Tag Archives: Yu Darvish

Sabathia GIF

Over at FanGraphs yesterday, the guys picked up on a GIF made by Drew Sheppard. He combined a number of Yu Darvish‘s pitches into one video, and the results are amazing.


He did a fantastic job with it, and I tried my best at making one for CC Sabathia.


Reviewing Last Year’s Two Biggest Free Agent Passes

Anybody wish these 2 were around right now? Courtesy of US Presswire & Getty Images

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Interestingly enough, or frustratingly enough depending on how against the austerity plan you are, the Yankees really kicked this plan into high gear last offseason when they failed to get involved in the international free agent market.  It was one of the best classes in recent memory, highlighted by Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes, 2 players who, ironically enough, play the positions the Yanks most need to fill this offseason.  At the time, the Yankees’ reasons for passing on both players were good ones.  The history of Japanese pitchers making the transition to MLB was short on success stories, and the Yankees had been on the losing end of that gamble before, and there were questions about Cespedes’ ability to come right in and play at the Major League level.

Not wanting to commit high dollars to 2 risky options that might not have returned comparable rewards, Cash decided to play it safe with his bids on each player and the Yankees lost out on both.  Darvish ended up in Texas and Cespedes in Oakland, and both of them finished in the top 3 of the AL Rookie of the Year vote yesterday, an award that they could have battled it out for had Mike Trout not come and blown everyone’s doors off.  Now that their first years as Major Leaguers are over, let’s take a look back and play a little “what if?” game with each guy.

For all the talk about his weird throwing schedule and too many pitches having a negative impact on his effectiveness, Darvish certainly hit the ground running in 2012.  He pitched 8.1 shutout innings with 10 K in just his 4th career start, a start that just so happened to be against the Yankees, giving Cash and everybody else in the front office a good look at what they missed out on.  He did struggle with walks early in the season, and for the whole season for that matter as his 4.19 BB/9 and 10.9% BB rate were both higher than you’d like to see, but Darvish made up for that with his swing-and-miss stuff (27.1% K rate) and didn’t have much of a problem adjusting to the American game.  Despite missing a handful of starts due to injury, Darvish still pitched to a 3.90/3.29/3.52 slash in 191.1 innings, good for 5.1 fWAR, which was tied for 5th most in MLB.  Oh, and he’s just 26.

Now here’s where the fun starts.  The Yankees weren’t as aggressive on Darvish as they’ve been in the past because of the performance questions but also because of the money.  After winning the posting with a $51.7 million bid, the Rangers signed Darvish to a reasonable 6 year/$60 million deal, bringing the total AAV of his contract to $18.6 million per season.  If the Yankees had won the bidding and signed Darvish to the same deal, it’s safe to assume that the Michael Pineda trade never gets made and Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte never get signed.  Maybe Kuroda, since the rotation at that point would have been CC, Darvish, Hughes, Nova, and Garcia, and Kuroda was a great value at $10 mil.  But I’m going to go ahead and say that Hirok and Andy would not have ended up in a Yankee uniform if Darvish did.

From a performance standpoint, there wouldn’t have been a whole lot of difference this past season.  Kuroda made more starts and pitched more innings, but the rest of Darvish’s stats were better almost completely across the board.  Everything going down the way it did this season, Darvish for Kuroda would have been worth about 1 more win, which would have still put the Yankees right where they ended up in the postseason and still probably resulted in an ALCS loss due to the offensive blackout.

From a financial standpoint, Darvish would have cost a little north of $6 million more against the cap this season compared to Kuroda and Pettitte’s combined value ($12.5 mil).  With the raises Kuroda and Pettitte are expected to receive if they come back this season, we’ll call it $15 mil and $7 mil for the purposes of time, Darvish’s cap hit this coming season would actually be less than what the Yankees will pay to fill their rotation without him.  The big ding is what would come in 2014, when Darvish’s $18+ million would almost certainly be more than what the Yankees would be looking to spend to keep payroll down.  But with Darvish being young, under team control, and entering his prime, wouldn’t that have been money worth spending?

The situation with Darvish and what coulda, woulda, shoulda happened with the rest of the rotation and the payroll is clearly pretty complicated.  The situation with Yoenis Cespedes is much less so.  Yes, he wasn’t exactly a need for the Yankees going into this season and yes, committing that much guaranteed money (4 years/$36 mil) to an international player who you aren’t 100% sure can step right into the Majors is very risky, but I’m sure the Yankees would love to have Cespedes in the fold right now.  He battled injuries a little bit too, but he showed that his 5 tools weren’t just a workout mirage, hitting .292/.356/505 (.368 wOBA) with 23 HR, 16 SB, and 3.1 fWAR in 540 PA.  Cespedes would have been a perfect candidate to replace Brett Gardner as the full-time LF this season and allowed the Yankees to maintain some bench flexibility, and he would slide right into Nick Swisher‘s vacated spot in right in 2013 at just $9 million per year, a very team-friendly number.  Oh, and he’s just 27 years old.

It’s easy to sit here and Monday morning quarterback this situation, and I’ll be the first to admit that I shared all the concerns about both players when they were on the open market last offseason.  But it’s fair to say that passing on both Darvish and Cespedes may turn out to be mistakes in the long run.  They stayed healthy, they were both wildly productive, they’re in their mid-20s, and they would have filled the greatest positions of need on the roster while still leaving room to get under the $189 million ceiling in 2014.  I’m sure the Yankees were a little gun shy after the Kei Igawa disaster, and that’s understandable, but the early foundations of the future payroll plans set last offseason that contributed to them passing on Darvish and Cespedes could wind up costing them the chance to stay competitive in 2014.

Game 18: Duel at Ranger’s Ballpark

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

The narrative in tonight’s game will surround two pitchers who could, at the end of their careers, be crowned the greatest Japanese pitchers in MLB history. After only 3 major league starts, that might be preemptive for the Texas starting pitcher Yu Darvish, but he’s certainly the most talented pitcher to come out of the NPB. You can read more about what Darvish throws and how he’s pitched thus far in my scouting report. Hiroki Kuroda will be pitching for the Yankees, and in his MLB career he’s been the most successful Japanese pitcher to switch leagues. That said, there is a different narrative a lot of Yankee fans will be watching, the Yankees’ failure to seriously pursue Darvish. When Brian Cashman opted not to aggressively bid for the Japanese super-star, he instead targeted Michael Pineda and Kuroda. While Pineda’s future with the Yankees has become a huge question mark, Kuroda could step up and show that Cashman made the right move, but could also get shelled while Darvish mows down the Yankee lineup.

RHP Hiroki Kuroda v. RHP Yu Darvish
Yankees Rangers
Derek Jeter SS Ian Kinsler 2B
Curtis Granderson CF Elvis Andrus SS
Alex Rodriguez DH Josh Hamilton CF
Robinson Cano 2B Adrian Beltre 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B Michael Young DH
Nick Swisher RF Nelson Cruz RF
Raul Ibanez LF David Murphy LF
Eric Chavez 3B Mike Napoli C
Russell Martin C Mitch Moreland 1B

The game starts at 8:05 PM EST on YES/MLBN. Go Yankees!

PITCHF/x Scouting Report: Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish is the newest high-profile Japanese player to ship out to the MLB. There will be plenty of narratives when the Yankees play Texas tonight. Hiroki Kuroda v. Darvish might be proclaimed the battle for the title of best Japanese starter, but what I’ll be watching is the pitching. The 25 year old right hander is undoubtedly the NPB’s most successful pitcher to head to the Major Leagues, and the Rangers invested over $110 million to have him play for Arlington. If you read the hype during his posting, Darvish has a huge pitching repertoire, and numerous sources said he had more than a few plus pitches. While I dreaded tackling this article due to his pitch arsenal, I also loved the challenge. As I’ve stated before, I’m still in the process of developing my own database for this series, and I’m heavily reliant on TexasLeaguers and BrooksBaseball. Turns out that TexasLeaguer’s GameDay’s algorithm for identifying pitch types absolutely rules, and although it’s not perfect, it did an incredible job with Darvish. Brace yourselves, the graphs are coming.

Pitch Repertoire

There was speculation that Darvish would showcase a pitch repertoire of possibly 8 pitches coming from Japan, but now that we’ve seen him pitch through 3 official games, he has shown us “only” 6 pitches. Thus far the 93 mph four-seam fastball has been his most used pitch, and is above average with its rising action. The 84 mph slider comes second, which has an absolute nasty break away from right handed hitters. The 91 mph cutter is his third most used pitch, and frankly I’m not that impressed with the numbers I’ve seen thus far, but we’ll talk about those later. The slow 75 mph curveball is another out pitch for the right hander, with huge movement into opposite side hitters. He also has a two-seam fastball that TexasLeaguers has a problem identifying and a split finger which acts as his changeup. For bonus point, the other two pitches I’ve seen discussed were a screwball he stopped throwing in 2006, and there was speculation about a true changeup.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com
AP Photo/Kyodo News

In the image above we have Darvish’s release point from a catcher’s perspective. The ball is typically released from about 5.5 feet high, and although this would be considered low for someone with a 3/4 arm slot, it’s common with many Japanese pitchers who use the Tom Seaver drop-and-drive motion©. The pitcher does have a wide area of release that spans from around a foot to the left of the mound to almost 3 feet. Most of his fastballs are released from the inside of his release zone, with the slider released on the outside. I fear that hitters may be able to pickup on his slider based on  his release spot; at times he can throw it well over a foot from the four-seam fastball. He also releases the curveball from the highest point, which is typical for pitchers when attempting to achieve somewhat of an overhand slot. You can see the actual 3/4 arm slot and drop-and-drive motion in the picture to the right.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com
Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Here we have a visualization of the different breaks for each of his pitches from the release point on the right to homeplate on the left. In the top picture we see how far Darvish is able to throw from the mound. This not only helps him gain power from his legs, but the long stride allows him to release the ball closer to the plate and thus with slightly more velocity. Again, we see how he releases different pitches from different release spots, with the two-seamer closest into the mound, and the slider and splitter the furthest away. Half of his pitches have movement into right handed hitters, the four-seam, the splitter, and as usual the two-seam with the most. The other three pitches move away from right handed hitters, with the cutter having the least break, followed by the curveball and slider which have pretty amazing movement away from same side hitters.

In the bottom picture, we have a visualization of the pitch trajectory from a 1st or 3rd base side. Here, the four-seamer has rising action, the cutter has some slight last minute sinking movement, and the two-seamer has similar sinking action. The splitter and sinker also have comparable downward break, but remember that each does so with opposite horizontal movement. As always, the curveball has the biggest drop.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Here we have the horizontal and vertical movement of each pitch based on a catcher’s perspective. The origin of this graph is a no-spin pitch that conforms to gravity. We also have our first opportunity to correct the pitch types, so please note that the orange squares you see next to the triangle two-seamers have personally been corrected by yours truly. (Here is the original graph) Aside from being clustered together, the next graph will better explain why I made this correction.

Moving on, the two-seamer obviously has the most movement into right handed hitters, with anywhere from 5 inches to 10 inches of movement. The average vertical sink of this pitch is charted at 6.21 inches, which is slightly more drop than the 6.4 from last year’s league average. The rise on the four-seamer sits around 10 inches, which is significantly more than average. Finishing up the left side of the graph, you see a few splitters underneath both fastballs, which shows how the horizontal movement matches. With such similar movement and slightly decreased velocity, you can see why it works as his changeup and as a strikeout pitch.

The cutter is the first pitch to move away from right handed hitters. With it’s 6.24 vertical movement and 0.90 horizontal, most of these cutters have very little dramatic break compared to the four-seamer. Of course, I suspect that TexasLeaguers is again misclassifying many of the low four-seamers as cutters, but I’m less confident about that than the correction above. With the current classification, I am less impressed with the majority of the cutters, but you can see that some have broken quite wide at times, meaning potential is certainly there. Let’s go on to one of the most dynamic pitches I’ve seen doing this series, Darvish’s slider, which has an average horizontal break of 7.20 inches away from same side hitters and a -0.23 vertical drop. Compare this one Michael Pineda, who had one of the best sliders in the game last year, who has a -0.94 vertical drop, but also only 2.38 horizontal movement. While movement doesn’t translate into success, from a scouting standpoint, its astounding to see such a pitch. His curveball also has some very strong break down and away from hitters, averaging a -7.90 vertical drop, but also a strong 7.35 inch horizontal break away from righties. Again, this horizontal movement is rare.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Here we have graphed the spin angle versus velocity of Darvish’s different pitch types. If moving from right to left, we can see how the splitter is thrown at the highest angle, but lets look at the two-seamer. Your average two-seam fastball is thrown at around 220-245 degrees from a right handed pitcher, indeed Darvish’s two-seam begins in that range, but TexasLeaguers begins to classify them as four-seamers before we go below 220 degrees. With the horizontal and vertical breaks matching up to these pitches in the graph above, and here the spin angle matching up, I am confident that he’s throwing a two-seamer here. Your average four-seam fastball is thrown at around 200-220 degrees from right handed pitchers, and you can see that at 220 degrees, there is a break between his two and four-seamer. Towards the lower end of the four-seamers you can see the cutter begins, and although the cutter is more of a subjective pitch, I usually classify them around 160-190 degrees. One could argue that the classified cutters thrown from about 180-190 degrees are four-seamers, but I think you’d have to check the video of every pitch in this case or ask Darvish himself. I’ll trust TexasLeaguer’s GameDay’s algorithm on this one as I’ll never be confident enough. Less complicated are the spin angles for the slider and curveball, which fall well below the rest of the pitches.

Where He Throws It

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

In this graph we have the location of each of his pitch types to right handed hitters, but please keep in mind that the two and four-seamer are misclassified. While Darvish likes to approach righties with pitches up and in or down and away, he isn’t afraid to throw his slider and four-seam for strikes. Likewise, he is able to throw his curveball in the strikezone, which can be a nice tool in the beginning of a count. If there is any pitch thrown specifically to a location, it would be the cutter which is mostly located down and away to catch a righties chasing. Although the sample size is small, I would be wary of splitters and two-seams down and in to jam batters that aren’t lose on the curveball or slider. According to the algorithm, his pitch selection against right handed hitters is 46.8% four-seam, 27.0% slider, 13.5% cutter, 9.0% curveball, 1.8% splitter, and 1.8% two-seam. (Which is likely closer to 10%.)

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Facing left handed hitters, Darvish’s plan is to attack them away. Most of his fastballs are thrown on the outer half of the plate in order to get a hitter chasing the pitch as it breaks away. The cutter and slider, which have movement into this hitter, can be thrown for strikes, but he also appears to be hitting the down and in corner with the pitch. The curveball here is thrown mostly down and away as well. While the curveball and slider have such big movement into left handed hitters, I’m surprised he doesn’t attempt to jam them down and away more often. His pitch selection is 45.0% four-seam, 17.6% cutter, 15.8% curveball, 15.3% slider, 5.4% two-seam (which is likely closer to 15%), and 0.9% splitter.

When He Throws It

Yu Darvish’s Pitch Selection Against Righties
Count Four-seam (R) Slider (R) Cutter (R) Curveball (R) Two-seam (R) Splitter (R)
3-0 50.0% 0% 50.0% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 66.7% 0% 33.3% 0% 0% 0%
2-0 25.0% 25.0% 50.0% 0% 0% 0%
2-1 50.0% 50.0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
1-0 41.7% 25.0% 25.0% 8.3% 0% 0%
0-0 42.9% 32.1% 10.7% 7.1% 7.1% 0%
1-1 70.0% 10.0% 20.0% 0% 0% 0%
0-1 50.0% 28.6% 7.1% 14.3% 0% 0%
3-2 60.0% 20.0% 0% 20.0% 0% 0%
2-2 60.0% 20.0% 0% 20.0% 0% 0%
1-2 27.3% 27.3% 9.1% 18.2% 0% 18.2%
0-2 37.5% 50.0% 0% 12.5% 0% 0%

Here we have Darvish’s pitch selection in different counts to right handed hitters. Starting them off he is most reliant on his fastball and slider, throwing the combination more than 75% of the time. As he falls behind in the count, he relies more on his fastball and cutter to get strike one. As he gains in the count, Darvish continues throwing fastballs, but also mixes in his slider and curveball around 40% of the time. On an 0-2 count, he uses his slider as the primary out pitch. With such dangerous breaking pitches, 23.3% whiff rate with the slider and 10% whiff rate with the curveball, he could probably be throwing those more often for strikeouts.

Yu Darvish’s Pitch Selection Against Lefties
Count Four-seam (L) Slider (L) Cutter (L) Curveball (L) Two-seam (L) Splitter (L)
3-0 71.4% 0% 28.6% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 62.5% 0% 25.0% 0% 12.5% 0%
2-0 61.5% 7.7% 23.1% 0% 7.7% 0%
2-1 75.0% 12.5% 12.5% 0% 0% 0%
1-0 64.7% 8.8% 14.7% 5.9% 2.9% 2.9%
0-0 35.0% 23.3% 21.7% 15.0% 5.0% 0%
1-1 23.8% 33.3% 9.5% 23.8% 9.5% 0%
0-1 47.4% 15.8% 21.1% 15.8% 0% 0%
3-2 57.1% 7.1% 14.3% 14.3% 7.1% 0%
2-2 30.8% 7.7% 15.4% 30.8% 7.7% 7.7%
1-2 10.0% 10.0% 0% 60.0% 20.0% 0%
0-2 0% 14.3% 28.6% 57.1% 0% 0%

Facing left handed hitters, Darvish begins the count mixing in his cutter, slider, and curveball along with the fastballs. As he falls behind in the count, he again relies more on the fastball and cutter. While gaining a favorable count, he mixes the slider and curveball in, with his curveball as the favorite out pitch here. Against lefties thus far, it has been is only real out pitch with a 14.3% whiff rate, followed by a relatively low 8.8% whiff rate on his slider. Starting hitters out with breaking pitches is very rare to see, so it could be an issue of inexperience here. The right handed pitcher might be more successful against lefties if he doesn’t show them the curveball or slider until strike one or two.

In his short career in the majors, he has a batted ball profile of 42.1% groundballs, 29.8% flyballs, and 28.1% linedrives. I doubt this will continue, Darvish’s wide repertoire of sinking pitches should ensure that he maintains a high groundball rate. Thus far he’s been highly successful facing righties, holding them to a slim .174/.321/.217 triple slash, but has been hit hard by lefties with a .313/.431/.396 triple slash. It’s hard to tell how his home and road split will look, but in his one start at Ranger’s Ballpark, he gave up 4 runs in the first inning, followed by 4.2 innings of 1 run ball. Facing the Twins and Tigers in his only other two starts, he went a combined 12.0 innings giving up only 2 earned runs. Although he’s posted a 7.1 K/9 and 6.6 BB/9, I don’t believe that these are indicative of the pitcher that he is. Take a look at the graph below of his strikezone thus far, and tell me that Darvish hasn’t been squeezed.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

Darvish has some incredible break on his pitches, but the question remains whether this translates into major league outs. He’s been very impressive in his last two outing, but the Yankees lineup appears to embody the worst possible lineup he could face. While his platoon split against lefties could be small sample size, his approach against them appears unexperienced. There is a lot of potential in his arsenal, but I don’t think he’s truly learned the major league game yet. With possibly 6 patient and hard hitting lefties in the lineup tonight, this will probably be the hardest start of his career. That said, there are very few pitchers with his type of stuff, and I’m jealous that he isn’t pitching in pinstripes right now. I suspect the Yankees will knock him out tomorrow, but with more experience in the majors, he won’t be an easy opponent for very long.

Series Preview: Yankees vs. Rangers

The Rangers are coming off an 8-1 road trip against the terrible Twins, the rickety Red Sox, and the tenacious Tigers. The 2010 and 2011 American League champions have arguably been the best team in baseball thus far, and although its way too early to start looking at places, they currently have the best winning record of 13-3. While we all knew they would have one of the best offenses in baseball, the question surrounding them was a suspicious starting rotation for such a team with a hitter friendly ballpark. With the loss of CJ Wilson to the Angels, the Rangers haven’t missed him a bit. Their offense has indeed come through with baseball’s most 94 runs scored, aand the team’s pitching has given up the least runs at only 42. Perhaps it’s small sample size, but the Rangers have proven that they’re the same team they were last year.

Monday- 7:05 PM EST on MY9/ESPN
LHP CC Sabathia v. LHP Derek Holland

Holland’s last and only good outing against the Yankees came in game 4 of the 2010 ALCS. Since then, Holland has pitched to a 9.00 ERA over 28.0 innings. The left handed pitcher has been more than solid for the Rangers thus far, giving them a 3.10 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9 in starts against the White Sox, Mariners, and Red Sox. You can read more about how Holland pitches in my PITCHF/x series.

CC Sabathia is coming off his first win of the year against the Twins. Although he struggled in his first few innings, the big lefty was able to fix issues with the sinker that held him back in his other starts, finishing the game with 4.1 innings of no hit ball. In his career, Sabathia has struggled against the Rangers, posting a 4.44 ERA and 1.415 WHIP in 105.1 innings. In 42.1 inning in Rangers Ballpark he’s posted a 4.68 ERA behind a 1.583 WHIP and only a 6.6 K/9. His trouble against the Rangers were brought to the forefront in the 2010 ALCS, where he was hit hard in game 1, but finally out-dueled Wilson in game 5. Facing one of the best offenses in baseball in a homerun friendly ballpark, Sabathia needs to prove that his sinker problems are fixed immediately and force the Rangers into groundouts to keep them away from the longball.

Tuesday- 8:05 PM EST on YES/MLBN
RHP Hiroki Kuroda v. RHP Yu Darvish

Kuroda's got nothing on this stache.
I’m not sure you could have planned a more fun pitching matchup. Here we have arguably Japan’s best Japanese pitcher against America’s best Japanese pitcher. Although Hiroki Kuroda’s numbers in Japan weren’t nearly as impressive as Yu Darvish’s, he’s been the most successful Japanese starting pitcher to ever play in the MLB. While Yu Darvish looks to rewrite what Kuroda’s done for his home country, there’s no doubt the Japanese press and many NPB fans will take the journey to Arlington to watch and see if the young gun can out duel the old champion. For myself, and I’ll assume many Yankee fans, we’ll be watching Darvish knowing that Cashman opted not to seriously pursue him, and instead went with Kuroda and Michael Pineda. Although he was roughed up in his first inning of work, Darvish has since pitched 16.2 innings and given up only 3 runs, a 1.67 ERA, but also has shown issues with command problems. It’ll be an interesting, and most likely a tough game for Kuroda, and if he loses this one a day after we find out bad news on Pineda’s shoulder, prepare for the fire Brian Cashman brigade.

Wednesday- 8:05 PM EST on YES
RHP Phil Hughes v. RHP Scott Feldman

While the Yankees had a rain out to deal with yesterday, helping them push back Sabathia’s start, the Rangers were forced to play a double header on Saturday, and thus we have a Scott Feldman start. While Feldman has always dabbled between the rotation and the bullpen, he only started two games last year in August and September where he dominated the Ray’s lineup, giving up only 2 hits in 6.0 innings, but then faced the same lineup again and was hit for 4 hits, 4 runs, and 4 walks in 5.0 innings. He has 4 starts against the Yankees, where he’s posted a 4.76 ERA, in 22.2 innings, a 1.765 WHIP, and a 6.0 K/9.

Phil Hughes’ last start against the Twins was his first win of the season, and despite giving up 6 runs, he was actually decent. No thanks to a 4 unearned run first inning due to a typical Eduardo Nunez error, Hughes showed good life on his curveball and fastball, but certainly wasn’t the fastest pitcher we’d like to see. The time is running out for the righty if he wants to remain in the rotation. Although Freddy Garcia has been pitching even worse, Phil Hughes has more value in the bullpen than Garcia, and is always in play for a move when Andy Pettitte comes back. In his career, Phil Hughes has owned the Rangers, the team where he had his no hit bid back in 2007. The Rangers have no runs and a .064/.154/.128 tripleslash against the righty in 15.1 innings. Don’t forget that Hughes has been hurt by the Rangers before, when in game 2 of the 2010 ALCS he was shelled for 7 runs in 4.0 innings, and in game 6 he was hit for 4 runs in 4.2 innings. He has quite the history against this club, he’ll certainly have something to prove in this game.

Nightly Links: Empire State Yankees, Sabathia, Chamberlain

  • Hiroki Kuroda had a shaky start for the Yankees this afternoon, though he retired the first three batters in a row, he proceeded to give up three hits and three runs after. The relievers were more impressive today, with Soriano, Logan, Warren, and Rapada each striking out two. On the offensive side, Nick Swisher and Jose Gil doubled, and Russell Martin stole a base. (Box Score)
  • Due to construction on the Scranton at PNC Field, the Yankees’ triple A affiliate won’t have a home this season, and Mike Ashmore has the news that they’ll temporarily be called the Empire State Yankees. They couldn’t have picked a cooler name.
  • Today, It’s About the Money profiled my sleeper pick this spring training, Zoilo Almonte. While Chalker believes the switch hitter’s floor is a 4th outfielder, he also believes we a good season could push him into the major league team’s right field next year.
  • Rob Abruzzese found a quote from Hamels following his start this weekend, and the southpaw was impressed with how nice the fans were. Either some fans have learned their lesson after Cliff Lee, or Florida Yankee fans are different from New York Yankee fans.

Sunday afternoon news roundup

The hot stove season has been pretty quiet so from the Yankees’ perspective (with nothing much going on since the Freddy Garcia signing), but things may be starting to heat up.  The spending sprees by the Angels and Marlins have been the story of the offseason so far, but a few big storylines remain.  Around the league, some new occurrences may start to set the pieces in motion for the Yankees as they look to fill out their roster.  Here are some recent rumors and events that may have implications for the Yankees.

Darvish situation awaits resolution

While many people believe that the Toronto Blue Jays are the likely winners in the Yu Darvish posting sweepstakes, recent rumors that the winning bid exceeds the $51+ million paid for Daisuke Matsuzaka do raise some questions about the involvement of an infamous “mystery team.”  The Jays were rumored to have come up with a bid in the $49 million range, but no other team has been linked to a number that high.  If both rumors are true, then it would be likely that the Rangers, rather than Toronto are the high bidder.  There is also a non-zero chance that despite rumors of a low Yankees bid, Brian Cashman pulled a ninja move and outbid the competition.

It is believed that the winning bid will be announced early next week, which will allow the team with the winning bid 30 days to negotiate with Darvish, and the teams who placed losing bids to move on with their offseason.  For the Yankees, losing out on Darvish will likely cause them to shift focus to other pitching options, possibly including a 1-year deal that they might be pursuing with Hiroki Kuroda.

Update: Per Marc Carig, the Yankees believe that they will not be getting Darvish, so barring a surprise I guess that ship has sailed.

Blockbuster San Diego-Cincinnati trade

Yesterday, the Padres and Reds pulled off what will likely be the biggest trade of the offseason.  The Padres dealt young ace Mat Latos to the Reds for a haul of players, including 1b prospect Yonder Alonso, catching prospect Yasmani Grandal, RHP Edinson Volquez, and pitching prospect Brad Boxberger.  Latos is a young, cost-controlled starter who has shown frontline ability, making him one of the more valuable commodities in baseball, and the Reds paid accordingly.

Alonso and Grandal are both top prospects with experience in the upper minors (and in Alonso’s case, early success in the majors), Volquez is a pitcher who has flashed frontline talent but also inconsistency, and Boxberger is a power arm who likely profiles best as a reliever.  This haul is bigger than any recent pitching trades that I can think of, which illustrates the value that teams place on youth, affordability, and years of control remaining.

From the Yankee perspective, this trade is illustrative of the soaring cost of young pitching.  Latos is a stud no doubt, but he has some warts (some injuries and makeup questions) that prevent him from being a flawless commodity.  With the price on Latos as high as it was, it is almost unfathomable to imagine the cost of acquiring somebody like a Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw in this market.

After the trade news was announced, I tweeted that the equivalent package for the Yankees would be something like Jesus Montero, Gary Sanchez, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps.  Mike Axisa had a similar assessment in a post yesterday at River Ave Blues, setting an equivalent package as Montero, Austin Romine, Hughes, and Adam Warren.  In either case, it’s a hefty price to pay, which is why it is so important for an organization to be able to develop its own frontline starters.

Yoenis Cespedes Encore

Cuban superstar Yoenis Cespedes is back with another silly highlight video, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has the breakdown.  This video is a little longer than the original, and has more actual footage of Cespedes doing baseball-related activities (though there is still a fair amount of workout footage).  Cespedes’ impressive tools are on display in the video, as he hits a 500+ foot homer in one clip, runs a 6.41 60-yard dash, and makes some strong throws from the outfield.

Plus there is footage of dozens scouts and executives from various organizations (including Tony Pena and Billy Eppler from the Yankees) attending the showcase, which demonstrates the strong interest that teams have taken in Cespedes.  And of course, there are some random (former NFL RB) Ahman Green sightings that are somwhat strange out of context, but provide some levity.

There is not really anything in the way of game footage, but the video does serve to highlight what many teams find attractive about Cespedes: he is athletic, fast, powerful, and seems to have a tenacious work ethic.  The Yankees are considered the frontrunners to sign the 26 year-old Cuban, though he has not been declared a free agent yet (and may not be until January).   It is unclear what role he would fill on the current roster, and the determination of the Yankees as the favorite is likely because of their financial resources rather than intense interest in the player.  If I had to bet, I would probably guess that the Miami Marlins would be the frontrunners for him (especially since Ozzie Guillen was featured so prominently in the video).

Rollins re-ups in Philly

Jimmy Rollins resigned with the only organization he has ever belonged to, getting 3 years and $33 million from the Phillies.  That is a fair amount of money for a guy who is 33 and hasn’t topped a .750 OPS since 2009, but Rollins is a popular player, and with Jose Reyes signing in Miami, there is no viable replacement.

The Rollins re-signing is somewhat reminiscent of Derek Jeter‘s signing with the Yankees, albeit with less money and hoopla.  Seeing the Rollins contract versus the Jeter’s (3 years, $51 million), there is no question that the Yankees overpaid for a player who was older than Rollins at the time of his free agency.  Like Rollins, Jeter got paid for being a franchise icon with no viable alternative present to use as leverage.  Jeter has been somewhat better than Rollins over the past few seasons, but I don’t think anybody would argue that he is $6 million per year better.

The two guys no one’s talking about

As I write this (8:40 PM on Wednesday night) it looks very unlikely that the Yankees are going to get Yu Darvish. We’ve also heard relatively little on the trade front except that the prices of two Yankee target–John Danks and Gio Gonzalez–are exorbitant. The White Sox wanted TWO of Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances for Danks (lol) and the A’s apparently asked the Marlins for Mike Stanton in return for Gonzalez. Until those trade prices come down, the Yankees are going to have to look to the free agent market to patch up their rotation.

Yes, at this point, it should be clear that they need to do that. I like the Freddy Garcia signing, but will lightning strike twice? Granted, with Garcia, lightning doesn’t need to strike twice. If he can throw 150+ innings while racking up a low to mid 4’s ERA, I’ll be happy. The back end of the rotation really isn’t the Yankees’ problem, is it? They have Garcia to eat some innings and Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett do have potential. The front of the rotation presents a bit of a problem. CC Sabathia is obviously awesome, but the step down from him to the rest of the rotation isn’t great. Ivan Nova could improve off of last year, but I’m still not sold on it. So what can the Yankees do? Well, the options have certainly dwindled. C.J. Wilson is an Angel and Mark Buehrle is a Marlin. The non-tender lists offer nothing of use (please don’t say Joe Saunders. I will ban you from commenting if you do. I’m just kidding. But seriously, don’t bring him up.). The only two options that are remotely desirable, then, are Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson.

I’ve written about Oswalt and Jackson before and talked about both of them as fall back options. Well, we’re at the point where we could be turning to fall back options.

The markets for both pitchers have been damn near silent and that’s got to help the Yankees. There are pros and cons to each pitcher. Oswalt is old and has a bad back; he’s also never pitched in the American League. Jackson has semi-frequent homer and fly ball issues. However, he’s improved his walk rate over the last few years and has had back to back years of better-than-average FIP and xFIP marks. Jackson has also pitched at least 180 innings each of the last four seasons. Oswalt offers a bit of upside even if he is old. His performance has been solid every year and 2011 was the first year he pitched under 180 innings since his rookie year.

Of course, all of this depends on cost and length of contract. Oswalt said earlier this month that he’s looking for a three year deal. He won’t get that from the Yankees. We’ve heard almost nothing on Jackson. For Oswalt, I might be willing to discuss a two year deal, maybe 2/$24M, but I’d prefer to overpay on a one year deal. For Jackson, I think the max is 3/36, though I’d aim for 3/33, maybe with a club option for a fourth year.

In both Oswalt and Jackson, there is enough good to be interested. But, perhaps, there are enough dobuts to pass. While I won’t go home kicking and screaming if the Yankees don’t sign either one of these guys (and I won’t necessarily be skipping home delightedly if they do sign either one), I’m fearing that adding anyone but these guys (or Darvish or a trade option) will not do nearly enough to significantly improve the Yankee rotation.

Darvish Postings Finished

UPDATE (8:00) Piling on a bit here, but Heyman also says that the Yankee bid is nothing special and that the winning bid is expected to be sky high.

UPDATE (7:47) Apparently the bid was not huge and probably not enough to win.

UPDATE (7:42) Jack Curry confirmed the Yankees’ bid:

During meetings today, Yankees discussed Darvish. Eventually, they elected to make a bid on the pitcher.

UPDATE (7:27) Brian Cashman, being very cryptic, wouldn’t confirm the Yankees’ submission:

Cashman, via text, on if he offered a bid for Yu Darvish: “Wouldn’t say.” So… there’s that

So the postings for Yu Darvish are complete. From Buster Olney, we learned that the Yankees did, in fact, submit a bid. Let’s hope it was enough to win. Any updates will be posted here.