In George We Trust
A(nother) blog about the most storied franchise in sports
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Flash in the Pan?
Bryan Smith over at the great Baseball Analysts blog takes a look at the top 20 sophmore players for 2006. Robinson Cano checks in at number 16:

Both at Baseball Prospectus and BTF, Cano was given about a 10% chance to turn into Hall of Fame baseball player. This is because what he did last year was remarkable, stepping into baseball's largest stage and taking the spotlight off a position that has caused the Yanks so much grief. Cano is another player that I obviously underrated too much as a prospect, not taking his 100 RBI+ season into enough consideration. But, really, is Cano's ceiling much above his performance in 2005? Do we really see a player that even has the possibility to be better than [Rickie] Weeks? Not for me, at least, as I believe Cano will teeter-totter among being an average second baseman for as long as the Yanks let him.

While Cano's glove may never be anything to write home about (although he is working on improving his defense), of all ML second basemen, only 3 had a higher batting average in 2005 than Cano. He was also in the top ten in doubles, HR, XBH, SLG, and total bases amongst those manning the 4 position. Impressive considering he didn't see his first game until more than a month into the season. With Luis Castillo having to adjust to new pitchers in a new league, and Brian Roberts possibly starting the year on the DL, there's a good chance Cano will be one of (if not the) most production 2B in the game next season.
Monday, February 27, 2006
The Bam-Tino speaks
Tino Martinez chatted over at the website of new employer today. Here's the highlights:

sue, trenton nj: Looking forward to seeing you on Baseball Tonight. Would you discuss your feelings on retirement. After all these years is is difficutlt to just stop playing baseball. Will this position require you to away from home a lot, and if so how does your family feel about that?
Tino Martinez: (1:01 PM ET ) I knew last year, it was going to be my last year playing baseball. I knew I was going to retire. I had a part time role with the Yankees. I knew that I was going to retire from baseball. And, no, this new position will only be 45 appearances on Baseball Tonight. It's only about 7 days of work a month. It allows me to be with my family and still be involved with baseball.

Four Oaks North Carolina: how do you think johnny damon will do with the yankees
Tino Martinez: (1:08 PM ET ) I think he will do just fine, because he's played in that type of atmostphere and pressure in Boston. He has to win the Yankees fans over. If the team starts winning, it will make his transition easier.

Jeff (Cleveland): What is it like to be a Yankee? Do you really feel pressure on every day, every play?
Tino Martinez: (1:11 PM ET) Yes, that's the great part of being a Yankee. There is pressure every day, every play to do your best. It makes you do your best and not let any game or at bat slip away. With other teams, things can be hidden, but no in New York.

Aaron Rockenstein (Indenpendence, Kentucky): Which team did you enjoy the most playing for in Major League Career?
Tino Martinez: (1:30 PM ET ) The Yankees, because we won 4 world series there. But to play in that stadium every day in front of those fans was the most exciting time in my career.

bryan (levittown-ny): Which world series title was the most memorable for you? Tino Martinez: (1:31 PM ET ) All of them, because they got better and better the more you won. When you win one or two, you don't know if you'll get back there again. It only gets better the more you win.

Jeff (Cleveland): Was their a former player who you have met who had that 'Wow, I'm talking to ____' factor for you?
Tino Martinez: (1:36 PM ET ) Probably the first time I met Yogi Berra or Joe DiMaggio at the Old Timer game at Yankee Stadium.

Jeff, Chicago: what's it like playing for George Steinbrenner???
Tino Martinez: (1:41 PM ET ) I enjoyed it because he wants to win so badly. Each year he spends any amount of money to improve the team. When you have an owner like that, it makes the team attitude a lot better.

And from your's truly:
Mike A. (Chico, CA): Conrats Tino on the great career, who was the toughest pitcher you ever faced in your career? Thanks for the memories.
Tino Martinez: (1:16 PM ET ) Well, I faced a lot of them. I faced Clemens when he was with the Red Sox when I was just called up. The last couple of years, Roy Halladay had the best stuff. If he can stay healthy, he'll have a great career.
Dissecting the schedule
Unlike every other professional sport, Major League Baseball outsources it's schedule making duties. Independent parties ranging from mom-and-pop outfits to major corporations take a crack at setting up a fair and efficient 2,430 game schedule, submitting their proposals to MLB sometime in June. MLB announces the "winner" in September, and although the compensation the winning party receives is unknown, but you can bet it's a handsome 6-figure payout.

Whoever made the schedule last year did the Yankees a favor with the games they lined up in September. The Yanks played 27 games in September prior to the much hyped Red Sox series to close out the season, facing opponents with a combined winning percentage of .487. The Sawx played 28 games in September prior to the Yanks series, in which they faced opponents with a combined winning percentage of .527. With the season ending like it did (Yanks-Sox had the same record, but New York won the AL East because they won the season series 10-9), you can certainly say the Yanks would have missed the playoffs without that favorable set of games in September (don't forget Cleveland finished only 2 games out of the Wild Card spot) .

Well, it's that time of year again. Spring Training games start this Thursday, so I thought I'd take a look into the 2006 schedule and see what it has in store:

For the fifth time in 6 years, the Yankees kick off their season on road, this time with a 6 game West Coast swing that takes them to Oakland and LAnaheim for 3 games apiece. It's smooth sailing for the rest of April after that, with 17 games (12 at home) in 22 days rounding out the month, featuring teams that combined for a measly .444 winning percentage in 2005 (Kansas City, Minnesota, Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay), although the Blue Jays won't be such a push over this time around.

May's schedule isn't very pretty, of the 29 games, 15 are on the road, including 5 at Fenway. The Yanks will see the Red Sox 8 times in May, as well as Oakland and Texas a combined 10 times. If you don't get out to the Stadium much and want to see some fireworks, head out to the May 15th thru 18th series to check out Texas' only visit to the Bronx in 2006 - some ERAs will definitely suffer irreparable damage over that 4 game stretch. Interleague play kicks off on the 19th, as the Yanks head over to Shea (It's a bird! It's a plane! It's wait, it's a plane.) for a 3 game set, followed by a 3 game visit to Boston.

The Yanks face their first mid-season make-or-break stretch in early-to-mid June, as in 11 days they play 10 games against the likes of the Red Sox (4 games), A's (3) and Indians (3). On the bright side, all the games take place in the Bronx (the off day comes between the A's and Indians series).

Interleague play resumes for the Yanks almost a month after it began, as they head off to visit old friends Alfonso Soriano in Washington and Jon Lieber/Flash Gordon in Philly over a 6 game span from June 16th to the 21st. Following that trip, the Yanks settle into a 9 game homestand with visits from the team formerly known as the Marlins, the Braves and the Mets.

The Yanks head into the All Star break with a bang, as they must endure a 7 game road trip highlighted by a 4 night visit to the emerging juggernaut in Cleveland before wrapping up the first half with a 3 game set at Tampa Bay.

First-half breakdown
Number of Games: 88 (40 at home, 48 on the road)
Division games: 31, 12 vs. Boston (7 at home), 5 vs. Toronto (3 at home), 6 vs. Baltimore (3 at home), 8 vs. Tampa Bay (3 at home)
Longest Road Trip: 7 games (3 instances: May 1st thru 7th - 2 at Boston, 2 at Tampa Bay, 3 at Texas; May 29th thru June 4th - 4 at Detroit, 3 at Baltimore; July 3rd thru 9th - 4 at Cleveland, 3 at Tampa Bay)
Longest Home Stand: 10 games (2 instances: May 9th thru 18th - 3 vs. Boston, 3 vs. Oakland, 4 vs. Texas; June 5th thru 15th - 4 vs. Boston, 3 vs. Oakland, 3 vs. Cleveland)
Longest Streak Without an Off-Day: 17 days (May 26th thru June 11th - 3 vs. Kansas City, 4 at Detroit, 3 at Baltimore, 4 vs. Boston, 3 vs. Oakland)

The second half kicks off with 13 games in 13 days, featuring a 3 game visit from the defending World Champion White Sox immediately following the All-Star Break. The Yanks then head out for 7 games away from the Bronx on July 20th when they visit the Blue Jays for 4 games followed by a 3 game visit to the Launching Pad at Arlington.

The annual set of 20 games in 20 days (the most consecutive games allowed by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, every team endures one 20-in-20 a year) kicks off August 6th with a visit to Chicago, followed by visits from the Angels and Orioles. Ten games into the stretch comes a nightmare, 4 games at Fenway followed by a cross-country flight for a 3 game series at Seattle followed by the team's second 3 game visit to LAnaheim of the season. 20 days. 20 games. 14 of which are against teams with serious playoff hopes. That very well could be the defining stretch of the season.

The Yankees cruise into September on the heels of 13 games against the Tigers, Twins, Royals, and Devil Rays, all of whom could be out of the race and holding auditions for young players by then. Nine of the Yankees remaining 16 games are at home (including the final 6), with the road games taking place in Baltimore and Tampa Bay. The Yanks and Red Sox meet for the final time for a 3 game stretch in the Bronx starting Sept. 15.

The season concludes with what could be an interesting 3 game set at the Stadium. The much improved and much-hyped Blue Jays visit the Yankees, could the division be on the line like it was last year at Fenway? Stranger things have happened.

Second-half breakdown
Number of Games: 74 (41 at home, 33 on the road)
Division games: 45, 7 vs. Boston (3 at home), 13 vs. Toronto (6 at home), 13 vs. Baltimore (6 at home), 10 vs. Tampa Bay (6 at home)
Longest Road Trip: 10 games (August 18th thru 27th - 4 at Boston, 3 at Seattle, 3 at Anaheim)
Longest Home Stand: 7 games (August 11th thru 17th - 4 vs. Anaheim, 3 vs. Baltimore)
Longest Streak Without an Off-Day: 20 days (August 8th thru 27th- 3 at Chicago, 4 vs. Anaheim, 3 vs. Baltimore, 4 at Boston, 3 at Seattle, 3 at Anaheim)

162 games in 182 days. Forget those silly commercials, I really live for this.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Weekly Poll Results
It was a landslide in last week's poll question, as 14 out of 17 (82.4%) believe the Yankees payroll will never again be less than 9 figures. The new question is up, as always, thanks for voting.

Tyler Kepner of the Times has a good article in today's paper about JB Cox:

"Be patient, the Yankees are saying. If Cox is going to be the next Street, he is not there yet. As for calling Cox the man to replace Rivera, perhaps the most indispensable Yankee of the past 10 years, hold on.

"I'd hate to put that on a guy," Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' amateur scouting director, said. "That would be horrible. You can't predict that. We didn't even know Mariano Rivera was going to be a closer until he got to the big leagues.

"That definitely isn't something you consider. You can consider what kind of stuff they have and their makeup and hope guys can fit a role. But you can't predict if a guy is going to be a closer. That's too tough."

For now, Mark Newman, the senior vice president for baseball operations, said the Yankees see the right-handed Cox as more of a setup man than a closer. Newman compared Cox to Jeff Nelson because of his sweeping slider and his deceptive delivery from a low-three-quarters angle.

"But it's very early to limit players to certain roles," Newman said. "We'll kind of let them emerge."

Toward the end of the article, AL Rookie of the Year Huston Street had to say this about Cox:

"It's [Cox shutting down opposing batters] almost a definite," Street said at the Athletics' camp in Phoenix. "The only reason I was the closer at Texas was because I got there before him. He's got electric stuff, great control and, most importantly, he has ultimate confidence in himself."

And finally:

"[Joey] Devine and [Craig] Hansen got to the big leagues last year, and J. Brent had more success in college than those guys ever had," Oppenheimer said. "You'd watch him against good teams and he would just shut the door on them, with a demeanor that he was going to be able to do it."

For those that haven't seen Cox's prospect profile, a comparison to Hansen and Devine is included.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Prospect Profile: Brett Gardner
Name: Brett Gardner
Position: CF/OF
Vitals: 5'10", 180 lbs
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Born: August 24, 1983
Hometown: Holly Hill, South Carolina
Drafted: 3rd round (109th overall) in 2005 (Yankees 3rd selection). Received a $210,000 bonus.

Background: A 3-year starter at the College of Charleston, Gardner was wrapping up a very impressive junior season when the Yankees called his name during the amateur draft. His .447 BA was third in nation in 2005, as he finished the season with 122 hits in 63 games, tied for the most hits in the country with current Florida State outfielder Shane Robinson, who's 122 hits came in 73 games. His 85 runs in 2005 is the all-time mark at CoC, and his 38 stolen bases led the Southern Conference. He wrapped up his Cougar career as a third team All-American, sporting a stellar .382-.456-.508-.963 career line, mostly from the leadoff spot. Like fellow Yankee farmhands Phil Hughes and Chris Malec, Gardner grew up a Red Sox fan but is happy to be in pinstripes.

Strengths: Gardner's legs are his calling card. He's the fastest player in the organization, and has solid baserunning instincts to go along with his game changing speed. Unlike many young players (read Reyes, Jose), Gardner doesn't steal bases for the sake of it; he's adept at picking spots and knows when it's more valuable to the team for him to use the threat of a SB to get the pitcher to pump fastballs to the meat of the order. He draws a good amount of walks and uses the whole field while making consistent, hard contact. He's got outstanding makeup, and is a hard worker who doesn't take a play off.

Weaknesses: Gardner will never hit for much power - he hit only 8 total homeruns at CoC, at least three of which were inside-the-park jobs - and he's aware of it. He needs to work on playing the little man's game; improving his bunting ability and two-strike approach. He does strike out a bit too much for a leadoff man: 1.26 K/BB at Staten Island, 1.11 in college. His routes in the outfield leave something to be desired, but he uses his speed to hide that blemish effectively.

Comparison: Gardner adjusted well to wood bats, and finished the NY-Penn League season ranking in top 5 in at bats (fifth with 282), runs (second with 62), and stolen bases (tied for fifth with 19). A centerfielder with minimal power and speed to spare? The comparisons are inevitable (all stats are short season stats):

Scott Podsednik.266.359.278.637*42
Juan Pierre.352.399.402.80180.655



* CS data isn't available for Podsednik at, so I can't calculate his SB%, but he did steal 20 bases in the NY-Penn League

Gardner's stats fit comfortably in between Podsednik's and Pierre's; I'll take it, a leadoff hitter that's better than Podsednik but not as good as Pierre is one of the better leadoff men in the league. Of course, it's too early to tell if that's what he'll develop into.

Outlook: Gardner is one of 3 centerfielders with premium athletic ability the Yankees added to the organization in 2005, joining Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata. Of the 3, Gardner is the closest to a sure thing given his college track record. Gardner will likely be the second Yankee 2005 draftee to reach the majors, behind JB Cox, however with Johnny Damon signed to a new 4 year deal, the Yanks can afford to be patient with Gardner. He'll skip Low-A Charleston and head to High-A Tampa to begin 2005, with the possibility of seeing Double-A Trenton if he gets off to a hot start. If he moves quickly as expected, he'll begin his Yankee career as a fourth outfielder, possibly by the second half of 2007.

Baby Rocket?
From the Post, Jason Giambi on Philip Hughes:

"He reminds me of Roger Clemens; that fastball is late," Giambi said after being one of four Yankees to face the 6-foot-5, 220-pound, 19-year-old right-hander. "I don't care what the radar gun says. He's got good stuff."

Hughes, the No. 1 pick two years ago, was startled to hear what Giambi had to say.

"That's quite a compliment," Hughes said. "[Clemens] has far more quality big-league years on him, but it's nice to say those things."

Hughes opened a lot of eyes yesterday. He shattered Jorge Posada's bat and snapped off several big breaking curveballs.

I just hope the kid stays healthy.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Kyle Farnsworth, behind the numbers
He's a big, intimidating presence on the mound (6'4", 240 lbs) armed with a triple digit fastball and a sharp, biting slider. That's the recipe for a dominant reliever, if not a dominant closer in the current baseball era. But Kyle Farnsworth sports a career ERA+ of 99 (100 is league average), so what's holding him back?

Farnsworth is terribly inconsistent year to year, having put up solid seasons in 2001, 2003 and 2005, while stinking it up 2000, 2002 and 2004. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here's his stats, graphically: (all graphs from - dark blue lines represent league averages)

Looking at his career stats, nothing really jumps out at you regarding what may be the cause of the inconsistency. His GB/FB ratio and percentage of inherited runners scoring fluctuates like the rest of the stats. I thought maybe he was having trouble getting ahead of hitters, but he's thrown first pitch strikes to roughly 49% of the batters he's faced over his career (which is surprisingly good, the great Mariano has dealt first pitch strikes to roughly 51% of the hitters he's faced in his career), so that discounts that theory. I gave up looking at stats that were solely a function of Farnsworth's pitching, and decided to look beyond the traditional stats and see what kind of situations he was used in. In doing so, I came to a conclusion: Kyle Farnsworth is a glorified long reliever.

Let me explain. Using David Pinto's Day by Day Pitching Database, I sorted Farnsworth's career into two categories, games he's pitched 1 inning or less, and those were he's thrown more than 1 inning. I neglected to include his rookie year of 1999, because he was primarily a starter that year. The results were startling:

1 IP or less297243.022611.
more than 1 IP5382.2599.802.723.602.83.2401.02

It's a tale of 2 pitchers; one who seemingly throws gas on the fire, and another who has Hall of Fame worthy numbers. While the long relief Farnsworth doesn't strike out as many batters, he gives up less hits, less walks and less runs - a trade anyone would make. Fifty-three games and 82.2 IP is a sufficient sample size to say this is more than just a fluke.

Why was he more effective in longer roles? Who knows. Maybe he was throwing great that day and his manager decided to leave him longer than he usually would. Maybe he came into less pressure situations and was able to relax. Maybe he wasn't throwing well for 2 weeks beforehand, and he had a chip on his shoulder when his manager used him in middle relief instead of in set-up situations. It leaves you in quite the quandary, but I'm leaning toward believing he was brought in for multiple innings with less on the line, allowing him to chill out a bit.

Now I'm not suggesting Joe Torre should use Farnsworth for multi-inning appearances with nothing on the line, the man is going to be paid very well for the next 3 years to deal with the pressure and slam the door. I'm trying to dig deeper into the enigma that is Kyle Farnsworth, but his stats are over the place with almost no trend lasting longer than 2 years, making it almost impossible to figure out what's going on. He's developed a reliance on the book "Mind Gym" in the last year, so we can all hope that'll cure his inconsistency and allow him to be as effective in 2006 as he was in 2005.

Top 100 Prospects, Part Deux
BA released the top half of their annual Top 100 Prospects list, with righthander Phil Hughes holding down the 39th spot on the list:

"He throws hard and he throws strikes. That's why for me he's a Mark Prior Lite."
--Charleston manager Bill Mosiello
ETA: 2007

Hughes is the 12th ranked pitcher on the list, trailing Francisco Liriano (No. 6), Chad Billingsley (7), Justin Verlander (8), Matt Cain (my favorite non-Yankee prospect, No. 10), Jon Lester (22), Bobby Jenks (24), Scott Olsen (34), Joel Zumaya (35), Mike Pelfrey (36), Jonathan Papelbon (37), and Homer Bailey (38).

If you missed it from yesterday, Eric Duncan clocked in at number 86, down 50 spots from last year.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Top 100 Prospects
Baseball America released the bottom half of their annual Top 100 prospects. Eric Duncan checks in at number 86, down 50 spots from last year:

"He had the kind of year you would expect a 20-year-old kid to have at Double-A. When he is going good, he is real good at laying off the changeup and breaking ball, and he gets good cuts."
--Trenton manager Bill Masse
ETA: 2007

The remainder of the list will be out tomorrow, with Phil Hughes expected to make his first ever appearance on the list somewhere around the 35-45 range. Here's Jim Callis on Hughes from today's chat over at

Andrew (Boston, MA): Hi Jim, I know you are not as high on Phillip Hughes as a few of your other BA colleagues (as per the Handbook). BP is also very high on Hughes. What is it that's holding you back? Injury history? If he puts together a full healthy season, does he become a Top 10 prospect next year? Thanks a lot.

Jim Callis: I ranked Hughes as the 44th-best prospect in baseball even though he has gotten hurt at each of his three minor league stops and has pitched just 18 innings above low Class A. John Manuel, who did our Yankees list, had him at No. 39, and I think BP had him around the same. I don't see how I'm holding back. He has the ceiling to be a Top 10 guys next year, but I think the 21-35 range is more realistic.

Prospect Profile: PJ Pilittere
Name: Peter John Pilittere
Position: C
Vitals: 6'0", 205 lbs
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Born: November 23, 1981
Hometown: Walnut, California
Drafted: 13th round (399th overall) in 2004 (Yankees 15th selection)

Background: Pilittere grew up rooting for the cross-town Mets while idolizing current Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose hard-nosed style has evidently influenced Pilittere. Drafted as a college senior, Pilittere started his Cal State Fullerton career buried behind incumbent Titan catchers Brett Kay (now a Mets farmhand) and Lachlan Thorburn (out of baseball) on the depth chart. During the 2001 season, Kay broke his hand and Lachlan played himself out of the starting spot, paving the way for Pilittere to take over regular catching duties. Pilittere never looked back and assumed both first string catcher duties and the cleanup spot for the remainder of his amateur career; although he split time between catcher, first base, and DH his senior year in deference to current A's prospect Kurt Suzuki. Pilittere shined during the Titans unexpected run to the College World Series crown in 2004, earning a spot on the CWS All-Tournament team after batting .500 with a double, triple, homerun and 3 RBI in 4 games at Omaha.

Strengths: At this point, Pilittere has good power to the gaps (17 doubles in 87 pro games) and decent strike zone judgment (1.41 K/BB in college, 2.33 as a pro but 1.41 in 2005). He crowds the plate from the right side, and subsequently has a penchant for getting hit (11 pro HBP after 19 at Fullerton). His greatest strength lies in his ability to work with pitchers (he lived with 7 Titan pitchers while at Fullerton), as he led the short season State Island pitching staff to a league best 2.85 team ERA on the way to the NY-Penn League Title. He's a good defender behind the plate, but he'll never win any Gold Gloves.

Weaknesses: Pilittere has never been much of a clutch hitter, evidenced by his .275 BA with RISP against a .485 BA with no one on in college. His adjustment to wood bats hasn't been pretty, as he's hit only .235-.294-.333-.627 since turning pro. Like most catchers, he isn't very fast, but he won't clog the bases. His homerun power is almost nonexistent as he's hit only 13 HR in 281 games since 2001 (although he hit 4 in 53 games last year).

Comparison: Comparing the stats of pitcher-first catchers isn't the easiest thing to do, but here's how Pilittere's short season stats compare to the big league's most prominent pitcher-first catcher when he was playing in the NY-Penn League:

Brad Ausmus.260.349.314.6621.36

The numbers aren't very impressive, but otherwise there would be nothing to look at. As far as I know there isn't a resource to find minor league stats like catcher's ERA, etc., otherwise I would have made a more appropriate comparison.

Outlook: Pilittere is at least 2 years away from the majors, possibly more if his bat is slow to develop, making his potential Bronx ETA somewhere around 2009. The Yankees crop of catching prospects is pretty weak, with only Omir Santos and the Rojas-es (Tommy and Irwill, no relation) ahead of him on the depth chart amongst prospects. Unless he shows a marked improvement with his bat, Pilittere will never be anything more than a defense first backup catcher in the John Flaherty/Paul Bako mold. After an encore at short season Staten Island that saw him improve his OPS almost 200 points (up to .701 in 2005 from .516 in 2004), the Yankees will likely challenge Pilittere and send him to Low-A Charleston in 2006. If he makes it to the majors, it'll be his uncanny ability to handle pitchers that will get him there.

Monday, February 20, 2006
2006 Cross-Town Comparison
Growing up, I was always one of two black sheep in the family. My Grandfather and I are the lone Yankee fans in a family (immediate and extended) of diehard Mets fans, so needless to say I've spent countless holidays and get-togethers buried in arguments like "Sorry [insert relative here], but in his prime, John Franco was not a better closer than Mariano." Franco's in-laws live on the block I grew up on in Brooklyn, and I've actually had the pleasure of meeting him about a half-dozen times over the course of my adolescence - he's a great person and a class act all the way, but when it comes to pitching, he's no Mo.

Thanks to many years of comparing the Yankees and Mets with my family (and partially inspired by SG's Yankee-Red Sox comparison at RLYB), I present the first annual Yanks-Mets Cross-Town Comparison:

Jorge Posada vs. Paul LoDuca
Both guys were mid-to-late round draft picks (Posada was taken in the 24th round in 1990; LoDuca in the 25th round of the 1993 draft) who made the most of their opportunity and played their way into the bigs (Posada's career minor league line: .258-.365-.436-.801; LoDuca's: .310-.387-.411-.799). LoDuca is an above average catcher that doesn't hit for much power (averages 13 HR per 162 games) but hits for a decent average (.285 career BA) and won't hurt you defensively. Despite being on the decline, Posada is still one of the game's best offensive catchers, averaging 24 HR and 96 RBI per 162 games while playing solid defense. Posada is only about 8 months older than LoDuca, and has had the more productive and recognizable career thus far.
Telltale stat: Posada: .815 career OPS w/ RISP; LoDuca: .694
Edge: Yanks

First Base
Jason Giambi vs. Carlos Delgado
Talk about comparisons; both are lefthanded, both have played roughly the same number of ML games (Giambi: 1483; Delgado: 1567, 84 game difference) and both have exactly the same career OPS (.952). Both are lefthanded power hitting first basemen who have hit in the heart of their team's order for just about their entire career. From Opening Day 1998 to Opening Day 2003 (both had injury interrupted seasons in 2004), Delgado drove in 741 runs while Giambi plated 718, good for 4th and 7th, respectively, in baseball over than time period. Giambi has a much keener eye at the plate, as his 1.05 K/BB ratio shows (Delgado's career K/BB ratio is 1.52), but pitchers have shown more fear of Delgado, intentionally walking him 148 times in his career (Giambi has received 68 career IBBs). Such a close comparison between two offensive monsters isn't easy, so I'll boil it down to this: Which of the two would I most expect to put up a 30+ HR, 120+ RBI season in 2006? I'd have to say the answer is Delgado.
Telltale stat: Delgado: 1.013 career OPS at Yankee Stadium; Giambi: .925
Edge: Mets

Second Base
Robinson Cano vs. Kaz Matsui
You've got two players who are both early into their MLB careers (Cano has 138 games under his belt; Matsui's played in 201), but their career paths appear to be going in opposite directions. With the exception of a poor August, Cano's batting average went up every single month in 2005 (May to Sept/October: .253-.310-.319-.207-.384), as did his XBH total (May to Sept/October: 8-12-13-4-16). That pretty impressive considering pitchers had obviously adjusted to him in August, only to have Cano rebound and make adjustments of his own. Matsui on the other hand has been on a constant downward spiral since he came over to the States. If not a 2-week hot streak to finish out the season, Matsui would have finished the year with a .231-.283-.310-.593 line. He missed more than a month with recurring back spasms and lost his second base job to current pinstriper Miguel Cairo. Going into 2006, it's pretty clear who's expected to have the advantage at second, but in case it's not: Matsui cost the Mets $7M in 2005 and will cost them $8M in 2006; Cano earned the league minimum in 2005 ($320k) and will do so again in 2006 (raised by the league to $327k).
Telltale stat: Cano: 37.3 ABperHR in 2005; Matsui: 89
Edge: Yanks

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez vs. David Wright
Let's see, on one hand you've got the greatest all-around player in the game since Ken Griffey Junior's heyday in the mid-90s, while on the other you have arguably the best young player in the game. Just how good has David Wright's big league career been to this point? At the end of his first full season, Wright has 41 career HR, 142 career RBI, and a .895 career OPS. After A-Rod's first full season he had 41 career HR, 144 career RBI, and a career .940 OPS. To ask which team has the edge is a fairly obvious question at this point because Wright is so young and relatively unestablished, but this will definitely be an interesting debate in seasons to come.
Telltale stat: A-Rod: .302 BA w/ RISP & 2 outs in 2005; Wright: .227
Edge: Yanks

Derek Jeter vs. Jose Reyes
At this point in time, another one-sided comparison. Jeter's 2005 stats are better than Reyes' in every aspect of the game (Jeter's 2005 line: .309-.389-.450-.839; Reyes': .273-.303-.386-.686), with the exception of stolen bases (60 for Reyes; 14 for Jeter). Both had roughly the same amount of plate appearances out of the leadoff spot in 2005 (Jeter: 723; Reyes: 702), but Jeter had more walks (74 to 25), more hits (199 to 184), more RBIs (68 to 55), and scored more runs (119 to 97) from that spot. Reyes is an exciting player to watch on the bases, but it'll be some time before he challenges Jeter as the best shortstop in New York.
Telltale stat: Jeter: .409 OBP leading off an inning in 2005; Reyes: .285
Edge: Yanks

Left Field
Hideki Matsui vs. Cliff Floyd
Floyd had his best season since 2001 last year, putting up a .273-.358-.505-.863 line to go along with 58 XBH and 98 RBI. Matsui had a down year in 2005, but still managed to outperform Floyd with a .305-.370-.484-.854 line accompanied by 71 XBH and 116 RBI. Since Matsui came into the league in 2003, he's been more durable than Floyd (487 games played to Floyd's 374), and on a 162 game average, Matsui smacks 1.67 more XBHs (65.86 to Floyd's 64.19), drives in almost 10 more runs (109.77 RBI to Floyd's 99.99), strikes out almost 14 less times (88.82 to Floyd's 102.18), and hits 33 points higher with RISP (.314 to Floyd's .281). Matsui also has a higher career range factor in left (1.93 to Floyd's 1.75) and is 2 and half years younger.
Telltale stat: Matsui: .645 OPS on an 0-2 count in 2005; Floyd: .316
Edge: Yanks

Center Field
Johnny Damon vs. Carlos Beltran
It's the guy who'll be roaming center for the Yankees in 2006 vs. the guy many expected would be roaming the same piece of real estate last offseason. It's also a comparison between two different types of players: Damon is a leadoff guy while Beltran is supposedly a middle-of-the-order threat (he sure strikes out like one: 1.73 career K/BB). Damon's career BA (.290) and OBP (.353) are higher than Beltran's (.282, .350), but Beltran has a higher career slugging percentage (.479 vs. .431) and steals more bases per 162 games (32 vs. 29). Beltran is also a better fielder (2.71 career range factor vs. Damon's 2.49) but a clearly inferior hitter in high percentage scoring situations (.217 BA with bases loaded since 2003 vs. Damon's .375). Based on the numbers, it's a pretty close call, but Beltran is 4 years younger. Age before beauty.
Telltale stat: Beltran: 1.072 career OPS at Yankee Stadium; Damon: .702 (eek)
Edge: Mets

Right Field
Gary Sheffield vs. Xavier Nady/Victor Diaz
Somehow Willie Randolph is going to platoon 2 RH hitters in right field this year, while Gary Sheffield enters into his option year for the Yanks ($13M club option for 2007). Nady and Diaz combined for 606 ABs in 2005 while Sheffield had 584 for the Yankees, but if you combine Nady's and Diaz' stats, Sheff still had more RBIs (123 to 81 - Nady:43, Diaz: 38), more HRs (34 to 25 - Nady: 13, Diaz: 25), scored more runs (104 to 81 - Nady: 40, Diaz: 41), and had just 1 less XBH (61 to 62 - Nady: 34, Diaz: 27) by himself. To bring up runners in scoring position is almost unfair, as Sheffield had a .364-.449-.722-1.171 line those situations, while the Nady/Diaz tandem combined for a .219-.346-.397-.743 line (Nady: .212-.309-.388-.697; Diaz: .227-.391-.364-.755) with men in scoring position. Say it with me kids: L-A-N-D-S-L-I-D-E.
Telltale stat: Sheffield: .964 OPS when seeing a pitcher for the third time in a game; Nady/Diaz: .655
Edge: Yanks

Starting Rotation
Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and some 3-man combination of Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Aaron Small, Chien-Ming Wang and Shawn Chacon vs. Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano, and one of either Aaron Heilman, Jose Lima or John Maine
Looking at the top 2 starters of each staff, and it would seem as if the Mets tandem pitched better in 2005: Johnson/Mussina combined for 30 wins and a 4.04 ERA in 407.1 IP; Pedro/Glavine combined for 28 wins and a 3.17 ERA in 428.1 IP. At first I figured the significantly lower ERA was a result of the National League, but then I saw that NL pitchers actually had a higher average ERA (4.35) than their AL counterparts (4.22) in 2005, which discounts that theory. Based on that, you'd have to give the Mets the edge when it comes to the top 2 rotation slots.

The other 3 pitchers are a different story however. Combined, the remaining 5 potential Yankee starters went for a 4.81 ERA and a 1.54 GB/FB ratio, while the remaining 5 Mets arms put up a 5.10 ERA with a 1.23 GB/FB ratio. It'll be hard to judge who has the advantage here because there's so much uncertainty involving who'll win jobs and who won't, but of the guys vying for spots, Small is the Yanks elderstatesmen at a youthful 34 while the fivesome average 29.4 yrs of age. On the Mets side, Trachsel is the oldest at 35 while the entire group averages 29.8 yrs of age. I think Wang clearly has the highest upside of any of the pitchers mentioned (although if you frequent, you're aware Mets fans see Heilman as the second coming of Tom Seaver), which certainly should be considered in deciding who has the edge. Based on payroll, the Mets are clearly getting more bang for their buck: Yanks combined 2006 rotation payroll: $53.127M; Mets: 30.981M.

Looking at the stats, I don't know who's got the edge. There's too many variables at hand to make an accurate assessment. In a short series, give me Johnson, Mussina and Wang over Pedro, Glavine and Trachsel. That may be my Yankee bias coming out, but so be it, it's my blog (now just picture Stewie Griffin yelling "Ha!").
Telltale stat: Yanks: 3.14 combined postseason ERA; Mets: 3.54
Edge: Yanks

Mariano Rivera vs. Billy Wagner
I had originally planned to include the closers with the rest of the bullpen, but a matchup like this is just too good to pass up. The similarities are striking: neither is physically intimidating (Rivera is a scrawny 6'2", 185 lbs; Wagner is only 5'11" and listed at 201 lbs), both are best known for 1 pitch (Rivera's cutter; Wagner's triple digit fastball) but have underappreciated second pitches (Rivera's 2-seam fastball; Wagner's slider), and both sport "Enter Sandman" as their theme song. Conversely, Rivera has 6 career 40-save seasons (including two 50-save campaigns) while Wagner has recorded only 1 such season (a 44-save effort in 2003). Wagner has more of a penchant for giving up the long ball (59 HR allowed in 630.1 IP compared to Mo's 42 HR allowed in 807.2 IP), but Billy the Kid does strike out almost 4 more batters per 9 innings (11.99 career Kper9 against Rivera's 8.12). Wagner is unquestionably the best lefty reliever in the game, but Rivera is simply the best reliever ever.
Telltale stat: Rivera: career 0.81 career postseason ERA; Wagner: 7.71
Edge: Yankees

Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers, Tanyon Sturtze, Ron Villone and the 2 losers of the Carl Pavano/Jaret Wright/Aaron Small/Chien-Ming Wang/Shawn Chacon rotation battle vs. Duaner Sanchez, Chad Bradford, Steve Schmoll, Jorge Julio, Royce Ring, Yusaku Iriki and possibly Heilman
Beyond Wagner, the Mets bullpen is reminiscent of The Island of Misfit Toys. All those guys listed above have some outstanding quality to them, only to have some dark cloud hover over them at the same time. Example: Bradford has given up only 32 XBHs to RH batters in his 8 year career, but LH hitters have tattooed him for a .316-.421-.471-.892 career line. Then there's Jorge Julio with his blazing high-90s heat that no one knows where it's going (career 4.09 BBper9 and 36 WPs), or Duaner Sanchez, who's Kper9 has gone up for 2 straight years (4.95-7.79), but so has the percentage of inherited runners he's allowed to score (26.5%-32.5%).

Of course the Yankees bullpen isn't bulletproof either. Farnsworth's Kper9 has gone up for 2 straight years like Sanchez' (10.54-11.19), but his K/BB has gone down (4.57-3.22). Tanyon Sturtze still can't pitch under the sun (night games: 3.64 ERA; day: 6.39), and Ron Villone apparently enjoys the All-Star break a little too much (pre All-Star break ERA: 2.72; post: 5.07).

That said, the Mets certainly have youth on their side (Mets bullpen average age: 27.7; Yanks: 31.5), but what they gain in age they greatly lack in experience (only Bradford and Sanchez have been to the playoffs). With that, I'll take the experienced guys in October over the young guys any day of the week.
Telltale stat: Yanks: 115.1 combined career postseason IP; Mets: 11.2 (9.2 by Bradford)
Edge: Yanks

Kelly Stinnett, Miguel Cairo, Andy Phillips, Bubba Crosby vs. Ramon Castro, Julio Franco, Chris Woodward, Endy Chavez, Xavier Nady/Victor Diaz
It's not really sensible to compare each team's bench, simply because the Mets have a greater need for a strong bench seeing how they're in the Senior Circuit. The Mets expected 2006 bench put up a .259-.323-.428-.751 line off the bench in 2005, which is better across the board than the .247-.294-.345-.639 line the Yankees expected 2006 bench put up last season. End of story.
Telltale stat: Yanks: 1 PH XBH in 2005; Mets: 9
Edge: Mets

Insurance Policies
Scott Proctor, Al Leiter, Scott Erickson, Wil Nieves, Felix Escalona, Kevin Reese vs. Heath Bell, Juan Padilla, Brian Bannister, Bobby Estalella, Brett Boone, Tike Redman
I limited this to 6 players per team (3 pitchers, 1 catcher, 1 infielder, 1 outfielder) because otherwise it would just be overly excessive. I'm not even going to break out any stats, because it would be difficult to get a happy medium between aging vets looking for one last shot (Leiter, Erickson, Boone), prospects on the rise (Bannister) and just your everyday journeyman (Nieves, Escalona, Estalella). Based on reputation, the Yankees clearly have the better insurance options on the mound, while the Mets seem to have better position player options; and we all know pitching wins championships.
Edge: Yanks

Farm System
A laugher. After Mets GM Omar Minaya purged the system's already thin crop of it's depth by trading for Paul LoDuca and Carlos Delgado, he left Lastings Milledge and Phil Humber as the only farmhands with a chance to be above average big leaguers. Luckily for Minaya, top 2005 draft pick Mike Pelfrey finally signed, giving them 3 good prospects. Regardless, if it wasn't for the Reds, the Mets' system would be the worst in baseball.

The Yanks system isn't what it was 4 or 5 years ago, but it's certainly on the rise. There's the much talked about talents of Phil Hughes and Eric Duncan; but most of the Yanks high end talent has yet to play above Class-A: Jose Tabata, Marcos Vechionacci, Josh Schmidt, Rolando Japa, Austin Jackson, CJ Henry, Jeff Marquez...If it all comes together (a big IF), the Yanks system could eventually be deeper than the Dodgers' system is right now, and that's deep.
Telltale stat: Yanks: .539 combined minor league winning percentage; Mets: .495
Edge: Yanks

Final Tally
Yanks: 11
Mets: 3
As usual, it looks like the Yanks advantage over the Mets extends far beyond the backpages.

Update: The new Weekly Poll Question is up.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Weekly Poll
Blogpoll appears to be having some technical issues, so until that's fixed the Weekly Poll Question will be on hiatus. Thanks for voting

In other blog news, Peter Gammons has a post up his blog about why things are looking up for the Big Unit in 2006:

"I did win 17 games, but I know I didn't have the kind of year I expected," says Johnson. "I have heard a lot of comparisons to Roger Clemens' first year as a Yankee; he was 34, I started the year at 41. But my season had nothing whatsoever to do with age. It was entirely mechanics, and they got better in the second half (8-2, 3.31, compared to 9-6, 4.16 in the first half). I have worked hard to get things right, and I will have a better season.

"What I realize is that with the Yankees, there are two seasons, and you'd better excel in both of them. I did not in the playoffs, and I regret it. I just didn't pitch well, but I will again.

"This game can humble you at any time. Do you think it's fun giving up four home runs to the White Sox? Do you think it's fun giving up six runs in an inning to the Devil Rays?"

Johnson insists he "enjoys" the pressures of expecting to win as a Yankee, "because that's what I'm in the game to do." He says he never anticipated "the pressure that exists when the Yankees play the Red Sox," but says that his Sept. 11, 1-0 win over Tim Wakefield was one of his two most enjoyable starts all season, along with his 2-0 win against Seattle wunderkind Felix Hernandez.

If anything, Johnson this spring looks refreshed. Understand, he is a man who loves the game. He knows its history, he enjoys sitting and talking about situations and mechanics and other players. "I will have a better year," he says. "I'm certain of that."
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Gammons Blog
The immortal Peter Gammons has a new blog started up over at I don't know if it'll be a permanent fixture or just a short term thing, but either way, it's still Gammons on baseball.

In today's post:

"Carl Pavano has already been called the key to the Yankees' season by people who are extremely knowledgeable. But I offer this: If Chien-Ming Wang is healthy, he can be one of the 10 best pitchers in the American League, not to mention being the best on the Yankees' staff and the key to a 100-105 win season and a longer October run."

Wang one of the 10-best in the AL? I don't think he'll be that good, but I sure hope I'm wrong.
Prospect Profile: Jeff Karstens
Name: Jeffrey W. Karstens
Position: RHP
Vitals: 6'3", 175 lbs
Born: September 24, 1982
Hometown: San Diego, California
Drafted: 19th round (574th overall) in 2003 (Yankees 19th selection)

Background: Karstens grew up idolizing Pedro Martinez, and spent 2 years at Grossmont Junior College (El Cajon, California) before transferring to Texas Tech University. He won winning back-to-back conference championships with Grossmont before serving as Red Raiders' closer during his lone year with the program. He racked up 6 saves to go along with 8 wins in 63 IP at Tech. The Yankees converted Karstens into a starter at the outset of his pro career, and he's climbed the ladder steadily, having never repeated a level during his pro career.

Strengths: Karstens is a control artist; he's walked only 2.05 batters per 9 innings during his 3 year professional career. His best pitch is a sinking 2-seam fastball that comes in around 87-88 mph and is death to lefthanders. He's got pinpoint control of the pitch, and induces plenty of groundballs with it. He changes hitters sightlines with a low-90s 4-seam fastball and a good, 78-82 mph changeup. He does a good job of keeping the ball in the park (.57 career HRper9), and has outstanding mechanics to go along with an effortless delivery that allows the ball to get on hitters faster than expected.

Weaknesses: Karstens' offspeed stuff isn't up to par with his fastballs. He has a "get me over" curveball that comes in around 75 mph. His slider used to be a strikeout pitch, but it's regressed to the point that he was been forced to develop a changeup. Although his changeup is a solid pitch, it'll never be as effective as his slider once was. Even though he pitches fairly deep into games (6.24 IP per start during his pro career), his lanky build will prevent him from ever being an innings eater. Despite being a sinkerball pitcher, Karstens isn't a smooth fielder and sometimes it hurts him.

Comparison: As a sinkerballer, it's only natural to compare Karstens to best sinkerball pitcher to come through the Yankees system in some time. Here's their stats through age 23 (both pitched a Double-A Trenton with well over 100 IP under their belt at that age):

Chien-Ming Wang8.83.356.973.361.21

The numbers stack up reasonably well, and just like Wang at that point of his career, Karstens isn't viewed as a primary link in the organizational chain.

Outlook: Karstens seems destined to start 2006 at Triple-A Columbus after winning 12 games and posting a remarkable K/BB ratio of 3.5 (147/42) at Double-A. He's got the look and stuff of a solid back-of-rotation starter, where his impeccable command would be a welcome addition. With the Yankees crowded rotation, he could fit in as a Tanyon Sturtze type swingman, where his bullpen experience would be a plus. If he continues to improve and has a good year at Triple-A, it's possible he could earn a big league call-up come September. If not, he should see some major league action during the 2007 campaign.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
An expert's opinion
From Wednesday's chat with BA's Jim Callis:

Mike A. (Chico, CA): Hey Jim, thanks for taking our questions. What do the Yanks have in Jose Tabata? I was comparing his GCL numbers to those of Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Bernie Williams, Lastings Milledge, Javier Herrera, and Jeremy Hermida when they were down in the Rookie ball ranks, and Tabata blew them all out of the water despite being a year younger. Is it officially OK to start getting excited? Thanks again

Jim Callis: (2:09 PM ET )
Tabata is a very intriguing talent, but calm down there. I wouldn't project anything based on Gulf Coast League stats, because they're essentially meaningless. Check out Sergio Nunez' and Tony Blanco's numbers sometime. Tabata is a great athlete, but he has a long way to go.

What does Callis know anyway besides a whole lot more than me?

From the same chat:

Kip (Boston): What can you tell us about Darrell Rasner? Is he really an improvement over Jason Anderson?

Jim Callis: (2:40 PM ET )
Rasner has a chance to pitch in the back of a rotation or in middle relief. I agree with the Yankees--I'd rather have him than Anderson. But he's not really a difference-maker.

And also:

ND Boston, MA: If you had to pick between Jon Lester or Phillip Hughes, who would you choose?

Jim Callis: (2:46 PM ET )
Lester. He's lefthanded, healthier and a lot closer to the majors right now.
Did I miss something?
From today's ESPN chat with Jerry Crasnick:

cashman, ny: Hi Jerry, is Chien Ming Wang the real deal, or will he be just another sub-par pitcher on the Yankees roster. I couldn't help but notice him consistently hitting triple digits on the radar gun last October.

Jerry Crasnick: (12:13 PM ET ) Cashman, A lot of people really like Wang -- and so does Brian (Cashman), which is why the Yankees refused to deal him. He's had some rotator cuff issues that will bear watching, but the Yanks would love him to seize a starting spot in spring training.

I don't recall him hitting triple digits ever, none the less in October. BA's 2005 Prospect Handbook says he's hit 97 in the past, but after his shoulder woes he's consistently in the 92-94 range now. Can anyone let me know if I did missed something and he was topping 100? Thanks
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The half-right bullpen
Bullpens make or break great teams. The championship Yankee teams of the late 1990's were backboned by the infallible 4 man relief corps of Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera. A very good, if not great bullpen is a prerequisite to postseason success nowadays.

In what many consider to be a slow offseason for the Yankees (after all, they only shelled out $133.35M worth of major league contracts), the area they most improved was their bullpen, which was in need of great repair.

Last season, the Yanks bullpen posted a 4.37 ERA (good for 20th in baseball) and 6.38 Kper9 (23rd). Take out the incomparable Mariano Rivera and those numbers translate to 4.98 and 5.81, respectively. Furthermore, the 21 pitchers the Yankees used in relief last year put up a 1.05 GB/FB ratio (559/531). Again, take out Mo and you've got a .95 GB/FB ratio (447/472). For the sake of having the info in front of me, the Indians pen - best in the business in 2005 - put up a 1.07 GB/FB ratio (502/469).

The 4 main guys the Yanks brought in to help the pen (Farnsworth, Dotel, Myers and Villone) were much more effective as a group last year than the Yanks relief corp (how couldn't they have been). Combined, they put up a promising 3.13 ERA and 9.35 Kper9 to go along with a 1.01 GB/FB (179/178).

You want your relievers (or all pitchers for that matter) to do one of two things: get strikeouts or get groundballs. It seems as if the new guys can at least do one of those things, making the bullpen seem better at least on paper. Where am I going with this? Nowhere really, the stats didn't yield anything interesting as I had hoped they would. Sadly, I'll leave it at that...
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Weekly Poll Results
Last week's poll question asked which Yankee prospect had the best chance of winning a job out of spring training, and of the 21 of you that voted, 8 (38.1%) felt J. Brent Cox was the guy. Fellow reliever Matt Smith finished a close second with 7 votes (33.3%), Eric Duncan recieved 4 votes (19%), while Marcos Vechionacci and Phil Hughes rounded out the voting with 1 vote (4.8%) each.

Thanks for voting, the new question is up.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Prospect Profile: Jose Tabata
Name: Jose Tabata
Position: CF/OF
Vitals: 5'11", 175 lbs
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Born: August 12, 1988
Hometown: Anzoategui, Venezuela
Signed: Spring 2005 out of Venezuela. Received a $500,000 bonus.

Background: Tabata joins the likes of Marcos Vechionacci, Irwill Rojas, and Luis Nunez as prospects the Yankees have signed in recent years out of baseball's newest talent hotbed, Venezuela. However, unlike those players, Tabata headed straight to the U.S. to begin his pro career as the Yankees felt he was mature enough to forego a stint in the Dominican Summer League. The only player younger than him in the Gulf Coast League last year was the Braves' Elvis Andrus, who is only 14 days younger than Tabata.

Strengths: Tabata is a legitimate five tool talent. His arm is often compared to Vladimir Guerrero's, and his athleticism may be unmatched in the organization, including the major league level. He's a high percentage basestealer thanks to his blazing speed (he led the Gulf Coast league with 22 SBs in only 44 games). He's a natural centerfielder, where his speed allows him to effortlessly track down balls from gap to gap, although he manned left field effectively last year in deference to Austin Jackson. For such a young player, Tabata has an excellent grasp of the strike zone and doesn't try to do too much at the dish. He's already a very good hitter for average and drives in runs when given the chance (25 RBIs). He takes instruction well and is eager to improve his game.

Weaknesses: The biggest problem facing Tabata at this point is adjusting to a new culture and learning a new language. As far as his game goes, the only noticeable kink in his armor is his inexperience. He'll occasionally throw to the wrong base or overthrow the cutoff man, but otherwise he's solid in all aspects of the game. His weakest tool is his power, and while he hits for decent power now, he doesn't figures to hit for anything more than average power as he matures.

Comparison: Tabata had a monster debut in Rookie ball; just look how it compares to the stats put up by these household names when they were down in the Rookie ball ranks:

Carlos Beltran18.278.331.328.6592.16
Andruw Jones17.290.358.412.7701.76
Bernie Williams18.270.379.343.7221.10

Here's how his performance stacks up against three of the today's premier outfield prospects when they were at the Rookie level:

Lastings Milledge18.231.323.308.6311.33
Javier Herrera18.230.329.410.7392.71
Jeremy Hermida18.224.316.321.6371.67

Those numbers do a good job of speaking for themselves, but what may be most impressive is that he walked more than he struck out, always a good sign regardless of the raw pitching in the GCL.

Outlook: Tabata's upside is the highest of any Yankee farmhand, and not since Alfonso Soriano have the Yankees had a prospect with this much potential. Don't be surprised if he trumps Phil Hughes in 2007 as the Yankees' top prospect. His speed and ability to hit for average make him an ideal leadoff hitter, however his ability to drive in runs would also allow him to hit in the heart of the order. He's still some years away from the Bronx, but barring injury, he could reach the Bronx and take over full-time centerfield duties just as Johnny Damon's 4 year deal expires.
Friday, February 10, 2006
'Tis the season for projections
Spring training is so close you can practically smell the fresh cut grass and hear the popping of the catcher's mitt. It's that time of year when experts and amateurs alike put their 2 cents in and try to predict the future, so here we go:

SG at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog went through the Diamond Mind Baseball simulation motions and projects the Yankees to post 85 wins in 2006.

Steve Lombardi over at got the projection bug about a week later, and projected the Yanks to total 87 wins in 2006.

Rob LaBrie of fame is thinking 90 wins for 2006.

Tom Singer at doesn't give a number, but he sees a second place finish for the Yanks in 2006, with the Blue Jays taking the division.

With that, I thought I'd take a crack at 2006 projections. I'll cut to the chase and give you my projection now, with the explanation of how I got to that number to follow.

IGWT's Yankees 2006 projected win total: 98

That's a better win total than 85 or 87 (if you're a Yankee fan), and here's how I came to that number:
  1. First, using, I took all the Wins, Runs Scored, and Runs Allowed data for every AL team since the last expansion in 1998 and tabulated it to get each team's run differential (that's 112 data points total).
  2. I plotted each team's number of wins versus it's run differential, and got this fancy little chart (sorry if can't read it, Blogger isn't very friendly when it comes to inserting tables into posts): The 2 high points are the 1998 Yankees and the 2001 Mariners, while the 2003 Tigers get the joy of having the lowest point on the chart. Obviously, there's a relationship between Run Differential and Wins, a relationship I used in this projection.
  3. I added a trendline to chart in order to get the equation of the line, which describes the Run Differential-Wins relationship (it's about time I put that Civil Engineering degree on working to some good use). Instead of getting one equation and therefore only one relationship, I used 7 trendlines and got 7 different relationships (for the geeks like me out there: I ended up with a linear, exponential, and 2nd through 6th order polynomial equations for the relationship).
  4. With the relationships between Wins and Run Differential at hand, all I needed were projected values for how many runs the Yankees would score as well as give up. Using's 2006 fantasy projections as well as's 2006 ZiPS projections, I totaled how many runs they expect the Yankees to score and surrender next year. Here's that data:
    Runs Scored


    Runs Allowed630630
    Run Differential+146+188
    It's definitely fair to say the Runs Scored/Allowed values are low, but they aren't crucial. It's the Run Differential that'll control this project, and those values are very reasonable. It's kind of interesting how both project the Yanks to surrender the same number of runs though. Hmmm...
  5. Using the aforementioned relationships and the projected data above, I calculated how many wins each equation predicts for 2006. Here that is:
    RotoChamp WinsZiPS Wins
    Equation 1


    Equation 296.470101.852
    Equation 395.999100.366
    Equation 4


    Equation 596.023100.383
    Equation 695.99199.297
    Equation 796.994100.247
  6. Finally, I took the average of those 14 projected totals, rounded it off to a whole number, and walla, 98 wins.

Hopefully I didn't turn too many of you off from the blog with all the geek talk, but hopefully I nailed the prediction and we're headed for a 98 wins season, which should be good enough to take the division. Again.

Thursday, February 09, 2006
Prospect Profile: Chris Malec
Name: Christopher Malec
Position: 2B/SS
Vitals: 6'0", 190 lbs
Bats: Switch
Throws: Right
Born: August 28, 1982
Hometown: Laguna Nigel, California
Drafted: 16th round (499th overall) in 2005 (Yankees 16th selection)

Background: A 4 year starter at UC Santa Barbara, Malec was awarded All-Big West second team and honorable mention Freshman All-American honors in 2002, then named first team All-Big West his junior season, and finished his career as a second team member of the All-Big West team. Malec was diagnosed with testicular cancer during his senior season and underwent surgery, but he returned from treatment 2 weeks early using Lance Armstrong as inspiration. Malec clubbed a grand slam in the first inning in his first start back from surgery, and finished his Gaucho career with a .301-.382-.444-.826 line. Despite missing time due to a knee injury his sophomore year as well as his bout with cancer, Malec ranks in the school's all-time top ten in career RBIs. Like top prospect Phil Hughes, Malec is a lifelong Red Sox fan who's become accustomed to being on the Dark Side.

Strengths: Malec is a polished hitter, typical of college seniors. He's got good power to the gaps and does what he has to in order to get on base a (36 HBP in college). He has very good baserunning skills, which allows him to score alot of runs and stay away from making outs on the bases. Malec is the antithesis to the "there's no such thing as clutch" argument, as he went 26-35 (.743) with runners on third and less than 2 outs his junior year. His bat control is also exemplary and he rarely strikes out because of it (he posted more walks than strikeouts in his junior and senior years, and continues to do so as a pro). He has a knack for fouling off pitches and making pitchers work to get him out, and can shift over from second to shortstop without skipping a beat. As expected from a player coming back from cancer, his work ethic and makeup are through the roof.

Weaknesses: Despite his outstanding baserunning instincts, Malec speed isn't what you'd expect from a middle infielder, and he isn't a baserunning threat because of it (only 15 SB attempts since 2002, college and pro). Because he makes contact so easily, he doesn't walk much. Surprisingly, he's not a very good bunter given his control of the bat. His glovework is only average; he'll make a highlight play one inning then boot a routine grounder the next. He faced good, but not great competition in college, so his numbers may be padded a bit.

Comparison: Malec had no trouble adjusting to wood bats once he turned pro, and he continues to drive in runs even though his power dipped a bit. Malec's pro debut was significantly more impressive than 2 other middle infielders taken in the 2005 draft (I limited it to college players only, so no Justin Upton - who hasn't even made his pro debut yet - or CJ Henry) :

Troy Tulowitzki7th overall (COL).266.343.457.8002.00
Cliff Pennington21st overall (OAK).276.364.359.7231.21
Malec499th overall.384.439.479.918.571

Obviously Tulowitzki and Pennington have higher ceilings than Malec - just look where they were drafted - but Malec has stepped into pro ball and produced immediately, always a good sign.

Outlook: Malec has some serious sleeper potential. He fits the bill of a number 2 hitter to a tee thanks to his bat control and on-base ability. If he had more speed he'd be an excellent candidate for the leadoff spot as well. It's too early in his pro career to accurately predict, but he has the look of becoming a poor man's Derek Jeter. The Yankees curiously Malec had begin his pro career in Rookie ball despite being 23 years old (maybe it had something to do with his bout with cancer), but with the presence of Mario Holmann, CJ Henry, and Hector Made in the low minors, Malec should jump up to High-A Tampa to begin 2006. He shouldn't need a full season at any level, and is a prime candidate for a September 2007 call-up. However, with Jeter and Robinson Cano entrenched in the Bronx, Malec's chance may have to come with another team.

Update: You can view Malec's scouting view here, simply scroll down until you find his name (7th from the top), then click on your connection speed on the far right of his vitals line.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Behind the plate
The catcher may be the most important player on the field, he's the only on with the entire game in front of him, and his handling of the pitcher is sometimes more important than the pitcher himself. But the toll the position's duties take on the body are unmatched by any position in baseball; you need not look any further than Mike Piazza or Ivan Rodriguez for proof. Historically, around age 33 catchers really start to show their age and essentially turn into pumpkins. Yankee stalwart Jorge Posada is on the wrong side of 33 (he'll turn 35 this August) and even worse, there's no one in the farm system to replace him.

It's become almost a foregone conclusion that Jorge will make the 63 appearances behind the plate necessary to guarantee the $12M option in his contract for 2007. At that point, he'll essentially become untradeable. The free agent market following 2006 isn't the most exciting when it comes to catchers, with Doug Mirabelli, Rod Barajas, and an aging Javy Lopez as the sexiest names. The 2007 class is a bit better, when guys like Jason Kendall, Jason LaRue, Paul LoDuca and Michael Barrett should be available barring contract extensions, but all of those guys will be on the wrong side of 33 by then (except Barrett, who'll be 31).

The most ideal situation would be to bring a young catcher up and gradually work him into the rigors of everyday catching at the ML level over 2-3 seasons. Posada underwent a similar "breaking in" period behind Joe Girardi, not taking over full-time catching duties until the 2000 season. As I stated earlier, there's no one in the farm system that has the look of being an everyday catcher.

David Parrish, the Yanks first round pick in 2000, is already 26 and has only 380 ABs above Double-A under his belt, during which he posted an unremarkable .252-.315-.350-.665 line. Tommy Rojas has a chance to become a decent catcher, but the 908th overall pick in 2000 is already 23 and is slowly working his way up the ladder, spending at least a year at each level before moving up (he played at High-A Tampa in 2005). Omir Santos may be the best hope from within the organization, but he's already 24 and posted a .654 OPS in Double-A Trenton in 2005. Yeah, the catching depth in the system is that bad.

So unless there's a miracle on 161st Street, Posada's eventual successor will have to come from outside the organization. That's where this guy comes in: Kelly Shoppach. The former Red Sox top pick (48th overall in 2001) was included in the Coco Crisp-Ande Marte swap 2 weeks ago, and the soon to be 26 year old is ready to begin his "break in" period right now. Shoppach's problem is that Indians already have their franchise catcher in 27 year old Victor Martinez, as well as a great hitter in 25 year old Ryan Garko who's set to crack the big leagues in a big way very, very soon.

Shoppach can hit, as he owns a career .819 OPS and has averaged 26 HR and 63 RBIs per 162 games in his 3 minor league seasons. Even though he isn't a great hitter for average, he gets on base well (his career OBP is roughly 100 points higher than his career BA) and is solid defensively. He is very good at handling pitchers and an awesome clubhouse guy. His name has popped up in trade rumors constantly in the last year, with reports of him heading to the Rockies, Devil Rays and Diamondbacks surfacing, all to be squashed one way or the other. When he finally was dealt to Cleveland, it was a bit of a surprise to some because of Martinez's presence.

Now, the Indians are not going to give Shoppach away just because he's essentially a spare part, but they certainly could use some bullpen help and possibly another outfielder. Would a package of Eduardo Nunez and J. Brent Cox be enough to get Shoppach? Maybe, but Cashman has already said he has big plans for Cox. More realistically, a package featuring Tanyon Sturtze and someone like Bubba Crosby or Melky Cabrera could be enough to land Shoppach, and possibly even another prospect.

Even though Indians GM Mark Shapiro maintains that he is looking towards the future, his team is ready to contend now. They would benefit most from having a veteran leader like Einar Diaz (signed to a minor league deal by Cleveland) backup Martinez rather than a rookie like Shoppach.

If a trade does go down, Shoppach could start the season in Triple-A to work out some kinks, then come up after the All-Star break and catch 30-40 during the second half. Posada could make appearances at DH or 1B just to stay in the lineup, but he'd be in better shape physically come playoff time.

Other names that could be interesting as far as potential Posada successor's include Atlanta's Brian McCann (he's just keeping the spot warm for Jarrod Saltalamacchia), Texas' Gerald Laird, Pittsburgh's Ryan Doumit (he'll be expendable once Neil Walker hits the bigs) or one of Arizona's Koyie Hill and Chris Snyder (they don't need both with Johnny Estrada now on board).

One things for sure, the Yanks had better have a plan as far as Posada's successor, because this could become a monumental problem as soon as June or July.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Prospect Profile: Mike Martinez
Name: Michael Martinez
Position: RHP
Vitals: 6'2", 195 lbs
Born: April 12, 1981
Hometown: Newport Beach, California
Drafted: 8th round (249th overall) in 2004 (Yankees 10th selection)

Background: The Yankees wanted Martinez so badly, they drafted him twice. He was their 44th selection in 2003 (1318th overall), but instead he opted to return to Cal State Fullerton as a fifth year senior. The decision couldn't have gone better for Martinez, who not only helped Fullerton win the College World Series in 2004, but also improved his draft status upwards 36 rounds. Martinez spent the first 2 years of his college career as an infielder before converting to a pitcher during the 2002 season. He redshirted in 2003 because of nagging injuries, but emerged during 2004 in his first full season as a pitcher to go 8-3 while serving as a swingman. Martinez threw his first career shutout and complete game in June 2004, sending the Titans into the Super Regionals.

Strengths: Martinez is the epitome of a ground ball pitcher as all of his pitches sink. His fastball usually checks in around 87-90 mph with good downward movement. He pounds the strike zone with his heater, and consistently locates it at the bottom of the zone. His changeup is a second quality pitch, and it also features good sinking action. He has a bulldog mentality and isn't afraid to brush a hitter back if he needs to.

Weaknesses: Martinez's biggest weakness at this point is his lack of pitching experience. His breaking ball is rudimentary, and it lags considerably behind his other 2 pitches. Martinez relies heavily on his fastball and pounds the strike zone to a fault at times. The second time through the order, hitters can sit on his fastball knowing it only features average velocity and will be in the zone.

Comparision: Martinez had a decent year in Charleston, where he was one of manager Bill Mosiello's most used arms out of the pen. He led the team with 50 appearances, but otherwise his performance wasn't anything to behold. Here's how his 2005 season compares to 2 college pitchers selected after him in the draft:

Martinez249th overall10.575.372.521.45
Joseph Muro255th overall (TB)12.0612.6410.342.49
Derek DeCarlo256th overall (MIL)9.605.703.521.46

None of the 3 pitchers was overly impressive (especially Muro), but at least Martinez yielded the best K/BB ratio of the trio (2.13 compared to Muro's 1.22 and DeCarlo's 1.62).

Outlook: Martinez's future unquestionably lies in the bullpen, where his sinker/changeup combo will be most effective. His repetoire isn't deep enough to be a starter or longman, and he doesn't have the stuff to be a closer, so he'll fit in somewhere as a middle reliever. He's already 24 and will be 25 around the start of the season, and he has yet to pitch above Low Class-A. He figures to move up to High-A Tampa to open the season, with a promotion to Double-A Trenton to follow quickly if he gets off to a hot start. He could reach the Bronx in 2008 if he continues to improve, but that could be a reach given his struggles during the second half of 2005. He's not a significant piece of the Yankees' puzzle, so he could end up as a throw in as part of a trade before he ever makes the majors.
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