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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New Lefty Specialist Reliever CC Sabathia?

I’ll start with the Cliff Notes version of my argument. (1) CC Sabathia is no longer a big-league starter. (2) The Yankees have three southpaw relievers, but no true lefty specialist. (3) CC’s decline has been entirely against righties, so he still has use as a lefty specialist reliver. (4) This isn’t as weird as it sounds: other declining lefty starters have had second lives in their 30s as relievers.

I’ll skip the Nth discussion of how CC has been horrible for about 300 innings spanning 2013-2015, except to add that CC has zero value to the club even if he could run a 4.5ish ERA (which he can’t), because the team has too many alternatives ranging from replacement-level at worst (still better than CC) to mid-rotation-level. After Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi: (a) Chase Whitley and Adam Warren look like equally serviceable back-end starters; (b) another similar back-end starter is on the way in Chris Capuano, (c) Bryan Mitchell, who’s looked strong in AAA, is a wild card who could be awful but could be very good; and (d) Ivan Nova should return next month, and if healthy (which he seems to be) is a solid 3rd starter or better.…

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A Look to the Past for CC’s Future: Do Starters with “CC-Like” Declines Recover?

It’s about time to stop defending guys with, “it’s too early to conclude….” Bad performance for almost a month is worrisome – especially if the badness just continues from prior years. I already wrote that about Carlos Beltran, so now it’s CC Sabathia’s turn. The problem it isn’t his four 2015 starts; it’s his almost 300 IP of an 80 ERA+ (4.97 ERA) spanning 2013-15.

This is one of those times you can predict baseball: falling as far and as fast as CC is uncommon, but not unprecedented; he isn’t the first once-talented 30something to suffer a substantial, sudden decline – which I confirmed by searching the Baseball Reference “Play Index” tool for pitchers with a decline like CC’s. I generated a list of all 30something starters, in the past 50 years, with a career ERA+ of over 95 (i.e., average-ish or better) who, after at least six full seasons (i.e., a track record of success), suddenly had an ERA+ under 85 (in at least 150 IP).…

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Disaster Scenario Fun!

Every team starts the season thinking, “we’re world-beaters if only youngsters A & B develop like we hope, injured-last-year folks C & D stay healthy, and aging vets E & F return to form!” But life doesn’t work that way. If possibilities A-F all are coin tosses, you never flip six straight “heads” — or, at least, the odds are only 1 in 64 of doing so, in which case, congrats, you’re the 2014 Royals. So it’s unrealistic to muse, “how great will we be if everyone stays healthy and plays to max potential?”

The more realistic and interesting question is, “what if the most likely problems happen?” What if youngster A (Didi Gregorious?) doesn’t develop, injured guy B (Carlos Beltran) doesn’t recover, or aging vets C-F (Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew, Alex Rodriguez) don’t bounce back? With pitching, the answer is obvious: losing a #1-2 starter means you’re screwed to the tune of 3-5 wins each; you’re replacing a good-to-great pitcher with someone too scrubby to be one of your top five starters – Esmil Rogers replacing Masahiro Tanaka or Michael Pineda.…

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Why Sabathia’s First Spring Start Tonight Matters

It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, which for us regular people means a day of drinking green beer and pretending it doesn’t suck and eating corned beef for dinner even though that’s not an actual Irish tradition.  For the Yankees, it means Opening Day is less than 3 weeks away and Spring Training is getting to the point where it’s less about shaking off the rust and getting a feel back and more about getting physically and mentally ready for the start of the regular season and the 6-month grind that follows.

With that in mind, it only seems fitting that CC Sabathia makes his first ST start tonight.  He’s the last of the projected rotation members to do so, and coming off another disappointing and injury-shortened season in 2014.  In a rotation filled with injury concerns, his is arguably the most concerning based simply on the fact that it’s related to 15 years of irreversible wear and tear on a major body joint.  …

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McCann And Teix Talk About Dealing With The Shift (And I Rant About What Teix Said)

With more and more players getting into camp, there have been some more stories trickling out among the A-Rod nonsense; meaningful, baseball-related stories.  Like Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira being asked about their thoughts on facing the shift this season and the approaches they want to take to beat it.  Quotes via Chad Jennings.

McCann:

“I want to hit the ball where it’s pitched. It’s not necessarily that I’m going to try to go up there and hit the ball to left field. If it’s away from me, it needs to go to left field. If they come in on me, I need to be able to pull it, but pull correctly. If you pull correctly, you create back spin which is going to help you hit home runs. … If I hit two or three singles in a row to left field, they’re going to continue to play the shift because that’s where my power is. That’s just the way it is and whether that takes a couple of points off my batting average, if I take the approach I have day in and day out for 500 at-bats, at the end of the year things will be there.”

Pretty reasonable if you ask me.  …

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On CC Sabathia’s Weight

This was a story over the weekend, but I wanted to touch on it briefly before it got completely washed away under the tidal wave of A-Rod coverage and early ST reports on other players.  CC Sabathia drew some attention when he showed up at camp heavier than he was the last few springs.  Some estimates had him at 305, and while it wasn’t nearly as blatant as the negative spin that everybody puts on their A-Rod tweets, I got the feeling that some people were trying to paint that as a negative and a reason for added concern with CC.

Here’s the thing.  His weight doesn’t matter anymore.  It doesn’t matter if he’s 305, 295, 275, or any other 5.  At this point, the difference in pounds isn’t going to make a difference as far as his knee health is concerned.  The damage is already done there, and if it does turn out that his knee is going to be problematic again then you can bet it’s going to be problematic no matter what he weighs.  …

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Report: Eovaldi Getting To Work

He’s not a prospect, but don’t sleep on Nathan Eovaldi as another young player to watch in the Yankee system this year.  The 24-year-old righty is going to be a very important part of the rotation this year, and in a really good piece by Bryan Hoch, he talked about what he’s been working on to improve his game:

“My goal toward the end of the season, my last two or three games with the Marlins, I was working on a changeup — kind of like a split-finger [fastball], in a way. It’s been feeling great. I felt comfortable with it toward the end of the season last year, and this offseason, I’ve been able to pick up pretty much where I left off.”

Eovaldi’s changeup has been the weak link of his offerings over the first few years of his career, so it’s good to know that he’s made it a top priority.  In addition to that focus, Hoch reported that Eovaldi has already spoken with Larry Rothschild, Brian McCann, Joe Girardi, and Chris Capuano, and it sounds like Roth and Big Mac are going to make working with Eovaldi their top priority when spring camp starts.…

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Resetting The Organizational Catching Depth

As usual, the Yankees are experiencing the pains of a 40-man roster crunch.  They have yet to make a move to open up a spot for the recently-signed Stephen Drew, and when they do they will have to deal with a possible surplus of infielders on the roster.  That’s not the worst problem to have when you’re coming off a year in which your infield was as bad as the Yankees’ was in 2014, and it should work itself out by the time Spring Training comes and goes.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Bombers were going through a similar crunch with their catching depth.  They opened the offseason with 5 catchers on the 40-man and not enough spots for all those catchers.  Francisco Cervelli was traded to Pittsburgh for Justin Wilson, which opened up the backup MLB job for John Ryan Murphy and eased the playing time concerns at the rest of the upper levels.  With that issue cleared up, let’s do a quick review of the team’s current catching depth.…

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