Results tagged ‘ Ian Snell ’

Trading day

clifflee_325_073009.jpgAs I write this Thursday morning, there are just two shopping days left until the non-waiver trading deadline falls and every deal essentially requires the approval of 29 other teams. Several deals dropped on Wednesday, though none had the participation of the Yankees (their sole transaction line was the release of the ungrateful Brett Tomko).

The Phillies picked up Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco (I hear Jeannette McDonald sing, “Ben Francisco, open your golden gates” every time I think of that guy, and it never fails to disturb me) from the Indians, the Tribe picking up several players who could be useful contributors in the near future but almost certainly won’t be stars, with the possible exception of New Jersey native Jason Knapp, a teenaged righty whose fastball reaches atmospheric escape velocity.

The Phillies now get another reliable, top of the order type who can not only help them maintain their current lead but can get them through the playoffs — Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, and Joe Blanton seemed like less than sure bet to get them through Round 1, let alone to the World Series. Lee, Hamels, and Happ seem like a much better bet, and a real threat to an opponent with too left-handed a batting order. The Phillies still have a problem too address, and solving it doesn’t involve blowing their remaining prospects on Roy Halladay, but finding someone who can supplant Brad Lidge at the end of games.

As good as Lidge was last year, the Phillies can’t blow their season on sentimentality. A reliever who is giving up two homers per nine innings pitched isn’t worthy of his job (just ask Edwar Ramirez). I’ve seen some commentary on the deal worrying about how the Phillies are going to accommodate their current rotation plus Rodrigo Lopez and Pedro Martinez. This is much ado about nothing; in the case of the former, the Phillies can thank their various gods that they got some good work out of junk pile pickup, and as for Martinez, his utility is purely theoretical at this point. If he can pitch, perhaps he can add some depth to the bullpen.

The Giants tried to bolster their slim wild card lead by pulling second baseman Freddy Sanchez away from the Pirates. It cost them their No. 2 pitching prospect, righty Tim Alderson. While I am not completely sold on Alderson’s future as an ace (his control is of the finest quality; his stuff isn’t), the Giants might have picked the wrong spot to fix — Sanchez will upgrade their production at second base if he hits at all, but in the grand scheme of things he’s not a big generator of offense (his current .334 on-base percentage is about league average), not even at his batting title best (back in 2006), and he’s just an average glove. The Giants could have tried to live with what Juan Uribe was giving them at second while addressing themselves to left field or even shortstop, where the five-time All-Star Edgar Renteria is having a miserable year. Parenthetically, if Renteria has a couple of decent years left in his bag, he’s going to finish his career with somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 career hits and make for a really annoying Hall of Fame argument.

The Mariners acquired Ian Snell and Jack Wilson from the Pirates for reasons that are sort of hard to figure. They gave up five, count ’em, five players in the deal. Wilson has a superb glove, but while he should give the M’s more offense than they’ve gotten from their shortstops this year (.222/.249/.320, numbers that deserve a double-take and a whispered prayer), he’s only a career .269/.311/.376 hitter himself and the difference won’t be enough to make a real dent in the Mariners’ major problem, which is that the league-average offense is scoring 4.8 runs a game and they average 3.9.

For their trouble, the Pirates pick up quite a bit of depth. They get a futile shortstop placeholder in Ronny Cedeno, but the real haul is 25-year-old Jeff Clement, a former No. 1 pick who still has a lot of offensive potential (his .288/.366/.505 at Tacoma translates to .255/ .329/.462 in the Majors), especially if the Pirates can live with his defense at catcher. The three pitchers the Buccos got in the deal are lower echelon prospects, but when you’re the Pirates, depth is not a bad thing, as you need a lot of pieces to sort through if you’re ever going to build a competitive roster with the kind of budget that their city requires.

Finally, the Reds picked up outfielder Wladamir Balentien from the Mariners, who had designated him for assignment last week. Balentien looked like he might be a solid prospect a over the last couple of years, hitting for real power in the minors, but his plate judgment is so bad he may never be able to be a regular contributor. Still, he’s only 24 and has a career slugging percentage of .526 in the minors. The Reds, who suffer from the worst outfield production in the bigs, have a much better chance of gaining a lasting asset by playing Balentien than they do by giving more playing time to Laynce Nix — or Willy Taveras, though Balentien can’t play center field. Tavaras’ current .240/.279/.290 would qualify as among the bottom five seasons turned in by a regular outfielder in the history of the game were he to carry those rates through to the end.

GOOD TIMING
In his last 20 games, not counting appearances as a defensive substitute, Melky Cabrera has batted .317/.403/.444, numbers which include five doubles, one home run, nine walks, and only one double play hit into. Much like his running mate Robinson Cano, Cabrera’s hot and cold streaks can make him a frustrating player to watch; he’s seemingly at his best or his worst, with little in between. Last year that divide broke down as best in April, worst the rest of the year. At the very least, Cabrera is mixing it up a bit more this season, and you can’t fault his timing — his first hot streak this year came when Brett Gardner struggled out of the gate, the second after Gardner broke his thumb. Perhaps Cabrera is the kind of player who needs to be in fear of his job to play well. After all, had he continued to slump with Gardner on the shelf, Austin Jackson was just a phone call away.

TERROR IN A TINY TOWN
Yesterday, electrical storms rolled through the obscure village in which I lived and disrupted Internet service for a good chunk of the day; I couldn’t even get on line with my phone. I was quite fearful that the Yankees would acquire Babe Ruth in exchange for $100,000 and the mortgage on Fenway Park and I wouldn’t know about it, but Brian Cashman was good enough to hold off on making any moves. I just want to thank him publicly and let him know that I am back on line and he is free to proceed with any acquisitions he would like to make … as long as they don’t involve dealing Jesus Montero. 

The sweet Snell of success

YOU NEED A SCORECARD, DUDE
At one point in the run-up to the Old Timer’ Day festivities, I was standing on the third base line near a bunch of Yankees players that included Jesse Barfield, Oscar Gamble, and Ken Griffey, Sr. Behind me, some guy in the stands was shouting, “Hit one, Cecil!” He yelled that over and over again. I couldn’t figure out if he (A) thought that Cecil Fielder had come back to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day–he hadn’t, and though some of the aforementioned Yankees weigh a few stone more than in their glory days, none looked anything like Big Daddy and none were wearing his number; (B) assumed that because the Detroit Tigers were in town, Fielder had somehow come along with his old organization (nope); (C) that he was somehow making fun of my weight (seems like an esoteric way of going about it); (D) was having an acid flashback to 1997; or (E) had somehow gotten hold of a beer vendor at 10 AM. A little later, Mike Mussina and David Cone were standing on exactly the same spot, and I kept expecting the guy to yell, “Throw one, Jack Morris!” or “Strike ’em out, Willie Hernandez!” or “Run for another term, Jim Bunning!”

snell_250.jpgSNELL MAIL
Over the weekend, Baseball Prospectus’s John Perrotto reported that the Yankees have interest in Ian Dante Snell, the Pirates’ punching bag who was recently demoted to Indianapolis. This seems a bit odd at first, given that since posting a 3.76 ERA in 2007, Snell’s one truly solid year, his walk rate has exploded and his strikeout rate dropped, a big reason why he’s put up a 5.40 ERA in 245 innings going back to last year. On further examination, acquiring Snell starts to make a little more sense. First, if you’re down to trying out Sergio Mitre in your starting rotation, you have to show interest in everybody. Second, at 27 years old, Snell isn’t too old to get back on track, assuming there’s nothing seriously wrong with his arm. There’s also a psychological aspect to consider: six years in Pirates drag might be enough to ruin anyone’s approach. Finally, Snell has looked great in four starts at Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s allowed just one earned run in 26.1 innings, and in his first start after going down he struck out 17 Toledo hitters in seven innings. The strikeout numbers since then haven’t been nearly so dramatic, but clearly there’s something alive in Snell waiting to be woken up.

TAKING THE OUTFIELD TEMPERATURE (AN ONGOING SERIES)
Since the end of April:
Johnny Damon:    .273/.358/.517
Brett Gardner:        .303/.391/.455
Melky Cabrera:    .271/.328/.396
Nick Swisher:        .206/.336/.363

As you know, I’ve been a supporter of Nick Swisher’s from the moment he was acquired, but what he’s doing right now is not adequate. The average right fielder is batting .266/.341/.439. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if too many players of that quality are going to be made available by the trading deadline. One wonders if Brian Cashman has shown any interest in Josh Willingham of the Nationals.

20-GAME WATCH: ORIOLES VS. YANKEES

Team
W-L
RS/G
RA/G
AVG
OBP
SLG
AB/HR
SB
CS
HR/9
BB/9
K/9
Orioles 9-11 5.2 5.3 .263 .329 .404 41 9 4 1.2 3.4 6.0
Yankees 15-5 5.9 4.5 .292 .379 .481 24 7 8 1.1 3.5 7.1

Extraordinary that the Yankees are 15-2 when not playing at Anaheim… As I observed the last time the Yanks and Orioles tilted, there are a few reasons why the latter make more interesting viewing than they have in recent years, beginning with their young outfield of Nolan Remold, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. None is older than 25, all are playing reasonably well (though not as well as they had been early in the season), and presumably will maintain their value long enough that if management is able to bang the rest of the roster into shape, they might be around to contribute to a competitive team. The Orioles also have some new faces on the pitching side, and even if they aren’t all world beaters, at least they’re not inflicting more laborious Daniel Cabrera and Adam Eaton starts on the world.

All three of the starters the Yankees face this week are under 30. On Monday night, the Yankees face the most interesting member of the group in David Hernandez, a 24-year-old who first came up at the end of May. A fastball/slider/changeup guy, Hernandez throws in the low 90s. In the Minors, he got a ton of strikeouts, 10.4 per nine innings since signing in 2005, but his Major League rate has been less than half that. He’s also still working on the whole control thing, and the Yankees will stress him by taking pitches if they’re smart. Hernandez had a quality start in each of his last two appearances. The opponents were the Angels and the Mariners, teams that don’t work counts.

Tuesday’s starter is Rich Hill, who once looked like he would be something special for the Cubs but has since fallen on hard times, which is kind of a redundant thing to say given that he pitches for Baltimore. He’s become spectacularly wild, and has made just three quality starts this year. His most recent start was among the three, a six inning, two-run outing against the Blue Jays on July 11. He walked just one. Finally, Wednesday’s starter is rookie Jason Berken. Berken has made one quality start this year. Unfortunately for the Orioles, it came in his second big league start. Since then, he’s been routinely pummeled, and has gotten out of the fifth inning just once. In eight June-July starts, opposing batters are hitting .325/.388/.503.

What do all three of these pitchers have in common? The Yankees have never seen them before.