29 December 2004

Yankee Spin Cycle...



An interesting article on the curious career path of Alex Rodriguez from Bronx Banter, a great Yankee blog. The thrust of the article includes a look at Rodriguez's consistent decline over the last five seasons. It sounds silly, but it's all there- decline in OPS+, EqA, BA, OBP and park-adjusted WARP, among a list of other offensive numbers. Here's a quote from Cliff Corcoran's terrific article:

That trend began with Alex's first season in Texas in 2001, but was disguised by his move from the pitcher-friendly Safeco Park (2000 Park Factor: 91) to the Ballpark at Arlington (2001 Park Factor: 100) and subsequently by his new park's emergence as the second (after Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium) most extreme hitters park in the American League (2002 and 2003 Park Factors: 112, 110).

...

I could list other stats that exhibit the same trend, both adjusted and non-adjusted (WARP, Runs Created, RCAA, RC/G, regular OPS, GPA . . .), but there's no need. This trend is real and is four years running. It is my belief that this trend is hard evidence of the fact that Alex Rodriguez's 2000 season represented an early peak which he is unlikely to replicate. In other words, his best years are behind him.


Some very, very interesting points, including the reasoning behind an almost complete absence of discussion on the matter- the hype surrounding his very early explosion in the MLB. I certainly wouldn't suggest that Alex Rodriguez is anything approaching bad yet, and in fact is still very, very great. But until he puts together a few seasons in which he improves in places rather than declines, it will continue to be a pretty troubling trend. Even though it is irrelevant to the Yankees, his contract may prove to be a bit lengthy if the trend continues. Food for thought.

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In the opposite direction, there are Buster "Productive Outs Percentage" Olney and Suzyn "I Used to be a Red Sox Fan" Waldman, two of the shill-iest Yankee shills around. To wit-

Olney writes about "The Yankee Juggernaut" in which he, for some strange reason, assumes the Yankees sign Carlos Beltran and trade for Randy Johnson pre-Spring Training. Odd, considering Beltran has no less than two other suitors more than willing to pay top dollar for him, and the Johnson deal has fallen apart much quicker while being much closer before. But anyway, they're the Yankees, and to their writers, fans, and executives, (hello Randy Levine), they get whatever they want, and somehow deserve it. Fine. Let's just look at the article assuming they DO get them.

But in 2005, the Yankees would have a superteam, their best regular-season squad since 1998, when they won 114 games. Should the Yankees succeed in signing Beltran, this is what their Opening Day lineup would look like:

SS- Derek Jeter
CF- Carlos Beltran
3B- Alex Rodriguez
RF- Gary Sheffield
LF- Hideki Matsui
DH- Bernie Williams
C- Jorge Posada
1B- Jason Giambi/ Tino Martinez
2B- Tony Womack


This is all very true, of course- that lineup would be unfuckingbelievable. Just like last year though, (moreso, really) it would be an absolute embarassment if this team didn't win it all, just for the record. Moving on...

But if the Yankees get merely a .250 average, 25 homers and 80 walks out of their first basemen, their offense will be awesome. They'll have power, with everyone from No. 1 to No. 8 in the lineup capable of 20 or more homers, and much more than that from Sheffield and A-Rod and Beltran. They'll have balance: Three right-handed hitters, three switch-hitters, three left-handed hitters. They'll have speed, with Jeter, Womack, Beltran and Rodriguez capable of stealing 25 bases apiece.


First of all- merely? Teams would kill for that from their 1B.

Second, while true regarding their power, couting on 25+ SBs from Womack may be a faulty enterprise, especially considering he has significant trouble getting on base. But that's just nitpicking.

The defense will be better -- A-Rod in his second season at third base, the adept Martinez probably playing the bulk of the innings at first, Beltran an upgrade over Williams in center field. In meetings, some Yankees' scouts and executives preferred Miguel Cairo over Womack, but there was a broad consensus on one particular aspect of the debate: Womack is better than Cairo defensively, they agreed.


This may be the funniest thing I've ever read a sportswriter put to paper, no matter if he believes it or not. Aside from the fact that it is quite clearly wrong, there is the issue of (the widely held view that) Womack is a liability defensively, plain and simple. When you consider that the Yankee signings shouldn't really be judged monetarily because it doesn't effect them, you have to take each one on a talent level alone. For a team as powerful and full of resources as the Yankees to sign Tony Womack is astonishing. Absolutely astonishing. Tony Womack, when taking his starting job as Yankee 2B, will hold the mantle of, arguably, the worst starting position player in MLB. He had an uncharacteristically good year in 04. Great. He'll be 35 and back to his career norms next year. This is a good thing for non-Yankee fans.

Don't tell Suzyn Waldman that, though. From her seat, Womack single-handedly beat the Yankees in '01 (thanks to KevinMortonsGhost/ WorstTradeEvah at SoSH for the info on her WFAN appearance). Elsewhere in her radio appearance, she classified the Red Sox as having had a poor offseason in comparison to the Yankees and... Giants. And, that Mussina won't decline with age because he doesn't throw hard, and thus doesn't have to worry about velocity dropping (!), because after all, he's no Clemens, as if that's a bad thing to be a 42 year old Cy Young winner.

There is currently a serious issue with the level of baseball intelligence in many prominent media positions these days. Waldman: Moneyball (or how I misinterpreted it) stupid, and thus so are the Dodgers, A's and Red Sox. The Yankees and their Jaret Wright/ Tony Womack signings good- because they're "big time players- New York kinda guys." What?!

Back to Buster...

Johnson would take the pressure off the bullpen, off the offense, off the other starters. Mussina would go into 2005 with a full complement of spring training, something he did not have in 2004 because of a death in his family, and he would not have the burden of being the No. 1 starter. If the Yankees keep Brown -- which seems unlikely -- then he would be the No. 5 starter; last year, they needed him to be a No. 1-type starter. The Yankees' rotation could be very strong.


So Mussina missing a few weeks of Spring Training messed him up all the way through July, and spots thereafter? And Brown sucking with decreased velocity and incredible injury risk is OK if he's pitching in a #5 slot? The Yankee rotation could be very strong, just as easily as it could be one with the best pitcher in baseball... and a declining Mike Mussina, a flat out bad Jaret Wright, a regressing-to-his-mean Carl Pavano and a cooked Kevin Brown. There is just as much potential for a Yankee rotation disaster as there is for dominance, likely a bit more.

Mike Stanton, acquired from the Mets, may or may not be as good as he was three years ago, but he has an advantage over Felix Heredia and Gabe White and all the other wannabes that tried and failed for the Yankees: Joe Torre, who trusts few pitchers, actually trusts him. He will give Stanton the ball, and that will take pressure off the other relievers.


How on earth does this kind of stuff even get printed? Why should I care if Joe Torre trusts a guy that is sharply declining, even when pitching his last two seasons in a pronounced pitcher's park? This says a lot more bad about Torre than it does good about Stanton, honestly. You don't see writers trumpeting some marginally talented, declining relief pitcher just because Bobby Cox "trusts him," even though Bobby Cox is a better manager than Torre. Maybe it's because Cox doesn't "trust" bad pitchers. Just a guess.

And now Torre seems to trust Tanyon Sturtze, who pitched well down the stretch in '04.


This is like character assassination on Torre from Olney, and he doesn't even mean it to be! He "trusts" Tanyon Fucking Sturtze?!? So let's look at Tanyon's ERAs "down the stretch" in '04.

July- 5.54
August- 7.25
September- 4.20


So baseball writers don't have to look things up anymore before writing them? I'd love to have Buster Olney defend that comment, just to see what Yankee-lovin' horseshit he invented to rationalize it. Sturtze is dependable because he pitched for New York? A guy does this for, say, the Dodgers, he's pitching for AAA Las Vegas. Oh wait, that did happen. To Sturtze. Whatever. Moving on...

And then there are Mariano Rivera, Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill. The Yankees are going to have a deep bullpen (and rightly so, considering they will pay nearly $100 million for the pitching staff in '05). Combine the Yankees' offense with strong pitching and there will be one blowout after another, as there was in '98.


The Yankees undoubtedly have what is likely the best setup man/ closer combo in baseball with Gordon and Rivera. If Torre can get Quantrill healthy next year and not overwork he or Gordon, their bullpen really will be deep and amazing. Consider though, they pay their bullpen almost as much as the Devil Rays pay for their roster. But for the record, considering the fact that Quantrill was ridden to the bone all season despite having a bum knee since game one of the season- why doesn't Torre get nailed for that? Ditto Gordon- his failures in the ALCS were chalked up to his not being "a true Yankee," and not being able to "handle the pressure" (hello Kay). Dismissing the arrogance of the first comment, the second is ridiculous- he was just overworked by St. Torre.

The bill for the talent will be enormous, with the payroll perhaps climbing beyond $220 million for 2005. If the Yankees agree to a two-year, $32 million extension with Johnson, as expected, and sign Beltran for perhaps $16 million a year, then in 2006 and 2007, five players -- Rodriguez, Jeter, Giambi, Beltran and Johnson -- would be slated to earn $206 million (with some of the cost to the Yankees reduced by payment received from the Texas Rangers in the A-Rod deal).


Five players. Two seasons. More than $200 million.


Just wanted to quote this part. If there's such thing as competitive spirit... ah, nevermind.

Anyway, it strikes me that Olney wants to be the first in line to fawn over this new Yankee roster when, in reality, it's not even there yet. Kind of odd. That being said, gushing over the talent on the Yankees these days is like gushing over how great Bill Gates is at buying mansions. He's got a ton of money and spends it on the best stuff- that's impressive now?

Steinbrenner could pocket tens of millions of dollars and add to his financial portfolio. Instead, he is trying to win another trophy...


Chris Rock has this great bit about guys who brag about "never bein' in jail." "You're not supposed to go to jail," he says. "You don't get to brag about NOT being an idiot!" I'm just saying.

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The new Bill James Handbook 2005, released a couple months ago, found it's way into my hands this year for Xmas. A tremendously fun read, James has added a player projection section, which, while erring on the side of caution, are incredibly interesting and fun to speculate with. Here are a few interesting projections-

_______________________________________BA___OBP___SLG____OPS
Ortiz, David:________32 HR, 109 RBI, .282__.364__.552___.916
Ramirez, Manny:______39 HR, 124 RBI, .320__.414__.616__1.030
Bonds, Barry:________36 HR,__84 RBI, .316__.519__.676__1.195
Varitek, Jason:______17 HR,__70 RBI, .266__.344__.448___.792
Beltran, Carlos:_____31 HR, 105 RBI, .285__.368__.524___.891
Posada, Jorge:_______22 HR,__84 RBI, .270__.382__.479___.861
Matsui, Hideki:______26 HR, 109 RBI, .296__.380__.496___.876
Damon, Johnny:_______14 HR,__68 RBI, .285__.357__.429___.786
Rodriguez, Alex:_____42 HR, 118 RBI, .297__.379__.568___.947
Renteria, Edgar:_____11 HR,__73 RBI, .294__.351__.417___.768


Obviously this was done with certain metrics involved and aren't arbitrary, but some seem a bit off. In my (admittedly very arbitrary) view, the projections on Posada, Varitek and Damon seem pretty low. All three involve the player seeing a serious plunge in OBP, with Varitek and Damon in particular falling from near- .400 OBPs to around ~.350 neighborhood. Seems odd, and while I can understand the view on Posada/ Varitek declining a bit, this seems like a pretty precipitous fall. I personally see those as a solid projections for Varitek in '06 instead of '05.

Ortiz's projection seems a bit short of what he's been progressing towards, but a regression is a huge possibility, and those numbers seem "safe" enough to me. Manny's numbers aren't shocking mostly because he does it every year with frightening consistency. So that's no great shakes- the same for Matsui, though he's not nearly coming with the same lengthy track record. He's improved in plate discipline and power, so those numbers seem right.

If we could get the above numbers OBP-wise from Renteria next year, I'd take it in a heartbeat, considering how great an upgrade that would be over Cabrera. The SLG numbers seem low though, and they'd probably creep up a bit from these projections with his playing half his games at Fenway- a doubles hitter in doubles heaven.

The projections for Rodriguez seems a bit generous to me, though. I don't see 42 HR from him in Yankee Stadium, personally, but again- I'm just guessing.

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RSFIPT

Please, PLEASE go visit Red Sox Fan in Pinstripe Territory, which is just a remarkably awesome Red Sox blog. One of my very few "laugh-out-loud" online visits I frequent. Example-

When I first saw The Brady Bunch Movie (the 90s one), I saw the Greg character (Christopher Barnes, NOT the same Chris Barnes who played Tanner in The Bad News Bears) and said, There's that guy from the cheesy 80s sitcom Day By Day.

When Courtney Thorne-Smith got famous, I said, That's that girl from the cheesy 80s sitcom Day By Day.

When Seinfeld started, I looked at Elaine and said, There's that lady from Saturday Night Live...and, of course, the cheesy 80s sitcom Day By Day.

While watching the Seinfeld DVDs yesterday, one of the "notes about nothing" mentioned Julia-Louis Dreyfus' role on Day By Day, and said it co-starred Thora Birch. Thora Birch? Yes, me, Thora Birch. She was the six year old girl on the show.

How many more people are gonna come out of that cast? Am I going to find out that a young David Ortiz played the wacky Dominican neighbor?

Am I the only person who watched that show. It came on '88, was on Sunday nights, NBC. Around the same time as Eerie, Indiana, Mark & Brian, and Our House. And that one where the girl had two dads--My Two Dads, that's it. And Alf, and Valerie. That was a weird era. Even then I got the feeling that no one else was watching these shows.


Never disappoints.

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Finally, from Rob Neyer in an ESPN chat today:

Ben (Rochester, NY): How can you say Fenway is prettier then Yankee Stadium???

Rob Neyer: Because I've been to both places, and the conclusion is inescapable unless one's wearing pinstriped blinders or a dunce cap.


Nice.

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