About William Tasker

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

Chris Young Needs to Play

[caption id="attachment_74165" align="aligncenter" width="594"]Young vs BAL Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

The season is young and the sample sizes are small and many reactions to the action thus far on the field are emotional and knee-jerk. So keep those thoughts in mind when certain beat writers bury Jacoby Ellsbury while certain writers (waving hand) of your favorite Yankee site (this one, of course) do the same to Carlos Beltran. My emotional and knee-jerk reaction is that Chris Young needs to be playing every day.

Despite playing only 41 of his 1,055 Major League games as a right-fielder, I think we can all agree that Young is going to be the better defender between him and Beltran. Carlos Beltran, in my mind, has had a Hall of Fame career. He is going to in the top ten of the greatest center fielders to ever play the game. JAWS currently has him eighth. But he isn’t that guy anymore and while his instincts may still be good in right, his body just isn’t.

A combination of Young, Ellsbury and Brett Gardner bring the Yankees coverage in the outfield they have rarely seen before. I think we can all agree that Young is superior defensively right now.

The question then only remains if Chris Young can do more for the Yankees offensively than Carlos Beltran can. For those of you who remember Young’s days as a member of the New York Mets, that idea might sound ridiculous. But it isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound.

First, there is the reputation that Chris Young is much better against left-handed pitching than the other way around. His career splits bear that out. He is a career .358 wOBA guy against left-handed pitching and .311 against right-handed pitching. So, yes, he is much better against southpaws. His strikeout rate is four percentage points higher against right-handed pitching and his walk rate is five percentage points less.

But let’s consider this for a moment. If all the Yankees got out of Chris Young was his career average of a .311 wOBA against right-handed pitching, that beats Carlos Beltran’s .310 wOBA against ALL pitching last year. Yes, Carlos Beltran was hurt last year. Yes, he had a bad elbow. But there is the pesky short sample size of his performance thus far this year. If I was to give Carlos Beltran a scouting report, it would be, “Creaky.”

Obviously, it is easy to get all wrapped up in Chris Young after a night where he came to the plate five times and hit a double, a homer and a single and walked the other two times. His career numbers suggest that an extended amount of playing time would show him declining to his career norms. But even before tonight’s game, Chris Young has put together a .921 OPS for the Yankees since he joined the team late last season.

With Alex Rodriguez slowing down a bit in the last few games, Chris Young is the hottest Yankee hitter in the lineup right now. He has to play, at least as long as this hot streak is going on. Let Beltran give Alex Rodriguez a blow against tough right-handed pitching once in a while. Let him see if he can work out some kinks in the batting cage. But put Chris Young in the lineup because right now, he is the better fielder and the better batter.

It is probably stupid to give up on Beltran after fourteen games. The knee jerk reaction is to remember Alfonso Soriano last season and draw comparisons. But right now…if I’m making the lineup card out, Chris Young is in right field every day and Beltran is a very expensive bench piece. Continue reading Chris Young Needs to Play

Early Yankee BABIP Problems

Can you judge a team’s offense after just eight games? Probably not. But you can look at trends to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead. According to most statistics I am looking at, the Yankees are a middle of the road offense. The one thing lagging behind everything else is the team’s batting average on balls in play or BABIP.

The Yankees are ninth out of thirty teams in runs scored. No doubt that fourteen-run explosion the other night helped that out quite a bit. The team is seventh in ISO, so the power numbers are decent. They are eleventh in wOBA. And they are fifteenth in on-base percentage.

Looking further at the numbers thus far, the team is ground ball / fly ball neutral. In other words, they are not leaning heavily in one batted ball type or the other. The team hasn’t hit a lot of line drives to this point and are 28th in that category.

On the flip side, they are sixth in home run to fly ball ratio, so, again, when the team gets a hold of one, it goes out.

The Yankees are doing a good job at not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. They have the third lowest rate of doing so. That means the team is making pitchers throw strikes. And, they have the fourth lowest swinging strike percentage. That hasn’t led to a high walk percentage though as they are eleventh in walk percentage. They are sixteenth in strikeout percentage.

All this points to a short sample sized middle of the road offense that should start walking more as the season goes along.

Line drive percentage and BABIP sometimes go hand in hand. There is no more successful contact type in baseball than the line drive. The BABIP on such contact is always over .650 in baseball as a whole. A low line drive rate will hurt BABIP in most cases.

But with the Yankees, you also have to look at the number of Yankee hitters susceptible to the shift. If you were to rattle off in your head the Yankees who see the most shifts, you would list Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew, Carlos Beltran and, to a lesser degree, perhaps Chase Headley and newcomer, Garrett Jones.

Again, remember that this is all small sample sizes and too much can’t be made of such things yet, but those guys you would associate with shifts have the lowers BABIPs on the team. Here is how they rank currently:

  1. John Ryan Murphy – .429
  2. Alex Rodriguez – .385
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury – .346
  4. Chris Young and Gregorio Petit – .333
  5. Brett Gardner – .263
  6. Brian McCann – .250
  7. Garret Jones – .222
  8. Chase Headley – .208
  9. Carlos Beltran – .200
  10. Didi Gregorius . 182
  11. Mark Teixeira – .167
  12. Stephen Drew – .118

Stephen Drew, Brett Gardner and Brian McCann all have line drive percentages hovering at the 6% range, which is freakishly low. I would explain Gardner’s .263 BABIP almost solely on his early line drive percentage.

After watching most of the games, at least half of the team’s batters face constant shifts. And, to me, it is predictable that the BABIPs of 6 through 12 in the list above are all guys that see a lot of shifts. This is not going to change until those six players make a conscious effort to beat the shift.

We already know that won’t happen with Mark Teixeira as he has flatly stated as such. What we see of his BABIP in the early going can be expected to be a problem all season. For the fans, this is extremely frustrating because it seems more selfish than difficult to do.

The Yankees aren’t the only team that faces a lot of shifts. But they are among the top five in baseball thus far. And as long as half the team continues to make the shift worthwhile, then teams certainly have an advantage making batted balls work to their advantage.

It’s early yet and the sample sizes are small. But this 28th ranked BABIP Yankee offense bears watching…and head slapping.
Continue reading Early Yankee BABIP Problems

Transition and Tradition

[caption id="attachment_73506" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Judge ST How long until Judge-ment day? Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports[/caption]

I have to admit that I am a bit lost. I don’t know how to love these Yankees. Oh boy…that doesn’t sound very journalistic. Well, heck. I’m not a journalist. I have always written from the point of view of a fan. My name on Twitter should give you a clue. On my site, I stay neutral and write as a fan of baseball as a whole. When I write for IIATMS, I am a Yankee fan. That’s what I am. And as such, I don’t know how to feel about this 2015 team.

Oh, there are plenty of writers that will tell me how I should feel. The team is old. Our writers have already blown up that notion. The starting pitching is a time bomb. Excuse me, but every rotation in baseball is a time bomb. Any rotation can blow up in the blink of an elbow. I should be dissatisfied because there were no big deals this off season. Hal is sitting on his money and blah blah blah.None of those things are my problem.

My problem is my fan history. I don’t go as far back as Lou Gehrig. But I go back as far as Mickey Mantle. And every generation has had its home grown star. We went from Gehrig to Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle to Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson to Don Mattingly to the Core Four to…uh…to..what, exactly?

As I look at the Opening Day lineup, I see one homegrown guy: Brett Gardner. We can probably have a debate on whether or not he is a star. A guy putting up 4 WAR seasons is pretty darned good. But a star? We can probably agree he isn’t a superstar. When Brian McCann has a rest, there will be two homegrown guys when John Ryan Murphy plays. I can say for sure that Murphy is not a star and will not be as long as McCann’s contract is around. Continue reading Transition and Tradition

Spring Training Game 27 – Orioles at Yankees

The Baltimore Orioles (9-15) come to George M. Steinbrenner Field today to play the Yankees as Spring Training enters its final stages. Scott Baker will get the start for the Yankees and Tyler Wilson goes for the Orioles.

Despite his 4.32 ERA in a very short sample size this spring, Baker has thrown well. He hasn’t given up a homer nor has he walked anyone. To be honest, I like him better than Chris Capuano. He is still someone in the mix for the fifth starter that everyone expects Adam Warren to win. Baker is not a bad option.

It will be fun to see Tyler Wilson. He is one of the best Orioles’ prospects and has had a great spring.

The Lineups:

The Baltimore Orioles:

  1. Alejandro De Aza – LF
  2. Manny Machado – 3B
  3. Jimmy Paredes – DH
  4. Chris Davis – 1B
  5. Travis Snider – RF
  6. Everth Cabrera – CF (?)
  7. Steve Clevenger – C
  8. Ryan Flaherty – SS
  9. Jonathan Schoop – 2B

The New York Yankees

  1. Brett Gardner – LF
  2. Chase Headley – 3B
  3. Carlos Beltran – RF
  4. Mark Teixeira – 1B
  5. Alex Rodriguez – DH
  6. Chris Young – CF
  7. Stephen Drew – 2B
  8. Mariekson Gregorius – SS
  9. Austin Romine – C

The game starts at 1:05 ET and can be seen on the YES Network, MLB Network and MLB.TV  Enjoy and feel free to chat here during the game. Continue reading Spring Training Game 27 – Orioles at Yankees

IIATMS Top Moments #9: The Tino Martinez Grand Slam

By the start of the 1998 World Series, the animus of New York Yankee fans to Tino Martinez for replacing Don Mattingly was long gone. A title in 1996 and Martinez’s second place finish for the AL MVP in 1997 had pretty much taken care of those things. The only real problem remaining for Yankee fans was that Tino Martinez had not come through in the post season. And he was hearing about it.

It did not help that he had just come off of a tough two for nineteen 1998 ALCS against the Indians with a 30% strikeout rate. That dismal series for the Yankee first baseman brought his accumulative triple slash line of .188/.292/.291 to his Yankee post season resume. The .291 slugging percentage was particularly galling considering the 97 homers Martinez had hit for the Yankees during the last three regular seasons.

A lot of great hitters have bad post season performances. Mike Trout is the latest. People often forget the randomness of post season numbers on top of the fact that nearly all teams make it to the post season because they have great pitching. But in New York, everything gets amplified and it did not matter that the Yankees were the best team of 1998 and had gotten to the World Series with relative ease. The question was why Tino Martinez and his bat were so silent.

The fact that Tino Martinez was a Yankee at all was one of the best trades in pinstripe history this side of Roger Maris. After Mattingly retired following the 1995 season, the Yankees acquired Martinez, bullpen stalwart, Jeff Nelson, and Jim Mecir in a lopsided deal that sent Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis to the Mariners. I would say the deal evened the score from the Jay Buhner deal. But, man, where was Martinez in the post season? Continue reading IIATMS Top Moments #9: The Tino Martinez Grand Slam

IIATMS Top Moment #16: Joe Girardi’s Triple

Many who lived through and experienced the “Dynasty” and the “Core Four” consider 1996 the sweetest memory of them all. After all, it was the first World Series title after a long drought and it did not even seem possible after the first two games of the 1996 World Series. There were so many heroes of that World Series and during the course of these “Top Moments” post, many of them will be recounted. This “moment” concerns the deciding Game Six of that Series and a dagger placed in the hearts of Atlanta Braves fans by catcher, Joe Girardi.

We hear a lot of the Core Four. To me, at least, it should have been a Core Five or Core Six to include Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill. But the term does include catcher, Jorge Posada. And the one misnomer about his inclusion (not to belittle his accomplishments) is that he was not really a part of the 1996 and 1997 story. Posada had a cup of coffee in 1996 and saw just a little more action in 1997. The 1996 Yankee pitching staff belonged to Girardi. Continue reading IIATMS Top Moment #16: Joe Girardi’s Triple

Who’s on first? Not Sabathia

[caption id="attachment_72368" align="aligncenter" width="575"]Sabathia vs TB 2014 Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

I fully understand that CC Sabathia gets paid to pitch. And him having a bounce-back season or even a somewhat decent full season is what is important for the Yankees in their quest for a playoff spot. I get all that. I also fully appreciate what Brad wrote yesterday about the big man’s weight. He was a great pitcher as a big guy and can be a good pitcher as a big guy. The one irritant for me during Sabathia’s tenure with the Yankees is that he pitches with only eight fielders because he is not one of them.

During Sabthia’s abbreviated season in 2014, the Yankees’ pitcher recorded only one putout. That would be an unfair statement if 2014 wasn’t the fifth time in his career that he recorded only one putout for a season. He has a string of three of those seasons in a row. Sabathia does not cover first base very well.

The only putout Sabathia recorded in 2014 was on a Robinson Cano dribbler to first. And since Cano does not run out ground balls, that makes sense. The only putout Sabathia recorded in 2013 was Mark Trumbo, a guy not exactly faster than a speeding bullet.

Okay, I admit I am obsessing about this a bit. But it irks me. CC Sabathia has always been described as athletic for a big man. Seriously? Then how do you explain that he has compiled only 41 putouts in his fourteen year career? He never had more than seven in a season and he has done that twice.

Logically, you can make a case that Sabathia throws left-handed and would fall off toward third base. Plus, you could argue that not too many lefty batters were going to pull him. If all of those were true, then Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw and perhaps even Sandy Koufax could say the same thing. What do their putouts look like?

  • Madison Bumgarner – Five seasons with 32  total putouts.
  • Clayton Kershaw – Seven seasons with 47 total putouts
  • Sandy Koufax – Twelve seasons with 64 total putouts.
  • David Price – Seven seasons with 43 total putouts.
  • Jon Lester – Nine seasons with 80 total putouts
  • Cole Hamels – Nine seasons with 74 total putouts.

So that gives you a pretty good idea of how futile it is to think that Sabathia is going to get to first if you are a first baseman.

Another stat that is amusing is CC Sabathia’s range factor. As bad as we all picked on Derek Jeter‘s range, at least his range was three-quarters what the league average was during his final few years. Sabathia’s range factor per game is half the league average. His range factor per nine is 68% of league average. Those are career numbers and not just his past few years with bad knees.

If you use Fangraphs.com’s leaderboard, CC Sabathia is the eleventh worst fielding pitcher since 2009 and the tenth worst since 2007. So at least there are ten fielders worse than him.

Again, in the grand scheme of things, this is probably a minor point as it might cost a couple of runs a season at worst. The Yankees need him to pitch and to pitch fairly well. Just call me old school. I guess. I want players to do well in all areas that they can. And perhaps CC Sabathia could be just a little bit better if he had nine fielders on the field instead of eight. Continue reading Who’s on first? Not Sabathia

Drew and Morales lost boatloads of money

After the 2013 season was over, thirteen players were given qualified offers where the players could choose that option and receive $14.1 million for 2014. After all thirteen turned down the offers, five of the players did not sign long-term contracts: Hiroki Kuroda, Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. The first three made out just fine as we shall see. But Drew and Morales both lost a ton of money saying no.

Kuroda was a special circumstance. I believe he knew he was only going to pitch one last season of MLB and left his situation to the highest, one-year bidder. The Yankees re-signed him and Kuroda came out ahead on the deal by $900,000.

Nelson Cruz was coming off of a PED suspension and read his market well and signed a one-year deal with the Orioles. While the one year cost him $6 million, his calculated gamble paid off with a big season and just signed a four-year deal that will pay him $14.25 million per season. Well played, sir.

Even better played was Ervin Santana. He signed a one-year deal with the Braves for the exact amount of the qualified offer. He broke even for 2014 and he too just signed a four-year deal that will set him for life. He didn’t lose a nickel.

Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew were not so fortunate. They (or their agent/adviser)  totally misread the market and as 2014 began, neither had a job. Let’s take a look at what that cost them.

Let’s start with Morales. It was shocking to most of us that the Mariners gave Morales a qualifying offer. Yes, he had a very good offensive year in 2013. But he is a DH/1B type of which David Ortiz is the supermodel and Ortiz was only making $14 million in 2013. Who would you rather have, Ortiz or Morales? Exactly. So why would the Mariners ever offer such a player $14.1 million? As such, why would Kendrys Morales turn it down!?

That $14.1 million would have nearly doubled Morales’ 2013 salary. Morales did not read the market or was given bad advice and nobody bit on Morales as the 2014 season opened without him. After losing both April and May, the Twins decided to sign Morales for $7.4 million. The entire season was a disaster for Morales much to the chagrin of the Twins who signed him and the Mariners who got him in a late season deal. The biggest loser was Morales who was in the hole by $6.7 million.

Surprisingly, the Royals gave Morales a two-year deal (with a third year option). The deal is fairly modest for the Royals and their new Billy Butler replacement (the original probably would have been better) will average $8.775 per season for the next two.

Let’s assume that Morales might have had decent numbers if he had started his season on time for the Mariners. A contract around $11 million per season might have available had Morales had a regular season. So, by my take, Morales lost $6.5 million for 2015 and 2016 combined. Now add in the $6.7 million Morales already lost for 2014 and basically Kendrys Morales lost $13.5 million by not accepting the qualifying offer. That is a serious chunk of change.

That brings us to Stephen Drew who just signed with the Yankees for $5 million (incentives could push that to $6.5). That is a far cry from the $14.1 million he would have made in 2014 if he had taken the offer.

After sitting out April and May, the Red Sox knee-jerked on their terrible start to 2014 and brought Drew back for $10.1 million. That is a $4 million loss for Drew in 2014 alone. With two months absent, Drew never got anything going and had a really ugly season, one of the ugliest ever if Dan Uggla hadn’t beaten him to it.

Drew went from a sought-after shortstop to a journeyman with one bad decision. Let’s say Drew’s problems all stemmed from his late start to the 2014 season I don’t know if that is necessarily true. But let’s speculate that it was. Then Drew would have been a 3 WAR player with some injury history and could have garnered a three year deal at $12 or $13 million.I think the high side would have been accurate considering the dearth of shortstops in the game.

If you tally up Drew’s losses, you see $4 million for 2013 and $8.5 million for 2015. And that doesn’t include what he would make next year or the year after which is now a very much an open question. If he doesn’t get much playing time with the Yankees and regain his status, he very much could be a utility guy hanging on for a million or two a year. The decision not to take the qualifying offer might have proved catastrophic for Drew’s overall career.

I don’t know who you blame on this one. Marginally great players get screwed by the draft pick associated with the qualified offer. Not one player in the past two seasons has accepted the offer. So either this is a bad deal for the players that needs to be fixed or a huge mistake in an agent – player scenario. Drew and Morales really took a beating for one decision. I just can’t imagine losing that much money. Continue reading Drew and Morales lost boatloads of money