Fun with Numbers II, Or: He’s on-pace for what?!

A bit less than a year ago, I tackled some of the most interesting "on-pace for" lines throughout the Majors. It is an exercise in futility, given the fact that we are dealing with excruciatingly small sample sizes (to wit, the Yankees have 97% of their season remaining) - but it is fun nevertheless, as it gives us a glimpse into just how early it actually is, and the hilarious absurdity that we can see over a five or six game stretch. While every game certainly matters, and the counting stats are already booked, the odds of these numbers being representative of what we can expect going forward are incredibly remote. These projections are based on statistics that are current as of the morning of April 12, prior to any games being played. All numbers have been prorated to a full-ish season (650 PA for hitters, 33 starts for starting pitchers, current usage rate for relievers), and rounded where appropriate. And, again, this is just for fun. Let's start with a handful of Yankees.

Starlin Castro .450/.476/.850, 93 R, 62 HR, 247 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 15.5 fWAR

Didi Gregorius .333/.350/.500, 62 R, 31 HR, 93 RBI, 31 SB, 31 CS, 6.2 fWAR

Ronald Torreyes .800/.800/1.200, 260 R, 0 HR, 260 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 26.0 fWAR

Dellin Betances 97 G, 87 IP, 65 H, 65 BB, 194 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.10 FIP, 3.2 fWAR

Michael Pineda 33 GS, 165 IP, 264 H, 0 BB, 165 K, 10.80 ERA, 9.75 FIP, -6.6 fWAR

That's one hell of a bottom of the order, isn't it? And, yes, I know Torreyes isn't going to get anywhere near 650 PA (barring a series of unfortunate events the likes of which have never been seen) - but I find a great deal of humor in the fact that he's currently a career .545/.583/.818 hitter, and I'm trying to spread the gospel. There's something inherently likable about him; though, to be fair, I'm a sucker for utility players.

And I, for one, would not be shocked if Betances led the team in strikeouts. He was only 25 off the pace last season, after all.

Venturing outside of the Yankees, here are ten more from around the league:

Jose Altuve .286/.375/.429, 162 R, 20 HR, 41 RBI, 122 SB, 20 SB, 6.1 fWAR

Bryce Harper .313/.522/.813, 141 R, 57 HR, 85 RBI, 85 SB, 0 CS, 14.1 fwAR (and 198 BB/28 K)

Kendrys Morales .190/.208/.524, 54 R, 54 HR, 135 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 0.0 fWAR

Jorge Soler .130/.192/.261, 75 R, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, -5.0 fWAR

Trevor Story .333/.357/1.111, 162 R, 162 HR, 278 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 16.2 fWAR

Eugenio Suarez .370/.433/.815, 195 R, 87 HR, 195 RBI, 22 SB, 0 CS, 13.0 fWAR

Jose Fernandez 33 GS, 187 IP, 165 H, 33 BB, 429 K, 7.94 ERA, 1.58 FIP, 9.9 fWAR

Martin Perez 33 GS, 204 IP, 149 H, 149 BB, 49 K, 3.65 ERA, 6.59 FIP, -3.3 fWAR

A.J. Ramos 65 G, 65 IP, 0 H, 130 BB, 34 K, 0.00 ERA, 8.35 FIP, -3.2 fWAR

Trevor Rosenthal 69 G, 77 IP, 46 H, 23 BB, 184 K, 0.00 ERA, -0.55 FIP, 11.5 fWAR

Read More

A look back at how the Yankees have fared when Star Wars movies are released

103012-star-wars111 Since today is the official release date of Stars Wars: The Force Awakens, I thought it could be fun to see how the Yankees have fared on days when the other Star Wars films (original and prequels) were released, because up until this new movie, they were all released, in either late-May or mid-June, for the summer movie season.

Up first, we have the original Star Wars, which was released on Wednesday May 25, 1977. On that day, the Yankees split a twi-night doubleheader at the Stadium with the Texas Rangers. The Yankees won the first game, 3-2, thanks to a Thurman Munson RBI single, a Roy White home run, and a Bucky Dent RBI double. Gil Patterson picked up the win and Sparky Lyle, the save. For the Rangers, Mike Hargrove and Willie Horton had an RBI apiece and Bert Blyleven was the losing pitcher. In the second game of the double dip, the starters, Gaylord Perry for the Rangers, and Mike Torrez for the Yanks, both pitched complete games, but Perry came out on top 1-0. The Rangers scored in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly and the Yankees only had three chances with runners in scoring position.

On the day when The Empire Strikes Back was released, Friday June 20, 1980, the Yankees played the Oakland Athletics and beat them 15-7. This was an ugly night for pitching on both squads with 27 hits combined between the two teams. Reggie Jackson, Jim Spencer and Johnny Oates all hit homers for the Yankees. They were up 10-4 going into the bottom of the eighth when they tacked on five runs. Oakland scored three in the top of the ninth, but that wasn't enough to catch the Yankees who went on to win their 43rd game of the season. Luis Tiant got the win, Steve McCatty got the loss, and Ron Davis picked up a save even though he gave up three runs on four hits in that ninth inning. The save stat is a funny one, isn't it?

The third movie of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi was released on Wednesday May 25, 1983 and on that day, the Yankees lost to the California Angels, 7-1. Ken Griffey hit a home run to score the only run for the Yanks in Anaheim that day, and Shane Rawley picked up the loss in 5 2/3 innings of work. He gave up seven runs on nine hits (six of the runs were earned), he walked four, struck out three and gave up two home runs - one to Ellis Valentine and the other to Bobby Grich. Tommy John on the other hand, pitched a complete game for the Angels. He gave up nine hits, the one run on Griffey's home run in the third inning, struck out two and walked one.

Years later, when Don Mattingly was entering his third season of retirement, the first prequel in the second trilogy, The Phantom Menace was released on May 19, 1999. The reason I mention Mattingly is because when RoTJ was first released into theaters, Mattingly played in 91 games that season (after debuting in September 1982) and by the time PM was released, he was out of baseball completely. It just shows you how much time had actually passed between the trilogies. Anyway, on that day in May 1999, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, 6-0. Brian Rose was the winning pitcher and Hideki Irabu, was the loser. Jason Varitek hit two home runs for the Sox - the first off Irabu and the second off Ramiro Mendoza - and John Valentin, Troy O'Leary and Reggie Jefferson all picked up RBI. The Yankees had eight hits, with Jorge Posada picking up three all by himself.

When the second prequel in the second trilogy, Attack of the Clones was released on May 16, 2002 the Yankees had themselves a day and beat the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays 13-0. To be honest, I didn't recognize about 75% of Tampa's lineup when I looked up the boxscore and I watched a lot of baseball in 2002. In any event, the poor, hapless Rays were held to three hits and committed four errors. Jason Tyner had one hit and Jason Conti had two. The losing pitcher was Ryan Rupe who gave up seven runs in three innings. His replacement, Jason Standridge didn't fare much better - he also gave up seven hits in three innings. And finally there was Jorge Sosa who pitched two innings for the Rays and only gave up one run - but he also had two wild pitches and he hit Jason Giambi with a pitch. David Wells, who picked up his sixth win of the year, pitched a complete game for the Yankees

And finally, when Revenge of the Sith was released on May 19, 2005, the Yankees had earned themselves a day off. Fine, it wasn't earned, it was scheduled.

So there you have it, the Yankees have actually fared pretty well on the days when movies in the Stars Wars franchise open. Maybe something good can happen today? Like a good trade out of nowhere? A girl can dream.

[Please note: I didn't include the many re-releases of the films. The original Star Wars was re-released four different times even before the re-release of the original trilogy in 1997. And when the original trilogy came out that year, they were put back into theaters in the order they originally came out in January, February and March of 1997 respectively.]

Read More

The 2016 IIATMS Hall of Fame Ballot

With less than a week to go before actual Hall of Fame ballots are due, we decided to put our heads together to create a fake (and yet far more important) ballot of our own. We followed the voting requirements of the Hall of Fame, selecting no more than ten players to make the cut. However, we also noted players that we would have voted for if the ballot were not unfortunately limited to ten players. Those marked with an 'X' represent our actual picks; those marked with a '-' are the woulda, coulda, shouldas. And while you have to wait until January 6 to see who will be joining the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown, you can dive into our results today. The following players made the cut based solely on actual votes:

With expanded ballots, Messrs Edgar Martinez and Curt Shilling would have also been enshrined, with Alan Trammell missing out by a single vote. The individual ballots are below.

What, if anything, can be gleaned from this? The most obvious takeaway is that we, as a group, are not terribly concerned with PED issues insofar as all-time greats are concerned (Bonds and Clemens), nor did we pay much heed to the inane rumors regarding Bagwell's forearms and Piazza's bacne. I cannot speak for everyone, but I see McGwireSosa, and Sheffield as borderline candidates, and their clearly defined links to PED use are enough to move the needle away from enshrinement as a result.

It also appears as though we are a largely unified front, with seven unanimous inductees, and an eighth appearing on all but one ballot. Some may say that it is because we are shills for advanced metrics or the like - but that could not be further from the truth. We have a considerable array of opinions on sabremetrics, in addition to a fairly diverse representation of ages. I'm inclined to chalking it up to great minds thinking alike.

The hardest exclusion from my ballot was Jim Edmonds. He is a fairly straightforward 'no' from an analytical perspective, and his narrative isn't terribly strong (eight Gold Gloves, a World Series ring, and ... not much else). However, he was incredible to watch in the field, and he was one of the best players in baseball during my high school years - from 2000 through 2004, he batted .298/.410/.593, averaging 102 R, 36 HR, and 100 RBI per season. He was 4th in fWAR over that time, and 7th in wRC+. Reminiscing about players may well be the best part of Hall of Fame season, regardless of their actual candidacy.

Individual Ballots

Read More

Saving the 2016 Season in Three (Possibly) Easy Steps

The Yankees have not played a game in twenty-four days, and it feels even longer than that - which is unfortunate, because we're still 156 days away from Opening Day (against those dastardly Astros, to boot). The off-season has begun for the Yankees, at least in earnest, and yet we're still a couple of weeks away from the "real" off-season kicking off. As such, we're stuck twiddling our thumbs as we await the beginning of hot stove season. And that gives us plenty of time to tackle rumors and rosterbate with a bit more than a simple glance at the available free agents. In the interim, we decided to discuss moves that could be made to prepare the Yankees for 2016, and hopefully set them up to stay healthy and competitive for the entire season. Or, failing that, preparing them for the future. A few of us chipped in with three ideas apiece, which range from simple and (ostensibly) cheap, to somewhat laughable and/or expensive. Without further ado:

Scott Moss

1) Try to trade Mark Teixeira. Yep, he was terrific for 111 games, which is about the best case for a brittle 36 year-old in 2016. But he’ll be 36, so he’s not likely to post the .900 OPS he logged in 2009 and 2015, but no other years between. We’ve seen enough of Bird to expect better than the 100-120 games of a 100-120 OPS+ that Teixeira is very unlikely to exceed. Not sure what Teixeira would fetch, but in 2015 a lesser player with a similar skill set (Brandon Moss) fetched a top lefty pitching prospect, so it’s worth a try for Cashman to work the phones.

2) Figure out whether J.R. Murphy or Eric Jagielo can play 3B, because Headley is on life support. It’s hard to overstate how troubling Headley’s 2015 was. It was both his worst offensive year ever and his worst defensive 3B year ever, and he’s under contract three more years. There’s no cause for optimism about the age 32-34 years of an average but declining hitter, and a declining fielder, at a rough position, who’s had back problems. He may turn into a backup 3B/1B awfully soon. So the Yankees’ two talented but very flawed 3B options are worth exploring. Jagielo looks like a big-league hitter, but at high-A and AA, his fielding percentages were .887 and .883, with bad range factors; he may have enough bat to make up for mildly subpar defense, but can he improve to “mildly subpar”? Murphy may be the opposite: he’s just an average hitter, but it’s worth exploring whether he could play a solid 3B. Murphy probably was shifted to catcher not because a subpar defensive 3B projected well at a harder position like catcher, but just because anyone who plausibly could play catcher is usually more valuable there. With Gary Sanchez about ready for MLB, Murphy’s higher-value use could be as Headley’s backup or replacement. A defensive catcher with the quality hands, arm, and agility of Murphy might well play a strong 3B, but can he re-learn a position he hasn’t played in years?

3) Devote maybe two million dollars to soft-tissue-injury management and, I don’t know, pilates? For all we know they’re already secretly doing this tactic Red Sox reportedly have thrown a lot of resources at mastering, but I suspect not – or, at least, they haven’t done it effectively yet. All applause to Cashman for getting a tick younger in the past few years by landing Eovaldi, Gregorious, and Pineda, and for giving shots to Severino, Bird, and about 14 young righty relievers – but they’re still an old, brittle team. Beltran, Ellsbury, Gardner, A-Rod, Headley, Teixeira, and McCann all are valuable when healthy, but they’re all prone to a mix of major injuries, nagging injuries, and late-season fatigue. Maybe the team has been doing its best already on this front – but it hasn’t been working, and the cost of maxing out the investment in cutting-edge staff, equipment, and techniques is chump change compared to these guys’ hundred-million-plus salaries.

Brad Vietrogoski

1) Take The Reins Off Their Starters

I know there were a lot of health concerns in the rotation this season, and I applaud the Yankees for attempting to manage that risk with extra rest and the 6th starter here and there. But they can't expect to seriously contend when they need 8-12 outs from their bullpen every game. They need more length from Tanaka, Pineda, and Eovaldi next year and Joe needs to be willing to lean on them for more outs.

2) Add Another Starter

The injury risk isn't going away anytime soon. Tanaka just had elbow surgery, and Pineda and Eovaldi both spent time on the DL this past season with arm injuries. Luis Severino is legit, but he's going to experience growing pains, and the tandem of Nova and Sabathia is nothing more than a pair of injury risky 5th starters at this point. This team needs more starting pitching and it needs that in the form of something much better than Chris Capuano.

3) Come Up With a Proactive Rest Plan for Their Older Players

Certified old guys A-Rod, Beltran, and Teix will all be back next year, as will semi-older regulars like McCann and Headley. The Yankees need to figure out a way to get all of those players enough regular rest to get them through the full season and keep them productive through the full season. That's going to require a lot of planning and a deeper and more flexible bench, but it would be time and money well spent to get the most out of these aging bats and big money contracts. Using the upper-level MiL talent as part of this plan would be a smart way to bridge to the future.

E.J. Fagan

1) Attempt to trade any or all of Gardner, Teixeira, McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran. The Yankees are an old team, on the decline. Luckily, every contract above is in some way tradeable. They might not get rid of everyone, but should be able to get some kind of return.

2) Play the young guys. Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and possibly Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo are all fine replacements for the above veterans. They may be slight downgrades, but not huge ones, and have considerable upside. This isn't a hard rebuild. In many cases, they have a better Steamer projection than the veterans.

3) If you're going to aim for $189 million, aim for it this year. Otherwise, sign Jason Heyward. Ownership has indicated that they still want the Yankees to get under the threshold. Some have looked at the 2017 season as the likely year, after some big contracts expire. But if the Yankees can trade enough players, they can get it done this year. Then, in 2017, they can assess what they have off the farm, and start building a true powerhouse. But if I'm wrong, sign Jayson Heyward. Unlike the guys you're trading away, he's going to be good for a long time.

Matt Bove

1) Forget About the $189 Million Threshold

The Yankees stopped being the Yankees once they started worrying about the luxury tax. It's no coincidence they stopped winning at the same point they started caring more about the bottom line. This is a much better free agent class this year then next when they have money coming off. They will continue to hide behind their second largest payroll even though they're middle of the pack in percentage of revenue spent in payroll.

2) Trade Brett Gardner

Gardner is a fan favorite, but what good is he if he can't be productive in the second half of seasons? This seems like a trend that Gardner can't last a whole season. I don't see Mark Teixeira or Carlos Beltran waiving their no trade clauses. Gardner should be able to get back something nice.

3) Get Right-Handed Bats

The Yankees should always be more of a lefty team because of their ballpark but the current lineup has gotten out of hand with A-Rod being the only true righty. You have to have more balance than that.They're always going to have major trouble against lefties like they did at the end of the year. This is another reason to trade Gardner unless you want to replace him with Jason Heyward.

Jason Rosenberg

1) Don’t trade Brett Gardner

Let’s get some basic facts out of the way, some of which you’ve heard already: · The team needs to get younger

· The teams needs to be more athletic

· Brett Gardner had another bad second half

Trading Brett Gardner in order to sign Jason Heyward or another OF is not the right decision, even though I seriously love Heyward. Brett Gardner is on a reasonable contract*, provides decent speed (which should be better utilized, see #2), and is generally regarded as a very good OF although he grades out far better in center than left. Trading Gardner to allow a defensively challenged Beltran to play more is a short-sighted mistake and one this team should never make. I’d soon see the Yanks pay half whatever it takes of Beltran’s contract and send him away to get Heyward. Please do not trade Brett Gardner**. * Gardner’s remaining contractual obligations: 2016 $13.5M (age 32) 2017 $12.5M (33) 2018 $11.5M (34) 2019 $12.5M (35), team option for $12.5M or $2M buyout; net $10.5M decision ** Unless we’re getting at least a #2 SP, and even then… Now, if you can somehow find a way to get Teixeira to agree to be traded and find a team willing to spend a few million on him, do it now. I don’t care what we get back.

2) Run, Brett, RUN!

Again, more facts, or facts according to me: · Brett Gardner is fast

· Brett Gardner does not steal many bases

· Brett Gardner should be stealing more bases

Over the last three years, Gardner has averaged just 21.5 SB per year, getting caught roughly one out of every 4 attempts (65; 18). This is not very good. We’ve all seen Gardner looking tentative on the bases, missing opportunities to run or choosing the wrong pitches to run on. Way back in 2010-11, Gardner stole a combined 96 bases. Has he slowed down? Or is just not a good base runner? Can he learn to be a better base stealer? It’s worth bring a guy like Rickey Henderson or someone else in to work with Brett on the nuances of base stealing. If Gardner is getting on base 34+% of the time, popping 15-18 home runs, and stealing 35-45 bases, he will provide the team with a tremendous boost. The first two are more than achievable. The last one is the difference-maker and the biggest question mark.

3) Figure out a way to keep these guys healthy

a. Design and gain buy-in on a scheduled plan for the old guys (Beltran, Teixeira, ARod), the by-product of which is more playing time for the younger guys (Bird, Judge, etc.)

b. Proactively rest/treat/pre-hab the brittle guys (Headley, Ellsbury, Gardner), the by-product of which is more playing time for the younger guys (Heathcott, Judge, etc.)

c. Figure out how to take the governors of Eovaldi, Pineda, Warren, Nova, etc. and just let them go. Treat/pre-hab them so they can make 33 starts. Stop worrying and let them pitch. Babying them clearly isn’t helping so let’s let them build up the strength required to repeatedly throw the ball 200 innings.

d. Furthering the Brett Gardner theme and monitoring his health so this doesn’t happen yet again (career splits, not just last year):


Stacey Gotsulias

1) Wrap Jacoby Ellsbury in bubble wrap so he doesn't suffer some weird injury that will make him unavailable for weeks at a time and make him less productive when he comes back. The Yankees needed him in the second half and he did a tremendous disappearing act which brings us to #2 on my list...

2) Get a sports psychologist to examine Brett Gardner's head so he, and the rest of us, can find out why he can't ever seem to perform in the second half. If the Yankees do that, and Gardner can be productive both before and after the All-Star break, it could help the lineup a lot in 2016.

3) Find a second baseman and stick with him. In other words, sign someone who can actually play second every day. If not, bring up one of the kids to do it and call it a day. The Yankees started more second baseman in 2015 than Bewitched had Darrens, Roseanne had Beckys and Valerie, Valerie's Family and Hogan Family shows had name changes. Enough is enough!

Domenic Lanza

1) If the plan is to break the bank eventually, do it sooner rather than later. This off-season has several high-quality pieces that will not cost a draft pick to sign - David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Ben Zobrist represent massive upgrades in areas of need, and would not do anything to harm the team's movement towards youth. Price and Zobrist may break the bank, but their combined contracts would look less egregious once Teixeira and Beltran come off of the books after 2016. And, if a repeat of the 2008-2009 off-season is in the cards, Jason Heyward could be a legitimate cornerstone for the next great Yankees team.

2) For heaven's sake, build a real bench. As it stands, the bench on most days would probably be John Ryan Murphy, Rob Refsnyder, Brendan Ryan, and a token RHH outfielder to be named. Murphy and [Chris Young? Drew Stubbs? Chris Denorfia? Rajai Davis] make sense; but the idea of having a defensively-challenged second baseman that might be able to pick up some innings in the outfield and an offensive zero with declining defense representing half of the bench is frightening. I do not like the idea of having a platoon at second, particularly when half of the platoon is not a versatile defender. Having Ackley starting and Refsnyder on the bench represents a real competitive disadvantage. It is for this reason that I would endorse signing or trading for a full-time second baseman, as it should improve both the lineup and the bench.

3) Don't hesitate to cash-in on Teixeira and Beltran as trade chips (if at all possible). Both players are free agents to be, and both played well-enough in 2015 to have regained some luster - and that is especially true as one-year rentals. Their injury histories are scary, but if a team would be willing to part with a solid prospect or two, or a moderate upgrade anywhere else on the field, the Yankees have a chance to replace most of both players' production with in-house options. Bird can start at first (and perhaps Murphy or Gary Sanchez can learn the position to platoon, if necessary), and Heathcott, Williams, Ben Gamel, and Jake Cave can battle it out to play right (and platoon with the aforementioned token RHH OF). It may not be ideal, but neither is counting on Teixeira and Beltran to remain healthy and productive.

Read More

The 2015 IIATMS Awards

Major League Baseball's regular season awards are slated to be rather intriguing, to say the least. The narrative will likely play a huge role in several of the awards (particularly the American League MVP and National League Cy Young), and, even without extenuating circumstances largely beyond a player's control, some are simply too damn close to call. And that's one of the most wonderful things about baseball; the more we know, the more difficult these heretofore easy decisions become. Without further ado:

AL MVP: Mike Trout - .299/.402/.590, 41 HR, 11 SB, 172 wRC+, 9.4 bWAR, 9.0 fWAR

For the fourth season in a row, Trout led the AL in bWAR and fWAR (and were it not for his NL counterpart, he would have led the Majors, as well), while also pacing the league in OPS+ and wRC+. He also set a career-high in home runs, SLG, and ISO, continuing his evolution into an elite (or, more accurately, even more elite) power hitter. Defensively, the metrics no longer see Trout as an elite center fielder, suggesting he is average to a tick above. However, his propensity for highlight reel catches has not change.

Yes - the Angels missed the playoffs by one game. But it's difficult to pin that on a player that batted .315/.430/.648 with 8 HR in September.

Also receiving votes - Josh Donaldson

NL MVP: Bryce Harper - .330/.460/.649, 42 HR, 6 SB, 197 wRC+, 9.9 bWAR, 9.5 fWAR

If you want to find a better offensive season than Harper's 2015, you have to look back to 2004, when a certain hulked-out gentleman hit .362/.609/.812 with a 233 wRC+. And the last non-Barry Bonds player to top Harper's 197 wRC+ was Mark McGwire, way back in 1998. And if you want to find a player that hasn't been conclusively linked to PEDs, you'd have to go back to 1994, when Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas tied for the MLB-lead with a 205 wRC+. In short, it would be difficult to overstate the excellence of Harper's season - it was historically great, regardless of age, era, or position.

Just for fun, the gap between Harper and second-place Joey Votto with the bat (based upon FanGraphs' batting metric) was 15.7. For comparison's sake, Nolan Arenado ranked 39th in the Majors at 15.0.

Also receiving votes - N.A.

AL Cy YoungDallas Keuchel - 232 IP, 185 H, 51 BB, 216 K, 2.48 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 7.2 bWAR, 6.1 fWAR

The between Keuchel and Price in most everything is minuscule, save for our choice's 1.2 win edge in bWAR and massive advantage in GB% (61.7 to 40.4). Keuchel allowed slightly fewer base-runners on a rate basis, averaged slightly more IP per start, prevented runs at a marginally better rate, and did so in more hitter-friendly environs. Were it not for the Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson impressions in the NL, this would have been the most difficult choice in recent memory.

Also receiving votes - David Price

NL Cy Young: Jake Arrieta - 229 IP, 150 H, 48 BB, 236 K, 1.77 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 8.7 bWAR, 7.3 fWAR

By good ol' fashioned runs, Greinke's the choice. If you prefer focusing solely on what a pitcher controls, Kershaw's the choice. We chose the middle-ground, and went with Arrieta, who was generally in between the two in most metrics that we consider. He was in a virtual tie with Greinke in terms of run prevention (when adjusted for park), and he allowed the least hard contact of any pitcher in the National League. By keeping the ball on the ground and limiting scorching line drives and deep fly balls, his dependency on his defense may be less significant than one would suspect based upon the gap between his ERA and FIP.

Also receiving votes - Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke

AL RoY: Carlos Correa - .279/.345/.512, 22 HR, 14 SB, 133 wRC+, 4.1 bWAR, 3.3 fWAR

Correa led all shortstops in ISO, SLG, wOBA, and wRC+, and finished fifth in fWAR despite playing in only 99 games (though, to be fair, Lindor finished 2nd). He was also an asset on the basepaths, and an average-ish defender by every metric but UZR (which viewed him as closer to awful). His consistency in the middle of the Astros lineup bears mentioning, as well, posting an OPS between .821 and .919 in every month. That bit of dependability helped keep the Astros afloat despite a late season swoon - and that sort of narrative can make all the difference in a choice as close as the one between Correa and Lindor.

Also receiving votes - Francisco Lindor

NL RoY: Kris Bryant - .275 .369 .488, 26 HR, 13 SB, 136 wRC+, 5.9 bWAR, 6.5 fWAR

A couple of months ago, this appeared to be yet another perilously close race, with Bryant, Joc Pederson, Jung Ho Kang, and Noah Syndergaard all vying for the award. Due to injuries and a bit of regression to his competitors, Bryant stands head and shoulders above the pack. That sells him short, though, as Bryant ranked 10th in the Majors in fWAR, and 15th in bWAR. In addition to having light-tower power and a terrific approach at the plate, Bryant ranked 6th in the Majors in BsR (FanGraphs' baserunning metric), and played above-average defense at the hot corner. Even with Harper's dominance, Bryant is closer to the MVP race than the other rookies are to him.

Also receiving votes - N.A.

AL Manager of the Year: Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers

This award is essentially "who was the manager of the team that overachieved the most?" While Hinch guided the Astros to the playoffs a couple of years early, Banister helmed a team that (1) outpaced its Pythagorean record by five wins, (2) lost the most games and most WAR in the Majors to injury, (3) started a Rule 5 pick in center field for most of the season, (4) let Adam Rosales pitch twice, and (5) managed to win its division by two games despite all of this.

Also receiving votes - A.J. Hinch, Joe Girardi

NL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs

If it weren't for the ubiquitous discussion of Cardinals Devil Magic and the worst bullpen management in Major League Baseball, Mike Matheny may have garnered some love for guiding an injury-riddled team to the best record in the Majors. Instead, we went with the guy who turned a team led by rookies and twenty-somethings into a 97-win club.

Also receiving votes - N.A.

Babe Ruth Award: Alex Rodriguez - .250/.356/.486, 33 HR, 4 SB, 129 wRC+, 3.1 bWAR, 2.7 fWAR

Were it not for Teixeira's injury and the feel-good nature of Rodriguez's return, this award would probably have turned out quite differently. The Yankees offense was surprisingly stout this season, and Rodriguez spent the majority of that season anchoring the lineup from the third spot in the order. He slowed down as the season wore on, but he still managed a 119 wRC+ in September (which matches Carlos Beltran's mark on the season).

Also receiving votes - Mark Teixeira

Mo Rivera Award: Dellin Betances - 84 IP, 45 H, 40 BB, 131 K, 1.50 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 3.7 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR

Despite a couple of scary outings late in the season, Betances managed to match last season's bWAR total while improving his already staggering strikeout rate by 0.5 K/9. His 131 strikeouts were fourth on the team, despite Betances ranking only 7th in IP (though he did lead all relievers in IP). He also led the pitching staff in bWAR, and finished second on the team behind Mark Teixeira. Betances' all-around numbers may not be as jaw-dropping as they were in 2014, yet he was dominant nevertheless.

Also receiving votes - Andrew Miller

The Carl Pavano: Chris Capuano & Jacoby Ellsbury (tie)

This ... distinction ... came down to two schools of thought. On one hand, Capuano was the worst player on the Yankees this year, with -1.1 bWAR and -0.2 fWAR. He allowed 38 runs and 6 home runs in just 40.2 IP, including 16 runs in 13.1 IP as a starter. In short, he was a flesh and blood version of the white flag.

On the other hand, there was Ellsbury getting paid over $21 MM this season to bat .257/.318/.345 with an 83 wRC+. One-hundred and forty-three players garnered at least 500 PA, and among those Ellsbury ranked 118th in fWAR and 126th in wRC+. He was above replacement-level (1.9 bWAR/0.9 fWAR) mostly due to his position, as his defense slipped noticeably as the season wore on. Capuano may have been worse in terms of overall value, but his awfulness was limited to 22 games and 40.2 IP - Ellsbury's was spread out over 111 games and 501 PA.

Also receiving votes - CC Sabathia, Stephen Drew

Read More

Shadow Yankees

Over the last twenty seasons, John Sickels of SB Nation's Minor League Ball has conducted his own draft for the Minnesota Twins. It began as a pet project of sorts, with Sickels making picks for the first ten rounds or so, and rolling with the international free agents signed by the real world Twins. Over the last several years, however, he has changed course, determining his own international signings and making all fifty (and now forty) Rule IV picks for his Shadow Twins. And each year he rates his own prospects and critiques his own farm system. It's an incredible undertaking, and a worthwhile read to say the least. I began my own version of this back in 2008, when I first became enamored with the draft itself. Lacking the connections, resources, and insight of Mr. Sickels, I focused entirely on rounds one through five, as my subscriptions to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and Scout could only take me so far. So began my own Shadow Yankees.

What follows are my picks from each of the last eight drafts. I have not changed any picks in any way, and I admittedly deferred to the Yankees a few times (generally where my own research led me to a similar conclusion). After 2008, I waited until after the signing deadline so as to avoid drafting players that had not signed.

2008: 1 - Gerrit Cole 1s - Tyson Ross 2 - Tyler Sample 3 - Kyle Weiland 4 - Ryan Westmoreland 5 - Brett Marshall

Losing out on Cole soured me on this endeavor a bit, but I was quite happy to land Ross, Westmoreland, and Marshall - three high-ceiling prospects that slipped in the draft due to bonus demands. Ross worked out quite well, eventually developing into a solid mid-rotation starter (despite some bouts of wildness). The rest, however, leave a bit to be desired. Sample is still in Double-A, and sports a 5.33 ERA in 540 professional IP. Weiland has not pitched in over a year due to a litany of arm injuries and at least three surgeries. Marshall spent the better part of this year pitching in the independent Frontier and Atlantic Leagues, and is now with the Rockies Double-A affiliate. And Westmoreland is out of professional baseball, due to a serious brain issue - though, to be fair, his story is rather inspiring.

2009: 1s - Tyler Skaggs 2 - Kyle Seager 4 - Ryan Wheeler 5 - Daniel Fields

Seager is probably the biggest steal of this little experiment. The same is true in the real world, as well, where he was a third round pick. As much as I would like to say that I foresaw his development into a stout defender at the hot corner with the ability to hit 25 home runs ... that would be a lie. Instead, I saw him as a second baseman that could hit 15 home runs. Skaggs appeared to be turning a corner last season, capitalizing on the talent that made him a top-15 prospect in 2012 and 2013, but he underwent Tommy John Surgery in August of last season, and will not pitch until next season. Wheeler was the guy that I thought would turn into a 25-plus home run threat; instead, he's bounced between four organizations, having hit all of three homers in 225 PA at the MLB-level. And Fields, despite being only 24, has the look of a toolsy player that never quite figures it out - good defense, plenty of speed, and decent pop, and yet he is hindered by a lack of instincts for the game.

2010: 1s - Nick Castellanos 2 - Addison Reed 3 - Hunter Morris 4 - Mason Williams 5 - Tyler Saladino

I really, really wish I had went with Noah Syndergaard here. Such is life.

Castellanos was, in many circles, a top-ten pick. He had a silky smooth swing and terrific contact skills, above-average powers, and the tools to be an average defender (at least) at third base. But as was the case with many draft picks before the draft pool system, he slipped due to a strong commitment to Miami and a high asking price. His success in the Majors has been limited so far, and his defense at third has regressed tremendously (perhaps due to bouncing between third and left to accommodate a Miguel Cabrera's short-lived move back to the hot corner) - but he's still only 23. Reed has been a solid yet unspectacular reliever, and Morris has yet to make his Major League debut due to injuries and a lack of a discernible skill besides plus raw power. Williams is well-known in these parts, and another example of me deferring to the Yankees. And Saladino was a player that I thought would be a steal, as a guy that can fake it at short and put up above-average numbers on offense. Instead, he's a utility player that has shown flashes of both brilliance and incompetence with the bat and in the field.

2011: 1s - Daniel Norris 2 - John Stilson 3 - Jordan Cote 4 - Taylor Featherston 5 - Greg Bird

At this point, Norris is a fairly well-known name. He was the centerpiece of the trade that brought David Price to Toronto, and one of the most interesting personalities in the game. He still has the look of a mid-rotation starter, perhaps with the upside for more. Stilson was a high-risk, high-reward pick, who slipped due to shoulder issues despite tremendous raw stuff. And that risk resulted in labrum surgery in August of last year. Cote was released by the Yankees this Spring, after struggling mightily in A-ball in 2014 (though, I do wonder if something else was going on). As was the case with Saladino, Featherston was a shortstop prospect with a solid offensive ceiling that has petered out a bit. He was a Rule 5 pick-up this off-season, and he's little more than a utility player. And Bird was a catcher with a big-time offensive ceiling - a ceiling that we've seen flashes of this year - and I couldn't overlook that.

2012: 1 - Joey Gallo 2 - Nick Williams 2 - Tom Murphy 3 - Tyler Pike 4 - Ross Stripling 5 - Kyle Hansen

Prodigious raw power is my greatest weakness, and Gallo has it in spades - he may well have the most raw power in baseball, which is saying a hell of a lot. And that power has been on display at every stop, including a brief stint with the Rangers this Summer. Williams is one of those prospects that just "looks like a ballplayer," and his bat speed and athleticism are off the charts. He's climbed the organizational ladders slowly but surely, and was one of the key pieces in the Cole Hamels deal. Murphy struck me as a fairly safe pick, as a catcher with average-ish tools across the board, and some genuine upside with the bat (and he went to my alma mater, so I had some in-person insight). Up to this point, I had focused on projectability with pitchers; Pike broke that mold a bit, as a small-ish command/control type. He started this season in High-A after walking more batters than he struck out in Double-A last year, though, and has continued to issue walks at an unacceptable rate (5.0 BB/9 this year). Stripling was also a low-risk, low-reward type; someone that could hopefully slot in to the back of a rotation and give the team 180+ IP per season. And Hansen is 6'8" with an above-average fastball/slider combination, and had the feel of a light's out reliever.

2013: 1 - Aaron Judge 1s - Ian Clarkin 1s - Sean Manaea 2 - JaCoby Jones 3 - Ben Lively 4 - Bobby Wahl 5 - Jacob Nottingham

I was a big fan of the Yankees draft this year, and I was ecstatic to see them take both Judge and Clarkin. Manaea was in the running to be a top-five pick before injury troubles slowed him down, and he was a consensus top-85 prospect heading into this season. The centerpiece of the Ben Zobrist deal, he has the build (6'5", 240 pounds) and stuff (plus fastball, plus change-up) of an ace - but he has to stay healthy. Jones, who was dealt for Joakim Soria in July, was a bit of a puzzle heading into the draft as an incredibly toolsy player that struggled to put it all together. He's a solid all-around shortstop prospect at this point, with intriguing upside. Lively and Wahl were both RHP with mid-rotation upside; Lively still has that look, whereas Wahl has struggled to stay healthy, and may be best-suited for the bullpen. And Nottingham is another big-bodied, big-power catcher, with mixed reviews as to whether he can stay behind the plate.

2014: 2 - Ti'Quan Forbes 3 - Grayson Greiner 4 - Jordan Montgomery 5 - Dylan Cease

Last year, the Yankees went as safe as can be, taking Jacob Lindgren with their top pick, with visions of the seasoned college reliever contributing right away. I took what is essentially the opposite approach, picking a raw, three sport shortstop prospect that will likely spend the next few years in the minors. Forbes might have been the best athlete in the draft, with terrific bat speed and the frame to add muscle (and, ideally, power). Greiner is yet another massive catcher, standing 6'6", with above-average raw power. He's a surprisingly good defender for his size, and will likely be most limited by his iffy contact skills. Montgomery, another Yankees selection, is a big-bodied lefty that relies on command, control, and grounders. And Cease only made his pro debut this June, after undergoing Tommy John Surgery after the draft. He slipped in the draft due to a lingering elbow issue, having been a projected first-rounder due to explosive stuff and (allegedly) easy, repeatable mechanics.

2015: 1 - Beau Burrows 1s - Daz Cameron 2 - Jahmai Jones 3 - Cody Poteet 4 - Garrett Davila 5 - Matt Withrow

On draft day, I was excited that both Burrows and James Kaprielian were on the board when the Yankees were on the clock. Kaprielian represented the safe, mid-rotation type, with perhaps a bit more upside; Burrows was the guy with a 97 MPH fastball, a filthy, hammer curve, and questionable mechanics. The Yankees took the former, and the Shadow Yankees the latter. Cameron was a top-10 talent that slipped due to bonus issues. The son of Mike Cameron, he projects as a similarly excellent defender in center (maybe not as brilliant, but certainly at a Gold Glove level), but his offensive skill-set (high-contact, moderate power) is quite the opposite. Jones has solid yet unspectacular tools across the board, and I could see him being a league-average type at either second or in center. I see Poteet as the sort of pitcher that can get more out of his average stuff due to a deceptive delivery and repeatable mechanics, despite his small and not-so-projectable frame. Davila is a polished high school project with a back of the rotation ceiling - which sounds decidedly unexciting, but I also feel that he has a fairly low beta. And Withrow is intriguing, due to his simple delivery and three fringe-average to average pitches, all of which play up when is command is right.

And there you have it - my labor of love distilled into a few dozen sentences and some fun with hindsight. I have been fairly lucky with my top picks, though I'm not sure if it reflects anything other than my selections being more in-line with the consensus than many of the picks the Yankees have made in the past several years, and the consensus serving as a better judge of talent.

Read More

The IIATMS 'At the Break' Awards

The All-Star break represents many things. For teams and fans alike, it is both the artificial halfway point of the season and a sorely needed four day respite from the daily grind. For folk like us, it is the most acceptable of arbitrary endpoints in the Major League Baseball season, giving us carte blanche to draw bold conclusions about the year to-date. Or, at the very least, as good a reason as any to muse on the season thus far. With that in mind, we decided to hand out some imaginary awards for the first half of 2015; though, to be fair, these are imaginary versions of the already imaginary versions that we give out at the end of every season. Such is life outside of the BBWAA. In addition to the standard award fare (being MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year for both leagues), each writer voted for three Yankee-centric awards - Offensive Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, and the ignominious Least Valuable Player.

Without further ado:

AL MVP: Mike Trout - .312/.405/.614, 68 R, 26 HR, 55 RBI, 9 SB, 184 wRC+, 5.6 fWAR, 5.9 bWAR

The 23-year-old reigning MVP currently sports career-bests in SLG, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+, and he's on-pace to set a career-high in home runs, to boot. He's also hitting the ball harder than before, with career-highs in both line drive rate and hard-hit percentage. It's almost absurd that Trout is still improving his game, given the historically brilliant start to his career ... and yet here we are.

Also receiving votes - Josh Donaldson

NL MVP: Bryce Harper - .339/.464/.704, 59 R, 26 HR, 61 RBI, 4 SB, 216 wRC+, 5.7 fWAR, 6.2 bWAR

As good as Trout has been, Harper has been on an entirely different level offensively - he's been, dare I say, borderline Bonds-ian (albeit with an elite free pass rate, instead of video game numbers). This is the sort of breakout that we were waiting for when Harper was posting numbers that were "damn good for a young player;" numbers befitting of the young man that graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16. And now, at all of 22, he has been the best player in baseball in 2015. I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying the ride.

Also receiving votes - N.A.

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale - 119.1 IP, 90 H, 23 BB, 157 K, 2.72 ERA, 2.21 FIP, 4.1 fWAR, 3.4 bWAR

Sale leads all starting pitchers in strikeouts, K/9, K%, K-BB%, and whiff rate. He's induced 318 swings and misses - no other pitcher has over 300. He struck out 10+ batters in eight consecutive starts, and has reached double-digits in ten of his seventeen starts. I guess what I'm getting at is this: it's really freaking hard to make contact against Chris Sale.

Also receiving votes - Dallas Keuchel

NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer - 132.0 IP, 89 H, 14 BB, 150 K, 2.11 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 4.7 fWAR, 4.7 bWAR

Scherzer is head and shoulders above the competition in most every respect - he's averaging over 7 IP per start, striking out nearly eleven batters for every one he walks (two-plus ahead of the second-place Michael Pineda), and he's leading the Majors in H/9, FIP, WHIP, and both versions of WAR. In addition to being dominant on the whole, he has also been remarkably consistent, throwing at least 6 IP in all but one of his starts and allowing more than 2 ER only four times. Diminishing returns be damned, Nationals fans must be exceedingly happy with Scherzer's seven-year deal thus far.

Also receiving votes - N.A.

AL RoY: Carlos Correa - .276/.312/.507, 18 R, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB, 128 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR, 1.6 bWAR

In 2012, the Astros were accused of taking Correa as an easy sign with the first overall pick in the Rule IV draft, passing up on more talented players like Byron Buxton and Mark Appel. Three years and three top-15 prospect rankings by Baseball America later, Correa is raking at the big league level, showcasing the tremendous all-around talent and maturity that Houston's front office fawned over. This selection may seem premature, given that he's only played 32 games ... but the runner-up missed about a month, and Correa has been too good to overlook.

Also receiving votes - Devon Travis

NL RoY: Kris Bryant - .269/.376/.472, 47 R, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 8 SB, 136 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR, 2.9 bWAR

This was the only choice that was a dead heat, with Bryant edging out Pederson by one vote. Baseball America's top-rated prospect has been as good as advertised this season, posting well above-average offensive numbers (including a 25-ish home run pace) with plenty of walks and a ton of strikeouts. Interestingly enough, defense at the hot corner is/was the greatest flaw in Bryant's game, but UZR absolutely loves his glove and everything else sees it as just about average.

Also receiving votes - Joc Pederson

Yankees Offensive Player of the Year: Brett Gardner - .302/.377/.484, 63 R, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 15 SB, 140 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR, 3.5 bWAR

Gardner is in the midst of what may end up being his best season, with career-highs in ISO, wOBA, and wRC+. With 70-plus games to play, he needs only 0.2 oWAR to tie his career-best mark, and he's also running the bases with more efficiency than he has since his 2012 season was all but lost to injury. Rodriguez has been a tick better with the bat (and a great story), but Gardner's speed pushes him a bit ahead of the pack - and, while the category is 'offensive player of the year,' the fact that Rodriguez is a full-time DH does hinder his cause at least a bit, as he is strictly a hitter.

Also receiving votes - Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez

Yankees Pitcher of the Year: Dellin Betances - 47.0 IP, 20 H, 19 BB, 77 K, 1.53 ERA, 1.69 FIP, 1.9 fWAR, 2.0 bWAR

Betances has largely been the same pitcher that he was in 2014 thus far - his K-BB%, ERA, and FIP are eerily similar, and he's on-pace to throw roughly the same number of innings. That being said, he is both walking and striking out more batters, and pitching more often. Overall, he's been dominant once more ... the inputs have simply changed.

Pineda probably deserved a bit more love, but his numbers are still a bit skewed by a rough stretch from mid-May through mid-June, leaving him with a league-average-ish ERA despite some stellar peripherals.

Also receiving votes - Michael Pineda

Yankees LVP: Carlos Beltran - .260/.309/.430, 21 R, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB, 102 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR, -0.5 bWAR

This may well be the upset of the century (though, I'm not sure who was 'upset' - Beltran, or Sabathia). Beltran has been somewhere around replacement-level this season, combining horrendous fielding with a roughly average bat. His .481 OPS in April and inability to stay on the field color our perception a bit, as he has been surprisingly solid with the bat since the weather warmed up (.299/.346/.494 since May 1). Here's hoping that he can stay healthy and continue to hit once he returns from the DL.

Also receiving votes - CC Sabathia, Stephen Drew

Read More

Short Analysis: How Many Players of Tony Renda's Height (5'8") Make It?

[Note: I'm just under Renda's height, so I have in-group privilege to make all the short jokes in this post.] Tony Renda seems mildly promising, from what I'm reading: a second-round pick who's a solid contact hitter with a great eye; defense that's not only solid, but improving, at a position of need; and someone who could earn promotion in short order, as a 24 year-old playing pretty well at AA. Conceivably he'll grow into a AAA job when Refsnyder is promoted, and then who knows, he could be a utilityman after Ryan and Drew leave, or even a potential full-time 2B if Refsnyder stagnates. But Renda is 5'8", so you fear his utter lack of power (4 HR in 1640 PA in A-AA) is a real sign, not something he'll grow out of with better contact. Yesterday I happened to be reading opinions about whether women will ever play in MLB, and I take this side: (1) yes; (2) the biggest barrier is how softball diverts girls away, but some girls do play little league through high school baseball; (3) fewer women are 6' or musclebound, but some are, and you see plenty below 6' in positions where agility and talent can thrive without raw strength and size – 2B, SS, LF, CF, and to an extent P. Of those positions, 2B is the one that most privileges agility and reflexes over pure physicality, so I easily could see women playing there – and, for the same reason, I could see a 5'8" guy like Renda.

But how often do guys that height make it? "Rarely," I'd thought, but I was totally wrong. To my surprise, a number of recent players have been 5'8" or less – 68 since 1995, but that slightly exaggerates: some are like Ramón "Who?" Caraballo, a 5'7" 2B with 110 career PA and a 57 OPS+. To exclude short-timers like Caraballo, and make the question, "how often do short guys play enough to be regulars, if just for a little bit," I narrowed the search to players 5'8" or under with at least one season of 550+ PA since 1995.

Here's a list of short guys who 'made it." No further comment after the list, but here's my take-home point: promising for Renda, they are disproportionately 2B or utilitymen, and (1) the "marginal utilitymen" group seems like a plausible hope for a guy like Renda, (2) the "quality regulars" group is probably the best-case scenario for him, and (3) don't hold your breath for the "superstars" group," who are not only rare, but disproportionately are either (a) short guys I remember to be impressively musclebound (Raines, Puckett, Durham), or (b) super-defense top athletes (Furcal, Rollins) – neither of which category seems a plausible match for Renda. Oddly, a number of the top folks who made a career elsewhere still played a few games at 2B, and not just the SS (Rollins, Furcal), but even the OFs (Puckett & Raines) - which is mainly silly trivia, but it hints that managers see 2B as a good match for a talented little guy; I mean, it's probably not a coincidence that the Puckett/Raines random-games-elsewhere weren't at 1B.

1. The marginal utilitymenAaron Miles: Over 3/4 of his games at 2B, but eventually a utilityman; with a 75 OPS+ and 1.0 career WAR over 3064 PA, he's almost the definition of "replacement-level infielder" • Desi Relaford: Really similar to Miles as a long-lasting replacement-level utilityman, except a little more versatile and a little worse: played every position except 1B & C, logging just -0.5 career WAR in 3347 PA. • Quinton McCracken: Playing mostly CF and a little in the corners, McCracken replacement-played his way to a grand total of 0.4 WAR in 2779 PA.

2. The quality regularsChone Figgins: A genuinely valuable utilityman: 3B (about 50% of his games), 2B (about 25%), and CF (about 20%); only 4 seasons with 100 games at any one position, two of those at 3B, on at 2B, and one OF. Racked up 22 WAR in 5360 career PA, including one outlier 7.7-WAR season. If a prospect turns out to be him, you're pretty happy. • David Eckstein: Very similar career stats to Figgins (20.8 WAR in 5705 PA), except Eckstein played about 75% SS, 25% 2B - and he fully handled SS, the more demanding middle-infield position: as a full-time SS his first 6 seasons, he logged +5 dWAR. • Joey Cora: A 2B (with a few games elsewhere, but he was a true 2B, not a utilityman) with only 7.9 WAR in 4297 PA, but in his good seasons he was a 1-2ish WAR regular. • Jose Altuve: Could well go into the superstar category before long, because he reached 10 WAR before turning 25, including a breakout age-24 season (6.1 WAR), yielding this amazing BBREF list of his top 5 comps through age 24: Billy Herman, Rod Carew, Fred Dunlap, Paul Molitor, Pete Rose – 3 Hall of Famers, Rose, and an 1880s star 2B (Dunlap) I know nothing about except that he probably would be really mad nonwhite guys like Altuve and Carew got permitted to play his position. • Marcus Giles: Career 2B with 16.7 WAR in just 3340 PA. Sort of the cautionary take about getting too excited about Altuve: at 25, started a 3-year peak of 7.8, 3.3 and 3.9 WAR, then completely collapsed at age 28, and was out of baseball by 29. • Josh Harrison: The next Zobrist, if he can repeat his stellar 2014? But more likely a quality utilityman (of his 5 years, 2014 was the only one with a 3-digit OPS+) who may or may not stick at 3B: he's running a 30-error/yr pace at 3B this year, and he's hitting more like a utilityman (88 OPS+). And he hasn't had one position for the majority of his career games; he's split his time between 3B, 2B, RF, SS, and LF (in that order), with 7.4 WAR in 1352 PA through just age 27.

3. The superstarsJimmy Rollins: We all know he's a SS, but he played 1 game at 2B too! Closing in on 10,000 PA, with over 46 WAR so far. • Tim Raines: My #1 gripe about the Hall of Fame is this guy getting snubbed. 69.1 WAR in over 10,000 PA. A left fielder, but also played 53 games at 2B! • Ray Durham: No Hall of Fame candidate, but a legitimate star in his prime: his 33.6 WAR 8423 PA included 7 seasons of 3.1-4.4 WAR. Unusual compared to others his size, he was a much worse fielder (-5.7 dWAR) than hitter (43.0 oWAR) and actually had some pop (192 HR) • Rafael Furcal: I'd somehow remembered mainly the replacement-level mid-30s Furcal, but he was a legitimate star before that: 39.0 WAR in 7237 PA, including 5 seasons of 4.0-6.4 WAR. A shortstop with 44 games at 2B – including, oddly, 31 in his first season at age 22, and 8 in his last at age 37. • Kirby Puckett: A weak Hall of Fame selection, but a heck of a CF: 50.9 WAR in 7831 PA. Inexplicably also played 4 games at 2B, 4 at 3B, and 3 at SS; can any Minnesotans or trivia buffs tell me what that was about?

Read More

This could be an interesting week for the Yankees

I feel like we have been here before. The last couple of the seasons the Yankees had a solid start with different players coming through in the clutch. And, then, things fell apart – or more that it just stays even.

New York has lost 7 of its last 8, and won just two games on its recent nine-game road trip. These two days off this week may very well be needed as it starts a six-game home stand followed by a seven-game West Coast road trip tomorrow. Their next day off is not until June 4.

This coming week could be an important one in the Yankees season. Two months in, and things start to potentially show how the Yankees are going to play for the rest of the season.

In 2013, the Yankees were 30-18 on May 31. Starting on June 1, they finished the season 54-53, a mediocre team.

Last season, New York was just average the entire time with a few moments where it looked better than just OK. But they still finished 84-78, and played to a 55-52 record starting on June 1.

This seems to be the juncture – based on the last two seasons – where the Yankees will either be a mediocre team or a playoff contender.

Reasons to be optimistic - Masahiro Tanaka is closer to coming back. While there still have been concerns about his pitching this year, if he comes back healthy from the DL, he can still be an effective pitcher. - The Yankees bullpen has been solid, minus recent hiccups. Every team goes through a tough patch, and the bullpen should be able to rebound. - The Yankees still have a positive run differential of +12

Reasons to worry - Jacoby Ellsbury going on the DL is a major concern, especially depending on how long he is out. - Starting pitching continues to be frustrating. - Yankees have been one of the worst defensive teams this season with a team fielding percentage of .981, toward the bottom half of the league.

Read More

The Only Ever Split-Level Outfield: Texas's Clark Field

I am now a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. An older colleague, upon learning of my love of baseball, told me about the craziest thing I have ever learned about the sport. Until 1974, the University of Texas played in this ballpark: Clark_Field_Austin

Take a look at center field. First, you'll see a 12 foot cliff that looks a lot like a (rather close) outfield fence. But, a closer look reveals that there is a green space above that 9 foot cliff. That space? In Play! The left fielder would have to run up the small path, called the "Billy Goat Trail" in order to catch the ball:


Unfortunately, I can't find a lot of information on old Clark Field: I've found a few grainy black and white photos, one amazing article from Texas Monthly, and zero video. When I'm a little less busy, I may go on an archival search for more information. For now, we have these great anecdotes from that article:

"The cliff has contributed to some unusual baseball moments. Two years ago a Texas pitcher was working on a no-hitter late in the game when an opposing batter lofted a deep fly to left field. The Texas left fielder scurried up the slope, tapped his glove confidently, and watched helplessly from his perch as the ball fell just short of the incline on level ground.


Last year the cliff helped a Texas batter attain the dubious distinction of doubling into a double play. With men on first and second, he drove the ball to deep center. The runners stayed close to their bases, not knowing whether the ball would be caught. The enemy center fielder judged the rebound off the limestone perfectly, and the runners tried to make up for lost time. When the confusion ended, Texas had too many men on third base, and two of them were out.


The cliff produced a rare type of home run several years ago. A ball hit over the center fielder’s head appeared destined for higher ground. The left fielder charged up the path to the plateau, intent on holding the batter to a triple. The center fielder went back to the base of the cliff and leaped for the ball. The shortstop raced into center awaiting a relay, and the third baseman covered his base hopefully. They all guessed wrong. The ball hit the top of the bluff, evading the desperate leap of the center fielder, and ricocheted into left field. The closest person to the ball was the runner as he rounded second."

(The entire article is a must-read for any hardcore baseball fan.)

I want to see video! Internet, can you help me turn up some amazing video of this stadium? It was inhabited by a top-end college baseball team until 1974. Lou Gehrig once hit a 500-foot home run there in an exhibition game. How can there be no video of the craziest ballpark in baseball history?

One more photo:


Read More