-up that always sticks in my mind, too.

Two honorable mention favorite moments in games I was actually at:
– Pat Kelly goes yard in the ninth of a must win game in Toronto on September 29, 1995.
– Bernie goes boom against Armando Benitez to turn a 4-5 deficit into a 7-5 lead, aka the Benitez plunks Tino game.

Yankeeist: I’ve recently gone on record as saying that the 2009 championship has been the most meaningful of my life. While 2009 was obviously a special year, 1996 seems to occupy the top spot in many younger Yankee fans’ hearts. What’s your favorite championship year and why?

SG: Probably 1996, just because it was the first, and because of the way they rallied after dropping the first two at home to Atlanta. 1998 was great, but that team was so good that you almost felt like you were watching the inevitable.

Yankeeist: Favorite Yankee of all time? Favorite “bad” Yankee of all time?

SG: Up until recently, it was Dave Winfield, but Mo’s passed him on the list. What he’s been able to do over the last few years is just amazing, and by all accounts he’s an even better person than a baseball player.

Favorite bad player? I guess it’s pretty obvious by the name of my projection system, but it’s Miguel Cairo, although I also had soft spots for Pat Clements and Joel Skinner too. I still remember a game where Clements came in and pitched four perfect relief innings and thinking it was the most heroic relief outing of all time.

Yankeeist: You have a fantastically dry sense of humor about the team. As one of the only major Yankee bloggers writing under an alias, will you ever reveal your true identity? You’re not also a comedy writer for an NBC sitcom, are you?

SG: I know some of the hardcore stat stuff can get a little boring/dry, and baseball is supposed to be entertaining, which is why I try to mix in a little bit of sarcasm/humor when I can. The readers and commenters on the blog do a good job of that too, and help keep the blog from getting a little too serious.

I’ve never really cared for the statheads that seem to foster no disagreement or assume we can glean everything from the numbers. There’s a lot of stuff that we can’t quantify, and there are a lot of reasons that a lot of the numbers we look at should at the very least be taken with a grain of salt. That’s another reason to not take everything too seriously.

I’ve thought about eventually just writing under my full name instead of my initials, but I don’t think my employer would particularly appreciate how much time I spend writing about baseball on their dime. But at some point it could happen.

And nope, I don’t write for an NBC sitcom in my real job. I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express though.

Chapman Sweepstakes between Boston and NY

According to Frankie Piliere (FanHouse), the Aroldis Chapman Sweepstakes is an expensive one. Therefore, most mid-market teams will bow out of the proceedings, leaving the Red Sox and Yankees to battle it out for Chapman’s prized left arm. The situation seems pretty simple to me if this is the case, though. The Yankees want Chapman and have more money to spend than Boston. Therefore, I think he’ll end up in pinstripes by the end of the year.

He’s rumored to command anywhere between $15-50 million. What do you think? Is he worth it?

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Take a moment to admire Mariano Rivera

Everyone at my college agrees that Professor Hazeltine remains the institution’s best professor. During his prime, Professor Hazeltine was so popular and good at his job that he won the teaching award every year. In response, the school named the teaching award after Professor Hazeltine. It gave him the highest honor it could, so that the institution could better honor the achievements of others. In so doing, the school stopped honoring Professor Hazeltine with any regularity. There was no need. He’d been honored already in perpetuity. As great a decision as that was, it meant that Professor Hazeltine would be somewhat taken for granted afterward.

The baseball media regards Mariano Rivera in a similar fashion. At a certain point in Mo’s prime, when he was routinely saving anywhere from 35-50 games a season with an ERA under 3, or under 2, and a WHIP at or below 1, the media almost universally decided he was the greatest closer ever. The decision to honor his career as it was unfolding is the highest honor Mo could receive. Unfortunately, it also makes analyses of the numbers he has put up in his career to date somewhat redundant. It happens from time to time, but unlike with Alex Rodriguez’s or Derek Jeter’s ongoing accomplishments, beyond the drumbeat toward Mo’s 500th save, fans seldom get a detailed breakdown of what he is doing that makes him so great. Instead, analysts are content to call him “the Great” Mariano Rivera, and leave it at that.

In 2008, there was so little fanfare as Rivera passed probably the single most important milestone of his career that I was unaware it had happened. That was the season in which he pitched his 1,000th inning, making him eligible to qualify among the all-time leaders in pitching statistics. He’s made quite the mark on the record books.

Mariano Rivera is 15th on the list of all-time ERA leaders, with a mark of 2.25. That stat alone is incredible, but the list needs to be examined to put Mo’s place into context. The guys ahead of him are a who’s-who of deadball era and 19th century pitchers no one’s ever heard of. Walter Johnson is the only other guy in the top 15 who’s career saw the live ball era.

More incredible still, with a career mark of 202 (202!), Mariano Rivera is Baseball’s all-time leader in ERA+. He takes first place by a country mile. Pedro Martinez (you know, before he was a postseason Yankee punching bag, Pedro could throw the ball a little) comes in 2nd place. His ERA+? 154. Mo smokes Pedro to the tune of 48 points!

Rivera’s superhuman career ERA+ could be used to argue that he is the most dominant pitcher in baseball history. This post will stop short of that. Joba Hughes offer compelling evidence that it may be easier to relieve than to start. Mo’s statistical dominance, on the other hand, buttresses the argument that he is the greatest relief pitcher of all time — in fact, its not even close. Furthermore, no pitcher has been more dominant in his role on the baseball field that Mariano.

People also lose sight of how dominant Mo remains late into his career. Rivera has fascinated me since he first came onto the scene in 1995 and ’96. Back then he threw much harder than he does now. His famous cut fastball appeared to be rising when I watched it on television, and would top out at 93-96mph. Today, he’s lost much of that velocity, but his numbers may actually be getting better.

Since 2005, Rivera has had only one season with an ERA above 2 and a WHIP above 1. His last two seasons have been as dominant as any in his career and he continues to strike batters out at a high rate. In the past, Baseball Prospectus has used this data to argue that, despite seeing his average fastball dip down to about 89mph, Mo may not be even close to finished. Pitchers stop striking batters out when their careers are coming to an end, according to BP. Mo, on the other hand, struck out 74 in 2007, 77 in 2008 and 72 in 2009. All the while pitching 71.1, 70.2 and 66.1 innings, respectively.

The Yankees don’t really have a contingency plan for when Rivera retires. Fortunately for them and for us, the 2009 championship has breathed new life into their famous closer. Where previously he had said 2010 would be his last season, he now wants to pitch five more years, much to the delight of the entire fanbase.

Until the horrible day that Mo finally decides to hang it up arrives, we’ll continue to be treated to opportunities to admire not only the greatest relief pitcher and closer of all time, but a pitcher that has been more dominant in his responsibility than anyone else who has ever played the game.

…before selling ONE ticket…

Manfred did tell us two variables, one important:

Manfred, however, indicated that Boras’s revenue sharing numbers were grossly out of whack and that the five largest recipients of revenue sharing are “25-35 percent” lower than the figure Boras referenced. Manfred also said there were only 10 teams with $200 million or more in revenues.

Given that the range comes (reportedly) from Manfred, we can now peg that the five largest recipients of revenue sharing are receiving between $50 and $60 million each year, before selling one, single ticket. So when the Marlins pare their roster to HALF of what they have received in revenue sharing –BEFORE SELLING ONE TICKET– and crying poor at the same time, we have a problem.

You can pound your chest for all of eternity, but until something is done about the low-end teams, nothing should be done about the high-end teams. Want to keep taxing the rich? Fine. Do it. They’ll pay, or not, their choice. But, teams that continue to rake in these handouts and do not bring payroll to a reasonable level (that’s a floor for you economist-friendly folks) should face some similar tax. You don’t spend it on talent (and development, with an audit), you forfeit it. Simple. You can’t just take it and have ownership stuff it in their pockets. We’ve never seen an accounting of a team’s operations and probably never will.

As far as the 10 teams with greater than $200 million in revenues, that’s an interesting fact, but has little bearing, to me, in profitability and payroll as we’re discussing the smaller revenue teams and markets.

MLB is not a non-profit operation and owners have a right to earn money. However, taking in revenue sharing funds and not reinvesting it in the team is flat out stealing.

Of course, if you are a friend of Bud, like Marlins owner Jeff Loria (and current Sox owner John Henry before him), you face no concerns about getting called out by MLB leadership. The boys in the Boys Club rule.

2009 Season in Review: The Bullpen

This is the third in a series of five Yankeeist 2009 Season in Review recaps. Please be sure to check out 2009 Season in Review: The Infield and 2009 Season in Review: Starting Pitchers if you haven’t already done so.

As happens every year for every team in baseball, the Yankees’ opening day bullpen was a considerably different beast than the unit that finished the season with the team and that manager Joe Girardi took into the playoffs. It’s easy to forget that the Yankees began the year with the likes of Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez and Brett Tomko in the ‘pen, none of whom would make it through to the end of the season. In fact, the only two pitchers that spent all 162 games in the bullpen were Mariano Rivera and Phil Coke.

The bullpen was of the few things that went right for the 2008 incarnation of the Yankees. As Mike Axisa notes, last year’s bullpen posted the seventh-lowest ERA (3.79) and second-lowest FIP (3.82) in the league. The 2009 bullpen wasn’t quite as lockdown but still very effective, pitching to a 3.91 ERA, good for 5th-best in the AL, and a 4.33 FIP.

As in seemingly every year this decade, the bullpen didn’t start the year out particularly well, with five pitchers — Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Jonathan Albaledjo, Damaso Marte and Anthony Claggett — posting 5.00-plus ERAs in April. Granted, Claggett’s 43.20 came in only 1 2/3 innings of work, but I was there to see it, making it that much more painful. The bullpen ERA for the month of April was an unsightly 6.46, second-worst to only the Angels.

After the arrival of Alfredo Aceves and David Robertson, May saw significant improvement, with a 4.04 mark. Phil Hughes was sent to the bullpen in the beginning of June, and combined with the merciful DFAing of Jose Veras, the ‘pen became a force to be reckoned with, tossing to a 2.63 ERA over 82 June innings. The bullpen ERA and FIP jumped up a bit in both July and August before settling back down during the last month of the season to 2.87 and 3.30, respectively.

The ‘pen seemed like it would be an advantage for the Yanks heading into the playoffs, although sadly Hughes didn’t have much left, turning in a 4.83 FIP and really not fooling anyone. Joba — switched to the ‘pen due to the three-man rotation — was also erratic, but mostly kept the damage to a minimum to the tune of a 3.41 FIP. Longman Aceves, who was excellent for much of the regular season though seemed to tire down the stretch, was also mostly ineffective out of the ‘pen in the playoffs, and Phil Coke was just flat-out awful.

Thankfully for the Yankees, Mariano Rivera continued to defy logic by pitching even better in the postseason than he did in the regular season, surrendering one earned run in 16 innings. Damaso Marte also finally justified his contract in the playoffs, allowing zero earned runs in four innings of work.

Mariano Rivera, RHP
162-Game Averages: 2.25 ERA, 202 ERA+, 1.01 WHIP, 8.3 K/9
2009 regular season: 1.76 ERA, 243 ERA+, 0.91 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 2.89 FIP
2009 postseason: 16.0 IP, 14K, 0.94 WHIP, 0.56 ERA, 2.28 FIP

I’m not a religious person, but if I did worship a deity it would be Mariano Rivera. For starters, Mariano has, by far, the highest career ERA+ in baseball history (second-best is Pedro Martinez’s 154). Additionally, he pitched to the tune of a 243 ERA+ in 2009, and that was only the sixth-best mark of his career!

In addition to being his usual beastly self in the regular season, unsurprisingly leading the Yankees in FIP, Mo continued to be superhuman in the postseason, with an October FIP of 2.28. Superlatives begin to lose their meaning when discussing the almighty Mo, so let’s just say that without Mariano Rivera, there is no championship #27. And probably no championships numbers 23 through 26, either.

Phil Hughes, RHP
As starter | 2009 regular season: 7 starts, 5.45 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 8.0 K/9
As reliever | 2009 regular season: 1.40 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 11.4 K/9

162-Game Averages: 4.20 ERA, 105 ERA+, 1.28 WHIP, 8.3 K/9
2009 regular season: 3.03 ERA, 141 ERA+, 1.12 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, 3.22 FIP
2009 postseason (as reliever): 6.1 IP, 7K, 2.37 WHIP, 8.53 ERA, 4.83 FIP

I wrote about Hughes ad nauseum in my review of the starting rotation last week, so feel free to click here to see what I had to say about him.

David Robertson, RHP
162-Game Averages: 4.14 ERA, 105 ERA+, 1.39 WHIP, 12.0 K/9
2009 regular season: 3.30 ERA, 130 ERA+, 1.35 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, 3.05 FIP
2009 postseason: 5.1 IP, 3K, 1.31 WHIP, 0.00 ERA, 3.66 FIP

Robertson was the fourth-most valuable Yankee out of the bullpen after Hughes, Rivera and Aceves. Not bad for a guy who would have posted the best K/9 ratio in the American League had he qualified. The only rub on Robertson is a relatively high walk rate, which he seemed to improve upon as the season wore on. Robertson was also excellent in the postseason, squirming out of a bases loaded no-out jam in the top of the 11th of Game 2 of the ALDS and ended up being Girardi’s third-best option out of the bullpen, even if Joe for some reason seemed hell-bent on ignoring that fact.

If D-Rob can continue to reduce his walk rate, he could be a valuable piece of the bullpen puzzle for years to come.

Alfredo Aceves, RHP
162-Game Averages: 3.24 ERA, 134 ERA+, 1.05 WHIP, 6.7 K/9
2009 regular season: 3.54 ERA, 121 ERA+, 1.01 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 3.75 FIP
2009 postseason: 4.1 IP, 2K, 1.85 WHIP, 4.15 ERA, 4.25 FIP

Ace was the unsung hero of the Yankees for the first half, and while the wheels started to fall off some as the season wore on, he turned in a fantastic overall campaign. Ace gave the Yankees pretty much whatever they needed in relief whenever they needed it — one inning, multiple innings, one batter, spot start — putting up a 121 ERA+ over 80.2 innings.

Aceves wasn’t very good in the playoffs, although between being tired and sporadically used, it was hard to get too up in arms over his performance. My one concern with Ace is that he seems unlikely to be able to be that good again, although if the rest of the bullpen pitches to its ca
pabilities then he may have a bit more margin for error.

Damaso Marte, LHP
162-Game Averages: 3.46 ERA, 130 ERA+, 1.26 WHIP, 9.6 K/9
2009 regular season: 9.45 ERA, 45 ERA+, 1.58 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 5.65 FIP
2009 postseason: 4.0 IP, 5K, 0.50 WHIP, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 FIP

Marte was putrid in limited regular season action, and landed on the DL in May for what would wind up being most of the season. He didn’t return until the end of August and was still bad, tossing 5.2 innings of 7.94 ERA ball. Then October happened, and just like that, a switch seemed to go off and Marte was a highly effective pitcher again. Though accomplished in only 4 innings of work, Marte still had the lowest FIP of anyone in the bullpen in the postseason, and one hopes he can build on that and be a key cog in the 2010 bullpen, perhaps as part of the Bridge to Mariano that the team has had to renovate on an annual basis.

Phil Coke, LHP
162-Game Averages: 3.74 ERA, 116 ERA+, 0.99 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
2009 regular season: 4.50 ERA, 95 ERA+, 1.07 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 4.68 FIP
2009 postseason: 2.2 IP, 3K, 1.88 WHIP, 6.75 ERA, 11.72 FIP

Full disclosure: I’m not a big Phil Coke fan. He was a fairly effective reliever for a decent portion of the season, but I seldom felt comfortable when Coke came in with a lead to protect. Maybe it’s irrational, but I just didn’t trust Coke at all in a big spot. For me, whatever shred of confidence I may have had was completely eviscerated when Girardi went to Coke in the top of the 8th inning of the Sunday, August 9, game against the BoSox, with a potential four-game sweep and 6.5-game division lead for the Yankees a real possibility and the team leading 1-0. Pettitte had just given the Yankees seven more innings of shutout ball against Jon Lester and the Red Sox, incredibly bringing Boston’s scoreless streak that weekend against the Yankees to a ridiculous 31.

Coke managed to get Jacoby Ellsbury to strike out, but Dustin Pedroia then singled, bringing up Victor Martinez as the go-ahead run. As I was watching this game with my family up in Cape Cod, all I could do was curse Girardi to the high heavens because I just knew Coke was going to give up a home run in that spot. I knew it. Though I wasn’t at the Stadium, I bet everyone in attendance knew it, too. Apparently Hughes was unavailable, and Joe clearly thought Coke could neutralize the lefty in this spot, but of course Martinez ended up hitting one of the most obvious home runs of all time. Down 2-1, it seemed unlikely that the Yanks would be able to pull this one out — even with all of 2009’s comeback wins — because beating the Red Sox in four straight games is a herculean task as it is, not to mention the fact that they hadn’t scored in ages up to that point. Needless to say, I was supremely dejected.

Thankfully, the best thing ever happened in the bottom of the 8th. After quickly retiring the first two Yankee batters, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeria went back-to-back on supposed closer-of-the-future Daniel Bard, and the Yankees would add two more runs off Hideki Okajima to go on to win the game 5-2 and complete the wonderful four-game sweep of the team’s archrivals.

Of course, Phil Coke ended up with the win in that game, which is a disgrace. Coke was actually very good in September, giving up no runs in 7.1 innings, but was an absolute joke in the postseason. I don’t expect much out of Coke for 2010, although Bill James is somehow forecasting a 3.86 ERA and 4.03 FIP for Coke next year, which would be dual miracles.

Brian Bruney, RHP
162-Game Averages: 4.27 ERA, 105 ERA+, 1.54 WHIP, 8.9 K/9
2009 regular season: 3.92 ERA, 109 ERA+, 1.51 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 5.10 FIP
2009 postseason: 0.1 IP, 0K, 9.00 WHIP, 54.00 ERA, 3.10 FIP

Bruney began the year looking like the Bridge to Mariano the Yankees have been trying to build for ages. Bruney tossed a 3.38 ERA and a microscopic 0.85 FIP in 8 innings, but hit the DL in late April. Bruney came back earlier than he probably should have and was bad, hit the DL again, and when he came back for a second time he clearly wasn’t the same pitcher. The Yanks gave him a handful of opportunities to reclaim the 8th inning role from Hughes, but Bruney just couldn’t do it, and wound up getting buried in the bullpen.

Despite his struggles, he still somehow managed a 109 ERA+, although that 5.10 FIP is ugly, and for much of the second half it seemed like he was just grooving his fastballs right over the middle and giving up home run after home run.

He wasn’t any better in limited duty in the postseason, and though many suspected he would be non-tendered, the Yankees apparently want him back. If he can regain even some of his dominating April 2009 form it’s probably worth the chance as a pretty low-cost investment for the ‘pen.

Jonathan Albaladejo, RHP
162-Game Averages: 4.19 ERA, 103 ERA+, 1.40 WHIP, 6.6 K/9
2009 regular season: 5.24 ERA, 82 ERA+, 1.66 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, 5.81 FIP

Albaladejo didn’t have a huge role on the 2009 Yankees, though he did get into 32 games while giving them 34.1 innings. They weren’t particularly good innings, although I do have a vague memory or two of Alby getting himself out of a big spot here and there, but clearly they weren’t all that memorable because I don’t even recall what games they came in.

I can see why the Yankees continue to give Albaladejo opportunities — when his sinking stuff is working, he can be hard to hit. But during his Yankee tenure he gets tagged more often than not, and has yet to establish himself as a reliable bullpen piece. Still, he’ll be in the mix come this spring, and it’s possible we haven’t seen the best of young Albaledejo just yet.