Adam Warren v. Dave LaPoint (and Starter v. Reliever Velocity)

Warren vs BAL II

Courtesy of Getty Images

Ever have a job you were performing decently, but that still left you wondering every day if a demotion is coming? Adam Warren does. While he’s not killing it, or pitching deep into games, his average of just under 5.5 IP/start isn’t awful, and not many teams have both 4th and 5th starters beating Warren’s 4.50 ERA / 4.15 FIP. But Chris Capuano‘s return was sure to cost the rotation spot of one guy a decade younger – either Warren or, it turned out, TJ patient Chase Whitley.

Old Man Capuano versus The Kids reminds me of my favorite obscure baseball quote: rookie Sterling Hitchcock‘s too-bold yet dead-on blasting of the Yankees’ impatience with trusting young starters over crappy vets. Hitchcock is a Yankee immortal to me, but for this quote, not his forgettable pitching:

You hear a lot about our young guys, but then there’s no slot for us … It’s, “Go back to [AAA] and have a great year, and thanks for coming.” It’s frustrating because you look at other teams … and you see you pitched against them in the minors.

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Jorge Posada Belatedly Declares Jorge Posada the 2003 MVP!

CBS Sports

CBS Sports

Did a steroid-addled pre-redemption Alex Rodriguez steal Jorge Posada‘s 2003 MVP award? Jorge said so, or at least implied it in a rambling tirade:

“The only thing that I can think is 2003. You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn’t happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second, either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don’t remember. But you know, I was almost there,” Posada said. “You know what could have happened if, you know it’s tough.”

All respect to Jorge, whom I still like a lot – but there’s no way he was the best in the league in 2003, with or without A-Rod’s pharmaceutical adventures.

Posada had a great 2003, his best year by WAR – 5.9, a level that’s usually not best-in-league, and was fifth among position players, but is as good as that of many MVPs. Posada’s offensive WAR was actually 0.4 better in 2007 than 2003, but the defensive WAR stats comport with what we all remember: by age 35, his defense had declined badly.…

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Early Returns on Some Former Yankees

With a tick over twenty-percent of the season in the bag, many important statistics are beginning to stabilize. So while it is still very early in the season, the snap judgments that we all love to make are every so gradually shifting from inane to informed. That does not, of course, mean that the ending of this season has been written – each team still has in the neighborhood of 130 games remaining, and it would be foolish to assume that even stabilized analytics are not flukish (consider, for example, Dee Gordon being the second-best position player in baseball).

As we toe the line between ludicrously small sample size and semi-meaningful-but-still-small sample size, we can try to get a picture of what the Yankees will do going forward. And we have done that in spades. Instead, I will focus on those ex-Yankees that played a not-insignificant role on the team last season, and ended up donning another uniform in 2015.…

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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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