To Qualify Or Not To Qualify: Hiroki Kuroda

Hirok vs TOR

How could anybody not want this guy back next year??? Courtesy of Getty Images

On Tuesday we weighed the cases for and against making David Robertson a qualifying offer this offseason.  Today we do the same for the other potential qualifying offer candidate, reliable right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda.

Case For:

  • Consistent Very Good Performance- In his 3 seasons as a Yankee, Kuroda ranks 12th in MLB in IP (620.0), T-12th in BB rate (5.1%), T-20th in WHIP (1.15), and 18th in fWAR (11.0), with a 3.44/3.68/.360 slash line.
  • Consistency Within The Consistency- Made 33, 32, and 32 starts in his 3 Yankee seasons; pitched between 199-220 regular season innings in each season; had ERAs between 3.31-3.71, FIPs between 3.56-3.86, and xFIPS between 3.54-3.67 in each season; K rate between 17.8%-18.7% in each season; 11+ wins in each season; 3-year fWAR values of 3.7, 3.8, and 3.5
  • Rotation Health Questions- Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, and Nova all enter 2015 with health-related concerns.  
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WAR is Wrong: Top Relievers Are Worth Double their WAR – So D-Rob Easily Merits $12-15m

Relievers are weird creatures the standard wins-above-replacement (WAR) stat doesn’t evaluate well. I’ll give the punch line first: relievers pitching high-leverage innings are worth at least double what WAR claims. I’ll get back to David Robertson, but let’s start with Greg Holland, a nice example of a consistently true-elite reliever – but you could substitute prime-years Mariano Rivera, who averaged only 3.0 WAR/yr as a closer. In 2013 and 2014, Holland logged low-1s ERAs and converted 95% of about 50 save opportunities (2-3 blown saves (BS) a year) – yet BBREF and Fangraphs call him only a 2-3 WAR player.

Wouldn’t a replacement-level pitcher giving up over a run every two innings – call him “Kawn Shelley” – blow at least 20% of save chances, or easily 10 out of 50 rather than Holland’s 2-3 out of 50 or Robertson’s 5 out of 44? Not all blown saves are fatal – lost leads may be recoverable – but about 60% of blown saves become losses.…

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To Qualify Or Not To Qualify: David Robertson

D-Rob vs DET

The look of a man who knows he’s getting paid this offseason. Courtesy of Getty Images

The League Championship Series are in the early stages, so we’re weeks away from the realistic deadline.  But with each passing game, that deadline for submitting qualifying offers draws closer.  I briefly touched on the increase of the QO price to $15.3 million last week and my plan was always to discuss the 2 top Yankee QO candidates in greater detail.  We’ll start that plan today with a look at the qualifying offer case for David Robertson.

Case For:

  • Consistent Elite Performance- One of the best relievers in MLB since 2011.  19th in IP (258.0), 5th in Strikeouts (354), 8th in K rate (34.0%), 3rd in Holds (97), 9th in FIP (2.40), 4th in fWAR (7.6).
  • Strong 2014 Season- One of the best closers in MLB this past season.  Finished T-8th in Saves (39), 10th in K rate (37.1%), T-13th in reliever fWAR (1.7).
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The Bachelorette, SS Edition: Drew Gets the Rose?

First of all, thanks to the gang for letting me join! I’m a native New Yorker who moved to Wisconsin and then Colorado for work (I’m a professor at U. Colorado Law School). As a Yankee fan since my first Stadium game in 1978 (when as a 4 year-old I understood almost nothing but loved the loudly chaotic “Bronx Zoo” atmosphere that grandpa was showing me at an arguably inappropriate age), I’m looking forward to chatting more with Yankee fans here.

In a feat of remarkably poor timing, I’d drafted a detailed comparison of the top SS options, Hanley Ramirez and the now-unavailable J.J. Hardy. Now the solid speculation is Stephen Drew may be the last man standing in what started out as a strong free-agent SS field, but is looking like a super-anticlimactic season of the Bachelorette, one in which the best bachelor departs mid-season for another woman, and the rest all prove underwhelming, leaving the looking-for-love starlet holding her nose in presenting the rose to the old guy who stank up their dates like Drew’s .150/.219/.271 batting line in NY.…

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Sandoval and Headley Solid 3B Options

Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe reported a few days ago that the Yankees, along with the Red Sox and Dodgers, might be willing to offer Pablo Sandoval a five-year, $100 million contract.

Brian Cashman had a more honest quote about Alex Rodriguez during his media tour yesterday after receiving a new three-year contract.

“I don’t think you can assume he can play third base,” Cashman said. “With his age and missing a full year and how it affected Derek [Jeter] and Mark Teixeira. … In the chair I sit in, it’s safer to assume this is something he might not be able to do the whole year.”

This leaves Sandoval and Chase Headley as the best free agent options. Sandoval has been one of the free agents that I have been an advocate of.  Headley’s WAR was 4.4 last year compared to 3.0 for Sandoval. However, much of that is tied to Headley’s defense. FanGraphs had him at 21.6 runs above average on defense and a 20.9 UZR.…

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The Best And Worst Of The 2014 New York Yankees (The Bench)

Ichiro vs BOS

The best (and only) full-time bench contributor. Courtesy of Getty Images

At last we come to the bench, the final piece of the 2014 roster puzzle.  The island of misfit toys that was assembled to support the shaky starting lineup.  The Yankees were somewhat flawed in the construction of their starting lineup this season, but they were really flawed in how they put together their bench.  They didn’t have young legs that could run and play good defense, they didn’t have much power for pinch-hitting situations, and they didn’t have adequate backup depth at their weakest spots.  It was not a good group, and the lack of production from the bench exacerbated the problem caused by the under-performing starters.

Best- The Catching Depth Shines Through

As underwhelming as Brian McCann‘s first year in pinstripes was, the Yankees got good production overall from the catcher position thanks to their backups.  Francisco Cervelli was quietly stellar in 49 games, his season once again shortened by injury problems.  …

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The Best And Worst Of The 2014 New York Yankees (The Bullpen)

Betances vs CIN

The Beast. Courtesy of Getty Images

It was a different kind of year for the traditionally strong Yankee bullpen.  They came into the season with higher turnover and more role uncertainty than they had seen in years.  It was going to be an unfamiliar feeling not having the security blanket of Mo out there for the 9th inning.  His replacement was known and more than capable of handling the closing task.  It was the rest of his supporting cast that was up in the air.  A few roles changed and ironed themselves out early, with 2 more homegrown arms elevating themselves to “plus” status, but overall the bullpen as a group might have taken a step back this year.

Best- The 2-Man Wrecking Crew

The best thing about D-Rob becoming the outstanding pitcher he’s become is the elite level 1-2 punch it gave Joe in his bullpen.  Between D-Rob and Mo, the Yankees had the 8th and 9th innings (and sometimes more than that) on lockdown 99 times out of 100.  …

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The Best And Worst Of The 2014 New York Yankees (The Rotation)

Tanaka Smile

I’d be smiling too if I had $155 mil in my pocket and kicked that much ass. Courtesy of the AP

From the position players to the pitchers.  Today’s season review post tackles the starting rotation, the foundation of any and almost all success the Yankees had this season.  There was high turnover, from the projected starting 5 to the rookie replacements to the deadline pickups.  That turnover did not come with much deviation in performance, however, and the Yankee rotation ended up being the biggest positive storyline in a season of disappointment.

Best- The Upside

For the first time since the championship teams of the late 90s, the Yankees entered this season with a projected starting 5 that was not only a strength, but potentially one of the best top-to-bottom rotations in baseball.  They had ace potential in Tanaka regardless of the tempered public expectations they set for him, a legit #2 in Hirok and #2 starter potential in Pineda, #2-3 starter potential in Nova, and, if he could show that he had learned to work with diminished velocity and his body held up, the reasonable hope was that CC could settle into a reliable #3-type of guy.…

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The Best And Worst Of The 2014 New York Yankees (The Outfield)

OF vs TOR

Not pictured: The starting right fielder. Courtesy of Getty Images

The 2014 season review series began yesterday with a look back at the infield.  They were a sad, slow, frustrating group for most of the season.  They didn’t hit well or field well.  The best contributions came from players who weren’t expected to do anything or weren’t on the roster at the start of the season (Solarte, Headley, Prado), and the biggest letdowns came from the players who had the highest hopes/expectations attached to them (Teix, McCann).

While the general expectations for the infield were low from the beginning, they were much higher for the starting outfield.  That group was rebuilt in the offseason, with 2 big outside free agent signings joining an extended homegrown talent to form one of the potentially most balanced and talented outfields in baseball.  It didn’t quite work out that way, as team-wide injury problems prevented this group from ever performing in the roles they were expected to.…

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