About 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.

Today’s news isn’t a gigantic surprise. It’s been speculated on since midway through the 2009 season, and given the Yankees newfound attempt at fiscal responsibility, $5 million + medical expenses for an on the mend version of the worst pitcher of 2009 probably seemed pricey. And so, just like that, the Yankees most consistent pitcher from 2006-2008 is a free agent.

It’s stories like this that show how inequitable the relationship between owners and players is. Wang was amongst the better pitchers in baseball for several years running–at one point winning 19 wins in consecutive years, and ending up with a major league FIP of 3.99 (even including his 5.38 in 2009!) while spending that entire career in the AL East. In that time, he’s reeled in something like $8 million dollars (plus advertising revenues from back in Taiwan, where he is roughly on par with Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods Phil Mickelson).

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Paging Mike Cameron

Today the Yankees struck decisively (aided by Brian Cashman’s new best friends, the Arizona Diamondbacks) patching one of the Yankees’ bigger holes–an outfielder for 2010. Except, he didn’t, really, because the Yankees already had two average or slightly above average center fielders (Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner) and no adequate left fielders. Simply put, Melky and Gardner are both below average offensively relative to the position–while being good enough defensively to play CF. It’s not a travesty if they end up manning LF, especially given how large the Yankees’ left field is–but neither is it ideal.

Additionally, everyone who owns a tv or computer is well aware that Granderson can’t hit lefties at all (.202/.261/.309 over the last three years)–which really does pose a problem against the Jon Lester’s of the world. Fortunately, there is an outfielder who is currently a free agent, plays tremendous defense, and hits lefties quite well (.283/.407/.530 over the last three years!). Mike Cameron, come on down.

Don’t be surprised at all if the Yankees snap Cameron up on a one year deal, with the intention of playing Granderson in LF and Cameron in CF, and holding Melky or Gardner as the 4th OF. Now, neither Melky or Gardner have exactly killed lefties in their time in the majors–but they’re both above .620 in the OPS department (which is perhaps the lowest hurdle in the history of baseball)–something Granderson can’t claim. I’d probably go with Gardner for the ability to run Cameron/Granderson/Gardner out there in the late innings defensively–which would rank in the top 2 or 3 OF defenses in MLB.

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About those arbitration decisions

So for the second season in a row, the Yankees have a group of Type A free agents, and offer none of them arbitration. Last season I was similarly stunned, and as is often the case, I ended up being almost entirely wrong, and the Yankees front office was almost entirely right. This year, I don’t think it’ll end up being quite so one-sided.

Let’s back up one second. For anyone unaware of the arbitration dance that goes on each offseason, here’s the deal:

Each team is given the opportunity to offer each of their departing free agents arbitration. If they offer it, the player can accept, in which case the player and the team will both come up with offers (assumedly the player’s will be higher than the teams) for a one year contract. The team and player then submit these offers to an independent arbitrater (with MLB), and each have an opportunity to argue their case (which is an acrimonious affair–the team is essentially trashing the player). The offers cannot be below 80% of the previous year’s contract, but can be unlimited on the upside. The arbitrator then chooses one offer or the other–not in between. Alternately, the player can refuse the offer of arbitration in hopes of landing a better offer (in years or cash) with another team.

Here’s where the rub comes in.

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Johnny Damon Doesn't Want a Pay Cut

From Mark Feinsand of the Daily News, the news that Johnny Damon is looking for a raise.

Damon’s preference is to remain with the Yankees, and while he has made that wish well-known, sources close to the veteran say he isn’t about to give the Bombers a big discount to stay in pinstripes.

Although he’s told friends all season that he would take a shorter deal from the Yankees than he would elsewhere, it is believed that he would want a higher average annual salary if he were to take fewer years.

A source close to Damon said that the outfielder believes his statistics over the past two years have been good enough that unless the market crumbles entirely like it did last winter for Bobby Abreu, he doesn’t feel he should take a pay cut.

The good news for Damon is that even though the market crumbled last offseason, he got to enjoy the $13 million per year contract he signed back when the world wasn’t crumbling. The bad news is that we’re not back from the abyss yet–a number of the wealthiest teams are simply not interested in spending $10 million plus a year on a soon-to-be DH. While Damon’s poor defense was obfuscated by the switch to LF, his defensive value over the past three years is 4.8, -1.1, -9.2–meaning he lost a full game for the 2009 Yanks with his defense (more if you take the LF positional adjustment of -6.9 into account). Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt is in the midst of a messy breakup with his wife (if you’re uncertain that’ll be an issue, look back to the Padres last offseason), the Mets got Madoff’d, the Rangers’ Tom Hicks is seeking a buyer for the team (I hear this guy has a lot of free time these days), the Dodgers budget got eaten by Manny Ramirez, the Cubs already have an albatross LF contract, etc.

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Really? The Hank Aaron Award?

First off, let me get this out there. I like Derek Jeter. This year, I really like Derek Jeter, because for once he’s managed to buck to overrated charge–not by being less appreciated, but rather by simply getting better–a rare thing for a player of his age. Wait, what?

This year the league has really outdone itself. Really, guys. The Hank Aaron award? Derek Jeter is the best offensive player in the American League? Looking through the metrics, I can’t find a single important number suggesting that Derek Jeter is even the best offensive player on his own team. He did lead the Yankees in OBP, but haven’t we come a ways past that, analytically? Regardless, he’s still sitting behind Youkilis and Mauer even there.

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Interesting Strikezone

Check out the strikezone after the top of the 3rd. Those green squares inside the zone? Balls that should have been called strikes (thrown by CC). The green triangles inside the zone (there’s only one) if they existed, would be the balls that should have been called strikes by Blanton.

Bottom line–the Yankees have been jobbed on four pitches so far, and the Phillies got hit with one.

Note: I believe this chart will updateover the course of the game automatically–so maybe things will even out. But at time of writing, the homeplate umping has been slanted significantly in the favor of the Phillies.

Update: after three and a half innings, the tally is 6 pitches in favor of the Phillies, 1 pitch in favor of the Yankees.

Update (9:38): now it’s 7 to 1, Phillies, and a blown call at home to allow Ryan Howard to score.

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Pitching Profile: Joe Blanton

Charlie Manuel must have absolutely no faith that Cliff Lee can perform on three days rest. Because if he thought he’d get even the 90% version of what we saw on Wednesday (both tonight and in a possible game seven) it’d look a thousand times better than what he’s running out there instead. Simply put, Joe Blanton versus CC Sabathia is a mismatch.

Blanton 4.45 106 2.76 1.38 40.6% 7.9% 0.302 20.1% 78.9%
Sabathia 3.39 133 2.94 0.70 42.9% 11.0% 0.284 19.8% 71.4%
  • FIP is a fielding independent version of ERA.
  • ERA+ is a version of ERA that measures how the pitcher did compared to league average (adjusted for both league and home park). 100 is league average.
  • GB% shows how often the pitcher induces a ground ball (higher is better).
  • Whiff% shows what percentage of pitches induce swinging strikes.
  • BABIP measures the batting average of balls in play, which generally corellates with LD% (line drive percentage).
  • LOB% shows what percentage of a pitcher’s baserunners were stranded (league average is 71.9% for the season).

The numbers are pretty clear, aren’t they? And to really make the comparison, we need to keep in mind that Blanton’s numbers come from the NL, and Sabathia’s come from the talent heavy AL East. Furthermore, looking at Blanton’s LOB%, which is significantly higher than average, we can see that he got straight up lucky this season–if 7% more of his runners score than did, his ERA+ would likely be below 100 (showing him to be a below average NL pitcher). That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value, by the way–he pitched 195 innings this season, and that holds considerable value. It just means he shouldn’t be starting a postseason game, especially against CC Sabathia.

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Pitching Profile: Cole Hamels

Last postseason, Cole Hamels took MLB by storm, bringing home both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. He ended up with an ESPN commercial, a Sports Illustrated cover and a shiny new world championship ring for his efforts.

In 2009, he’s the owner of a sterling 3.91 K/BB, a solid (if not spectacular) 3.72 FIP and the third highest swinging strike rate in the majors (11.8%, behind Javier Vasquez and Rich Harden).

Hamels hasn’t been as superhuman in this season as he was in October of 2008. He’s been merely very good remember that 3.72 is not nearly as impressive in the NL as it would be in the AL. Over the last month, though, he’s been doing his best Livan Hernandez impression See the table below:

Since 9/23 31.1 40 24 24 8 7 23 6.89 5.75 3.29
Regular Season 193.2 206 95 93 24 43 168 4.32 3.72 3.91

The thought here is that Hamels is simply worn out. Consider his innings totals since coming to the majors 181.1 in 2006, 183.1 in 2007, and then 227.1 in 2008. Now, it appears he may have hit a wall after 160 innings in 2009.

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Why AJ was The Good AJ

If you are anything like me, this evening petrified you. Certainly not because Pedro was pitching for the Phillies (though, in hindsight, many of us underestimated him). Not because of the Phillies lineup, which is simply inferior to that of the Yankees. I’m not that worried about the struggles of Phil Hughes, or even about Girardi’s lineup calls. I’ve already resigned myself to most of the issues with the Yankees–but then there’s A.J. Burnett. You simply can’t pigeonhole him. There’s no one specific reason he does poorly on any given night. He’s not foreseeable. He terrifies me.

Because how he does doesn’t depend on his fastball velocity, how hot or cold the temperature is, whether it’s a day game or night game, etc. It depends which version of him (and his command) shows up.

Tonight, we got the good version.

Burnett threw 108 pitches over 7 dominant innings, allowing only 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 9 Phillies. He allowed 8 fly balls, 6 grounders and just a single line drive. He registered 10 swinging strikes, 4 of which were in the zone. Of the 26 batters Burnett faced, 22 were greeted with a first pitch strike.

Ryan Howard is one of the best batters in baseball against right handed pitchers, with a slash line of .320/.395/.693/1.088, and Burnett struck him out three times on 15 pitches. Which is good, because I almost lit my TV on fire when Girardi had Burnett intentionally walk Chase Utley to get to him.

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