All posts by Will@IIATMS

Will is a lifelong New Yorker and Yankees fan who splits his time between finance, music, and baseball. He was one of the early contributors to IIATMS, though life took him away for some time. He is very excited to be back.

So long, CMW.

Andy Pettitte is being signed to deliver around the level of production the Yankees got from Wang each year from 2006-2008, and he’s getting paid $11.75 million for a single year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not starting up a donation pool here–CMW’s got more money than I’ll have in my lifetime. But in terms of dollars produced, and to be clear, those dollars produced by winning, how good of a deal was Wang for the Steinbrenners?

And while we’re on the topic, remember at the beginning of 2009, when anyone projecting the Yankees’ season included 10-15 (or more) wins from the Taiwanese sinkerballer? How good was this team? They lost their #2/#3 pitcher for the season (and their best hitter for the first month), and still managed to walk into the playoffs, before steamrolling their competition enroute to title #27.

This story hasn’t ended, of course. The $5 million that Wang made in 2009 could only be dropped by 20% via arbitration (and historically, arbiters have been very skittish about dropping players’ salaries at all). Now the Yankees can sign him to whatever deal they want, assuming they’re not outbid. But if the media has it right, the real dealbreaker for Wang was the Yankees asking him to go back to AAA to open up a roster spot until he’s ready to go again. I find it hard to imagine there’s not one team out there willing to use the roster spot on CMW to get him at a big discount–which means it’s unlikely that we’ll see him wearing the interlocking NY again unless the Mets sign him (which, given the state of their rotation, is probably something they will be considering).

So long, Chien-Ming, and thanks for all the crude jokes.

Paging Mike Cameron

And before anyone screams about how our biggest need is a pitcher–when you improve defense, particularly outfield defense, you improve your pitching as a matter of course. With that configuration, fly balls will turn into outs significantly more often than they did this past season, leading to lower ERAs, pitch counts, etc.

And while I’ve only got a moment or two left to post before running off again, I need to get some things off of my chest:

  1. For those of you bemoaning the loss of Phil Coke in this trade–in all 60.0 (!!) innings that he pitched this past season, he added a grand total of 0.1 wins above average. For some reason, people (I’m looking at you, Girardi!) think he’s a good pitcher. A reliable pitcher, even. I’m here to tell you that he’s reliably lousy. His BABIP at the major league level is a miniscule .222. League average this past season was .303. That makes Phil Coke a ticking time bomb, and thankfully we’ve passed him off to another team.
  2. For those of you furious that we now can’t trade Austin Jackson to the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay, keep in mind that the Blue Jays have the current worst contract in baseball (that’s right, Zito, send the man some flowers) in CF–his name is Vernon Wells, and he’s a damn albatross. No one is going to take him off the Blue Jays hands, and for at least another year or two they’re going to hope against hope that he turns things around. As a result, the Blue Jays would have little to no use for Austin Jackson.
  3. And for those of you annoyed about Ian Kennedy, I don’t know what to say. We have 6 better pitchers on the Yankees starting roster at the moment–and one of them is named Chad Gaudin. Heck, I’d rather see Alfredo Aceves start than Ian Kennedy. He’ll probably be aided a bit by the move to the NL, but this feels a lot like when we ‘lost’ Brad Halsey. Kennedy is the definition of AAAA, which isn’t helped by his crappy attitude (though he said the right things today) or his recent surgery to repair an aneurism. I wish him well on his journey, but I’m not going to miss the kid.

About those arbitration decisions

Each offseason, free agents are ranked based on their previous two years’ performance. The top free agents are classified as Type A, and the second tier are classified as Type B. These, together, make up a small percentage of the total free agent class. If a team offers a Type A free agent arbitration and he refuses, the team that signs him (assuming one does) then has to give up its first round pick (or second round pick, if the signing team’s first round pick is in the top 10) to the Type A free agent’s former team. The former team also gets a “sandwich” pick, in between the first and second rounds (though the signing team doesn’t give anything up for this). For Type B free agents, his prior team gets a sandwich pick, and the new team doesn’t give up anything.

Before 2008, it was rare for a team to not offer a departing Type A free agent arbitration. Simply be being good enough to earn that classification, the player was almost certainly good enough to get more than a one year deal, and so the team offering arb wasn’t risking much–you’d either end up with a good player at a below market rate for one year, or 2 valuable draft picks. Then came the offseason of 2008, along with the great recession, the fall of Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff, and a suddenly thrifty group of MLB owners. Last season, the Yankees did not offer arbitration to departing Type A free agents Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, or Bobby Abreu. Amazingly, this ended up being the proper choice. Mussina wasn’t coming back either way, Pettitte resigned cheaply with the Yankes, and Giambi and Abreu signed elsewhere for relative pennies.

This year, Damon (Type A), Matsui Nady and Pettitte (Type B) are Elias-ranked free agents, and none were offered arbitration. I recognize that I’m still trying to live down my incorrect stance last year, but here I go, into the fray once more. Matsui, Molina, Hairston and and Hinske were unranked. [Thanks to reader Brien Jackson for catching the error!]

These situations are not that similar. On one hand, these three players are all on the downside of their careers and both made a good bit of coin this past season. On the other hand, while last season the Yankees had an overabundance of OF and DH types (making Giambi and Abreu expendable), this year they do not. If they do not resign Damon and Matsui, the team will be in the market for both a left fielder and a DH. Having a place to stash both players on the roster cuts the downside tremendously–at worst the Yankees would be stuck overpaying for one year for a player that they could legitimately use. The upside to not offering these two arbitration is that the team can now negotiate with them without the price floor of 80% of last season’s pay. The downside is, they’re both useful players, and will likely be signed elsewhere (and the Yanks don’t get compensation picks if they do).

The Yankees also just handed the Red Sox a gift in their negotiations with Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, both of whom are going to get contracts in excess of $60 million (way in excess, in Holliday’s case). Free agent prices get determined by supply and demand–not by quality. The best players on the FA market will always get paid, even if they’re not great relative to last year’s best FA players. Jason Bay and Matt Holliday don’t sniff Mark Teixeira’s upside, for instance. John Lackey is no C.C. Sabathia. And next season, the list of possible FAs is droolworthy (Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Carl Crawford, to name a few). If the Sox want to skip out on the pricier FAs and go for the next tier down, the Yankees just provided them with a solid target in Johnny Damon, whose terrible throwing arm would be mitigated by the shortest LF in MLB at Fenway. On a one year deal, he’s got tremendous upside. And as David Ortiz continues to fade into the background, Hideki Matsui could certainly slot in at DH for the Sox. [EDIT NOTE: Of course, RedSox fans, and likely the front office, will have NOTHING to do with Damon reappearing in Fenway and the Sox aren’t signing a second DH, much less one from the Yanks who bumps legend Ortiz.]

Now, don’t get me wrong. The real reason I’m ticked about the non-offers of arbitration is the draft picks, and the fact that Damon especially really makes sense on a one year deal. Bay and Holliday will be tremendously overpaid in both years and prospects, and if the Yankees want to lock in another long term deal they should do so with higher tier talent. Melky would be a below-average corner outfielder, and this would leave the Yankees with only 3 outfielders (and Austin Jackson is not ready yet). Mike Cameron (right) is a good option, but moving him to LF really kills his value (which is top level in CF, at least in the near term). And who is going to DH for the Yankees next season? Juan Miranda? I suppose there are a number of aging sluggers who are obtainable on a one year deal (maybe Cashman finally signs Vlad Guerrerro?) But Matsui is a fan favorite, a revenue driver, and the guess here is he is signed by the Mariners to a two year deal.

Andy Pettitte is probably more an issue of them having an understanding, and not wanting to step on Andy’s toes. He’s made it abundantly clear that the only team he’ll pitch for is the Yankees, so offering him arbitration just presents the opportunity to get in a fight with one of the Yankees’ favored sons.

Will I end up eating a healthy dose of crow by the end of this offseason, after Damon and Matsui get no good offers and slink back to the Bronx on tiny one year deals? I sure hope so–but I doubt it.

Johnny Damon Doesn't Want a Pay Cut

Probably more important is the perception (some would say reality) that Johnny Damon’s performance at the plate this season was largely a function of the stadium he played half his games in (.915 home OPS v. .795 on the road). Clearly Damon doesn’t agree with this given the quote above, which is perfectly fine. However, information like that displayed on the chart below are becoming more and more easily available, and this picture is pretty telling.

It also doesn’t help that LF is the most ‘stacked’ of all positions in this FA class–Damon is instantly behind Holliday and Bay, and gets to fight over scraps with the likes of Jermaine Dye, Vladimir Guerrerro etc. (and don’t be surprised if the Yanks consider Mike Cameron for their sizeable LF).

In the end, Johnny Damon was about a 3 win player this year (per, which made him roughly worth the $13 million he was paid. I don’t see anyone betting he keeps that up, though–and especially not over a multi-year contract. If I were Cashman, I’d offer him arbitration, figuring that the Yankees can afford to pay him and DH him if he accepts (which would somewhat non-intuitively raise his value to the team), but knowing he’ll likely hold out for a 2-3 year deal from another team, netting the Yankees two solid draft picks in the process.

So long, Johnny, and thanks for all the cake.

Really? The Hank Aaron Award?

Name Team OBP
Joe Mauer Twins 0.444
Kevin Youkilis Red Sox 0.413
Derek Jeter Yankees 0.406

For instance, looking at a more evolved version of OBP:

Name Team wOBA
Joe Mauer Twins 0.438
Kevin Youkilis Red Sox 0.413
Ben Zobrist Rays 0.408
Alex Rodriguez Yankees 0.405
Mark Teixeira Yankees 0.402
Miguel Cabrera Tigers 0.402
Jason Bay Red Sox 0.397
Adam Lind Blue Jays 0.394
Derek Jeter Yankees 0.390

How about offensive value this season?

Name Team Batting
Joe Mauer Twins 56
Mark Teixeira Yankees 43.8
Miguel Cabrera Tigers 40.9
Ben Zobrist Rays 40.2
Kevin Youkilis Red Sox 39.1
Derek Jeter Yankees 37.4

Don’t get me wrong–he’s 10th by wOBA, 7th by batting value, and 3rd by OBP. That’s an amazing player–especially when you take into account that Jeter plays a competent shortstop. But this is the offensive player of the year for the AL. There’s one guy who owns everyone else on those lists, and he’s Joe Mauer. If you go on the assumption that he’s winning the MVP, and they don’t want to give him both, there are still a number of players who are head and shoulders above Jeter offensively.

My question is this–if Jeter really was the best offensive player in the AL, what lengths would the league go to to ensure that he remained overrated? Declare him the second coming of Christ? The immaculately conceived son of Chuck Norris? JACOBY ELLSBURY?

I don’t know. But I do know that Jeter is not nearly the best offensive player in the AL, and he’s still one of my favorite players.

(except when he grounds into momentum stopping, rally killing double plays in the 9th inning with no outs in a close world series game.)

Pitching Profile: Joe Blanton

Some comparisons merit deep analysis. This one really doesn’t. Of course, that doesn’t mean everything will happen as the statistics say they should. Baseball has a way of reminding us stat geeks that we don’t know nearly as much as we think we do. So, a quick look at the pitch values, to see how Blanton will attack the Yankee hitters:

% Thrown 56.4% 16.9% 9.1% 17.6%
Value per 100 -0.8 1.22 -1.15 1.95

To compare apples to apples, below is the Yankees’ performance this season on these pitches as a team.

Value per 100 0.95 -0.25 0.83 0.61
MLB Rank 1st 7th 1st 3rd

Phillies fans will have to hold their breath each time Blanton sees the catcher put down number one. He’s got a below average fastball (clocking in 88-91), and the Yankees are the best team in baseball against fastballs. He’ll need to rely on his slider and changeup, which match up much better against the Yanks batters than his heater does.

But as shown above, what he’ll really have to rely on is Sabathia having a bad game. WIth the awakening of A-Rod, Damon and Swisher that we saw last night, don’t be surprised if the Phillies have to remove their starter before the 5th inning for the second straight evening.

Pitching Profile: Cole Hamels

Combine that with the fact that Hamels’ best pitch is his changeup, and the fact that Yankees were the 3rd best in MLB as a team at producing runs versus changeups (per, and it looks rough for the Phillies. That said, the Phillies are above average against the cutter, and rank as the best team in the majors against sliders, two pitches Pettitte relies on.

And it should be pointed out that while it’s not an elimination game, it might as well be a must-win for the Phillies– Sunday brings a rather unfair matchup between CC Sabathia and Joe Blanton. If Hamels wants another ESPN commercial in 2010, it’s time to man up.

Recommended related reading: World Series head-to-head: Starters, where we noted the following:

  • One thing to note–the Yankees are very good at hitting changeups (3rd best in the league by pitch values), and Cole Hamels best pitch is his changeup.

What the other side thinks: Crashburn Alley’s preview of Andy Pettitte

Why AJ was The Good AJ

He did this armed with one of the best curveballs he’s had all season, locating on the outside corner to lefties, and burying it below the knees of righties. He threw the curve over 40% of the time, compared to his season average of 31%, which may have contributed to how poorly the hitters were reacting to his fastball. Interestingly enough, he also varied the spin on the curve, as can be seen on the following chart:

The curve is represented by the bottom group of pitches on the above chart. The concentric circles represent spin–the further from the center the circle is, the more spin (and thus more break) Burnett threw curves tonight ranging from 1000 RPM to 2000 RPM. The big breakers dropped a full 100% more than the lesser breakers, and they’re all around the same speed. Also, note the yellow circles amongst that group–those represent swinging strikes–and you can see that they’re spread across the range of break shown. This is what A.J.’s curve looks like when he’s on, and it’s why he dominated the Phillies tonight.

And now I’m left bemoaning the fact that I spent the majority of my paycheck on tickets to last night’s game instead of tonight. Saturday, the fight begins anew with Andy Pettitte going up against Cole Hamels in Philadelphia. Let’s just pray Swisher’s in the lineup this time around.

Additional reading: