Prospect Week 2015: Those We’ve Lost

Murphy Dugout

That’s “John Ryan” to you. Courtesy of Getty Images

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this year’s top 30 list, I think it’s only appropriate that we take a minute to recognize some of those prospects who are no longer with the Yankees.  The prospect world is a volatile one year-to-year.  One year a guy’s a blue chipper at the top of your system, the next he’s out of all rankings and/or out of your organization completely.

There’s a pretty good-sized list of former prospects who are elsewhere heading into 2015.  That’ll happen when you make a lot of trades.  Some of these guys were big names in the system as recently as the start of last season, some are late bloomers, some are players who, for whatever reasons, were never able to break in and earn a regular role with the Major League club.  At least the first one’s still in the system though.  Gotta have one good graduation in every former prospect class, right?  …

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2015 Hall-of-Fame Quick Take: Half-Empty, Half-Full; the Hall of Screwed; & Ridiculously Predicting the Next Three Years

(1) The Hall is Half-Empty. I suppose last year’s voting was sillier; not only did a majority of voters think Jack Morris deserves the Hall, but over three times as many thought so than voted for Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling. The similar nonsense this year is over three times as many thinking John Smoltz deserving as thinking Mussina was, given that Mussina was far more clearly Hall-worthy, whether your metric is wins (even if Smoltz remained a starter in his four years as a reliever, he wouldn’t have Mussina’s 270 wins), career WAR (Mussina’s 82.7 is well above Hall-caliber and nearly 25% better than Smoltz’s kinda-Hall-caliber 66.5), or elite years (Mussina had a league-wide top-5 WAR seven times, including a #1; Smoltz had three, with no #1s).

Two Smoltzy thought experiments: (1) If Smoltz pitched instead for the Royals or Twins, and lacked the World Series aura and the Maddux/Glavine reflected glow, is there a shot in hell he’d be a first-ballot winner, or wouldn’t he be a weaker Bert Blyleven case, earning election only after many years of languishing and hand-wringing?…

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We’ll Miss Hiroki, But Let’s Be Glad We Won’t Suffer His Imminent Decline

Kuroda vs BAL II

Courtesy of the AP

I’ll definitely miss Hiroki Kuroda. Pitchers are notoriously inconsistent, but not Kuroda: in seven MLB years, all his annual ERAs were 3.3-3.7ish, except one 3.07 that seemed lucky (his FIP was a more Kurodalike 3.78). He rang up 12 WAR over his three Yankee years, so his $41m was a real bargain, about half the $6-7m/WAR free agent going rate. And he was fun to watch; I’m a sucker for graceful mechanics like Kuroda’s, and also for the badassness of swings and misses at sinkers barely above the dirt.

But I’m only a little, not a lot, sad he’s leaving. He turns 40 in February; almost no non-juicing/non-superstar pitcher remains any good at 40-41; and Kuroda has already started suffering decline.

Kuroda impressively defied the odds by throwing in the 90s while pushing 40, but his hard sinker has definitely slowed, modestly but steadily: from 92.3-92.4 at ages 33-34, to 91.7-92.0 at 35-37, then to 91.5 at 38, and then, last year, to 91.0 at 39.…

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Career Value v. Peak Value for Hall of Fame: The Mike Mussina Case

mussina

Mike Mussina’s main Hall of Fame argument is his career value: he’s one of the top 20-30 starters of all time, whether by old-school numbers like wins (his 270 is 33rd, but 25th if you exclude folks from the 1800s), or newer stats like WAR (83.0, 23rd among SP). The argument against Mussina is his weaker peak value. He had two excellent, Cy-caliber seasons, 1992 (18-5, 2.54, 8.2 WAR) and 2001 (17-11, 3.15, 7.1 WAR). But those were far apart, and he never had a several-year span of dominance. He amassed career value mainly with (a) ten very-good-not-stellar seasons (4.4-6.6 WAR) plus (b) several average-to-pretty-good seasons (2-3ish WAR) that made him about what we remember: a #1-2 starter at his best; a #2-3 starter many years; almost never one of the league’s top few; and never a guy capable of 9-10 WAR seasons-for-the-ages like his contemporaries Pedro, Roger, Randy, and arguably Curt, who was similar but with a higher peak.

I respect peak value over career value because I don’t see compilers as all-time greats.…

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Group Chat: Hall of Fame Voting Discussion! (With Mock Votes to Argue About)

Scott:  The soon-to-be-voted 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot is out, and here’s the prevailing narrative: “Big Unit, Pedro, Smoltz headline Hall of Fame ballot.” Group argument chat time! Feel free to answer any of these questions, or to say anything else about this HOF voting season, about recent HOF voting, or about the voting process: Do you agree that those are the top three? Who else are the most deserving candidates? Who are the most-snubbed candidates? I’ll answer after giving a few of you the chance to start. [Postscript: At the end, I tally our votes, which show something interesting about the logjam of qualified candidates.]

Moshe:  My take is that Mike Mussina is incredibly underrated. I’m sure Imbroggles will get into the stats, but he was likely better than Glavine, who got in last year, and Smoltz, who will probably get in this year. My second thought is that there are somewhere between 15-18 deserving candidates on the ballot, yet the HOF somehow thought it would make sense to make it harder to get inducted.…

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Wilson-Cervelli: Quick Takes + a Worry about Lost Depth

Wow, is my timing awesome: on Tuesday, I write a hosanna to Francisco Cervelli’s bright 2015 future of increased Yankee playing time, but apparently Brian Cashman disagrees or (gasp) doesn’t read me, because he traded Cervelli the next day for LHP Justin Wilson. I feel like Karl Rove on election night 2012 screaming about how Romney is still winning right as his fellow Fox Newsers gave up the ghost. So, a few quick takes on the trade:

(1) Don’t Cry for Me, Venezuela. I praised Cervelli as an above-par catcher who could free up Brian McCann both to rest and to spell Teixeria — but I can’t fault Cashman for trading him. In retrospect, I may have lowballed Cervelli’s injury history, especially his 2014 migraines, which don’t seem major, except that migraines are a known problem for folks who have had concussions. I still think the Yankees were a better team with than without him, but he’s not exactly indispensable or reliable.…

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Get Ready for the 2015 Postseason: A-Rod in the “Best Shape of His Life”! But Let’s Look at Past “Best Shape” Claims…

The Hypothesis: The news that “multiple reports say [A-Rod] is in the best shape of his life” (10/13/14) is useless for predicting his performance. Or am I just a snarky, condescending jerk for mocking the concept that diet and exercise can help a near-fortysomething who, to play well for a team I like, reportedly is working harder than the many who let their bodies go by their early/mid-30s – like those Girardi “ripped … for being overweight, not being ‘hungry'” in an impressive bit of managerial wordplay?

The Slipshod Methodology: I Googled “best shape of his life” yankees and “best shape of my life” yankees to find others with off-season “best shape” reports; the first five pages of results from each search yielded 10 “best shape” claims. (I included a few that didn’t quite say “best” but did claim dramatically better physical condition.) I then looked at their performance the seasons before and after the offseason “best shape” claim.…

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A Final Word On The Solarte Era

Solarte vs PIT

Courtesy of Getty Images

When the Yankees announced that they had signed Yangervis Solarte to a MiL deal and extended him an invitation to spring camp, I’m sure a lot of us had the same reaction.  “Who??”  We quickly found out who when Solarte impressed in ST and earned himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, then watched in various levels of amazement as he proceeded to be the team’s best hitter through the first 2 months.  At one point in mid-May he was leading the AL in batting average and he finished the month with a .299/.369/.466 slash line.

Whether it was opposing pitchers figuring him out and adjusting to him, him changing his approach in a way that negatively impacted his effectiveness, a natural regression back to his true talent level, or a combination of all 3, Solarte’s production fell off big time in June.  He was slowly being phased out of the everyday lineup before being included as part of the trade package for Chase Headley yesterday.  …

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An interview with Rudy May

A little while back I signed on Twitter and there in my notifications was a note that Rudy May followed me. That Rudy May!? Sure enough, it was the former pitcher. He was one of my favorites during his years with the Yankees and so I wrote an article here about him. Mr. May was kind enough to tweet me that he enjoyed the article and so I became bold and asked him for an interview. He kindly accepted and we recently had an hour conversation that I thoroughly enjoyed. Rudy May is a delightful guy.

I searched the Web to see if anyone else had interviewed Rudy May recently and I found Jeff Pearlman’s great interview back in January for Mr. Pearlman’s site. The last thing I wanted to do was to cover the same ground. But I did start the conversation bouncing off one of the answers to Mr. Pearlman’s questions. The rest flowed from there.

IIATMS: Mr. May, I read with interest your comments about how you loved Earl Weaver.

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