Graph: State of the AL East

I started asking myself this morning what would have to happen for the Yankees to win the AL East. In order to answer that question, I had to find a starting point. Here are the AL East hitters by fWAR:

hitters

Here, we see a clear Blue Jays advantage.The Jays have no real weak spots, and are particularly strong at 1st, 3rd and DH. Their average position produced 4.6 fWAR, or 41.4 fWAR across all positions. Continue reading Graph: State of the AL East

A look back at how the Yankees have fared when Star Wars movies are released

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Since today is the official release date of Stars Wars: The Force Awakens, I thought it could be fun to see how the Yankees have fared on days when the other Star Wars films (original and prequels) were released, because up until this new movie, they were all released, in either late-May or mid-June, for the summer movie season.

Up first, we have the original Star Wars, which was released on Wednesday May 25, 1977. On that day, the Yankees split a twi-night doubleheader at the Stadium with the Texas Rangers. The Yankees won the first game, 3-2, thanks to a Thurman Munson RBI single, a Roy White home run, and a Bucky Dent RBI double. Gil Patterson picked up the win and Sparky Lyle, the save. For the Rangers, Mike Hargrove and Willie Horton had an RBI apiece and Bert Blyleven was the losing pitcher. In the second game of the double dip, the starters, Gaylord Perry for the Rangers, and Mike Torrez for the Yanks, both pitched complete games, but Perry came out on top 1-0. The Rangers scored in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly and the Yankees only had three chances with runners in scoring position.

On the day when The Empire Strikes Back was released, Friday June 20, 1980, the Yankees played the Oakland Athletics and beat them 15-7. This was an ugly night for pitching on both squads with 27 hits combined between the two teams. Reggie Jackson, Jim Spencer and Johnny Oates all hit homers for the Yankees. They were up 10-4 going into the bottom of the eighth when they tacked on five runs. Oakland scored three in the top of the ninth, but that wasn’t enough to catch the Yankees who went on to win their 43rd game of the season. Luis Tiant got the win, Steve McCatty got the loss, and Ron Davis picked up a save even though he gave up three runs on four hits in that ninth inning. The save stat is a funny one, isn’t it?

The third movie of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi was released on Wednesday May 25, 1983 and on that day, the Yankees lost to the California Angels, 7-1. Ken Griffey hit a home run to score the only run for the Yanks in Anaheim that day, and Shane Rawley picked up the loss in 5 2/3 innings of work. He gave up seven runs on nine hits (six of the runs were earned), he walked four, struck out three and gave up two home runs – one to Ellis Valentine and the other to Bobby Grich. Tommy John on the other hand, pitched a complete game for the Angels. He gave up nine hits, the one run on Griffey’s home run in the third inning, struck out two and walked one.

Years later, when Don Mattingly was entering his third season of retirement, the first prequel in the second trilogy, The Phantom Menace was released on May 19, 1999. The reason I mention Mattingly is because when RoTJ was first released into theaters, Mattingly played in 91 games that season (after debuting in September 1982) and by the time PM was released, he was out of baseball completely. It just shows you how much time had actually passed between the trilogies. Anyway, on that day in May 1999, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, 6-0. Brian Rose was the winning pitcher and Hideki Irabu, was the loser. Jason Varitek hit two home runs for the Sox – the first off Irabu and the second off Ramiro Mendoza – and John Valentin, Troy O’Leary and Reggie Jefferson all picked up RBI. The Yankees had eight hits, with Jorge Posada picking up three all by himself.

When the second prequel in the second trilogy, Attack of the Clones was released on May 16, 2002 the Yankees had themselves a day and beat the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays 13-0. To be honest, I didn’t recognize about 75% of Tampa’s lineup when I looked up the boxscore and I watched a lot of baseball in 2002. In any event, the poor, hapless Rays were held to three hits and committed four errors. Jason Tyner had one hit and Jason Conti had two. The losing pitcher was Ryan Rupe who gave up seven runs in three innings. His replacement, Jason Standridge didn’t fare much better – he also gave up seven hits in three innings. And finally there was Jorge Sosa who pitched two innings for the Rays and only gave up one run – but he also had two wild pitches and he hit Jason Giambi with a pitch. David Wells, who picked up his sixth win of the year, pitched a complete game for the Yankees

And finally, when Revenge of the Sith was released on May 19, 2005, the Yankees had earned themselves a day off. Fine, it wasn’t earned, it was scheduled.

So there you have it, the Yankees have actually fared pretty well on the days when movies in the Stars Wars franchise open. Maybe something good can happen today? Like a good trade out of nowhere? A girl can dream.

[Please note: I didn’t include the many re-releases of the films. The original Star Wars was re-released four different times even before the re-release of the original trilogy in 1997. And when the original trilogy came out that year, they were put back into theaters in the order they originally came out in January, February and March of 1997 respectively.] Continue reading A look back at how the Yankees have fared when Star Wars movies are released

Friday Morning News And Notes: 12/18/15

[caption id="attachment_79756" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Brendan Ryan Mustache That stache is going to be a big loss in the clubhouse. Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

I’d say today is the last day of real work before Christmas.  Everybody knows the last few days before are throw-away days, so here’s hoping everybody has an easy one in front of them today.

– The Yankees officially completed the Starlin Castro trade yesterday by announcing Brendan Ryan as the PTBNL in the deal.  This was reported by multiple guys when the trade news first broke, so not really a surprise here.  The deal to re-sign Ryan for multiple years was a strange one and I’m sure nobody will be sad to see him go.  That said, the Yankees are a little short on backup third base options at the moment, although I imagine they’ll look to use one of their 2 open 40-man spots to address that.

– Via Chad Jennings, CC Sabathia said he is “light years ahead” of where he’s been the last few years with respect to his offseason workouts.  He’s been coming off injuries the last few offseasons, but he says he feels healthier than ever and has been working out hard to prepare for next year.  He’s going to be given a spot in the rotation as long as he’s physically healthy enough to pitch.  Nothing wrong with having the healthiest version of him possible to start the season.

– Former Yankee Andrew Bailey signed a MiL deal with the Phillies yesterday.  That deal comes with a ST invite.  I thought the Yanks trying to buy low on Bailey as a reclamation project was a good move.  Too bad it didn’t work out.  Hopefully Bailey has better luck at his next stop.

– Via George King, it sounds like the Yankees are really high on James Pazos as a potential replacement for Justin Wilson.  I forgot that he was included in the list of “untouchables” at the deadline this year, that’s pretty funny.  But hey, if he figures out his fastball command there’s no reason he can’t be an effective lefty reliever.  His slider is already very good.  FWIW, Pazos was also mentioned in a Mark Feinsand article about the young relief depth earlier this week.

– Via that same Feinsand article, Joe had some positive things to say about Mark Teixeira‘s rehab progress and said he expected Teix to be ready to start spring camp when it kicks off in 2 months.  “I saw him the other day.  He’s doing much better. I’m excited to get him back.” Continue reading Friday Morning News And Notes: 12/18/15

Optimism re Several Former Yankees’ HOF Odds… Next Year

Punch line: the early-disclosed Hall of Fame votes make me, finally, optimistic about Mike Mussina and Tim Raines, not this year but next year – when Jorge Posada will have as good a shot as possible in his first eligibility year.

Last year, an absurdly low 24-25% of Hall of Fame voters cast votes for Alan Trammell, Mussina, and Edgar Martinez. But with the 7 inductions in 2014-15 de-crowding the ballot, Ryan Thibs’ Hall of Fame Vote Tracker shows, among the first roughly 60 disclosed ballots (a decent early sample of the expected total of 400-450), Tram/Moose/Edgar roughly doubling their support, to roughly 50% each. That could overstate their support a tick: historically, the undisclosed votes drag down about 5% the totals of candidates who do better with advanced stats than with traditional stats, because the voters who decline to disclose their votes on the interwebs are disproportionately grumpy anti-stat folk (a) who don’t appreciate stats more modern than RBI and wins, and (b) who vote for very few players, because ain’t no kids today like that Musial feller, I tell ya!

So I’m unoptimistic that everyone worthy gets in this year, but next year looks really good for, finally, ending the backlog – including for some former Yankees. I view the best-case scenario this year as electing Ken Griffey, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, and Trevor Hoffman. The first three deserve it and look likely this year; Raines deserves it but the odds look middling. I don’t consider Hoffman worthy, but he’s running surprisingly strong in his first year, so I’d rather he get in now than debut at maybe 60%, then perpetuate a backlog by soaking up 70-75% the next 1-2 years.

If those five (or even four) get in, then next year’s ballot won’t be as crowded, because pickings are slim among the new Hall candidates next year. Ivan Rodriguez should be a first-rounder; Vladimir Guerrero has about the same case as Jim Edmonds, and a worse one than Larry Walker, and could get more support than either, but likely not close to enough. Manny Ramirez will fall into McGwire/Sosa limbo. So if Raines gets to 65% and Mussina 50% this year, I like the odds that next year – Raines’s last! – Raines gets in and Mussina reaches the 60s, setting him up for election pretty soon.

That one other interesting new candidate next year is Jorge Posada. As a Yankee fan, I’d love seeing him voted in, but I see him as, at best, only almost-Hall-worthy. He’s just 19th in career WAR for catchers, behind the underrated Ted Simmons and Thurman Munson, and barely ahead of non-luminaries like Jason Kendall and Darrell Porter. If you put Munson in one telepod and Kendall in another, I don’t think their fly-like merger in the third tele-pod yields a Hall of Famer.

But a bunch of stars are aligned for Posada to get as good a chance as possible next year. His first year of Hall eligibility arrives (a) with a weak first-year class, (b) as the first 1990s dynasty Yankee member to be a plausible Hall candidate, (c) after Hall voters spent several years paring down a crowded-ballot backlog. So Posada’s long shot Hall case is positioned as well as it can be next year, and I’m really curious to see what happens.
Continue reading Optimism re Several Former Yankees’ HOF Odds… Next Year

The Problem With The Justin Wilson Trade

A week has passed since the Yankees shipped Justin Wilson to the Tigers for 2 Triple-A pitchers.  It’s done, it’s over, it’s old news by now, and yet I still can’t fully accept the deal and move on.  I completely understand why the Yankees made the move.  It was another textbook example of the “trade from positions of organizational depth to address areas of weakness” strategy that Cash has employed to try to rebuild this roster on the fly, and that strategy seems to be working pretty well.  I also completely understand why a lot of people didn’t like the idea of trading away an important piece of the 2016 Major League puzzle to fill holes in the Triple-A rotation.  That doesn’t exactly send the right message, especially when that message is being delivered behind the standard “we’re committed to building a championship-caliber team each and every year” company line.

The more I’ve thought about this trade and whether I did or did not like it, the more I’ve gone back and forth on it.  That’s probably more time than anybody should mentally expend thinking about Justin Wilson, but this was the one move the Yankees have made this offseason that we really didn’t see coming.  And then it hit me.  That’s exactly why I’ve been struggling with this move and why I think a lot of other people have too.  Trading Wilson was an unexpected move and it was unexpected because unlike the previous trades, the Yankees didn’t go into this one with a solid Plan B already available.

Think about the other two trades this offseason.  The Yankees were OK trading John Ryan Murphy because they already had Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings and Austin Romine around for injury insurance.  If the Twins weren’t willing to make the deal to send Aaron Hicks back, the Yankees had backup 4th outfielder options in Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams already on the 40-man roster.  They aren’t right-handed hitters, but they bring the same defensive flexibility and speed element to the field and they showed they can handle the stick in some small MLB sample sizes.

Then the Castro deal.  The Yankees, as uncomfortable as they likely were with it, had a plan to cover second base next year in place before they got serious with the Cubs.  That’s part of why they acquired Dustin Ackley in the first place and why they didn’t pull the trigger on Refs when the A’s wanted him at the deadline.  Cash’s decision to make Adam Warren the feature piece of the return package was made knowing he had Bryan Mitchell and Ivan Nova around for swingman depth and a slew of other young righty arms to step into the vacated short relief work.  Whether the Yankees did or didn’t make those two deals, they would have been able to easily fill those areas of need internally. Continue reading The Problem With The Justin Wilson Trade

The 2016 IIATMS Hall of Fame Ballot

With less than a week to go before actual Hall of Fame ballots are due, we decided to put our heads together to create a fake (and yet far more important) ballot of our own. We followed the voting requirements of the Hall of Fame, selecting no more than ten players to make the cut. However, we also noted players that we would have voted for if the ballot were not unfortunately limited to ten players. Those marked with an ‘X’ represent our actual picks; those marked with a ‘-‘ are the woulda, coulda, shouldas. And while you have to wait until January 6 to see who will be joining the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown, you can dive into our results today.

The following players made the cut based solely on actual votes:

With expanded ballots, Messrs Edgar Martinez and Curt Shilling would have also been enshrined, with Alan Trammell missing out by a single vote. The individual ballots are below.

What, if anything, can be gleaned from this? The most obvious takeaway is that we, as a group, are not terribly concerned with PED issues insofar as all-time greats are concerned (Bonds and Clemens), nor did we pay much heed to the inane rumors regarding Bagwell’s forearms and Piazza’s bacne. I cannot speak for everyone, but I see McGwireSosa, and Sheffield as borderline candidates, and their clearly defined links to PED use are enough to move the needle away from enshrinement as a result.

It also appears as though we are a largely unified front, with seven unanimous inductees, and an eighth appearing on all but one ballot. Some may say that it is because we are shills for advanced metrics or the like – but that could not be further from the truth. We have a considerable array of opinions on sabremetrics, in addition to a fairly diverse representation of ages. I’m inclined to chalking it up to great minds thinking alike.

The hardest exclusion from my ballot was Jim Edmonds. He is a fairly straightforward ‘no’ from an analytical perspective, and his narrative isn’t terribly strong (eight Gold Gloves, a World Series ring, and … not much else). However, he was incredible to watch in the field, and he was one of the best players in baseball during my high school years – from 2000 through 2004, he batted .298/.410/.593, averaging 102 R, 36 HR, and 100 RBI per season. He was 4th in fWAR over that time, and 7th in wRC+. Reminiscing about players may well be the best part of Hall of Fame season, regardless of their actual candidacy.

Individual Ballots Continue reading The 2016 IIATMS Hall of Fame Ballot

Wednesday Morning Links: 12/16/15

In my quest to better accommodate my severely decreased writing (and reading) time, I’ve made the executive decision to split the weekly Linkapalooza into smaller chunks.  Figure one on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, the other on Friday afternoon.  Sound good?  Good.  Here’s what’s cooking this week.

– On Monday, William Juliano of The Captain’s Blog ran the tab on the current 2016 payroll and looked ahead to the potential luxury tax hit for this year.

– Jayson Stark of ESPN shared his thoughts on the Pete Rose situation and Rose’s legacy.  I don’t care much for Rose or his HOF eligibility, but if you do then definitely read this.

– On Tuesday, Mike Axisa of RAB discussed the void of reliable middle inning relief work left by the Adam Warren and Justin Wilson trades and how the Yankees might go about filling it.

– Tanya Bondurant of Pinstripe Alley wondered if the Chase Headley contract will go down as a bad one.  It’s a fair question to ask and one I honestly didn’t think we would ever have to ask, especially not after year 1.

– And in case you missed it on Monday, longtime commenter and newest member of the IIATMS staff UYF published his first post about the booming baseball contract business and what it means for the Yankees.

We’ve got some good HOF stuff coming up later this morning, so stick around for that.  Let’s groove.

Continue reading Wednesday Morning Links: 12/16/15

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

[caption id="attachment_79701" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Courtesy of Glenn Nagel photography. Courtesy of Glenn Nagel photography.[/caption]

I wrote this article in April 2011, following a trip to the HOF with my family. Following the news of the upholding of Pete Rose‘s permanent ban, I thought it might be interesting to repost this. Originally published on ESPN here. –Jason


This past weekend, I visited baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. This was not my first time there, but it was my first trip with my two sons, now ages 11 and 8. I was curious to see the Hall in a different way, through the eyes of my children.

I left thinking about the official name of the building — the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. I left realizing that the official name of the building — the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum — has a very big word in the middle of it that most people seem to ignore: “and.” Mostly I write about the building from a distance, and when I do, I focus on the first part of the building’s name, about who should be admitted into the Hall and who should not. But when I am inside the building, it’s the museum part that takes over. I enjoy the plaques, but for me the real interest lies in reliving the moments that first drew me to the game and those that have kept me in its clutches since.

On the other hand, I paused at the museum’s display of the hate mail directed at Jackie Robinson and was left slack-jawed. The violence expressed in these letters is a part of our history, a tragic part, but a part that needs to be remembered. These were not proud moments for America or for baseball. However, we need to see and remember the good and the bad.

It’s wonderful that the Hall of Fame documents the history of baseball, even the worst parts. This is the part of the mission of the Hall that we don’t talk much about. We talk about how Pete Rose should or should not be in the Hall of Fame, but Rose already is represented — in the museum. So is Manny Ramirez. So is Barry Bonds. Their memorabilia feature prominently in exhibits in the museum, even if their plaques aren’t (and won’t) be hanging in the Gallery. I was able to point my boys to Rose’s jersey in an exhibit and explain to them who he was, what he did on the field and the things he did off the field which keep him otherwise outside this institution.

As I walked through the Hall, I thought about whether this is the best way to remember players who had Hall of Fame-quality careers but whose involvement with performance-enhancing drugs will likely prevent them from being inducted into the Hall. I won’t argue here whether this ban is right or wrong; I simply assume that the ban will continue for quite some time. So long as the ban is in place, players like Bonds and Ramirez are represented by the bats they used, the balls they hit, and the helmets they wore. If you want to see Manny’s 2004 tarred-up helmet, it’s there on display but it doesn’t tell Manny’s whole story.

I think if we’re going to ban the better part of a generation of baseball players from admission to the Hall of Fame, then the Hall should dedicate permanent exhibit space to an explanation of the ban. If it’s cheating we mean to condemn, then let’s have the Hall devote exhibit space to condemn the cheaters — of all the cheaters, not just the guys who took drugs, but the guys who bet on baseball and threw baseball games, even the guys who scuffed up the baseball when no one was looking. If we mean to condemn the misuse of prescription and recreational drugs, then let’s devote exhibit space to this, too.

It might be that we don’t agree on the reasons for the ban, or whether there should be a ban at all. We’ve said for years that it would take time to develop the perspective necessary to understand the so-called steroids era. Well, we’ve had time. Let’s present all views and let the museum-goers reach their own conclusions.

If we’re going to ban the better part of a baseball generation from the Hall, it’s going to leave a gaping hole in the Hall’s gallery of baseball greats. Perhaps the big names from the Steroid Era will never be elected to the Hall. That doesn’t mean their stories and stats and memories should be struck from the baseball consciousness — we still need to tell their stories. You don’t leave a hole in an historic site without an explanation. An exhibit explaining steroids would at least give me a place to take my sons and tell them the story of how baseball was played when I was a young adult. That’s a good story, an interesting one, full of ups and downs, with its share of villains and fallen heroes. It’s a story worth telling. Continue reading The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Do Not Trade Andrew Miller

[caption id="attachment_79693" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Miller vs TOR II Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

There have been rumors for weeks that the Yankees were having conversations with teams about Andrew Miller. A lump built in my throat. What!? Rumors fly around all the time so I did not take it all that seriously. And then there was this sentence from Buster Olney in his ESPN blog (behind a pay wall): “The Yankees got very deep into conversations about Andrew Miller with the Houston Astros, before Houston’s acquisition of Ken Giles.” Very deep into conversation seems a bit beyond a rumor. My knee-jerk, unprofessional reaction is, “Please say it ain’t so!”

There is some logic behind my emotional leap. While I have often echoed a former ESPN SweetSpot leader that relief pitchers are fungible, great relievers are not. The Astros, one of the most stat driven front offices around, made it clear this winter that good relief pitchers were the big area of need after bowing out of the playoffs last year. The Royals have basically followed a Yankee (and before that, Tony La Russa) strategy to make the game a six inning game and get lots of strikeouts in those last three innings.

The one-two punch of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances was as good as it gets last year in the late innings. Betances did prove that he can close games if needed. But Miller, in his first year as a closer, was stellar. The Yankees have already traded away Justin Wilson and Adam Warren. So the sixth inning, seventh inning guys are up in the air right now. Trade away Andrew Miller and then you have the eighth inning to worry about too.

Sure, you could get lucky with a home-grown guy or with a spring training invitee. If this is about money, Miller’s $9m salary is not that big of a deal–or at least it shouldn’t be. And yes, we’ve been hearing that 2016 is a transition year and you don’t really need two great relief pitchers for that. I don’t see a whole lot of separation in the AL East, so competing is not out of the question. If the Yankees fall hard, then the trade deadline can revisit the idea.

But if there is a chance to compete–and I believe there is–then having a strong bullpen is essential these days. And by a strong bullpen, I mean guys who can miss bats regularly.

Perhaps it can be stated that Betances deserves to be able to take the next step. I do not think the “closer” title is as important as it was even a couple of years ago. Plenty of non-closing relievers have been picking up nice paychecks lately. Darren O’Day is just one example this past week. Betances, to his credit, has not made such demands. But it goes even beyond this reasoning.

Many thought that Dellin Betances was the Yankees’ MVP the last two seasons. It is scary to think of where the Yankees would have finished the past two seasons without him in his role. He wasn’t the closer. Similarly, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera have shown the value of relief pitchers not labeled as closers. A point can even be made that Davis, Herrera and Betances were more valuable than the closers. Let’s look at that for a second.

In 2015, Dellin Betances pitched in 39 high leverage situations and 21 medium leverage situations. Miller (in fairness, he did miss some time) pitched in 30 high leverage situations and 15 medium leverage ones. There is a stat called RE24 which is runs saved in bases occupied situations. Betances had a RE24 of 24.7 and Miller was at 16. Betances had an 11.8 WPA score and Miller a 9.

There are two observations you can make about those numbers. First, Betances in his role was every bit (and perhaps more) important as the closer. Moving Betances to the closer position would greatly diminish the ability of the Yankees to fill his current role effectively. And his role saved a lot of forest fires.

I am not exalting Betances over Miller. Miller has earned his salary not from being a closer in the past, but by being the kind of before-ninth inning relief pitcher that Betances is. Miller’s role was super important to the Red Sox and then the Orioles in what they accomplished the years Miller was with them.

What I am saying is that Miller and Betances together are a formidable duo that improves the Yankees’ chances of winning significantly. And since I still believe the Yankees have just as good a shot in the AL East as their competition, keeping them intact is certainly my preference. Continue reading Do Not Trade Andrew Miller