Author Archives: Mark Smith

Are the Yankees Losing Plate Discipline?

Seven of the eight regular position players saw their O-Swing% increase by over 4%, and Brett Gardner, who made an obvious attempt to draw more walks, increased his by exactly 1%. This obviously isn’t good as more swings at pitches out of the zone leads to softer contact, if any at all, and more outs. It’s also troubling for the older players because it could be a sign of decline—as players age and lose bat speed, they start their swings earlier to catch up to hard fastballs, making it more difficult to stay back on breaking balls and pitches out of the zone. Aging doesn’t seem to tell the whole story, however, as this seems to be a team-wide problem, which indicates that the hitting philosophy has changed.

But I’m not sure that’s it, either. Kevin Long has been the hitting coach since 2007, and it seems unlikely that he would switch his philosophy now. If being more aggressive was his philosophy, you would imagine that the Yankees would have seen an increase before this past season, but as you can see, it just happened this past season.…

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Should We Worry about the Rest of the AL East?

The Yankees main adversaries will be the Red Sox, and as the table shows, they are prohibitive favorites over the Yanks as a result of the off-season maneuvering. Offensively and defensively, they lose 7 wins from Adrian Beltre, but the Red Sox will benefit from some more health for Youkilis, Pedroia, Cameron, and Ellsbury, which more than makes up for the loss of Beltre. Add Crawford and Gonzalez, and the position players have really improved from last season, especially if they don’t need to give innings to the black holes of Eric Patterson, Jeremy Hermida, and Yamaico Navarro. The Red Sox paid dearly, but they have a younger, better core of position players than the Yankees. If they stay healthy, they could be devastating.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the team should also improve their production from the pitching staff. I went fairly conservative on some of the pitchers because of health concerns for Lackey, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, but the rotation looks to be really good.…

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Trying to Convince Everyone Not to Worry

The most important, and broadest, information is at the bottom. Last year’s team produced 95.4 fWAR, and sure enough, they won 95 games, which tells us that they were legitimately a 95-win team (probably). Looking forward to 2011, I did a few projections of my own, but I also included the FANS projections (it’s crowd-sourced, taking the average of fans’ projections on the player) just in case you don’t trust me (FANS has a lower total than I do, but they didn’t have predictions for Cervelli, Nova, back-ups, or most middle relievers; this could add 6-7 wins, which would probably have to be dropped anyway once all the fancy smoothing out—actually making sure outs, at bats, kinds of hits actually match up—is done). When I did so, I realized that the Yankees, even without Lee or Pettitte, may actually be better next season without any major additions. What?

Offense

Let’s start with the offense.…

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Thinking Prospects: The Draft

A grand total of five teams spent more than 10% of their total payroll (information from here) on the draft (information found here). Now, I won’t argue that teams need to spend 10% of their player budget on the draft, but for the price of one over-priced reliever that no one needs but everyone signs, each team could take some more risks on guys who slip down due to bonus demands, sign them, and still have money left to make a significant splash in Latin America (which I’ve left out but will address in a future post). It makes no sense to spend so much money on a reliever (or any other free-agent teams throw money at—Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, etc.) who won’t even account for one win of production and not spend 20% of that on a draft prospect that could bring much more. I’ll admit the Yankees are awfully low on this list partially due to their ginormous payroll, but I’d also argue they don’t leverage the draft nearly enough.…

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What Now?!?!

Derek Lowe/Jair Jurrjens

The Braves have plenty of starting pitching and are potentially looking to move some salary, and they may be willing to deal one of these pitchers. Lowe had a resurgent second half after utilizing his slider more, and his durability, 3.89 FIP, and 3 wins of production could be a nice addition to the rotation. His $15 million salary would also keep the asking price in prospects down.

Jurrjens, on the other hand, is almost the opposite of Lowe—much younger, a fly-ball pitcher, and cheaper (3 years of arbitration left)—but he was also hurt for most of last season. On the bright side, his FIP is usually a little lower (3.59 and 3.68 the two years previous), but he would likely cost more in prospects.

Carl Pavano

I know, I know. You don’t want to ever hear his name mentioned again, but I’m going to offer it anyway. Yes, he got hurt for pretty much all of his last contract with the Yankees, and yes, it would be an awkward reunion.…

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UPDATED: Russell Martin? Yes!

So, let’s say that Martin should be ready for Opening Day (which is actually reasonable). What are the Yankees going to get from him? Russell Martin was one of the most valuable players in baseball in 2007, and he was pretty good again in 2008. Nothing about those years was particularly fluky, but his ISO dropped from .176 to .116 to .079 to .085. His amazing 2007 is out of the question, but 2008 isn’t. He usually has a BABiP around .300, but he’s been around 20 points below that over the past few seasons while not losing anything off his LD%, BB%, or K% (his K% went up this past season, but those numbers don’t include about 50 games that were in other seasons, which could have balanced it out). Considering all of this, he’s probably somewhere between his 2008 line of .280/.385/.396 and his 2009 line of .250/.352/.329, and because those seasons gave him 4.6 and 2.2 fWAR, he’d be around a 3-win player if he could play 140-150 games.…

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Believing You Can Do It

The word “statistics” brings memories of dread for quite a few people. While the word simply means “the collection, organization, and interpretation of numerical data”, most people think of the high school or college class that involves sampling, interpolation, and regressions, and honestly, I don’t have much of an idea what some of those words mean (I have never taken a “stats” class). All people really think when they hear “stats” is computers doing really complex math, which people don’t like anyway. “Statistics” inspires fear and confusion, and at times it can seem like magic—just plug in some numbers and get the result. But what the hell happened in between?

And here’s where we arrive at the problem. There are all sorts of great primers—Sabermetrics Library, Lookout Landing, and books such as Beyond Batting Average—but there’s still some anxiety toward those statistics. Where do the coefficients (it’s not just the coefficients; formulas are just as confusing trying to decipher how one arrived at the final result) 13, 3, and 2 in the equation for FIP come from?…

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Chien-Ming Wang, Act II?

It isn’t that I think Wang is completely done as a starter, but I don’t think it’s the best way for him to come back. He’s had a lot of time off, and considering the nature of the injury, throwing 200 innings seems like a bad idea. With Alfredo Aceves hurt and possibly not an option as the long-man in the bullpen, Wang might be a nice addition for him and for the Yankees. For him, the long-man spot would allow him throw a decent amount of innings without over-doing it, and being in the bullpen would diminish the damage a decline in stuff could cause. Shoulder surgeries usually cause diminished stuff in pitchers, and if he does have problems, the bullpen is the best place to deal with this or gradually regain his stuff. Another positive for Wang would be that he didn’t thrive on over-powering stuff. If his stuff diminishes too much, he’s obviously done, but considering that he relied mostly on movement, he may be okay.…

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Understanding Jeter

The other argument against Jeter receiving that much money is his “declining performance”. Well, that’s true. He did play worse in 2010 than 2009, but I don’t think anyone expected him to repeat his 7.1 fWAR season. Almost anything is a “declining performance” from that. But Jeter recorded only 2.5 fWAR this past season, and it was his lowest ever, including his rookie season. However, if you look a little deeper, there are reasons to believe Jeter will be better next season with the most obvious being his .307 BABiP, which is almost 50 points below his career norm. In other words, he was highly unfortunate in a season that he couldn’t really afford to have one. 2007 was pretty close to an “average” season for Jeter, and he racked up 3.5 fWAR that season. That also included a nasty -17.9 UZR rating that he hasn’t neared in the past three seasons, and you could make the argument that even a -8 rating would leave him with 4.5 fWAR, which sounds more accurate.…

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