Wednesday, March 30, 2011
We'll start with the rotation and off the bat I think we can all agree that it's not good, but this is far from the worst rotation they have trotted out there in the past five years... Anyone recall 2008? That's the year that Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano started a combined 42 games while posting an ERA of 5.61. That Yankee team still won 89 games and I would say this team has a better rotation and a better defense. That will help cover some of the pitching deficiencies, something the '08 team and no ability to do.
The Yankees still have a bona fide ace in CC Sabathia. The big lefty is unlikely to slow down right now, especially when he has an opt-out for the end of the season which could earn another $60 million. A.J. Burnett will again fellow Sabathia. Now that is a big question mark. It's hard to speak with optimism about Burnett's upcoming season, but Burnett debuted new mechanics this spring and the results showed. He didn't walk a batter and struck out 11 in 13 innings. Yea those numbers don't really mean anything, but it's better than him blowing up. He could be better this year and it's unlikely he'll be worse.
Beyond Burnett there are even more question marks with Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. Both are young pitchers with potential to be solid or, in Phil Hughes's case, better than average. Of course both could also regress and be league average or worse. Hughes is more likely to take a step forward than Nova who might not be long for the rotation if he doesn't start well.
Now we come to the fifth starter. There isn't much to say about these guys. All three are retreads and would be better suited in a 2003 old-timers game. Still New York will be able to get about 100 league average innings out of Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Kevin Millwood. They won't be good or pretty, but the job will get done.
The rotation isn't a finished product either. The Yankees have the monetary ability (obviously) and prospects to acquire a top end pitcher before July 31st. I think its safe to say that these five starters will not be the same five starters who pitch in September.
Here is the Yankee bread and butter. The lineup is as good as it has been for the past ten years. They will score runs and lots of them. They will be in the top three for runs scored and will also be at the top of the leader board for OBP too. This is probably as close to a complete lineup you can create in a non-video game world. Every bat can hurt you in some shape or form. The toughest choice for Joe Girardi will be whether or not to have Brett Gardner lead off or Derek Jeter. Other than that this offense can just be set on cruise control for most of the season and you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
On paper this is by far the best bullpen New York has put together in years. This will help to cover some of the rotation blemishes that the Yankees will have early on.
Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera and backing him up with Rafael Soriano is filthy if Soriano can stay healthy. Beyond that Joba Chamberlain looked good this spring and if he keeps up the pace he set in the second half of last year, the Yankees won't loss many games when they have the lead beyond the sixth inning.
The back end is just the beginning of the depth that Cashman has assembled in the pen. Dave Robertson will return to the middle innings where his 10.4 K/9 will be very useful. Boone Logan will be fine for use against lefties, and if Pedro Feliciano heals up, Girardi will have two quality lefties to deploy in the late innings.
Bartolo Colon will be fine as a long reliever, although his past injury troubles don't seem to bode well for the physical demands placed on relievers who's use is as sporadic as a long reliever's.
It's fun to hate on the Yankees and this off-season made it easy when two players rejected the Yankees money for the preferences of their families. Many will be looking for New York to falter and slip beyond a Red Sox team that improved over the winter.
While the Sox have plenty of weapons on offense, I don't trust their bullpen at all and I think everyone is overlooking Boston's rotation question marks. The neutral baseball analyst in me would choose the Red Sox to win the division, just slipping by New York for the best record in baseball. But the homer in me will choose the Yankees. I have faith in Cashman to add another pitcher and I think the Yankee lineup is still better than Boston's and the Yankee bullpen has a solid advantage. The slight advantage that the Sox have in the rotation won't be enough to edge the Yankees over a full season.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Girardi has made the obvious choice of inserting Ivan Nova into the four spot in the rotation. Its hard to argue with that since Nova has pitched exceptionally well this spring and is the one candidate of the group who can still become a decent starter in the near future. Not only that, but unlike the last few Yankee starting prospects, he is actually stretched out to pitch an entire big league season.
The last spot was a little tougher to decide. The Yankees were running out two retreads in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Colon hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009 and hadn't pitched a full season since 2005, but he was exceptionally strong this spring. The rotund right-hander had good velocity and movement all spring and it seemed like he would come out of left field and surprise everyone to grab that fifth spot.
His competition was Fraddy Garcia and while it had been a long time since Garcia was an above-average pitcher, it wasn't absurd to think of him lasting most of the year in the rotation and providing serviceable production. Hell, he had just thrown 160 innings last season with the White Sox with decent numbers.
The Yankee logic seems to be that Colon would be more versatile than Garcia. It's something that doesn't seem to mesh with either players history or physical profile. Based on their recent injury history it would seem wiser to have Colon in the rotation. Being overweight with a history of shoulder issues doesn't scream flexibility.
Either way the addition of Kevin Millwood will make Garcia or Colon expendable if they fail within their first three or four starts.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Some people may have been surprised when Terry Francona announced the 2011 Red Sox starting rotation. I case you missed it: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, and the corpse of Dice-K. (AKA Daisuke Matsuzaka). Some were surprised that Beckett was dropped into the 4 spot. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter. Hopefully, Beckett and Lackey and be effective and make solid contributions every 5th day.( I don’t expect any Cy Young type performances) I don’t think Dice-K will last the year. He may turn into an innings eater in the bullpen or just fake an “injury” all season. Either way you will definitely see Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves make a more to be the 5th starter.
Though the Sox haven’t been playing great lately, everything in Florida seems to have gone well. There haven’t been any major injuries and Adrian Gonzalez should be fit for opening day. (He will also be signed, sealed , and delivered with a fat contract extension.) Questions still remain in the bullpen, but I think Francona will sort out each pitcher’s role by June. Jonathan Papelbon has struggled, but if he wants to get paid next year (the Red Sox have all but said they will let him walk after 2011) he will have to perform. There is also the added incentive that Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks are breathing down his neck for the closer job. The offensive should carry the team (I mean JD Drew is batting 7th) and hopefully the pitching will be good enough to get them to the World Series, if not everyone will call all of Theo’s moves a failure. So without further ado, Play Ball!
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Despite that, the Yankees did see some stellar pitching. Bartolo Colon threw three scoreless innings while striking out five Red Sox scrubs. More on him in a minute.
To me the real stellar pitching came from 19-year-old Manny Banuelos. Banuelos was impressive. Not just because he threw his second scoreless appearance this spring but becaus eof how he did it. Unlike Colon, ManBan hit his spots with a crisp 93-96 MPH fastball, and had exception movement on his breaking pitches, which he also threw for quality strikes. Russell Martin even raved about how polished the youngster is, comparing him to another hard throwing young lefty.
The young lefty's mechanics were also something to marvel at. He possesses a very easy delivery and it surprises you how hard his fastball comes out of his small frame. Banuelos didn't pitch the last time Trenton was in New Britain, but you better believe I am eyeing their return in mid-June. Though, I wont count on ManBan still being there come June. The way he pitches, he may force a promotion before then.
Colon is a bit of a different story. While the numbers looked good, Colon was all over the place, especially in his third inning of work. He was bailed out by some bad swings from the Red Sox. Colon may be pitching better than the Yankees expected, but Girardi and Cashman will take note of his lack of command within the strike zone. The big guy always seemed to be trailing in the race for the fifth starter spot and he hasn't done enough to change that perception yet.
Some the pitching has been decent, but the bats have continued to struggle. The only hitter who has looked ready for the start of the season is Alex Rodriguez. He hit the ball hard again on Friday night. A bullet single through the right side and then a double off the wall in left-center. A-Rod looks like he may still have some elite level production left in his bones. I'm always an optomist at this point in the season, but I really think he's going to put himself back in the discussion as one of the best hitters in baseball.
Today's action features CC Sabathia on the mound and Jesus Montero behind the plate. Unfortunately the game isn't on YES today, so we'll have to wait till next week to see the Yanks in action again.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Josh Beckett will continue to take it easy this week after being hit in the noggin on Monday while throwing batting practice. Beckett suffered a concussion. He has started to resume team activities today, but will not start on Thursday. Obviously, you play it super-safe during spring training and hopefully there won’t be any residual effects from this injury. This is not how Red Sox wanted Josh Beckett to start 2011.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Hughes needs to get his change working this year. The cutter is a devastating pitch and his fastball can be sneaky good. Still, he needs another off-speed pitch besides his curve to keep hitters honest. If that fourth pitch can be developed into something at least average then 18 wins will be just the beginning for him.
There were two other pitchers in the news today that could effect the Yankees rotation of the future. Speculation has run rampant since New York lost out on Cliff Lee that the Yanks would make a play for the Cardinals Chris Carpenter. The odds of that happening took a couple of hits, first when Albert Pujols failed to sign an extension, and then when Adam Wainwright went down for the year. Now Carpenter is out with a strained hamstring. Though it may not be really severe, Carpenter's health has never really been more than a house of cards. Any little breeze will threaten to send him to the DL. It will definitely be something the Yankees will have to monitor.
Rumors have also spread that the Yankees are pursuing the Twins Fransisco Liriano. It has also been said that the Yankees would only need to offer a package headlined by either Ivan Nova or Joba Chamberlain. I'd have to believe Brian Cashman wouldn't hesitate to send either if not both of those players if that is what Minnesota GM Bill Smith requested. Sadly though Yankee fans dreams of Liriano in pinstripes will have to wait. Buster Olney reported earlier today that the Twins aren't thinking of moving Liriano... yet.
As always, the Yankees will show patience and let the market develop. Tomorrow's starter may have a big impact on that discussion. If A.J. Burnett can bounce back to his 2008 form, or at least his 2009 form, then the Yankees may not be desperate for pitching help come July 31st. That doesn't mean the wont be looking to improve, but a solid Burnett could keep teams from trying to play on Yankee desperation to raise their prices.