Former Family Members

The better half of my genetic DNA is Italian. As such, family was a big part of my life. In former days, family life was different than it is today. It used to be that family was forever. Sure there was the occasional scandalous divorce, but mostly, family members remained a constant. All that is changed today with multiple marriages and easy divorces. Each family handles those ex-family members differently. For some of us, those ex-family members are dead to us. For others, they are remembered fondly. Baseball has undergone a similar transformation. Like the family, in older days, those family members remained more static. There were occasional trades but basically, the guys you rooted for one year remained the same the next. Today, with free agency, the family of a baseball team changes all the time. Just think back to the New York Yankees of the last twenty years. The team did have a core with Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Bernie and Posada, but the other cast members changed all the time. And some Yankee fans choose to hate all former family members. And others remember them fondly. I am of the latter category. Well…for the most part.

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Yankees 13th in Baseball America organization rankings

Baseball America released their full list of MLB organization rankings today, with the Yankees coming in at 13th. That’s lower then where they were before Jesus Montero was traded to Seattle, obviously, and maybe a little lower than I expected them to be, honestly, but it’s pretty impressive in its own right to remain in the top half of the league after trading away a top ten prospect. You’ll need a subscription to read the individual team write ups, but BA gives the Yankees good marks for depth of the system, though they note that most of the high end talent in the system is in the lower levels of the minors. If some of those youngsters progress nicely over the next year or two, this is a group that could easily be back in the top five by 2014, in my opinion.
Continue reading Yankees 13th in Baseball America organization rankings

Sabermetrics & Psychoanalysis: Surviving the Sophomore Slump

When I became cognizant of sabermetrics, one of my first questions was whether advanced statistics would be able to provide greater insight into pitching psychology and, particularly, whether it would be possible to better understand the balance between mental acuity and physical talent. Could we foresee Jamie Moyer succeeding in spite of his 88-mph fastball? Or, alternatively, could we reveal the inevitable limitations of A. J. Burnett, despite his incredible “stuff”? Certainly, it will never be that simple, but, thanks to sites like FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball, the average fan now has access to data which, I believe, provides insight into each pitcher’s ability to play “the game within the game.” “Sabermetrics & Psychoanalysis” posts are speculations based upon such data.

I want to put Michael Pineda‘s spring struggles into perspective by looking at a couple recent examples of pitchers who suffered similar setbacks early in their sophomore seasons. This is, obviously, anecdotal evidence, but it’s offered as counter to the all-too-conspicuous Phil Hughes comparisons.

First of all, I should acknowledge the looming mythology known as “The Verducci Effect.” Sports Illustrated columnist, Tom Verducci, postulated in 2006 that any pitcher who throws 30 or more innings above his previous career highs increases his risk of injury and performance regression the following season. In the intervening years, it has been pretty well proven that this simple rule is not the least bit predictive. However, Verducci’s analysis drew necessary attention to the question of how young players develop the endurance and durability required to handle a major-league workload. Whether valid or not, the Verducci Myth will be used by many to give credence to Pineda’s recent problems, which might otherwise be dismissed as exemplary of just how little Spring Training means. (Roy Halladay and Stephen Strasburg are also getting lit up. Anybody worried?) Pineda barely qualifies for Verducci’s annual list, having only thrown 31 2/3 more innings in 2011 than he did in the minors in 2010. However, Pineda’s mediocre second-half in Seattle combined with his reduced velocity this spring make his inclusion seem more foreboding. (I would also note that Derek Holland, about whom Verducci is most concerned, threw fewer pitches per batter than Pineda did, which is not to suggest that pitches per batter is any more predictive than total innings, but merely to suggest that there are several ways to evaluate stress.)

I will argue that the biggest danger to Pineda is not the physical effects resulting from increased workload, but rather the temptation to allow those effects to influence his (and the Yankees) decision-making processes.

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The Importance Of Spring Training

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) No one needs to be reminded of how unimportant Spring Training stats are (but if you did, there’s another reminder).  But what about the overall format of Spring Training itself?  It’s structured such that players are eased into full-scale baseball activities, but how much do they really need that structure?  Every player is different and needs to do different things to get themselves into full game shape.  Some guys need lots of time in the cage and on the field to get right and some like Mo seem to be Continue reading The Importance Of Spring Training

Thursday morning quick hits

Here’s what you need to know this morning:

Andy Pettitte threw a 50 pitch bullpen session Tuesday and had nothing but good things to say about how his arm felt. Yesterday, however, the reality of getting ready for the season caught up with him, as he was unable to do his normal workout thanks to a case of sore legs. Nothing to be concerned about, just a reminder that Pettitte really is behind everyone in camp now. Pettitte is scheduled to throw live batting practice tomorrow.

-For some reason, I haven’t gotten a chance to watch Phil Hughes pitch yet this spring, but he’s drawing rave reviews from just about everyone. That’s good to see, and I’ve been especially encouraged by the positive remarks he’s gotten on his curveball so far this spring, and now he’s talking about his changeup feeling good yesterday. Fastball velocity has been the big concern with Hughes since the beginning of last season but, in my opinion, if Hughes is going to become a truly effective starter, it’s those secondary pitches that all but went by the wayside when he went to the bullpen in 2009 that will really make the difference, as even at its best Hughes’ fastball isn’t the sort of heater that can carry him through 7+ innings consistently without at least a decent secondary arsenal supporting it. I’m not saying he needs to develop a pitch as good as Michael Pineda‘s slider (though I wouldn’t complain if he did), but he does need at least need to get one of those pitches to the point that he can thhrow it for strikes and miss a few bats with it as well, or he’ll likely cap out as a back end starter.

-Speaking of Pineda, we’ve really gone through the looking glass on this spring story when we’re repeating anonymously sourced claims that Hector Noesi is going to have a better season than Pineda is. I was probably more bullish than most on Noesi, and I would be extremely surprised if that proved to be the case, and that’s not discounting anything that’s happened this spring. I swear, if you only read the papers you’d think Pineda was throwing flat 86-88 MPH fastballs with nothing else behind them, rather than pretty good 91-93 MPH heaters augmented by a fantastic slider and a surprisingly competent changeup. Since when is that not good enough to be an effective major league pitcher?

-On the injury front, Derek Jeter is still “on track” to return to game action on Friday, David Robertson will throw batting practice on Friday as well, Freddy Garcia is set to pitch in Saturday’s game, Nick Swisher is reported to be feeling fine, though there’s no rush to push him back into action.

-Just a reminder, regional sports networks are great, and every team should either start their own or leverage their position into at least a partial stake in their regional Fox Sports affiliate.

-Finally, Brian Cashman’s girlfriend/harasser has been indicted, just in case you were wondering how that case was going.

-Also, be sure to check out Tamar’s series previewing each of the Yankees’ full season minor league affiliates. So far she’s looked at the Empire State Yankees, Trenton Thunder, and Tampa Yankees. Her preview of the prospect laden Charleston Riverdogs will be published tomorrow. Continue reading Thursday morning quick hits

Addressing Pineda’s Velocity

For better or worse, much has been made about Michael Pineda’s velocity so far in Spring Training. Last year, the young righty burst onto the scene as a fireballer, sitting in the mid-90’s and blowing guys away with that. So naturally, we expected a lot from him in terms of the fastball. You don’t need me to tell you that it hasn’t been exactly as advertised and there has been quite the controversy over it. My general feeling has been that it doesn’t matter much. This is spring training, after all, and it’d be foolish for pitchers to go all Continue reading Addressing Pineda’s Velocity

Some Triple-A Notes

Just a couple quick tidbits I noticed tonight regarding the Empire State Yankees.  According to Baseball America, there appears to be some concern that PNC Field may not be ready by the 2013 season.  At this point, the Yankees have only made plans for this season, but there is a chance they may spend some more home games on the road in 2013.  The article also points out that what has been often referred to as a “renovation” is much, much more.  Part of the problem seems to be the ongoing discussions between Lackawanna County and SWB Yankess LLC about the sale of the team.  The sale must be completed before ground can be broken on the project.  Apparently, if the Yankees are unable to return to Scranton next April, they will have to come up with a new plan for playing there games, as the International League has said the current situation is “not to be repeated.”  This whole situation just seems to get more convoluted as time goes on.

Jorge Vazquez also made some news, as it is becoming clear that his patience is running out in the minors.  He has said that if he does not get a chance in the majors (and he does not limit it merely to the Yankees) he is ready to play in Japan or Korea.  I don’t blame him.  He has consistently put up some solid power numbers in Triple-A and arguably deserves a chance.  Still, as I said the other day, the Yankees have shown no interest in giving him some time in the Bronx and his limited defensive abilities does not give him the flexibility the Yankees often look for in their bench players. Continue reading Some Triple-A Notes

Nightly Links: Hughes, Almonte, Pettitte

This afternoon’s game was started by future comeback player of the year Phil Hughes. In 5.0 innings of work, the righty gave up 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts. It was an overall solid start, with the only runs coming off a bomb from Matt Joyce. After the game Hughes claimed that he was working on his changeup, and Russell Martin said that he built consistency with the pitch throughout the game. The three lefties attempting to make the team this year pitched today, with Clay Rapada earning 2 strikeouts and Mike O’Connor earning 1 strikeout over Continue reading Nightly Links: Hughes, Almonte, Pettitte

Made for Cable: RSNs Fill Baseball's Coffers; MLB Revenues Continue to Rise

(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog; follow me on Twitter at@williamnyy23). The business of baseball is very good, and one of the big reasons why is cable television. According to Forbes’ most recent look at the game’s economics, MLB’s 30 teams combined to earn net-revenue of over $6.3 billion, a 3.6% increase from last year’s record total.  And, of that total, nearly 15% came directly from local television rights fees. Meanwhile, franchise valuations jumped up almost 16% to more than $18 billion, even though operating profit (Forbes uses EBITDA, not EBIT, as a measure of operating profit) declined by Continue reading Made for Cable: RSNs Fill Baseball's Coffers; MLB Revenues Continue to Rise