Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rest Of Baseball Predictions

AL CENTRAL:
1. MINNESOTA - Great offense in a division that looks to be weak. No Nathan hurts but this team usually finds a way to win. Biggest concern is if they'll lose a home-field advantage no longer being in the Metrodome.
2. CHICAGO WHITE SOX - One of the best, and perhaps most underrated, rotations in baseball. Would not surprise even a little bit if they won this division.
3. DETROIT - Tough to get a feel for exactly what type of team - win now or rebuild - they are right now after off-season renovations. Could have great pitching and if Austin Jackson plays as well during the season as he did during the spring they could be right there in this division as well. These three teams are pretty interchangeable.
4. ROYALS - At least they get to watch Zack Greinke and Billy Butler, both of whom are stars. Remains to be seen how much of a hit their production and clubhouse takes with the loss of perennial All-Star Coco Crisp.
5. INDIANS - Hard to not feel bad for this team. Their market has seemingly gone from mid to small, and it has nothing to do with anything they have or haven't done. Put their management in a mid, let along big, market and they'd be winning year over year. Still run intelligently as an organization, on an admitted down cycle, but they'll find a way to minimize that and have an up cycle soon.

AL WEST
1. SEATTLE - With no complete teams in the division, Felix and Lee is a dominating top of the rotation in a pitcher's ballpark.
2. LAA of A of CA of USA of WORLD of UNIVERSE - Really kept here out of respect for their consistency. Not a team that excites entering 2010, but again not one you can count out, and certainly not one I want to face. I'm sure they'll sweep the season series against the Yankees this year and eliminate them from the playoffs if they get the chance.
3. TEXAS - Definitely a team to watch, could make this division interesting with the way they swing the bats.
3. OAKLAND - Although this is not a strong division compared to the rest of baseball, there is a lot of parity. A's could easily move up this list, and are probably a year away from making another serious run at things. Lots of young talent on this team. If they can find a way to keep Coco Crisp around to play the role of future Hall of Fame veteran to anchor the talent they should be good for years to come.

NL EAST:
1. PHILADELPHIA - One of the five best teams in baseball, Halladay could post an ERA under 2.00, AL offense, should contend for another World Series. We've been saying most of these things for a while about this excellent club. Just need to get the bullpen ironed out, and they could be the best in 2010.
2. ATLANTA (Wild Card) - Best rotation in the National League, and should be in the mix for the best in baseball. If they can get Glauss and Jones to give them full seasons surrounded by McCann, McLouth, and Escobar, there is a lot of offensive potential on this team. Especially if Heyward can be anywhere close to as advertised in his rookie season, and I think he's quickly on his way to being one of the ten best players in baseball.
3. NY METS - They've had so much go wrong, something has to go right eventually. Should have plenty of offense if everyone is healthy, but the pitching is in disarray after Santana and Rodriguez, and with one coming off a shoulder surgery and the other off a shaky season, neither of them are locks either.
4. FLORIDA - Nice to see them spending a little money. Could jump the Mets and very well may, but will be tough to get in the mix with the Phillies and Braves.
5. WASHINGTON - The Big Ticket is convinced they win more games than the Mets. Not just yet. Zimmerman is one of the most underrated and unknown players in baseball, and Lannan has been a consistent piece in the rotation early in his career. Maybe they can build around that? I am rooting for Strasburg bigtime. Not only is a guy with stuff that nasty fun to watch if he succeeds, but having a team like the Natioanls spend big to get a talent like his is good for baseball, so I hope this works out so more teams are likely to do it.

NL CENTRAL
1. ST. LOUIS - Join the Phillies as the only other team amongst the top five in baseball that is not in the AL East. Wainwright and Carpenter at the front of the rotation, Holliday and Pujols in the middle of the lineup, good support cast around them. Solid recipe for success.
2. CINCINNATI - My sleeper pick this year. Votto is in the Zimmerman club of top flight players few people talk about. Lot of talent in that lineup, including Phillips and Bruce. If they can get a few things to go their way, mostly in the rotation, namely Volquez coming back when expected, Cueto continuing to improve, and Chapman coming up and giving them production, they could be in the mix.
3. CHICAGO CUBS - I look at this team almost every year and say this should be a pretty good team, and they usually end up falling short of my expectations. Not sure why that is the case, and if that changes this year they have the talent to play with anybody in this division, even the Cardinals.
4. MILWAUKEE - Fielder and Braun is as good a 1-2 punch as you are going to find anywhere, probably two of the 10 best players in baseball. Pitching looks could be average, could be below average, could be totally scary, but it's tough to imagine it being good enough for this team to win.
5. HOUSTON - I just sat here for 30 seconds and couldn't think of one thing to say about this team. They seem like a pretty blah team. No matter what, at least they should be better than the Pirates! They usually find a way to play themselves into finishing higher than that as well.
6. PITTSBURGH - Goodness gracious.

NL WEST
1. SAN FRANCISCO - Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Improved the offense too with DeRosa and Huff, and Sandoval is an absolute monster in the making.
2. LOS ANGELES - Best young core of position player talent in baseball. Between them and the Braves for the Wild Card, and the Dodgers pitching is just a little to shaky right now for me. I like Kershaw, and I like Billingsly to bounce back, but still not sure that's enough. That could change in-season with a promotion or acquisition.
3. COLORADO - Tulowitzki is one of my favorite non-Yankees in the game, and is an absolute stud. Lots of other good and underrated talent around him young and old. If Ubaldo Jiminez and Jorge De La Rosa can front the rotation like their talent indicates they can, the Rockies should be right there again.
4. ARIZONA - Looking at this team's potential makes me think this could be a really good division. Lots of potential pitching, lots of potential offense. We'll see if they can put it all together. My guess is most of it hinges on how effective Brandon Webb can be coming off injury, and if he can join Haren and Jackson to make that a forceful 1-3 in the rotation.
5. SAN DIEGO - Can I use goodness gracious twice? At least with them we get to watch and see what they decide to do with Adrian Gonzalez. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens there and following all the coverage. I hope we can be at the forefront of discussion about this topic here at HYD Baseball.

PLAYOFFS:
DS - TAMPA BAY over SEATTLE. BOSTON over MINNESOTA. PHILADELPHIA over SAN FRANSISCO. ATLANTA over ST. LOUIS.

CS - TAMPA BAY over BOSTON. BRAVES over PHILLIES.

WS - TAMPA BAY over ATLANTA.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The GM: RoB Predictions

Now, for my predictions for the Rest of Baseball. I'll try to keep it short. You know...with only one or two sarcastic comments per team.

AL Central:

Minnesota: Questionable pitching, but offense will eat up the bad pitching in this division. October baseball outdoors should be fun in Minneapolis.
Detroit: Not sipping the Willis Kool-Aid, but I chug Porcello and AJax Kool-Aid.
Chicago: Sorry, Peavy in the AL isn't a sure thing for me yet.
Kansas City: Betrayed me last year when I picked them to win.
Cleveland: Third starter is Rusty Masterson, backup infielder is Andy Marte.

AL West:
Seattle: Not that I believe in the run prevention. But I do believe in the best athletes performing despite major abdominal injuries. I also believe in modesty and a significant dropoff in the Angels' performance.
Angels (Wild Card): With the addition of Fernando Rodney, they probably have the best bullpen in the league.
Texas: In a similar boat as the Orioles.
Oakland: Expect a big year out of their center fielder #4.

NL East:
Philadelphia: Soft NL lineups will help Halladay forget the second half of 2009.
Atlanta (Wild Card): Expect a big year from the rotation.
Florida: The profanities of the infamous Anibal Sanchez Day in 2006 are still hovering somewhere above Colby College.
NY Mets: The Knicks of the baseball world.
Washington: I will not make any secrets: I am rooting hard against Strasburg.

NL Central:
St. Louis: Their commitment to winning pays off with...winning.
Milwaukee: Steroid user Gregg Zaun is on his ninth team. Randy Wolf adds veteran presence to a young rotation.
Cincinnati: A lot of good, not great, players. Whenever Arthur Rhodes is listed as your bullpen's #2 man, though, you have a problem.
Houston: Philly's All-Violence Team has relocated, including wife-beater Brett Myers and cop-beater Jason Michaels.
Chicago: The New York Mets of the NL Central.
Pittsburgh: Hey Michael Weiner and Bud Selig! Instead of realignment, how about more pro-parity measures, like making teams spend!

NL West:
Arizona: Among the best lineups, among the best rotations. I can't wait to make jokes about how Ian Patrick Kennedy's last bad start was in 2009, because that's the last time he was facing AL hitters.
San Francisco: All aboard the young pitcher bandwagon!
Los Angeles: I only like Vicente Padilla because we share the same hatred for Mark Teixeira. Matt Kemp for MVP though.
Colorado: We can complain about how neither Lackey, Lester, or Beckett is not a true 1-A. At least Ubaldo Jimenez is not our ace.
San Diego: It's funny: San Diego fans want to trade Adrian Gonzalez for Gil Velazquez and Michael Bowden too!

Monday, March 29, 2010

AL East Predictions

AL EAST
1. TAMPA BAY
2. BOSTON (Wild Card)
3. NY YANKEES
4. BALTIMORE
5. TORONTO

I'll deal with the first three teams together, because I have similar things to say about each of them. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays are three of the five best teams in baseball in my opinion, with the Phillies and Cardinals being the other two. When you have three teams that are that good in one place, playing for one and maybe two playoff spots, anything can happen. Basically I think it's close to a coin flip. And when I say coin flip, I mean which team has the most players exceed expectations, and perhaps more importantly which team avoids injury and regression the most. While I think the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays would be listed in that order in terms of talent on paper, it is the stuff I just mentioned, and not paper, that will decide the division and if one of them is the Wild Card.

And I think this stuff evens itself out for each team. The Yankees have the most talent, but they also have three pitchers coming off of World Series runs, and the track record for pitchers the season following World Series runs has not been pretty recently. They are also relying on four players at advanced ages, and three new players they have to introduce to the lineup, all of whom are replacing key pieces of the 2009 championship team.

The Rays are the youngest and deepest of the three, making them most prepared to deal with injury in at least most spots, be it by filling from within or using their talent to trade for talent in places they need it. Related, their team is a bit more fluid, where they aren't as reliant on as many key players the way the Yankees and Red Sox are. They just have a lot of talent top to bottom, and that makes it more likely they will get players to exceed expectations. The downside is they don't have as many key players, or players at all, that are experienced in winning over the long season and making things happen when they need to. Didn't stop them two years ago, which is why they are part of this conversation, but they also showed how difficult it can be last year, which is where they can slip again.

The Red Sox are somewhere in between the Yankees and Rays in my opinion. They are less talented than the Yankees and probably about on par with the Rays. They are less exposed to injury/regression than the Yankees but more so than the Rays. They are more capable of filling from within than the Yankees but less so than the Rays. All three teams have the ability to make acquisitions in areas that become of need during the season for varying reasons (Rays - prospects, Yankees and Red Sox - combination of prospects and money).

So I think it's a toss up between these three. I'll put the Yankees third because I think they might be more likely to experience injury/regression than the other two, and also because I'm not above picking them in the exact same spot I did last year when they won the World Series, something I will do every year until they don't win the World Series. I think the Rays will edge the Red Sox because the Sox offense is potentially weak, and a more balanced Rays team might be able to get more wins as a result over 162. But I think these teams could finish in any order depending on what happens during the season, they are that close. I'm just guessing here, and though picking divisions is inherently guessing, I think this division between these three teams is more of a guessing game than most.

As DV and many other said in his post yesterday, the Orioles are a team on the rise. I talked about their outfield as being one that could become the best in baseball at some point soon in this post last year, and they appear to be on their way to entering that conversation. Between Wieters and their young pitching they are not going to be a fun team to play this year, and one that will probably make this division even tougher to pick in a year or two if they stay on this path because they will be at a similar level to the three teams mentioned above.

The Blue Jays are probably not going to win a lot of games this year, but I have a lot of respect for what new GM Alex Anthopoulos did this winter. He recognized that his team had flaws and was not going to win the way they were going with the current roster. He didn't waste any time going half-way, trying to rebuild and appease the fans at the same time, which usually doesn't work unless you are a major team in a major market with a major checkbook. Instead he jumped into rebuilding mode with two feet and acquired some very serious young talent that could join the young talent they already have on the Major League roster and in their system to start a solid foundation for the future. If they keep going like this, they could be a team to watch in a few years as well. The Yankees raised the bar, the Red Sox followed, and the Rays have joined the party. Now the Orioles and Blue Jays are on their way, trying to reach that level themselves. While it's great for baseball that the bar has been raised in this way - not just for this division but for all of baseball - it's going to make this a very tough division for years to come.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The GM: AL East Predictions

In short:

1. New York
2. Boston
3. Tampa Bay
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

Here's why:

The New York Yankees are the team to beat in the American League East, and really in Major League Baseball. They lost Johnny F. Damon and Hideki Matsui, but those two were replaced by Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson in the lineup. They also replaced Melky Cabrera with an internal promotion of the Bronx's boy Brett Gardner. It is not debatable whether the '10 Yankees are better than last year's roster would have been had those three guys stayed. It is, however, debatable whether they are better than last year's team. Vazquez could help, but he's not the second coming. I'd be concerned a little about Posada, but the middle of the order, the addition of Johnson and Granderson, and the top two in the rotation (assuming health, which is a big if) should be enough to propel this team to another title. Even if the rotation is not healthy, they'll be trucking Joba Chamberlain and Alfredo Aceves out there--not Aaron Small or Chad Gaudin.

The Red Sox are probably not as good as they were last year. Even if they are a slight improvement (assuming Adrian Beltre is helped by Fenway Park, the Scutaro Renaissance is a product of getting consistent playing time, and all three of the top starters show up this year), let's face it: The 2009 Red Sox weren't even close to being an elite baseball team. It will be nice to not wonder what Smoltz and Penny will do this year, but it will be frustrating to see Beckett pitch well, give up a two-run homer in the sixth, and see a 1-1 tie game turn into a seemingly-insurmountable deficit. And if the lineup is misutilized (i.e. if Drew does not lead off), this is going to happen. Not to mention that the bullpen, especially the closer who has gotten worse ever year, has the potential for big-time combustibility.

I keep going back and forth about whether Boston or the Rays will finish second. Because the Rays' offense is far superior, but their rotation is far inferior. The invincibility of David Price has proven to be exaggerated, and Jeff Niemann doesn't make me comfortable if I'm a Rays fan. Their bullpen caught lightning in a bottle in 2008, and the personnel that composes it this year is more unimpressive than Boston's. Although their new closer Rafael Soriano will be a welcome improvement. Their offense is obviously better than the Red Sox, but they'll need BJ Upton to get his head out of his rear end and they'll need Ben Zobrist to repeat the 2009 effort if Tampa is to come in second place or win the Wild Card.

The Baltimore Orioles are a team that have a lot of players you'd want to draft in the late rounds of a fantasy draft because you think you're really clever. Most of these guys are younger guys, but none of them are really all-stars. I mean, who would you rather have as your first baseman: Garrett Atkins, Carlos Pena, Youkilis, or Teixeira? How about center field: Pacman Jones, Upton, Number 2/Cameron, or Granderson? Markakis might present an edge over the other teams, as would Weiters, obviously. Their #2 starter (Guthrie) gave up 35 home runs last year, and their ace is Kevin Millwood, who is probably a #5 starter in Boston or New York. Two more guys in their rotation are younger than me and Pat, and while Mike Gonzalez is a nice acquisition, this team has a lot of work to do if they want to be the "Next Rays."

CC Sabathia has more innings under his belt in the last two years than any of the Blue Jays' starters. Think about that for a second. Nobody in that rotation pitched more than 160 innings last year, nor has anyone pitched 400 innings in their careers. The Blue Jays have perhaps the best middle relief in the AL East, and both Adam Lind and Travis Snyder are intriguing young power hitters, but beyond that, they don't have much going for them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Theo Epstein, CPA

Before the conclusion of the Death of Sabermetrics Series, a few things:

1. The baseball season starts in ten nights, which is pretty exciting. So tonight is the last night of offseason coverage. Next week we will be doing some predictions, and then the season starts. We'll have AL East predictions first, then Rest of Baseball predictions, and Friday we will have some over/unders. So don't miss those. And thank you very much for reading, commenting, and supporting How Youz Doin Baseball in its fourth winter.

2. A fantasy baseball special on television is unacceptable behavior. Especially one with Aaron Boone. This was on ESPN right after an NFL Draft special literally 30 days before the freaking draft. This is what I like to call punting your TV coverage when you're up against March Madness.

Without further ado...

This much is true. I once looked at a company's income statement, an accounting document that shows the company's revenue and expenses. I had been entering some of their expenses, and the employees totally exploited the company in reimbursement checks for travel and meal expenses. Seriously, have the common courtesy for your employer by 1) getting Aquafina water at the airport instead of Fiji water or 2) not submitting a $4 expense report for your water. One employee literally charged a $250 meal with his parents in California to the company. His parents were not their client. Whatever, that's not my point.

As many companies did in this recession, this company experienced significant layoffs, letting go of about 40% of their staff. After the layoffs, I took a look at their month-by-month numbers on a spreadsheet. Despite only having 60% of their staff still working, the company was still running about 90% of their meals & entertainment expenses.

If Theo Epstein were to take a look at this series of income statments, he might be able to diagnose what's wrong with the company's bottom line. Theo enjoys just looking at one column of the stat sheet, and condescendingly scoffs at people who like to look at the bigger picture, taking into account things like RBIs. So it's very likely that the Red Sox' general manger would take a look at the meals & entertainment expense account pre-layoff and post-layoff, and make the conclusion that the company is struggling because they are running wild with their meals at the Capital Grille.

In his self-righteous quest to prove that he is the smartest person in baseball, Theo Epstein may walk into the CFO's office with a megaphone at his mouth, talking about how much of a travesty this widespread abuse of the expense reports is. He'd call for changes in the employee handbook, he'd mandate using the red-eye flights like Colby College recently did for their spring break trips, and he'd give employees meal stipends instead of throw-it-in-the-bag cards.

If he saw a salesman at this company leave the office for a lunch meeting, he'd stop them at the door, smirk, and say "I thought you were gonna ask me about you having the second-highest expense report of all company salesmen at this company." If the salesman were to reply, citing his past sales performance, maybe the Boy Wonder would say something along the lines of "You guys put way too much time looking into numbers like commissions, salaries, and sales revenue, but in my office we don't even pay attention to those numbers."

With this arrogance and smugness, this Theo-retical character might overlook what may have been the real problem with the company both before and after the layoffs: They budgeted monthly revenue at roughly $300,000. Their actual monthly revenue for two out of four months after the layoff was $0.00.

Have a great weekend. Ten more days.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yankees' Most Important Hitter in 2010?

A few days ago I was talking with reader/commenter Ross, and asked him who he thought the Yankees' most important hitter is in 2010. Not the guy they can least afford to lose, but if they have their A lineup healthy the guy they need to step up the most. He said Curtis Granderson because, if he plays anywhere near his highest level, he can give near elite all-around production. A good answer, and probably would be my second choice. In fact, he'd likely be my first choice if my first choice wasn't batting in such a critical position in the Yankees' lineup.

That's why I'm going with Robinson Cano. Unless something unforeseen happens, when the Yankees' open the season at Fenway Park in 11 days Robinson Cano is going to be batting 5th, a position that has been occupied by Hideki Matsui (when healthy) for most of the last seven seasons. The 5th spot in the Yankees' order is a particularly important position for them. Why? Because two of the 10 best hitters in baseball hit directly in front of that position. Not only do the two of them do plenty of damage themselves and have great natural on base ability, but they will often be pitched to carefully, especially if the 5 hitter has not presented himself as a serious threat. Ideally you want Teixeira and Rodriguez to be able to take what's given to them and pass the baton if necessary, not try to force it. In order to do that you need a number 5 hitter that can make it rain, especially with runners on base.

Make it rain Matsui did, as he was a rock hitting in that spot for the Yankees. In his five healthy seasons, Matsui averaged just shy of 25 homers and just shy of 105 RBI, while hitting .292/.370/.482 across his seven seasons in pinstripes. These numbers scream number 5 hitter, and Matsui's penchant for hitting both with runners on base and in the clutch only made him more of one.

Robinson Cano is a .306/.339/.480 hitter in his first five Major League seasons. He's averaged 17 homers and 79 RBI despite missing parts of two seasons, and has career highs of 25 homers and 97 RBI, all batting mostly 7th, 8th, or 9th in the lineup. All of this suggests he could be an outstanding 5th hitter for the Yankees. He has foul pole to foul pole power, rarely strikes out, and consequently always has the ball in play.

There are only two potential concerns. The first is that Cano was horrible with runners in scoring position. He batted somewhere around .350 with the bases empty and just over .200 with RISP. It's just one year, and there is evidence that he ran into some bad luck, but when the numbers are this pronounced and you're asking someone to replace a Matsui in protecting Teixeira and Rodriguez, it's cause for concern. A performance anywhere near that this year would not be good for the Yankees, both when Cano is hitting there, and because they will be looking for a new #5 hitter pretty quickly.

The second concern is related to the first one, and it's simply that he's never hit in this type of key spot before so we don't know what he's going to do. Both because Cano is new to this type of spot in the lineup and because he struggled so much last year with RISP, pitchers are going to test him early. There will likely be times early in the season where there will be two outs and a runner on, and Rodriguez will be carefully worked to and put on base intentionally or unintentionally. This is the exact spot where Cano has to come through, both because the Yankees need his production and because they need him to force pitchers to pitch to Teixeira and Rodriguez.

Robinson Cano is an excellent player. After Chase Utley, he's probably the best second baseman in baseball. Kinsler or Pedroia can and have had better seasons, but Cano has been better overall and there is not one player other than Utley I'd rather have at the position. The fact that he plays a premium position makes his production even better than it is, and that will still be true in 2010. However, he's now batting 5th for the Yankees. It doesn't matter what position he plays, they need production relative to 5th hitters (and really all hitters), not production relative to second baseman. The extent to which he can do that is going to be big for the Yankees this year. They need Cano to replace Matsui. For that reason he's their most important hitter in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Relevance Check

Massarotti and Andy Gresh were making a good point on the radio today: Why isn't anyone talking about the Red Sox trying to extend Victor Martinez? The homeboy's at the end of his contract this year and the team's plans of signing Joe Mauer have obviously become even more remote than the chances trading Gil Velazquez for Adrian Gonzalez like every Red Sox fan thinks is going to happen. At the catcher position, prospects have fallen off the board (Dusty Brown, Mark Wagner) or aren't ready (Luis Exposito). Captain K isn't going to regain a starting role, and I don't anticipate any serviceable catchers on next year's free agent market. So where is all the chatter about this?

Maybe it's because it's a foregone conclusion that the player will be back. Maybe because the Red Sox' fanbase, including their embarrassingly-subjective media, are having a collective wet dream about a trade with San Diego that makes no sense for either team. But they should probably get on this, because it would be a pretty darn good move.

Here's why. Let's talk about the numbers. Though like many catcher, he is better in the first half of the season, Martinez will probably put up the second-best (I know, I know) offensive numbers of all AL catchers. Maybe third if Matt Weiters really is the second coming. He had 57 extra-base hits and over 100 RBIs last year, and his career OPS+ for all those pretentious statheads is 122. Not bad for a catcher. What's even cooler is that most of those OBP points don't come from walks, but from hits. Yes, he sucks defensively. But his offensive prowess outweighs the defensive liability considerably, and would contribute more on the aggregate than probably any other catcher on the market. On a team with this many offensive midgets over the next two years, I'd prefer a catcher who can hit but can't throw anyone out. Hopefully the hyped-up pitching staff can keep opponents off base in the first place.

Now, let's talk about cost. Andy Gresh was in for Felger today on the radio, and he speaks as if there were always number-ones at the end of his series of exclamation points. But Gresh and Varisuckup Tony Massarotti estimated Martinez going for $18 million a year on the free agent market. Really? Yeah, I know that Mauer got $23 million, but he's 26. Martinez is 31 Venezuelan years old, and is not as good of a baseball player. Who the hell would pay that much for a 31-year-old catcher whose time at the position is limited? The Yankees? Doubt it. If you're cutting Johnny Damon loose, you're not going to have Jorge Posada and his half-marathon contract on the bench. I just don't see a market developing here. No more than 5/$70, and that's what the Red Sox should give him. Yes, $14 million when he's 37 is a lot of money. But that brings me to my next point:

Roster flexibility. Lowell, Varisuck, and Santa Claus are all leaving after 2010. Beckett might be either gone or pricey, but here's the idea. Put Martinez at catcher for 2011 and keep the Youkilis/Beltre corners for a year. Keep Martinez there until the rise of the Minor League Catcher to be Named Later. When Beltre's gone, sign Gonzalez for the free agent money without the prospect posting fee. Put him at first. And then DH Martinez for a better ROI on the contract. Doesn't look like a bad team for Year 1 A.D. (after Drew, of course).

Some Fun Things Before A Serious Post

1. Some spring training stats that you can believe in: 1-4, 3-run home run. That's for #4 in your programs, #1 in your hearts for the Oakland Athletics, Mr. Coco Crisp. He's hitting .417 so far in spring training.

2. It's 10:12 PM on Tuesday night and Brian Rose is on NESN giving insight on the Boston Red Sox' rotation. This is only funny if you grew up in the 1990s following the Red Sox and their can't-miss prospects. His former number-2 man in the minors Carl Pavano shut down the team on the diamond tonight.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vacation Roundup

It's been 10 days since my last post on HYD. Thanks to DV for holding down the fort as always. As a tribute to his efforts, a DV style list to get me caught up, even though I only have two points to make.

- Caught my first Yankees Spring Training game while I was in Florida. Very cool. Not something I'd need to do every year - though I easily could and enjoy every second of it - but definitely something I'd recommend doing at least once. It's a very different feel at the game (so quiet save when something happens, almost eerily quiet), and interesting to see the entire complex where these guys train and get ready. Steinbrenner Field and the entire complex is very impressive. Getting a chance to chill and watch baseball without worrying out the results is awesome. Two things of note from the game itself: even this early in spring, the ball makes a different sound coming off of Alex Rodriguez's bat than it does everyone else, and the ball makes a different sound hitting the catcher's glove when thrown by Mariano Rivera than it does everyone else. Other people swing harder, and other guys definitely throw harder these days (Sabathia, for example, who started that day), but these two just have something a little different. Alex Rodriguez hit one of the longest home runs I have ever seen live in this game.

- I can't seem to really nail down what I think the Yankees should do with the 5th starter spot. I don't think it is really a 5 man race as they claim, and nor should it be. They should trade one of Gaudin or Mitre before the spring training is over, keep the other in reserve as a 6th starter, and put Aceves in the bullpen. That's how those players best serve the team in my opinion. It's really just Joba and Hughes that I waiver on. Hughes looks like the better fit production wise right now. But the Yankees have gone through the entire process with Joba for 1.5 years to get to the point where he has no innings limitations (under which circumstances he's been productive in the past), and if they put him in the bullpen now what was all that for? May as well give him a chance. I maintain that the odd man out should go to AAA and chill out for a few months, work on things, and if a need does not arise by mid-season they can still go to the Major League bullpen. In that scenario they will just have a lot more innings so the year isn't a waste towards them starting the following year. Ideally you want both to be starters, because how long can you keep bringing Andy Pettite back on one year deals? I think they both deserve more of a chance to show what they can or can't do. Since it appears that's unlikely, I'm just not sure what the right move is. I will be interested to find out.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Should Grady Have Lost His Job?

A pretty uneventful weekend for the Red Sox, as Papelbon having a headache is now worth a blog post on the Boston Herald. It's very good news for baseball that Joe Mauer signed an eight-year contract, but I already wrote all there is to write on that topic a few weeks ago. So why not actually make good on a promise. We always say at the end of an argument that only time will tell whether a major decision is a good one or a bad one.

How about this one? It's been six and a half years (almost) since the Red Sox fired Grady Little. We all know the circumstances. They won the World Series the next year. But now that Francona has become a complete fixture in Boston, and in the wake of Francona making a slew of questionable decisions all year last year, we can now rationally ask the question:

Should the Red Sox have fired Grady Little after the 2003 ALCS?

At the time I said yes, and I will continue to say yes. And here's why:

-It was not just about the one decision to leave Pedro in during Game Seven. The thing is, that decision made at that moment was not really too far out of character. It was beyond enfuriating, but it was not at all surprising that the manager would do what he did. He made similar questionable decisions throughout the 2002 and 2003 seasons at the helm.

-There was a pretty sizeable rift between the manager and the front office over the use of statistics. The front office were a bunch of stat-heads, and the manager was a hunch guy. This was pretty evident given the batting average against Pedro after 100 pitches. And it came to a T at the absolute worst time. If the front office had stayed with Grady Little, there would probably be more rifts. Remember how much of a disaster it was when the GM and the rest of the FO were fighting? Just imagine how bad it would be if the manager and the FO were fighting. And the players would have been caught in the crossfire.

-Also, in terms of the brutal Boston media back then (it is different now), every decision made by Grady would have been microanalyzed in the context that the Pedro decision happened. That would have been further tension.

-The fatal flaw that befall most managers in the first place is their loyalty and trust in their players instead of making rational decisions. Grady was overtrusting already after two years. At least with Francona, the irrational trust factor didn't happen until probably 2008 with players like Timlin and Varitek. All the problems Francona is afflicted with would have happened from the get-go with Grady Little. And who knows, that could have cost the team the 2004 World Series as well.

-Bottom line is, for the first four seasons, Francona was terrific for the Red Sox. He really did something no previous Boston manager had ever done: Establish tranquility between the team, the front office, the media, and the fans. I never really considered him the best field manager, and his abilities as a field manager have deteriorated considerably over the past two seasons as he has become too loyal to some of these players. But he was the right guy at the right time for that job. He pulled it off, which is something that couldn't have happened without the firing of Grady Little.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Believe Me, This Is Strictly A Hypothetical

Bear with me for a second here, despite the name you're about to read. What if JD Drew were President of the United States? Furthermore, what if JD's first love was watching sports (particularly college basketball) on television instead of bowhunting? Well, if you want to envision that hypothetical situation, it probably wouldn't be too much different from watching Barack Obama's presidency.

I used to call the president the 46 of the political world because he was very charismatic, kind of a scumbag, and was mediocre at his job. But now that 46 changed his number to Two and now that we're 14 months into the presidency, he's basically a really smug jerk who came in with a lot of hype, who thinks he's the best, a lot of his closest boys think he's the best, a lot of smug liberal arts college graduates think he's the best, the media thinks he's the best, but spends a lot of time taking vacations, spending time with his family, and celebrating his first love instead of doing his job. And, for one reason or another, he's falling way, way short of expectations. In other words, he's JD.

No matter what you think about healthcare (honestly, I don't care how you feel about it, and you shouldn't care how I feel about it), you have to think there's something a little suspicious about the fact that the President of the United States of America can spend almost five minutes (plus setup time) out of his job to outline his March Madness bracket on national television. You gotta think he should probably care a little bit more about his real job and not about his favorite hobby. Just as you think it's a little suspicious that JD, despite shoulder surgery, was out bowhunting three weeks later. Would he be playing baseball three weeks later? F no.

Seriously, I am not as busy as Barack Obama is. Yes, I have a full-time job, I have a blog that some weeks I have to write by myself because my co-author is JDing out (yo!), and I run 100+ miles a week. However, I am not running the free world, and therefore I am not the busiest person in the world.

With my schedule, I am not able to tell you who the guards are on the Villanova team. I've seen them play a lot while at the gym rehabbing my injury, but I don't know who their guards are. I don't know how tough the Kansas State team is, and I don't have any stories about how great of a coach Bill Self is. Most of all, I don't know about the balance and athleticism of the Murray State team. These are all things that Obama talked about during his Barack-etology special.

(As an aside, I DO know how to spell "Syracuse." SYCASUSE? Really?)

I picked Murray State to beat Vanderbilt today on my way to getting each of the first eight games correct. But I picked Murray State because I have picked them in the first round in every tournament since 1999. I was due to get it right once in a while. And it happened today. Obama actually had a real reason to pick Murray State: They are well-balanced and athletic. I almost choked on my McDonald's Shamrock Shake when I heard that. Because Murray State is not on ESPN very often. In order to follow this team or any team in the Ohio Valley Conference, you either have to be in Murray, KY, dicking around on the Internet A LOT, or subscribing to one of the ultra-DirecTV packages that gives you all the C-list basketball games like Murray State vs. Samford. If you have a full-time job, nevermind if you are the President of the United States, you probably shouldn't be spending this much time studying the OVC.

Obama also found some time to fill out the women's tournament bracket. This tournament is 100% irrelevant with the exception of UConn. And Obama took time out of his day--out of American taxpayers' day--to do this. Unbelievable. He's also commenting nonstop about the BCS or the Olympics and having beer with the Canadian president and a Cambridge cop who thought it was suspicious that a guy was trying to break into a house and was flipping out when accosted for what he was doing. Seriously dude, do your job.

As an American, I feel like a Red Sox fan. I feel like JD's doing a crummy job representing my city, my favorite team, because he cares more about bowhunting than he cares about doing what he's being paid for. Seriously, he was hunting three weeks after shoulder surgery. At the same time, Obama's being paid to lead the country, and he's just sipping beers and watching basketball. Do your job, President JD. Do your job.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Earthshattering Run Prevention Breakthroughs!

So after my run today, I found an old Sports Illustrated that I never got around to reading. It had my girl Julia Mancuso on the cover, so that means it was from about a month ago. The most relevant content about it, however, was in this Albert Chen article. Refreshingly, he gave a reminder of what Moneyball is all about (not OBP or OPS--exploiting inefficiencies in the market), and explained that defense and "run prevention" is the new Moneyball.

The champions of the new Moneyball are not the Oakland Athletics, whose defensive-minded teams have won 75 games a year, but the 2009 World Series Champion, oh, I mean, 85-game winning Seattle Mariners. Perhaps an unbiased or pro-run prevention mind would see some insight in this article (and even I found a little bit of insight), I thought the whole argument was full of holes. As I think the "run prevention" angle is helpful for a team, but not the main driver of what will make the team successful (we weren't talking about how great Nick Swisher's glove was last year), I find it necessary to point out the holes.

First of all, the article treats the Seattle Mariners as a team that went from the worst team in baseball to the World Series champions. Not true. They went from the worst, most-underachieving team in baseball to a mediocre team. Celebrating their huge gains in the NL West is like celebrating next year if the Colby College XC team comes in 10th in the NESCAC instead of their perennial 11th and recording the second-worst score in the history of the conference in 2008. Perhaps they hideously underachieved in 2008 and achieved as expected in 2009? Let's put the hyperbole away. Channel 7 News is over for the night.

The theory that they had some kind of defensive out-of-body experience in 2009 is further debunked when you look at the changes they made. They did not make that many changes. They added Franklin Gutierrez, who is described in the article as Jesus. Fine. But one guy? Other newcomers in '09 were Wladimir Balentien and Russell Branyan, both of whom are average defenders at best. But this whole turnaround is coming from defense? Doubtful.

The article talked about how the Mariners succeeded despite having a crappy offense and having a pitching staff whom nobody had heard of other than Felix Hernandez. Ask Adrian Beltre: Maybe their offense was terrible because you can't hit the ball to the walls in their freaking ballpark! Maybe their defense was so good because warning-track-power fly outs at Safeco Field are home runs anywhere else in the world. Maybe the range factors are so elite because there's more room to roam in Seattle than anywhere else.

None of this stuff is mentioned in the article. At all.

I feel like the "run prevention" strategy might work for teams like Seattle, Colorado, and actually even Oakland more than for most teams, because they have all of that outfield room. Therefore, having fast outfielders who can judge fly balls well (sorry to Number Two on that one) actually can save a crapload of runs. However, if a ball is hit 320 feet for a home run in right field, or if it's slamming off a big wall 300 feet away for a double, nobody this side of Inspector Gadget or SpiderMan is going to help you. Ballparks where run prevention will only marginally help would include Boston, Yankee Stadium, Texas, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. It might work in spacious ballparks. But even that is questionable considering Oakland's futility over the past several years.

So bottom line is, I still believe Moneyball 2.0 is smoke and mirrors, especially as it applies to the Red Sox. I think the Red Sox are punting the 2010 season and engaging in an experiment of "let's see what happens." Look, if the Mariners win 60 games started by guys other than Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, I will apologize right here. If "run prevention" propels the Red Sox into the playoffs, I will apologize right here. But otherwise, I am calling Albert Chen's bluff and all the sabermetricians' bluffs. Run prevention is full of crap.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Middle

This one's for my boy Jason, who is stuck in the middle of the country, unemployed (at least the last I've heard), and in a city that is not quite small but also not quite large. That's right, Jason is living in St. Louis, Missouri, where the next two years will be extremely interesting.

The Cardinals are stuck in the middle of being a large-market team and a small-market team. This is in terms of numbers, free-agent signings, and general attitude. I mean, you can probably even say the same thing about the whole city. St. Louis is not Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Philadelphia. It's also not San Diego, Pittsburgh, Tampa, or Kansas City.

But within the next two years, the future of the franchise and perhaps even of the whole city can be controlled by the DeWitt family (not the same DeWitt family that called Jeff Alden their daddy during the early part of this decade) and Cardinals GM John Mozeliak. Whether Albert Pujols stays with the organization instead of going to a team like NY, Boston, LA, Chicago, or Philadelphia is entirely in their hands.

If you look at the numbers, the Cardinals have never hit $100 million in payroll, a figure reached by nine teams in 2009. They've come very close, but have never hit it. Over the last five years they've averaged just over $90 million, and they're already on the hook for $89+ million in 2010. So they are in the second quartile.

The way the Cardinals have been able to construct a largely-successful ball team in the last decade is not by running up the score in the payroll department. They've done it in a big way through executing well-thought trades (Nancy Drew for the 2004 NL pennant through Ray King, Adam Wainright, and Jason Marquis), dinking and dunking with free agents and not having too many disasters, and through Pujols. It also helps that they're in a reasonably-bad division that contains the mis-managed Cubs and Astros, who both had nine-figure payrolls last year.

It seems that their philosophy changed somewhat-dramatically with the free-agent acquisition of Matt Holliday (whom they previously acquired by, yes, trade). But this is basically because Pujols himself had them by the balls. Pujols said if they want him to even consider a hometown discount, they have to prove their commitment to winning. And I think by acquiring Holliday, they have proven this commitment--and their commitment to signing Pujols. You gotta think they pick up Pujols's option next year, but after that, we will have more speculation than LeBron James is getting.

By the way, this topic comes up in the wake of the rumors that the Cards are thinking about trading their franchise player for Ryan Howard, a strikeout king who I read today is below replacement level against lefties. We know that the Phillies can afford Pujols. And by signing Holliday, we have an inclination that the Cardinals can afford to at least put up a competitive bid for him as well.

If they sign Pujols, they are taking a tremendous risk in many different areas. You gotta think he will be making $25+ million a year for at least six years. Between Pujols and Holliday, that's an automatic $42 million to two players until probably 2017. Plus, Pujols is on the wrong side of thirty (in Dominican years) and has had some injury concerns. But he's also the best player in baseball by a pretty sizeable margin and the cornerstone of this franchise.

It really is a situation where the Cardinals are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Look, teams like the Twins will inevitably dump Santana, and teams like the Padres will inevitably dump Adrian Gonzalez. But Pujols is on a different echelon from those two guys, as are the Cardinals. If they let Pujols walk after 2011, they play the poverty card and lose credibility in their desire to win championships. If they sign Pujols, they can never play the poverty card again, and they will be in the same breath as New York, Boston, LA, Chicago, and Philly. So coming up there will be a very daunting decision facing the St. Louis Cardinals. I think they'll retain Pujols. If they weren't going to make the winning run at him, they wouldn't have outbid the field for Holliday. How about you?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Heavy Lifting on John Lackey

I took it a little personally last week when said that I was not doing any "heavy lifting," instead writing about JD Drew's OPS or performance-enhancing drugs, two things that are pretty salient in today's environment. Then my co-author proclaims his entire post about grittiness and big-game-ness to be "heavy lifting."

In response to that, I decided to dive a little deeper into the numbers. And while many of the aggregate stats between Josh Beckett and John Lackey are very similar, they are reasonably different pitchers.

A few of the things I learned tonight:
>Lackey is a first-half pitcher. He has historically put together a trend of some clustered stinkers in the second half of the year.
>Lackey doesn't get taken deep too often.
>Lackey gives up a lot of singles. Doug Mirabelli would probably call him a "pussy singles pitcher." But judging by his aggregate ERA, it would lead me to believe that these singles he gives up don't really come in bunches. It is not uncommon for John Lackey to give up eight, nine, ten hits in a game without pitching especially badly. It's also not uncommon historically for Scioscia to leave Lackey in a game for too long and see him surrender 10+ hits. So maybe Lackey was wrong about the infamous game when he flipped out after being yanked.

But what I'm trying to say about the singles, is that if you dig deep into the stats, you don't see a lot of home runs surrendered by Lackey. You don't really see too many doubles either, and you see a lot of both given up by Beckett (which, granted, could be a function of the ballpark he's pitching in). Even if you take 2006 out of the equation, I can probably speak for all of us by saying that if Beckett's going to give up one home run in a game, he'll give up three or four.

>It's surprising to see the number of games over the past several years where Lackey's gone pretty deep into the game. It seems like the way Scioscia's managed him as a pitcher is that he's always given Lackey the opportunity to "wait for seven," which is what Francona does with inferior starters when it's already evident that they don't have it that day. Francona lets them get shelled and doesn't pull them until they've given up seven runs. Lackey will make this a lot more tolerable, because even when Scioscia's waiting for seven, Lackey can work his way out of jams and prevent the big inning. On the other side of the spectrum, when Beckett has a bad outing, it's all about the big inning--moreso than for any other pitcher since John Burkett.

>A big reason for this is Lackey's ability to get the double play. Over the past three years, Beckett has induced 14, 9, and 12 double plays. Lackey has induced 17, 21 and 23. Certainly a product of all the singles he gives up, but it's a good indicator that the singles are not creating havoc.

>We can all say with relative certainty that we'll never see anything out of Lackey as bad as what Beckett brought to the table in 2006. We cannot say that with 100% certainty about Beckett. Beckett's 2006 brought 74 walks, 10 HBPs, 11 wild pitches, and 36 home runs (although Lackey has hit a lot of batters and has thrown a lot of wild pitches over his years). On the other side of the coin, we aren't going to see Lackey blow 170 batters away like Beckett can, even in a lackluster year. So really what the numbers are telling us is what we already knew: that while Beckett can be more volatile and combustible in both directions (positive and negative), Lackey's statistically on a more even keel. While Red Sox fans might lose sleep over Josh Beckett (but probably not, especially if he's the third-best starter in the rotation), they will not be losing sleep over John Lackey.

"Chinos and Cartigans"

It's been almost ten weeks since Pat JD'ed out and took an extended vacation to the tropics, so in order to break up this interminable winter, the big guy is back. Apparently tickets to Aruba were too expensive this time, so he had to settle for Florida. He'll allegedly be back next week.

Meanwhile, much to our delight, we have enough data from spring training games to talk about something! Now, perhaps the most memorable moment in the history of How Youz Doin Baseball was when we got an anonymous comment about how foolish we are for looking at stats from meaningless spring training games because we're sitting in "chinos and cartigans" and know nothing about baseball. I'm sure our guy played high school baseball and therefore knows everything. It's a shame because our man has probably stopped reading altogether.

I don't like to rely on these stats unless Coco Crisp is hitting .600 and therefore I can put together a harebrained argument about how he's the best player in baseball. However, I feel like looking at some of these numbers are relevant in certain cases. Mark Wagner's batting average--probably not. Lars Anderson starting the biggest season of his life with an 0-18? Yeah, maybe. But David Ortiz's 1-for-spring training has to be tripping some alarms.

Ortiz has been doing a lot of talking for, well, the last year or so. A lot of talking and not much hitting. A year ago, people still believed Santa Claus was real (i.e. Ortiz wasn't on steroids during the good part of his career). He was talking about how people on roids should get banned for a whole year upon a positive test. He looked slimmer and in shape a year ago. Then he decided to turn into Shane Monahan for the first two months of the season. The Red Sox miraculously stuck with the guy despite the fact that he was very literally costing the team several games. We know what happened after that: He showed up on the List of 104, he became a private eye to try to figure out why, he admitted being irresponsible with his use of vitamins and supplements, and he had a very, very good second half of the season.

Now, in 2010, you can at least hope that there isn't as much leeway for David Ortiz. A year ago we wondered if he was too old, and while June-September indicated he was NOT too old, he is now an additional year older. He showed up to spring training even slimmer and admitted he was a slow starter, which looked like a built-in excuse to suck until Flag Day. The fact that he is 1-17 doesn't make things any better for those who realize that the baseball season is 162 games, not 90 games, and being the worst player in the American League from April to June is not a good way to keep your job.

Francona's got a pretty long leash for players who forget how to play baseball, and this is one of his biggest shortcomings. But the team has Mike Lowell on the bench, and Lowell hit .290 last year. Putting Lowell at DH would relieve the problems associated with his post-injury defensive woes. He could most likely throw up 25 home runs if he had a full-time DH gig.

But really what the bottom line is, David Ortiz is pulling off the same stuff he pulled the first half of last year. Striking out a lot, never hitting, and grounding into double plays. Sure, the spring training games don't count, but maybe this can be where Ortiz can practice not sucking. How long should the Red Sox wait for Santa Claus this year? Their offense is already going to be lackluster: How long can they afford to wait for Santa Claus this year? If Santa Claus is going to take the first half of the season off again, he should have a very short leash, as Lowell is a very capable DH for this team. The team's going to be paying both of their salaries anyway: Why not maximize production by benching the inferior ballplayer? Loyalty to something that happened artificially in 2004? Give me a break.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

John Lackey 2010

Unquestionably the biggest acquisition of the winter for the Boston Red Sox, he's been barely discussed on this site this off-season. Which is interesting because he holds as big a key as any individual into what the Red Sox do in 2010. If everyone else isn't going to tackle it, I am.

I like John Lackey, always have. He's a very good pitcher, not elite. I think he's an interesting player because he has a semi-reputation for being elite, mostly because he's considered to be a "big-game" and "gritty" guy. As far as the "big game" goes, he got a lot of that reputation because of the way he broke on the scene in 2002, and deservedly so. Since then it's been a mixed bag in "big games", overall definitely in the plus but not the type of stuff books get written about. At least not yet. In regards to "gritty", I found a little tidbit in one of the Sports Guys' recent chats of interest. An Angels fan called his intensity manufactured and said it didn't really help in big games. I don't think this stuff is what matters most - performance is, especially from a macro perspective. I only point it out because "big game" and "gritty" is what a lot of people will point to when they talk about Lackey. And that isn't necessarily accurate on either front.

Another thing that Angels fan pointed to is the 6-8 weeks on the DL the last two seasons. To me this is the biggest thing. John Lackey's biggest strength from 2003-2007 was his consistency. He averaged 33 starts, 211 innings, a 14-11 record, and a 3.84 ERA over that five year period. That is rock solid. The last two years he's averaged 26 starts, 170 innings, a 12-6 record, and a 3.79 ERA. His performance hasn't changed when he's taken the mound, he just hasn't taken the mound as much as you'd like.

I think this is where Lackey's value to the 2010 Red Sox will be decided. When he pitches, he can pitch. But if he can't give you innings those innings are going to go to less talented pitchers. This hurts his overall production in a big way. If he can get back to 03-07 level innings, he is going to be a difference maker for this Red Sox team, probably one of the better starters in the American League.

The Angels' fan also talked about was anyone ever really scared facing Lackey in a big spot, and the Sports Guy talked about how Angels fans don't really seem to be upset about his leaving, which is never a good sign. I can see it a little bit, but I don't totally buy either. Was I ever scared facing Lackey? No, not the way I was facing Randy Johnson or Johan Santana. But those are some of the best ever, and it wasn't like I wanted to face Lackey either. Fans not being upset about him leaving? I don't think this really matters at all. My guess is Angels fans should be at least a little upset about his leaving, considering his production when he's on the field.

And again, that's what matters, whether or not he's on the field. Any big game or gritty reputation and any not really being scared of him in a big spot or his previous fan base not being that upset he's gone cancel each other out. That stuff is all talk to me. It all comes down to whether or not he can take the mound every fifth day for the entire year or something close to it. If he can not only will he have a big season in my opinion, but he may be one of the biggest assets to the Red Sox in 2010 coming off a 2009 where they won 95 games.

A Cut Above

Well, I bet everyone my age in New England is feeling quite a bit older today. Nomar Garciaparra, the focal point of our relationship with baseball during our adolescence, signed a one-day contract yesterday and then immediately retired. Good for him for prioritizing finishing his career in Boston instead of continuing what would have been a legitimate beef against the Red Sox' smug, arrogant general manager. Obviously, the Nomar story is a tragic one, but despite the fact that the second half of his career, he didn't live up to the potential set during the first half of it, it's pretty obvious that Nomar Garciaparra had a great career. There are a few things to say about it:

-The Glory Days: Nomar was unbelievable at the beginning. I remember writing about it in sixth grade English class, describing him as the "next Maury Wills" when he made his debut. He came off the blocks fast as a rookie, with the hitting streak and a lot of home runs. He was Boston's own homegrown superstar, and for some reason (I think we know what it is), he developed a relationship with fans that former homegrown superstars like Mo Vaughn never did. He hit .372 one year. There were arguments about him being better than his shortstop counterparts in Jeter, Tejada, and the future centaur. Legitimate arguments at that. You can check the stats, but you don't have to: Guy was elite. He was on the way to the Hall of Fame.
-The Work Ethic: We heard about how hard the guy worked. The Sports Illustrated article describing the workouts. Even yesterday we heard about how Nomar did everything his body could in order to excel in this game. Of course, there were some whispers about if he did things his body couldn't really do in order to excel in the game, too. We'll get to that later. But that's more of a reason for this fan base to fall in love with the guy.

-Getting Hit By Al Reyes: This was the turning point in Nomar's career. It was a weird injury, as he got plunked in the wrist in September. Then he played through it. But the next spring, he needed surgery on it. After that, he was never the same. He could still hit, but not as well. And he caught the injury bug. But it all goes back to that one Al Reyes HBP. It's proof that one pitchs is all it takes to change everything.

-The Soccer Injury: Red Sox fans don't like injury-prone guys. It's true. It is frustrating to see a guy not play, even if the guy can't help it. After the wrist tendon injury, they were willing to see Nomar back in full health, but then he hurt his Achilles tendon, requiring another surgery. When word came out that this injury was sustained playing soccer with his future wife Mia Hamm, that didn't sit well. This was the point when some Red Sox fans turned on their hero. He didn't make things better for himself when he appeared in the Gatorade commercial about Mia, famously saying "thanks, beautiful."

-Steroids: It would be telling an incomplete story without mentioning steroids. Nomar was never busted for steroids. But many things would make you think he did it. He was an elite player in the late 1990s. He had a series of mysterious tendon injuries. He was ripped out of his mind. And, yes, he had a really strong work ethic. He said to the media that he didn't want steroid testing. He said it was because he didn't want to be that one false positive out of ten million. Sure.

-Arn Tellem: The Red Sox offered him four years and $15 million a year. He and his agent Arn Tellum told the Red Sox to F themselves, as Nomar would be the third-highest-paid shortstop as well as the third-highest-paid Red Sox player. Tellem and Nomar were demonized for not accepting that deal, and the player continued falling out of good graces. An increasingly-reclusive character, Nomar shunned the media while Pedro Martinez took the media for an intricate dance during his time in Boston.

-The Departure: We know the story. He was miffed when the boy wonder wanted to trade him and Manny for the centaur and Magglio Ordonez. Understandably so. He pouted throughout the 2004 season. He sat, perhaps milking an injury for all it worked, during a July 2004 game in which Jeter jumped unnecessarily into the stands. Then he was traded on July 31st for two .246 hitters. The .246 hitters helped the team win the World Series, and the sweethearts of the town became Pedro, Manny, Lowe, and the center fielder instead of their shortstop.

-The Return: It didn't happen until six years after his departure, but after an unimpressive career in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland, he returned to Fenway Park as a member of the A's. He got an appropriate ovation, and we wrote about it here. And then yesterday he retired the right way. It was appropriate and respectful, though it looked like the Red Sox' genius general manager looked pretty uncomfortable at the presser. Good for the Red Sox for doing it, and good for Nomar doing it. It was a fitting end to a tragic career that defined an era and shaped the way our generation looks at the Boston Red Sox.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Unanswered Question

There really isn't a lot being said about the Red Sox' bullpen. Not really sure why. Maybe because it's not a blatant strength (like the rotation) nor a blatant weakness (like the offense). However, the strength of the 2010 Red Sox bullpen may be the deciding factor of whether this team is in playoff contention. Let's just say if they suck this year, the sellout streak is in jeopardy.

The bullpen's success is absolutely critical this year, seeing it will be up to them to make sure the team's 2-1 leads on the backs of their rotation don't become 6-2 deficits by the time the game is over. Because let's be honest: this team isn't going to rally against even the Orioles' bullpen because they just can't hit.

So these 2-1 leads are being protected by a closer who's gotten progressively worse every year since Pat, Bandi, and I graduated from college, a 24-year-old kid who can throw smoke but lacks the polish to pitch brilliantly on a consistent basis, the journeyman middle reliever who just hasn't changed teams yet, two guys named Ramon Ramirez, a Japanese marathon runner, a dude who got cut from the '09 Rays and was behind Jim Corsi and John Wasdin on the '98 Red Sox' depth chart, and Tim Wakefield.

As my boy once said, "when you rollin with this, would you be paranoid?"

The answer should be yes.

We can look at Papelbon any way we want to. I could make jokes about his mouth and his status as a political prisoner of the reserve clause tyranny. We already know about the increased walks, increased hits, increased home runs, decreased velocity, and decreased number of pitches actually thrown. Anyone who either reads How Youz Doin Baseball or watches Red Sox games regularly knows that Papelbon took some liberties with three-run leads, two-run leads, and even one-run leads, just to escape at the last minute. He was flat-out bad last year and the law of averages just didn't catch up to him until the ALDS. But unless something changes in a big way this year, especially in regards to pitching the ball over the plate, he's one walk and one double away from a blown save instead of one walk and one double away from a three-run lead being cut to two like he was last year.

Bard--obviously he's pretty good, and he throws hard. But at times, he was also hit hard. He's not there...yet. And if he's destined to take his lumps in 2010, he won't have too many big leads to be bailed out from.

Delcarmen already got a whole post to himself this winter. But the future journeyman might be a current journeyman pretty soon, as the Felger Channel is reporting that the Twins might be interested. Are there any Red Sox fans other than Craig F. H. who would be mourning that loss?

Okajima was the subject of many conversations between my father and me last year: If you are a relief pitcher, and you might only face one guy all night, how can you walk him? He's not bad, but he's not what we saw in 2007.

RamRam (the Dominican one) was one of my favorite Red Sox last year, because he didn't talk at all. However, his strikeouts decreased by about a quarter in virtually the same amount of innings, and there were some pretty prolonged stretches of getting lit up. He's probably the most trustworthy 7th-inning guy the team has. But that's not saying much.

The other RamRam (the Venezuelan one) is 26 years old and bounced between the rotation and the bullpen last year...for the Louisville Bats of the International League. Goo. Does the fact that the team prioritized funny names this offseason (Scooter-o, Boof, RamRam II) mean they're going to punt the season? Well, the last time they prioritized funny names over good baseball players (Coco Crisp, Runelvys Hernandez), they didn't play very well. I wonder if the Red Sox would call up David Pauley if he changed his name to Daniel Bard.

Boof Bonser is said to have good stuff. The former first-round pick has a 5.12 career ERA and averages well over 1.1 hits per inning pitched. Not a good thing for a guy who might need to protect one-run leads.

Brian Shouse was a Tim Wakefield teammate twice. Both with the '98 Red Sox, when he was behind Wasdin, and with the '93 Pirates. He got cut from the Rays last year, even after their bullpen proved to be a shell of the '08 bullpen. When Timlin stayed in the game for too long, we kind of felt bad when we weren't writing venom about him on HYD Baseball. But we don't even have any kind of nostalgic connection with this poor guy.

And then there's Wakefield and/or Buchholz. My philosophy is that seven innings of a good pitcher every five days is better than two or three. But Buchholz might be able to hold a one-run lead better than the rest of these guys, while Wakefield cannot. Is it worth jerking Buchholz around for this? Considering that they're punting the season, probably not. And also considering that there will be plenty of games where the Sox might be down 5-1 and Matsuzaka has thrown 107 pitches through four innings, Wakefield might be necessary for this bullpen.

Really, what I'm trying to say is, if you look up and down the list, you can't feel too confident in this bullpen. Granted, it's like any other average major league bullpen. If you have an average offense and an average bullpen, the best pitching might not be able to put you in AL East contention.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Are The Red Sox Getting Too Cute?

The Yankees have a reputation for consistently having big offense. Part of this is their history, with the great players that have been a part of the organization and the offenses they’ve been a part of. The other part of this is their present. They’ve lead the majors in runs in three of the last four seasons, and in the last decade had another first place finish, two second place finishes, and were top 10 the other four seasons not covered. There’s no question that they have been the best offensive team of the last 10 years.

If you narrow it down slightly to the last 8 years, however, Boston’s going to make it pretty close. They don’t overtake the Yankees, but have definitely been at least the second best offense in baseball over that period. Including the 2002 season, they lead the majors in runs scored three times, have another second place finish, and in the other four seasons not covered were always top 10, with two top 3 and another top 4 finish.

The Red Sox have made the playoffs in 6 of those 8 years, reaching the ALCS in 4 of those 6 Octobers and winning the World Series twice. It’s phenomenal success. And while there is a lot more that goes into that than having a great offense, I think we can all agree that the Red Sox offense has been a huge part of it. In fact, their General Manager admits they were a team looking to outscore you, not out-pitch you, for most of this period. The numbers bear that out. In the same 8 year time frame, the Red Sox finished 7th, 17th, 11th, 24th, 26th, 2nd, 9th, and 16th in team ERA. Great once, decent three times, average twice, and pathetic twice. Part of this is due to the inflated nature of the AL East. But that aside, it’s pretty clear that the Red Sox have leaned on their offense more than anything else. Which is kind of funny given their reputation as a team with great pitching. But those numbers are anything but great.

The offensive numbers, by contrast, are great. In fact they are elite, amongst the two best in the sport over the last eight seasons. So my simple question is: why move away from that recipe?

Which is what the Red Sox have clearly done. They have publicly become a run prevention team, not just by stockpiling pitching, but more importantly by emphasizing defense. On the pitching side, I personally feel the Red Sox have tremendous pitching. But I also feel like every year we hear about how good the Red Sox pitching is. It’s like a hype machine. Check out those team ERA’s for the last five years. We heard more about it than ever last year, both the rotation and the bullpen, and they were in the bottom half of the league at season’s end. That means nothing for this year, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that even the pitching is questionable. On the defense, we know for sure that is controversial. Defense definitely matters, but can you build your team around it, to the point where you are sacrificing offense?

And that is where the Red Sox maybe getting to cute comes into play. The Yankees and the Red Sox have basically had success with the same approach recently. Have a huge offense, a few dominant starters at the top, and a really good closer. Why go away from that? I understand rebuilding or transitioning or whatever. The Yankees do that too. But does it mean you need to change your entire philosophy? Now, if you are temporarily changing the philosophy during this period, only to return to what works, that changes things. It also changes things if they aren’t actually sacrificing offense for defense, and end up getting both – which is better – despite how it looks on paper? Further, maybe it works even if they do sacrifice offense, and they just win on pitching and defense? I’m certainly not saying it won’t. I think the Red Sox are one of the five best teams in the game easily, maybe better than that. My point in writing this is not to bash their decision. It all remains to be seen.

I’m just wondering, when you have a formula that clearly works, why experiment with a new one, even if that one works too? Is it possible the Red Sox have become so entrenched on being on the frontline of these new age ways of thinking that they are overcomplicating it? Teams like Oakland have to do so. Boston does not. They are closer to the Yankees than they are to anyone else. Seeing as they’ve won just like the Yankees have won the last 8 years, with as standard an approach as you can possibly take, it is a bit curious as to why they would move away from this. I’m certainly interested to watch and find out.

Too Many Spring Games?

Not sure how much of an issue it is around the country, but I could imagine Saturday afternoon a lot of people in the Twin Cities were chatttering about spring training games and whether they are worthwhile. I say this because Joe Nathan left Saturday's game against the Red Sox with an injury in his recently surgically-repaired pitching arm.

I usually take a grouchy stance on this kind of issue, but not on the spring training games. We're not talking about preseason football, when there are inevitably big collisions because that is the nature of the games. Risks are minimized in baseball games, as sore glove hand and similar minor injuries mean the plug is pulled immediately. I think ultimately, the month-long schedule does more good than harm for the players, the media, the economy, and the fans.

By now, the players are used to this. This has been the case at least for my entire life. Other than Pedro, Manny, and JD, they want to be there I'd guess. There's good weather, they can ease into camp. The counter-argument is that everyone works out in places like API in Arizona all winter and don't need to ramp up like this. But in response to that, I have three letters: WBC, when the players rip too hard too early and just get hurt. Plus, how can players dislike being in Florida and playing half of a game?

It's also good for the media. Everyday is like the Super Bowl media day. There is rarely anything notable to actually write about, so they write about other stuff. Steve Silva of the Boston Globe is doing pseudo-journalism instead of continuing to cry about Johnny Damon's 2005 departure from the team full-time. Peter Abraham is writing about the cold temperatures and prefacing everything with "we know we won't get sympathy for those up north." And people like me actually read it. I bet Pat has read three articles about Francisco Cervelli and still hasn't gotten around to reading my Willie McGee post he was supposed to read last week.

It's good for the economy. People are out there spending and you gotta think Florida tourism is now depending on guys like my barber, who said he went down there a few weekends ago to watch the team do virtually nothing in Fort Myers. He's one of many thousand. While I think it's silly, it's a lot of money for Florida, for the teams, and for the league. The 2010 attendance figures are pretty staggering so far, because those fans are basically down there to watch minor league games in March.

It's also the best for the fans. Spring training starts about a month before the temperature actually starts getting warm, and it starts about three months after the weather starts to suck. So it's a good way for many fans to kick their winter depression. It's a reason to go on vacation. And it's something good or nostalgic to watch on television or listen to on the radio. Granted, Castiglione is talking about South Dakota for 15 minutes, but it's good to hear his voice. Beyond that, I'll leave the "spring is coming" poems to Amalie Benjamin.

Plus, perhaps most importantly, spring training gives people reading blogs and writing comments in their "chinos and cartigans" some meaningless numbers to argue over.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Five Storylines to Watch in 2010

I get these emails all the time from an information security website talking about the "Top 10 new threats of 2010" and stuff like that all the time. Now it's my turn. Baseball Tonight is on television, teams are playing games again, and it's baseball season again. Also, it's Boomer Day, so happy Boomer Day to everyone out there.

1. Is Jason Bay the new Johnny Damon? Homeboy seemed a little bit pissed off in this Globe article from Monday. He didn't have many nice things to say about the Red Sox medical staff. But very few players are as special as Johnny Damon, and they can let things die eventually. I have a feeling Jason Bay will have better things to talk about--like the Mets--instead of talking about how much the Red Sox disrespected him. But who knows.

2. Will whoever was cutting onions in the Red Sox clubhouse last year stop this year? Probably the most memorable part about the 2009 Red Sox was their ability to cry. I documented this exhaustively back in August, but the Red Sox might as well have been the audience at a Dashboard Confessional concert. Will the Red Sox grow up and do their jobs again? Or will they start crying about Boston fans, the media, the conditioning staff, their spot in the rotation, playing time, or their irresponsible use of vitamins and supplements? All of the crying that was what I know I will remember about the 2009 Red Sox made them a very dislikable team, to the point that I was happy that Papelbon blew that save so I didn't have to watch them again. I hope the 2010 version is more likable.

3. Francona had the worst season of his Boston career, by far, last year. He started drinking Bigelow Green Tea and started to lose his mind. His use of the bullpen was horrendous. His insistence on sticking with disasters like Brad Penny and John Smoltz when they clearly didn't have it was bad. His pinch-hitting tactics were deplorable, like lifting a red-hot Alex Gonzalez for Josh Reddick and his .197 average. Not once but twice on rainy nights did they go into a rain delay with a big lead just to melt down. To the Orioles and Royals. Looking back on old posts, I saw Lowell sitting on the bench in an obvious pinch-hit situation, but put into the game in a low-leverage situation. The Varitek loyalty may have cost the team three games. Francona needs to quite the Bigelow Green Tea and start thinking again.

4. Beckett's playing for some serious money this year upon his impending free agency. Beckett's best season was 2007, and with the exception of that season, he has not been that good. People around here use Lackey's contract as a "starting point." Really? Should be interesting to see if he brings his A-game this year. If so, that's good news for the team.

5. The Red Sox farm system is not as good as it was a few years ago, as many of those prospects have graduated to the big leagues. But it's still worth watching. People are talking about Jose Iglesias, Ryan Kalish, and Casey Kelly. I'm more interested in seeing what Josh Reddick can do. And I'm the most interested in Lars Anderson's season. This is by far the biggest year of his life.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do Over?

Last winter Mark Teixeira was a, if not the, major topic of conversation on the free agent market. The Yankees blew away the field for Sabathia almost right away, sending a message that they were going to get him if he'd come to New York, which he decided to do early in the offseason. Manny Ramirez was the only other huge money free-agent on the market, and he never really seemed to be on too many teams' radars besides the Dodgers. At least not the Yankees' and the Red Sox, and they along with a few other teams usually drive the free agent market for players they are interested in. Interested they were in Mark Teixeira, as were many other teams, and he seemed to be the most sought after free agent prior to the 2009 season. And with good reason, he's one of the best players in the game.

As is often the case, it quickly became a two team race, Yankees and Red Sox. The Yankees had an opening at first base, were coming off their first playoff-less season in 14 years, were opening a new stadium, and were in search of a running mate for Alex Rodriguez in the middle of the lineup. The Red Sox were interested in a player that fit their mold to an absolute T, high on base skills with power and sound defensively, good in every facet of the game and elite in some, a complete player. With the departure of Manny Ramriez the August prior, having a guaranteed bat in the middle of the order would put their lineup over the top in addition to their great pitching. He was a great fit for both clubs.

Despite a reported final offer of 8/$168 from the Red Sox - that it seemed for a time was going to get done - Teixeira ended up signing with the Yankees for 8/$180. Unlike other recent victories the Yankees enjoyed over the Red Sox in the free agent market, this one worked out. In an absolutely massive way. Teixeira put up a .292/.383/.565/.948 line, tying for the league lead in homers with 39 and leading the league with 122 RBI's, tossing in 103 runs to boot. His defense was amongst the best I've ever seen at his position. He was an All-Star, finished second in MVP voting, won a gold glove, won a silver slugger, played in 156 games, was a leader, and put all of this towards contributing towards a World Series.

It was suggested in a few places - and presented as fact here - that Teixeira was a soft player, a stat-padder, a guy who could not be counted on when it mattered most. I presented a wealth of statistical evidence to the contrary at the time, but was rebuked based on the notion that there were nuances to these things that could not be quantified. Fine, we'll now look at both. From a pure statistical standpoint, he hit .291/.383/.609(!)/.992 in high leverage situations. Yes, he was almost a 1 OPS in the biggest spots. He was slightly better in medium leverage at .999, and was at his worst in low leverage situations, .886. In tie, 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more run game situations, there was not one of them where he batted less than .277 or slugged less than .505. Model consistency. From a more nuanced point of view, he was there every single day, and would often have a huge day when the team was scuffling offensively. In the playoffs he didn't hit for overall numbers, but when he did get them they were massive - the walk-off homer in Game 1 of the ALDS, the bases clearing double in Game 5 of the ALCS, and the homer to break a 0-0 tie in Game 1 of the World Series after dropping Game 1 and with the Yankees having not scored in the first 12 innings of the series. Combined with his defense, he was even better than his overall season numbers suggested, and that came through watching him everyday.

Knowing what we know now, the question I now ask the Red Sox fans on here is this: wherever you were on Mark Teixeira, if given the reasonable opportunity to get him again, would you do it? So for guys like the Gunn who really thought he was a great fit, if the Yankees weren't going to go any higher (hypothetically), would you have gone the extra $2 million per season to 8/$184 to get him? For guys like DV, who thought there was no room for Teixeira despite being a good fit and the best available bat on the market, would you now reconsider and shuffle Lowell for another need and add him? Someone who liked him but didn't feel the team had to have him like Bandi? Jason? Anybody else?

For me, the idea of a player of this quality on the Red Sox is frightening. They won 95 games last year as it was and really struggled offensively at times. You put Teixeira in the middle of that order, and take him away from the Yankees, and the Red Sox are probably winning division. So being that he may have decided the division, and will continue to have an impact and would have done so no matter which team he signed with, I'm interested to hear where you would stand if you had a chance to do it over again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The New Most Inefficient Market

It has been pretty well-established that most teams view the free agent market as the most inefficient labor market in baseball. There is no reason to expand upon it and no reason to debate it. Pay a lot for what very well might end being a little.

But I feel like the recent trends of teams trying to trade for guys near the end of their reserve clause contracts and having the trade contingent on signing the guy to an extension is even more inefficient. We have talked about this already about Johan Santana and about Roy Halladay. Now, probably for the next two baseball seasons, we'll be talking about this regarding Adrian Gonzalez. Good.

My thesis here is that by making yourself a part of this market, you're essentially paying the guy close to free agent money anyway, AND you're also sacrificing a "posting fee" of several good prospects so that the other team parts with their player.

Why not just wait two years and shell out the money for the player? You're going to shell out the money anyway.

Now, if the "posting fee" is Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr. (who were probably two out of the 5 best prospects at the time), like it was when the Red Sox essentially did this for Pedro Martinez, that's one thing. Now teams know better than the Expos did back then. You will have to clear the shelves of your farm system to get a guy like Gonzalez. It starts with Casey Kelly and Clay Buchholz, and goes from there. Plus, you STILL have to give the player $160-some odd million. This is more inefficient than the free agent market.

Therefore, I would really, really appreciate it if we didn't have any Adrian Gonzalez trade talk here on How Youz Doin Baseball, now or any time. It's not a reasonable line of discussion. I do think the Red Sox will end up acquiring Gonzalez, some day. The Padres have a one-year option on him through 2011, and the Red Sox have a one-year option on Beltre. Absolutely correlated. But once the options are up, the stage is set up for Youkilis to move to third and Gonzalez to first. Drew will have retired, Varitek and Santa Claus will be gone, and the "punt" period would be over. Time to start winning championships.

Plus, then Gonzalez would fit a need.

As far as trading the guy goes, there is no reason for either party to do it. The Red Sox aren't going to win the World Series each of the next two years anyway. They'd have to eat another contract (Beltre) to get the guy. They don't have a strong inclination to get rid of their farm system. And the Padres would logically want to keep Gonzalez. He's inexpensive for now, and he's the only reason for Padres fans to show up. They're not filling the seats to see Kevin Kouzmanoff. Why not ride that train for as long as you can? As teams understand that they would have to trade prospects and give up big bucks, they won't pay as much in the way of prospects, so the Padres get a raw deal anyway.

So let's kill the Adrian Gonzalez trade talks now and forever. Have a great Wednesday.

This One's For You, Snooki

So I was planning on writing about the MLBPA and their continuing commendable efforts trying to rid the game of steroids. When I texted Pat about that, he sent me a text message back that was the text equivalent of that whiny noise Snooki makes on Jersey Shore when she doesn't get her way. I'll leave it at this:

Donald Fehr, January 2010: "We fixed the problem."
Bud Selig: "The use of steroids...is virtually nonexistent."

I'd try to spend another hour searching for quotes talking about Mark McGwire, David Ortiz, Fehr, and Selig saying how MLB has the best testing and that the MLBPA has been very cooperative in ridding the game of steroids.

Now that a rugby player has tested positive for HGH in an accurate blood test (I'm not sure why this is news, I think there has been an accurate blood test for a long time), the MLBPA is predictably trying to keep baseball from HGH testing. They are so committed to ridding the game of drugs.

One of the more asinine things said about this is the fact that the players' union is afraid of what else teams might find in the blood. They think teams will use players' blood and DNA against them in contract negotiations. Good luck with that. I'm glad to see their top priority is keeping the secret of players' DNA against very sophisticated science.

I'll just throw this one up and write something else that more closely meets Pat's specifications.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Who's In Center And Left?

The two main topics coming out of Yankees’ Spring Training are who will win the 5th starter job and will Curtis Granderson play center with Gardner in left, or vice versa? I’ve talked about the 5th starter competition at length already, and before I dive into the second topic, I want to point out that these are the types of conversations you want to be coming out of your teams’ camp. If this is all that is being talked about, that means there aren’t injuries or serious problems. While some people are tired of these stories, I would talk about them all day everyday just because it means there is nothing else to talk about. Like last year, with Rodriguez. Or the year before, being Girardi’s first camp. Or the year before, still Rodriguez and Jeter drama. Yankee camp isn’t usually this quiet, and I’m absolutely loving it. I hope it continues all season.

With that said, all the rage is that the Yankees should put Curtis Granderson in left field and Brett Gardner in center field. There is a very strong argument in favor of doing this, in my opinion. That argument revolves around trying to get every advantage you can. Particularly in the American League East I think it’s critical to do everything you can to try and get an edge. When it comes to just these two players and these two positions in a vacuum, putting Granderson in left and Gardner in center makes sense. Granderson has been an above average center fielder, and Gardner has shown signs of being an elite one after a rocky start. So switching them should stand to benefit the Yankees, however big or small, in some capacity.

However, getting an edge doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it doesn’t just consider these two players.

First, and most obvious, is Brett Gardner. Is he going to win a starting job out of Spring Training? Or is Randy Winn going to return to his 07-08 form and beat him out? Or are Winn and Marcus Thames going to present themselves as the best option in a platoon situation? Or are any of the three, or all three, going to share time with the final starting spot all year? All of these are possible. The Yankees are deep and Gardner is not an established player. With that in mind, it’s tough to make a switch without knowing if Gardner is going to be the best option all year, and if he isn’t, that will necessitate more moving around.

Which leads us right into point number two, Curtis Granderson. He’s not a perfect, elite player, but he is an All-Star caliber player. If Gardner looked to be a cornerstone of the Yankees’ future in the outfield, then maybe you consider moving Granderson. But what are the chances, even if Gardner does play really well, that the Yankees don’t find an option in the next year or two that they like even more than Gardner playing really well? Probably pretty high. And chances are that player will be a left fielder rather than a center fielder. That only further lends itself to Granderson playing center, where his above average defense more than allows his offensive production to play up in value because of his position. You don’t want to get into a situation where you are moving Granderson one year just to move him again the next. Nor do you want to move him early in the year only to move him back a few months later. Nor do you want him shuffling around game to game. Not that I don’t think Granderson could handle it. But he is a part of the Yankees’ future as well as their present, and you don’t want to start messing with something like that. Center fielders that play above average defense and can hit 30 homers don’t grow on trees, and the Yankees’ shouldn’t lose sight of that for a defensive upgrade that might not even be that big.

Which is another important point to consider. Left field in Yankee Stadium is one of the biggest in baseball. The Yankees will play half of their games there. Girardi and Cashman have both discussed this mitigating the potential impact of swapping the two players, because left field is a big undertaking defensively as well. Tons of ground to cover. So that in itself calls into question how much impact a switch would have, because you need great defenders in both spots. Taking it further, what if Gardner is also better in left? Sure, center field is a slightly more important position. But again considering the size of left field in Yankee Stadium, are they really solving anything by taking a better defender in one position and making him the better defender in another position?

In light of the paragraph above about the importance of Granderson, I think the answer is not much, if anything. If this were going to be a huge upgrade, then maybe this should be a serious consideration. But Granderson is a good defender as well, so it’s likely not going to have that kind of impact. With that in mind, Granderson is also a definite part of the Yankees’ future and you want to put an emphasis on comfortably transitioning him to the team. It’s also easier to find a corner outfielder that can hit and defend than a center fielder that can hit and defend, and the Yankees’ shouldn’t mess with already having found the tougher of those two things. Especially in light of the fact that the Yankees may upgrade left field within the next year or two, if not from within their roster this year.