Getting the best from everyone
I don’t think I have single thing to complain about today. Analysis is about finding problems and advocating solutions, but everyone is playing well right now. Even Nick Swisher, who I’ve (reluctantly) become disillusioned with, pulled out of his slump with a two-homer day. To quote a line from John Lennon and the Beatles, “I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK.” (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the happiest album about alienation, distraction and disconnectedness.) That’s not quite accurate, now that I think about it — I’ve always got something to say, and it’s not “Billlllly Shears!” Though I wish it was.
ANOTHER RUN AT AN MVP FOR JETER?
On last night’s broadcast, my fellow YES-man Michael Kay suggested that Derek Jeter is putting together a campaign worthy of the Most Valuable Player award. My first reaction was, “Nah,” first because Jeter’s year seemed to be in the good-not-great category, second because if he didn’t win the award in 1999 or 2006 he’s not going to win it now — voters go wild for RBIs, not runs scored — and third, because there are so many other good candidates. However, on further examination, the idea is not as wild as it at first seemed, though still unlikely.
Thanks to his .402 on-base percentage, fifth in the American League, Jeter is having one of his strongest seasons. He hasn’t reached base 40 percent of the time since 2006, and has gotten there in only two other seasons, 1999 and 2000. He’s also fifth in batting average and second in hits behind Ichiro Suzuki. He ranks ninth in runs scored. He’s not having the best season of any AL shortstop — Jason Bartlett currently ranks him, but that’s going to change over time. Jeter also has had 120 more plate appearances than Bartlett due to the latter’s stint on the disabled list.
Still, the line in front of Jeter is long, and starts with two Twins, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. The latter, a past MVP balloting favorite, leads the league in home runs and RBIs, which is usually enough to nab the award. In fairness to Morneau, he’s having a tremendous year, one that is far superior to his 2006, when he last won the award. Mauer has been the best all-around hitter in the league, but he has come back to the pack a bit in July. If the Twins can come back and win the AL Central, still a strong possibility, the M&M Minnesota boys are going to get an extra push, whereas if the Yankees hang on to win the AL East, Jeter will be perceived as one among a cast of talented performers.
Since an April batting line that was indifferent by his own standards, Jeter has hit .337/.418/.459. He’s going to have to top those rates the rest of the way to make a serious dent in the gaudier statistics put up in the Twin Cities. He seems a long-shot to get serious consideration, though it would be only fair if the voters stiffed Morneau to give Jeter an award just as they stiffed Jeter to give Morneau an award in 2006.
Rumors surfaced yesterday that Brian Cashman has been burning up cell-phone minutes in calls to Cincinnati, trying to get the richly-salaried Bronson Arroyo for the Yankees’ rotation. The Bronse is under contract next year for $11 million, and there’s also a club option for 2011 at the same price, with a $2 million buyout if Arroyo’s presence is no longer desired. Thus the Yankees would get the right-hander for the remainder of his age-32 season, age 33 and potentially, 34. Arroyo is having a very strange year, in that he’s either unhittable or he has no idea how to pitch. That’s no exaggeration: In his wins he has an ERA of 2.19. In his losses, it’s 11.01. I asked the statistical geniuses at Baseball Prospectus if that differential was particularly dramatic, and indeed it is. Among pitchers with at least 10 decisions, it’s the second-largest spread in baseball this year behind that of Brian Moehler, who has an ERA of 2.62 in his wins and 12.13 in his losses. Felix Hernandez, Jason Marquis and Clayton Kershaw round out the all good/all bad top five. Pitchers with fewer than 10 decisions in this category include Brett Cecil, who has a 1.33 ERA in his wins and a 15.43 ERA in his losses, and Rich Hill, who is at 1.86 in his wins and 15.75 in losses.
If you’re the Yankees, which Arroyo are you going to see most often? There doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern to his periodic lapses into incompetence. This is a deal you might make only if Dave Eiland and the rest of your organizational pitching gurus view hours of tape and say, “We see the problem and we think we can correct it.” If not, the aggregate — a quality start half the time, a sure loss the other half of the time — may not be worth the money and the low-level prospects necessary to spring the pitcher from the Queen City.
MORE OF ME
My take on the Omar Minaya-Tony Bernazard affair can be found in my You Could Look It Up spot.