Results tagged ‘ Mark Teixeira ’

Pitching, bullpen and depth are still problems

THE LAWS HAVE CHANGED
The timing of today’s installment is brought to you by the drive-through line at the local major pharmacy chain store. I suppose there’s no rule book that establishes basic courtesy for the drive-through line, but “drive-through,” taken as literally as you can take it under the circumstances, suggests you drive through, without stopping if that were possible — just roll down the window and the clerk heaves the bag at you. Anything transaction takes would seem to require more standing around than that should require a trip inside the store. It’s just common sense and a bit of courtesy. If you need to discuss the history of Western civilization with the pharmacist, park it. You won’t be idling up clouds of exhaust while holding hostage those who just want to pick up or drop off a prescription. Think about it: would you order French fries for 100 at the McDonald’s drive-through? Better yet, would you ask for a treatise on the potato starting with the primal atom, then order? If you’re guilty of this, please turn yourself in immediately.

REVIEWING THE LAST ENTRY (WITH A FEW REACTIONS TO THE COMMENTS)

I missed a day due to a bad reaction to some medication — I know I’ve quoted Mickey Mantle’s “Kid, don’t be like me” many times before, but it’s worth saying again. Not everyone chooses how they get cancer, and I sure as heck ain’t complaining about surviving it, but my time is no longer my own, ironically so I can be sure of having more time. Hey, you over there! Drop that cigarette! This is not a lifestyle you want to choose! Got it? I’m begging you here. Anyway, that gave the last post a chance to sit around while the Yankees won their seventh straight game in grand style. Before we get to that, stats for the winning streak: .271/.358/.521 for the offense, with 13 home runs, one every 18.2 at-bats. The batters have also picked up a walk every 8.9 plate appearances — the league is taking a pass just once every 11 PAs. On the pitching side, the club has allowed just 21 runs in its last 66 innings.

After five straight wins, I wrote (as you can see below) that it wasn’t yet conclusive that the Yankees had turned a major corner (is there such a thing as a minor corner?). You can pull five games out of any team’s schedule and get a picture of that team that isn’t necessarily accurate, even — or especially — if they are all wins or losses. As the old saying goes, you never look as good as when you’re at your best or as bad as you do when you’re at your worst. Now, since I wrote those words, the Yankees have tacked on another two wins to make it seven straight victories, and those doubts can be eased a bit. And yet, yet, yet, the walks by the pitching staff, the bullpen, the lack of depth are all problems that the team will have to overcome in more than seven games, but over the rest of the season.

Pointing this out isn’t negativity, it isn’t pessimism, it’s your humble old commentator trying to do more than cast runes and read chicken entrails. I’m all for feeling good and going with the flow and enjoying it while it lasts, but I don’t like being taken by surprise, particularly when it’s my job not to be taken by surprise. As such, my method has to be to take theories like, “The Yankees have won seven in a row, so it’s a straight line from here to the next championship” and test them looking for strengths and weaknesses. I figure out what I can, then report back to you so you can test your judgment against mine.

Speaking of which, “4everbronx” says, “Whew, it’s a good thing they didn’t lose those games…What would your reaction have been?”

Almost the same. One-run games are, on the cosmic level, coin flips. This seems especially true when a team’s bullpen is as questionable as the Yankees’ pen has been to this point. If we were talking about a hypothetical pen with Bruce Sutter handing off to Rollie Fingers handing off to Dennis Eckersley (or maybe even Jeff Nelson to Mike Stanton to Mariano Rivera), I would be more accepting of these games as indicators of a repeatable skill on the part of the club. Perhaps now that Brian Bruney is back they will be. For the most part, though, when you look over the history of the game, one-run decisions aren’t something you can extrapolate from.

mark_bible_blog_052009.jpgObviously it is better for the Yankees to have won these seven games than not, but prior to that they weren’t exactly burning up the league. The Yankees have played 39 games, not seven, and those other 32, however mixed the results, can’t be totally discounted. If the Yankees of the last seven games are substantially different from the Yankees of the previous month’s worth of games, we have to be able to articulate why. I can give you two reasons, actually: A-Rod is back, and Mark Teixeira is finally hot (Teixeira claims the two are not unrelated). However, that doesn’t address the pitching side of the equation.

Despite this, as I suggested in that last entry, some will want to view this winning streak as a matter of character. A seemingly irate “yankee apologist” writes: “As a D-1 college baseball player whose career was derailed by injury I can tell you first hand or anyone else who ever played the game at a high level a win is a win no matter how it happens. If you don’t think that these wins have anything to do with grit and a never say die attitude coupled with some big hits from some key guys (damon, arod) then you’re not watching. If u think damon and arod were the beneficiaries of wind aided homers then that’s a joke. These wins build character and ingrain the players’ minds that this can happen for them at anytime they are trailing late.”

Apologist, I completely buy the last line quoted above. It clearly does and has helped the mood around the team. That the players believe that this is a repeatable thing no doubt helps them repeat it — sometimes. We know, though, that it’s not repeatable all the time or even frequently. Come-from-behind wins in baseball are far more rare than is commonly thought. As such, while winning this way is exciting for everyone, participants and observers alike, it’s not the easiest way to win. Oh, and your saying, “i know u love to call out commenters for bad grammer and spelling and what not, but im so stoned on valium i dont care to spell check, so ridicule me if u want, but ill soon have a law degree so im kinda smart” is perhaps the single best thing that anyone has ever written to me in the ten years the Pinstriped Bible has existed.  

As long as we’re delving into the comments, there are a couple on F. Cervelli to take before we close for now. “Paulp15” asks, “So Steve, have to reconsidered Cervelli yet? Or maybe I should ask if you feel you have enough to base an evaluation on him yet? Personally, I think he’s better than Molina, and has shown the ability to lay down a sacrifice, which would be fine for the bottom of the order.” Paulp, I like him better than Jose Molina and Kevin Cash, that’s for sure. Still, it’s bad practice to get carried away by 27 at-bats and 10 singles. It’s certainly better that he’s hitting .370 than if he was hitting .270 or .170, but it’s .370 with no power and no walks, and I promise you he’s not a legitimate .370 hitter. Except for the occasional Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn, no one is. The question then becomes, when he stops hitting .370, what does he have left to give? This is also, to a lesser extent, the Robby Cano question. With Cervelli, his very limited minor league track record shows very limited power but some selectivity, so you hope that there will indeed be something useful in his bat, but you’d like to see him actually do it. It’s still too early to come to any conclusions, especially optimistic ones. O
n defense, I have no complaints — he’s thrown very well and has been an athletic, active, mobile presence.

Angels vs. Yankees: 20-game watch

20-GAME WATCH: ANGELS VS. YANKEES
                  W-L    R/G  AB/HR PA/BB SB CS AVG    OBP    SLG
ANGELS    9-11    5.1    36.6    11.7    21    3    .280    .343    .425
YANKEES  11-9    5.8    24.2    9.4    16     2    .275    .355    .464
                                    
                 ERA    RA    H/9    BB/9    SO/9  HR/9  OAVG  OOBP OSLG
ANGELS    4.81    5.42    10.5    3.3    5.7    1.0    .295    .355    .421
YANKEES  5.64    6.09    9.1    3.8    7.3    1.3    .265    .347    .451

When was the last time the Yankees played the Angels in a four-game series and you felt like it wasn’t going to be an uphill battle the entire time? It feels like decades. Last year, the Yankees went 3-7 against the Angels, 3-6 the year before, 4-6 the year before, 4-6 in 2005… The Yankees went 6-3 against them in 2003, and that’s the last time they’ve been able to touch them. The year before that, the Angels manhandled the Yankees out of the playoffs, so even 2003 was very much an island in a stream of blood.

angels_250.jpgThis time things would seem to be different. The Angels took a few steps backwards over the winter. Though Kendry Morales is crazy hot right now (.379/.419/.862, three homers over the last seven games), he’s not a replacement for Mark Teixeira. Brian Fuentes isn’t K-Rod. Injuries are a huge problem. Mike Napoli can’t stay in the lineup. Vlad Guerrero is out for the long haul, and Gary Matthews is having to play every day. Neither Erick Aybar nor Chone Figgins are hitting, but manager Mike Scioscia won’t give Brandon Wood a try, not that he’s a lock to hit with any consistency given his big swing and middling strike zone judgment.

The pitching has been dramatically thinned by injury as well as the tragic death of Nick Adenhart. The Yankees are going to see only two of the team’s top starters in this series, Jered Weaver in Game 2 and Joe Saunders in Game 4. Anthony Ortega is a rookie without a strikeout pitch. Matt Palmer is a 30-year-old journeyman who has been in the minors since 2002. He too has strikeout rates that are unsustainable in the major leagues. The Yankees should be able to go three-for-four against the Angels. It won’t be easy, it never is, but they’re not the special team they once were.
 

Twenty-five men, 25 goals into one

posada_250_040709.jpgToday we begin our annual look at what each player is looking to accomplish this season — a tradition since whenever I started doing it. I believe it was in 1881, when my friend Clemens yielded this feature to me so he could finish work on Huckleberry Finn.
    
JORGE POSADA — STARTING CATCHER
2008 GOAL, AS STATED HERE:
Repeat his 2007 performance.
DID HE GET THERE? Nope. Injuries intervened.
2009 GOAL: Health, which means not only staying in the lineup and contributing some approximation of his career numbers (.277/.380/.477) but also throwing out 25-35 percent of attempting base stealers.
CHANCE OF MAKING THAT GOAL: He seems to have a fair shot, but it’s asking a lot given his age.
SOMETHING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: Even when struggling last year, Posada was strong with runners in scoring position, batting .250/.392/.425. He’s a career .282/.403/.492 hitter in those situations.
ANOTHER THING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: With 27 home runs this year, Posada can pass YES broadcaster Ken Singleton on the career home run list for switch hitters (Singleton ranks 14th with 246). Kenny is probably safe for another year — Jorge hasn’t hit more than 23 homers in a season since 2003.

JOSE MOLINA — RESERVE CATCHER
2008 GOAL AS STATED HERE:
Hit as well as he did after he joined the Yankees in July ’07 (.318/.333/.439 in 29 games).
DID HE GET THERE? Heck no, but he did play terrific defense.
2009 GOAL: Keep up the glove work while rebounding at the plate from a career-worst offensive season.
CHANCE OF MAKING THAT GOAL: You’d think he’d have to if he’s going to stay on the roster.
SOMETHING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: Believe it or not, Molina’s .263 on-base percentage wasn’t the worst of Yankees history (200 PAs and up). Shortstop Jim Mason’s .210 OBP of 1976 takes the prize, while shortstop Pee Wee Wanninger’s .256 of 1925 is even worse than Mason’s mark when contrasted against the league average.
ANOTHER THING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: Elston Howard. There’s nothing wrong with having an old starting catcher, but as that catcher’s durability declines, you need a tandem starter who can give you good production the rest of the time, not just defense. The Yankees had this situation with Yogi Berra and Elston Howard in the early 1960s. Acquiring a reserve catcher with a bat is of paramount importance to the Yankees.

MARK TEIXEIRA — FIRST BASE
2008 GOAL AS STATED HERE:
N/A
2009 GOAL: Just consistency would be good. Teixeira is a .290/.378/.541 career hitter and Gold Glove fielder.
CHANCE OF MAKING THAT GOAL: There’s no reason why he shouldn’t.
SOMETHING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: You hear a lot about Teixeira being a slow starter, but the flipside of his slow starts are hot finishes. Teixeira is a career .303/.390/.574 hitter after the All-Star break.
ANOTHER THING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: Teixeira is going to see a lot more of the Red Sox this year than he’s used to, and he hasn’t hit them well in his career. He’s a career. 193/.363/.274 hitter at Fenway Park (80 PA) and has hit only .232/.364/.373 against the Red Sox overall.

ROBINSON CANO — SECOND BASE
2008 GOAL AS STATED HERE:
Keep on growing and/or simply hold onto present value.
DID HE GET THERE? Not even close. His season was disastrously poor.
2009 GOAL: Get back to being the guy who hit .322/.358/.504 from 2006 to 2007.
CHANCE OF MAKING THAT GOAL: Reasonably good given his age and a few lucky hits. He might not get all the way back, but he should get close.
SOMETHING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: Five games from now, Cano will pass Jerry Coleman for 10th place on the career list of games played at second base for the Yankees with 573. He still has a long, long way to go to catch the team’s all-time leader, Willie Randolph, who manned the keystone for 1,688 games.
ANOTHER THING YOU MIGHT NOT BE THINKING ABOUT: It might seem like Cano led the Yankees in pop ups last season, but he didn’t. He was fifth, with 33. The leader was Johnny Damon, with 45. Derek Jeter hit 13 pop ups all year.

To be continued…

MAKE IT STOP!
Here’s a literal blast from the past for you: In Tuesday’s Royals-at-White Sox game, the Royals took a 2-1 lead into Chicago’s turn at bat in the bottom of the eighth. The White Sox have the 9-1-2 spots due up: Josh Fields, Dewayne Wise, and Chris Getz. Royals manager Trey Hillman calls on Kyle Farnsworth. The Royals, you see, have decided that Farnsworth is a setup man. We in New York know it ain’t true. They even know it in Detroit and Atlanta, but they’re smarter in Kansas City.

Fields bunts to third base and reaches. Wise flies out to center. Gets singles to right, moving Fields to third. That brings up number three hitter Carlos Quentin. Even Joe Torre would have called for another pitcher by now, but Farnsworth gets Quentin to whiff, so score one for Hillman. Two outs now, future Hall of Famer Jim Thome at the plate. Thome is a left-handed hitter, and he’s getting up there in years, doesn’t hit the portsiders as well as he used to, averaging just .233 against them in 2008 (albeit with a ton of power). The Royals have Ron Mahay in the bullpen, but apparently he’s only hanging around for moral support. You know what happened next. Farnsworth throws, Thome swings, boom — it’s No. 542 for Jim and loss No. one of the 2009 season for Farnsworth.

Nice work if you can get it. Joe Posnanski ruminates on the managerial brilliance of the move.

THE AROUND (AND ABOUT)
In an effort to bond with my cat, I’ve started wearing sisal pajamas… Another year, another pounding for Ian Snell, and the Pirates are off to the races… Khalil Greene so impressed Tony LaRussa with his hot spring that he’s batting fifth; it would be nice to see him complete make that kind of comeback. Of course, any player’s bat is going to perk up after escaping PETCO… The Rays lineup sure looks light with B.J. Upton out. Of course, it’s easy to look light against Josh Beckett when he’s on. They and the Red Sox will go at each other nine times by May 10, a nice quirk of the scheduling for the Yankees; the Yankees have ten total games against both clubs through May 7… As with CC Sabathia, you hope that Tim Lincecum wasn’t burned out by overuse last year… The Marlins drew 11,124 against the Nats in Game 2 of the season, but they did get a terrific start from Josh Johnson, so Joe Girardi, you’re off the hook (so long as he lasts)… The Tigers’ pen tanked their game, but Edwin Jackson’s fine start is the more important omen for them in the long term. Good to see Scott Rolen drag his hot spring into the season… Erik Bedard sort of made it through a start; when does he get dealt? …Dan Haren picked up where he left off for the Diamondbacks (good), but so did Jon Rauch (not so good)…I actually saw Jason Giambi hit a bloop double to the opposite field against the Angels… The Beatles remasters are finally coming!

When plans fo awry …

tex250_040609.jpgTHAT DIDN’T GO AS PLANNED
Strange, isn’t it, the way baseball toys with your expectations. CC Sabathia pitched quite well in Spring Training, while Jeremy Guthrie was messed up worse than the Elephant House on bran peanut day. The bell rings and it’s Sabathia that required the cleanup on aisle pachyderm and Guthrie who put in the solid performance. It’s a heck of an omen for the Orioles, given that the rotation goes rapidly downhill after Guthrie — a solid season from him and that might not lose 100 games.

As for the Yankees, getting a wild, no-strikeout start from your ace is always frightening, but Sabathia has been there before and recovered, so there’s no use getting to exercised about today’s performance. Ditto that of Mark Teixeira, who went 0-for-4 and stranded five runners — no doubt some in Yankeeland are already fitting him for the “not a true Yankee” pants. This too shall pass, though in truth Teixeira does deserve to wear the horns for this one, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon having combined to go 5-for-8  with a walk in front of him. The bullpen didn’t help, but Cesar Izturis’s home run was a matter of inches, as all Izturis home runs are likely to be. He’s hit just 13 of the things, and if you give one up to him, well, you’re a member of a very select club that includes a strangely large number of former Yankees or Yankees-associated pitchers, including Tony Armas, Brandon Claussen, David Cone and Eric Milton. Welcome, Phil Coke. Your commemorative pin is in the mail.

At least Nick Swisher didn’t leave anyone on base.

THE AROUND (AND ABOUT)
Life is a changeup pitcher. Hence, several candidates for their league basements won on Opening Day … I said in an earlier installment that I was looking forward to seeing what Jason Motte could do as Cardinals closer. Today I got my answer: four runs on four hits and a blown save against the Pirates. I haven’t seen the highlights yet, but I wonder how many were line drives and how many were just the Cardinals being weak on balls in play … Headline on MLB.com regarding former Yankees first baseman Nick the Greenstick: “Johnson excited to be healthy in ’09.” Missing from that headline: “For now.” That fellow had Hall-of-Fame hitting ability at one time. Now, who knows? … Leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins is probably a fantasy baseball darling after a 4-for-5 with an inside-the-park home run and three stolen bases, but this was the last such day of his career … After not watching “ER” for the last five years, I tuned in for the finale last week and was intrigued enough by the part where the entire cast was imprisoned in the stockyards and slowly minced by the ghosts of 19th century meatpackers to go to Hulu and watch the rest of the season for clues, but that whole abattoir scene remained an inexplicable non-sequitur … Why isn’t Brad Hawpe’s nickname “Hee?”… Back in October 2004, when Tony Clark was on the verge of leaving the Yankees, if you had offered to bet on his still playing five years in the future, few would have taken the pro Tony position, likeable guy or not. Well, he’s still here, and he socked two home runs today. Clark and his ballpark were apparently built for each other; through last season, he’s a career .281/.350/.620 hitter at Arizona with 39 home runs in 405 at-bats (make it 41 in 409) … If you’re the Indians you have to worry about Cliff Lee, abused during Spring Training and by the Rangers on Opening Day (no Andruw Jones sighting despite the lefty opposing starter) … The offseason formula worked better for the Mets on Opening Day than for the Yankees, as their reconstructed bullpen delivered 3 1/3 scoreless innings, something that seemed impossible as of last September. 

In fairness to Teixeira

teixeira_350_030609.jpg(IF A-ROD CAN’T PLAY LIKE A-ROD)
“Something Shakespeare never said is, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.'” — Robyn Hitchcock

Today the wires are bursting with, “Now the pressure is on you, Mark Teixeira” stories. Those stories couldn’t be more loaded with bull if they mooed. This is a simplistic effort to create a new Yankees scapegoat since Alex Rodriguez’s injury effectively insulates him from criticism. If Rodriguez misses a significant chunk of the season, Teixeira can hit like Lou Gehrig and Don Mattingly put together and still not overcome the basic weakness of the offense.

Let’s go around the diamond:

1B Mark Teixeira: Solid producer, typically scrapes the underside of MVP-level production but could easily rise to that level with a good season.

2B Robinson Cano: Has to hit .300 to contribute. He might do that, he might not.

3B Cody Ransom: Has some pop, but is unlikely to hit for sustainable average (PECOTA: .216/.293/.386).

SS Derek Jeter: Offense has declined in two straight seasons. Average of five projection systems: .300/.368/.419.

LF Johnny Damon: Almost certain to take a giant step back.

CF Brett Gardner and pals: Any production will be a bonus.

RF Nick Swisher: should be productive in a lower echelon kind of way, Xavier Nady less so, either way, not a big plus.

DH Hideki Matsui: should hit decently, but not at an MVP level.

C Jorge Posada: may or may not be ready to open the season, may or may not hit as well as he used to, and will probably have to yield to Jose Molina on a regular basis.

Like the British at Singapore, the Yankees pointed all of their guns in the wrong direction this winter. They went heavy for pitching, but the offense needed an overhaul and the Minor League required needed some of its pitchers converted into position players. That didn’t happen, and as with last season, the Yankees are in the position of having a desperately wounded player (last year it was Posada and Matsui) try to overcome an injury because they just can’t compensate. Without an MVP-level Rodriguez, the offense is very likely to struggle to support the new starting rotation. Unless Cano, Jeter, and the rest rebound in big ways or stave off expected regressions, Teixeira won’t be enough if he hits .180, .280, or .380.

A-Rod surgery worst case of bad timing

teixeria_250_030509.jpgINTO THE TWILIGHT ZONE IN SEARCH OF A-ROD’S REPLACEMENT
As the old Leadbelly song goes, “I may be right and I may be wrong, but you know you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” No doubt Alex Rodriguez will be singing this song now that hip surgery is apparently going to put him on the shelf for a projected 10 weeks. If the story as reported by ESPN is correct, the Yankees will be without their starting third baseman for something like six weeks of the regular season.

Since the news came through, I’ve been plumbing the depths like Cave Carson looking for replacement possibilities that won’t damage the Yankees’ efforts too badly. The two utility infield types currently in camp, Cody Ransom and Angel Berroa, are not good bets. The latter may be one of the worst bets of all time, a career .260/.305/.378 hitter. Ransom has a little more life in his bat, but despite his nice little September hot streak last fall, he’s not likely to produce at a satisfactory level. His career Minor League batting average is .242 and he’s hit about .250 over the last three seasons. Average isn’t everything, and Ransom has some power, but when you start out with a batting average that low, there’s a good chance you won’t hit safely often enough to reach an acceptable level of production.

There are a couple of Hail Mary options on the roster — Xavier Nady and Mark Teixeira (pictured) have done the third base thing in the past, Nady very briefly, Teixeira throughout his brief Minor League career. As with many young third basemen, Teixeira was prone to errors at the position, and the Rangers had Hank Blalock locked in at third, so Teix moved across the diamond and proved to be a very good first baseman. Moving Teixeira back to the hot corner now would allow the Yankees to drop Nick Swisher at first base and Nady into right field. Offensively, this is probably the best possible way to paper over Rodriguez’s extended absence. Defensively, it would all depend on Teixeira’s ability to handle a position he hasn’t touched for six years and what you gauge his risk of injury to be (if any), and if he’s even willing to make an attempt at it.

Such a solution could be flexible, depending on the starting pitcher for that day. CC Sabathia can probably stand to pitch with a weaker defense behind him. Chien-Ming Wang cannot, so his starts would have to feature a “real” third baseman, with Teixeira back at first. It’s messy, but it could work … And I can’t resist saying that Casey Stengel would have done it. Heck, down the stretch in 1954, as the Yankees were trying to avoid elimination, Casey put Yogi Berra at third and Mickey Mantle at short so he could get some extra bats into the lineup. Anything for a win, even if it seems outlandish. It should also be pointed out that the offensive damage done by a Ransom or Berroa would almost certainly outweigh the defensive damage done by putting someone like Teixeira at third.

The Minor League options on hand aren’t strong. Eric Duncan is still kicking around, but he has shown no sign of being a Major Leaguer (scratch one more Yankees first-round pick). Kevin Russo, America’s favorite utility choice, won’t hit either and has spent most of his professional life at second base. There are a number of veteran options soaking up bench spots for other teams, like Mike Lamb with the Brewers and Scott McClain with the Giants (an NRI, he’s probably expendable), but these will have to be pried free, however limited their value. The Yankees cannot give up a player of long-term value for a 10-week rental.

Whatever the solution, which at the moment is not obvious, the Yankees are now in some real trouble. The murder weapon used in the demise of last year’s Yankees team was not the shaky pitching but the presence of three replacement-level hitters in the lineup in Jose Molina, Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera. The Yankees just took a giant step back in that direction. If Jorge Posada isn’t ready, if Hideki Matsui isn’t ready, if the second baseman or center  fielder doesn’t hit, and Rodriguez is out for an extended period, scoring could be a problem. It might have been a problem even with Rodriguez in the lineup, so short of a season-ending injury, this is about the worst news the Yankees could have received right now. 

Teixeira worth the money now, and later

teixeira250_121908.jpgSPRUNG FROM THE BUNKER WITH A BIG FACE
I couldn’t let Friday end with that face at the top of the screen. It’s like a cellulite eclipse. Let’s tear through a few items before breaking for the weekend. Someone write in and remind me to take a break from editing the Baseball Prospectus annual (Pre-order now! I don’t get anything if you do! Not a dime! But you should.) to spend an hour on the treadmill. They’re going to let me go back in the Dot-com Bunker on the next show, Jan. 8, 2009. This time I might sneak onto the main set when no one is looking, just to see what it feels like to sit in one of those comfy chairs the New York Times guys get. I can dream, and yet the positive to not being in the plush chairs is that they don’t issue rations when you’re in the Bunker, so weight loss is pretty much inevitable. I skipped lunch yesterday, and after about two hours in my cell I was getting pretty low. It’s hard to answer questions about CC Sabathia when you’re thinking, “I wonder if Bob Lorenz would be good with barbecue sauce?” Did you see how they cut to me before my second segment? Next time, instead of working at my computer, you might see me opening up a pizza delivery box.

No, no, no. No pizza. Treadmill, Steve. Treadmill.

In yesterday’s Hot Stove show thread there was something of a debate on the subject of Mark Teixeira vs. Manny Ramirez. To me, the most interesting thing about said debate is not the players involved but the apparently universal sense that the Yankees need to bolster the offense. The sense that they need to improve the defense as well is not universal, or no one would be arguing for Manny. The correct answer, though, is “both,” especially if the Yankees want to fully exploit the Scrooge McDuck money they just put into arms. Think of it this way: Teixeira, as a Gold Glove defender at first base and a top hitter, is all positive. He’s not only adding runs above average on offense, he’s taking them away from the bad guys when in the field. Say Teixeira is worth 50 runs over the average player with the bat, and 10 runs above average with the glove, so you could say that his total contribution to the winning effort is 60 runs.

With Ramirez, the math is different. As Rob Neyer wrote this week, under normal conditions he’s such an egregiously indifferent outfielder that most metrics see him as being worth about 20 runs below average. Those runs have to be held against his offensive totals, such that if Ramirez is worth about 60 runs over the average player with the bat, after fielding is considered, he’s really only a 40-run advantage — or less than Teixeira. Another way of looking at it is to say that Teixeira adds about five wins over the average player with his bat, then gives his team another with the glove. Ramirez gives his team six wins with the bat, but also contributes two losses with the leather.

We haven’t even talked about the elephant in the room with Manny, which is, “If he’s paid, will he give a damn?” but we don’t have to, because there’s another consideration, which is that if he’s signed to a three-year deal, his team is buying his age-37, 38 and 39 season. Hall-of-Fame hitter or not, this is a dangerous thing to do. Ramirez’s fielding is already a problem. If he loses a half a step, he’s not just going to be damaging in the field, he’s going to be a visible joke. Sure, he could DH, but the age is still an issue — at some point age is going to set in, and while we don’t know if it will happen during those three years, there’s a good chance that it will. In contrast, the team that buys eight years of Teixeira will get him from age 29 through 36. His contract will end where Ramirez’s begins. That consideration alone should swing the discussion toward Teixeira.

What we still don’t know is the Yankees’ position on all of this. They’ve signed two starters, supposedly don’t want to go crazy with their budget, and yet are rumored to be looking at still one more free-agent pitcher. This last point would almost certainly be overkill. Few teams go five deep in quality starters in their rotation, and the Yankees have sufficient alternatives in, at the very least, Phil Hughes, winter ball-reborn Ian Kennedy, and Alfredo Aceves, that if one falters they can move to Plan B without too much trouble. Foregoing Andy Pettitte at No. 5 would probably be worth half a Teixeira. Establishing Hughes, Kennedy, or Aceves in the rotation would mean a couple of seasons of pre-arbitration, pre-free-agent salaries at that roster position, along with the possibility of buying that now-established player out of their arbitration/free-agent years, such that their costs are controlled for years. This beats going back to the free-agent market for next year’s A.J. Burnett. Plus, you get to save the offense and the defense. To put it another way, send $22.5 million a year on Teixeira now, save $10 million on Pettitte this year, save $17 million on Burnett II next year, and the year after that, and for however long the team controls the young pitcher it puts into the fifth spot in 2009. At that point, Teixeira starts to look darned cheap — $12.5 million for him, plus the $10 million you would have wasted on an old pitcher anyway.

Stay safe and warm this snowy weekend. The Pinstriped Bible rides again on Monday or with breaking news, whichever comes first. 

Ten things that are spectacularly annoying to the fat, bearded Pinstriped Bible guy right now

manny121708b.jpg10.    Sports radio talk show hosts and callers that endorse $100 million over four years for Manny Ramirez, but not $200 million over eight years for Mark Teixeira.

9.    People who can never admit when they’re wrong, even on the brink of disaster. That is, grown-up infants.

8.    Those same Manny Ramirez advocates who insist that the Yankees cannot sign Teixeira because they must keep first base open for a superannuated Jorge Posada, as if there’s some equivalence there, as if an elderly Posada would hit and field like a first baseman, any first baseman, in the prime of his career.

7.    My complete inability to get a contractor to commit to redoing my front walk. How do these guys make money when they never, ever show up? I’ve had four separate guys give estimates, then disappear.

6.    The realistic possibility that the Yankees will have no young players in the lineup or starting rotation to start the season. In the long term this is a recipe for disaster.

5.    The guy in this very crowded train who either just expired of a digestive meltdown or is consuming rancid sauerkraut. Also, the woman who, prior to the radioactive cabbage incident, perfumed herself in this same car. You’d think this was a German attack at the Somme. Ladies: spraying your perfume around in enclosed public spaces is just selfish and cruel. A rose by any other name would smell just as rank if its odor had been forced on you.

4.    The Baltimore Orioles. The most competitive division in baseball could be one-fifth more exciting with a real team in Maryland. Exception: their automatic Rookie of the Year catcher.

3.    So-called collaborators who leave you holding the bag. Also, the Carolina parakeet. You never see them around anymore.

2.    The extremely lethargic way the winter market is proceeding. At this pace, half the teams in baseball will be unsettled on the eve of spring training.

1.    Tie: Mark Teixeira on the Red Sox/It’s always about you, isn’t it?

HOT STOVE SHOW OPEN THREAD
Your thoughts here, because I want to know. Also, I might have trouble thinking for myself. You wouldn’t want me to freeze up on cable, would you? Bob Lorenz might yell at me. Also, any number of ex-girlfriends might be watching, and if I can’t appear handsome and prosperous, with your help I might at least seem intelligent. I’ll be checking in during the middle segment of the show, when they keep me locked in the closet.

Still in the hunt for Big Tex?

IDLE MUSINGS FOR A
SLOW NEWS DAY

tex_250.jpg

The A.J. Burnett signing continues to be controversial. My
pal Rob
Neyer summed it up
as “Too many dollars, too many years.” If reports
that the Yankees are still in on Mark Teixeira prove to be something more than
the usual hot air to bid up the real buyers, I’ll be willing to chalk the whole
thing up to the team placing a bet on the roulette wheel with money which,
after all, they are free to gamble with as they wish. If, on the other hand,
this expense is used to justify the fielding of a degraded offense, it will be
much harder to swallow.

In regards to that offense, Neyer notes, “Yankee Stadium is
(or rather, was) a pitcher’s park. Considering only road games, the Yankees
finished third in the American League in OPS last year. Maybe that doesn’t
qualify as ‘excellent,’ but it’s certainly somewhere between ‘good’ and ‘excellent.’
Granted, everybody’s a year older and we might expect a slight decline next
year. So yes, the Yankees should try to improve their offense … and I’m not at
all convinced they can’t still afford to do exactly that. Has Brian Cashman
suggested that he’s finished spending money? If he has, I missed it.” Taking
the last thing first, Cashman didn’t say he was done, but almost every writer
on the beat seems to have come to the conclusion that the Yankees are out on
the major position players. Sure, they could be wrong, things could change, but
one assumes (perhaps incorrectly) that their conclusions are actually sourced.
Yeah, I know. I’m nave. As for last year’s offense, with Jason Giambi and
Bobby Abreu deleted, it’s not next year’s offense, and comparisons don’t really
apply.

One other thought about the various Yankees moves thus far
this winter, one that seems to have occurred to many others around the hot
stove: if the Yankees stop now, have they done enough to pass the Rays and the
Red Sox? It’s a difficult question to answer because those teams aren’t done
either, but we’ll try in tomorrow’s Pinstriped Bible.

I love Jamie Moyer’s new two-year contract with the
Phillies, if only because I’d like to see him follow through on his expressed
wish (threat?) to pitch through age 50. As long as Moyer is still pitching, I
am not old. I am less sanguine on the champs’ signing of Chan-Ho
Park, a pitcher who has been around
for 15 years and has never pitched well outside of Los Angeles. His Dodgers career ERA is 3.77
in 275 games. In 103 games with three other teams, it’s 5.63. Career ERA at
Dodger Stadium, 2.96. Everywhere else: 5.16. As for new general manager Ruben
Amaro, Jr.’s decision to buy Raul Ibanez for three years and $30 million, it is
daft. As well as Ibanez has hit in his second stint as a Mariner
(.291/.354/.477), that’s in good-not-great territory, he’s a defensive
liability, and they’ve just bought themselves ages 37 through 39, not usually a
player’s best years. Adam Dunn is a defensive liability too, but he’s more
productive and, at 29, will remain that way for longer. Hell, they could have
gone in on Teixeira and then traded the fun but limited Ryan Howard. You can
see where the Phils might not want to replace a high-strikeout hitter like Pat
Burrell with another high strikeout hitter, but just because the ideal
candidate isn’t available isn’t an excuse to sign a bad one.

JUST A REMINDER ABOUT
THE COMMENTS

I’m reading ’em, so keep ’em coming. I’ll be bringing some
of them up on the air later this week.

MORE FROM ME
After a slow week of being imprisoned on the BP annual (not
that I’ve been paroled), I’m back at work at Wholesome Reading, including the first two
parts of a planned multi-part series on Public Works. Baseball or government,
infrastructure strategy excites me. As always, Warning! Politics!

Yankees Inc. Inks

sabathia_250_121008.jpgAccording to rumors widely circulating at this hour, the Yankees have bagged their big man, reaching a preliminary agreement with CC Sabathia on a seven-year, $160 million contract. If the story is true, the Yankees have acquired the heaviest pitcher in team history, or at least the heaviest since Jumbo Brown last titled the Yankee Stadium mound back in 1936, through his age-35 season.

There is no doubt the Yankees are a better team now than they were yesterday; Sabathia is one of the best pitchers in the business and becomes the left-handed ace the Yankees have been missing for some years. While the Yankees should not expect to receive anything close to the 1.65 ERA-run that Sabathia gave the Brewers this fall, some form of what Sabathia did for the Indians over the last five seasons — durability, excellent control, a strong strikeout rate, and an ERA somewhere in the mid-3.00s — should be in the cards.

Now the requisite “but:” All of that requires health, and the Yankees are entering unknown territory when it comes to Sabathia. Over the last two years he’s thrown over 500 innings (regular season and playoffs) and faced well over 2,000 batters. Under normal circumstances, when it comes to that kind of workload, a physical breakdown wouldn’t be a question of “if,” but “when.” The two main complications are that “when” remains undefined (Tuesday? July? July of 2010?) and, perhaps more significantly, we have no idea if a pitcher built like the Incredible Hulk is subject to the same rules that affect everyone else.

Meanwhile, there are reportedly offers out to other pitchers, more questionable pitchers — Derek Lowe, a groundballer going on 36 who the Yankees aren’t capable of supporting defensively, and A.J. Burnett, a pitcher who is good sometimes and is hurt often. Mark Teixeira seems a good bet to go to the Red Sox, where he will improve an already very good club for years. The Yankees will go through the winter having gotten exactly what they wanted, but I can’t help but feel, as I have written throughout this offseason, that the real problems of offense and defense are being neglected.

More to come as details emerge.