Various Notes About the Upcoming Season

Various Notes About the Upcoming Season

By – Feb 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Feb 26, 2014; Bradenton, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran (36) after he stuck out during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Cashman came out and said that the 2013 Yankees were a mirage. The fact that they won 85 games was extremely lucky. Their Pythagorean Record based on runs scored and allowed bears this sentiment out. They should have only won 79 games. Cashman went on to credit the manager, the coaching staff, and the players for squeezing out every ounce of talent and success that they could. He likened it to the luck of the 2012 Baltimore Orioles and called them an anomaly which was pretty funny. Anyway, the fact that the Yankees went into the off-season trying to improve on a 79 win team rather than an 85 win team is very relieving to hear. I just wonder what their internal projections are for the team in 2014.

We don’t have the Yankees’ internal projections, but Fangraphs came out with their projected standings and playoff odds for the 2014 season. These are based on ZiPS and Steamer individual player projections along with depth chart and playing time estimates through manual work. The Yankees are projected to finish 82-80 while scoring 4.36 runs/game and allowing 4.27 runs/game. They would be tied for the 15th best record in Major League Baseball. They would miss the playoffs and finish 3rd in the AL East behind Boston (88-74), Tampa Bay (84-78). They would tie with Toronto (82-80) and surpass Baltimore (78-84). This projects to be a very tight race for the division.

Of course, the projected records also come with odds of certain events happening. Fangraphs has the Yankees at a 15.6% chance of winning the division, 17.9% chance of winning the wild card, and a 33.4% chance of making the playoffs. Additionally, they have a 24.8% chance of making the division series, a 12.1% chance of winning the division series, a 5.6% chance of winning the league championship series, and a 2.9% chance of winning the World Series. These odds would be of interest to bettors and Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs ran a piece about this. He compared these odds to the odds of a Sportsbook to look for differences and identify good bets if you have faith in Fangraphs. The Sportsbook chosen gave the Yankees a 5.8% chance of winning the World Series compared to just a 2.9% chance from Fangraphs. For comparison, the Dodgers had the highest World Series percentage from Sportsbook at 10.1%. Fangraphs projections seem to be a little bearish on the Yankees compared to Vegas.

In the end, the Yankees are an extremely high variance team for this coming season. This means that the error bars on their final win total are very high and a plus/minus for a confidence interval covers a wide range. The 2013 Toronto Blue Jays were a great example of a high variance team (Would Jose Reyes hold up on turf? Could Josh Johnson throw 150+ innings? What is Brett Lawrie?) The variance is due to having a fair amount of players that could put up 4-5 win seasons or be replacement level. The 2014 Yankees will follow the same model. Can Derek Jeter stay healthy and play shortstop? Is Mark Teixeira‘s power sapped from wrist surgery? Can Alfonso Soriano/Carlos Beltran produce offensively despite spending substantial time at DH for the first time in their careers? Can Michael Pineda be the 3-win pitcher from 2011? Will the middle relief pitching be a strength or a weakness? Every team has questions like these. The Yankees just seem to have many more of these questions for 2014 that they haven’t had in the recent past.


Recap: Yankees Blown Out in Jeter’s Spring Debut

Recap: Yankees Blown Out in Jeter’s Spring Debut


By – Feb 27th, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Feb 27, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) tags out Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison (5) as he attempted to steal during the fifth inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees were blown out by the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of 8-2 at George M. Steinbrenner Field Thursday. The loss dropped the Yankees to 0-2 so far this spring…now let’s get to the important stuff. Derek Jeter played in his first game since the Yankees announced he was done for the remainder of the season, last September.

This was also Jeter’s first time playing since he announced his intentions to retire following this upcoming season, mere weeks ago. Jeter played five innings at shortstop, going 0-for-2. The first of those at-bats was a first-inning double play, the second a close play at first on a bouncer to deep third. Jeter looked solid back at short, handling a throw from catcher Francisco Cervelli that ended the top of the fifth inning on a caught stealing. Overall, it was a pretty successful day for Jeter. There were also some other bright spots besides Jeter. Starting pitcher David Phelps, after giving up a first inning home run to Gregory Polanco, rebounded to give the Yankees two solid innings in which he struck out four batters, and worked around a double, in his quest to win the fifth spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation.

Third baseman Kelly Johnson, who manager Joe Girardi has said the Yankees “expect to be our third baseman” come Opening Day, ripped an RBI double to deep center in the fifth, to tie the score at one. With the game knotted at two in the eighth, the Yankees brought in relief pitcher Robert Coello, who has been given Joba Chamberlain‘s old number of 62…and boy did he look as bad. After giving up a three-run shot to Mel Rojas Jr., he proceeded to give up two more runs on an RBI single, and subsequently was removed from the game, after throwing 31 pitches, and only getting one out, in what would turn out to be an 8-2 loss for the Bombers.

The Yankees will play again tomorrow against the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 P.M. Adam Warren will take the hill for the Yankees, looking to cement his spot in the starting rotation as well. Expect to see more Jeter tomorrow, in what is only the beginning of what is sure to be a fun season for Jeter and the Yankees.


Yankees can’t afford to have Jeter end career with a whimper

Ken Davidoff

Ken Davidoff

Yankees can’t afford to have Jeter end career with a whimper

By Ken Davidoff

February 27, 2014 | 8:44pm

Under cloudy skies, through chilly 60-degree weather (sorry, New Yorkers) and in front of enough empty seats to fill The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Jeter received a polite standing ovation as he kicked off his retirement/rehabilitation tour at the Yankees’ Grapefruit League home opener. Starting at shortstop and hitting second, he showed off his improved left ankle as he went hitless in two at-bats and tagged out Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison trying to steal second base in the fifth inning.

Despite the lack of fanfare, Jeter’s day — his whole 2014 adventure, really — is more than just a nostalgia ride. It’s vital to the Yankees’ hopes. It’s exactly how The Captain wants it.

“I’ve always been an important part of the team,” Jeter said, after the Yankees dropped an 8-2 decision to the Pirates. “I’ve never gone into the season thinking I wasn’t important. I understand that my job is important. If I ever felt that I wasn’t important, then I would have left a long time ago.”

“I think it’s important that we’re able to run him out there on a pretty consistent basis, and that he is Derek,” Joe Girardi echoed. “He splits up left-handers. He just gives more of a continuity to our lineup, and to our club.”

Jeter surely would like to acquire a neuralyzer from the “Men in Black” movies and clean everyone’s memory — including his own — of the 2013 season. The worst part may not even have been that he missed 145 games last year. It could be that he looked so awful, so uncomfortable and fragile, in the 17 games he actually played amidst four trips to the disabled list. The Yankees’ inability to overcome his absence, as well as those of his other injured teammates, just added to the nightmare.

The Yankees’ $500 million-plus offseason spending spree gave them a better club, undisputedly, yet not such an improved roster they can coast with another subpar showing from their shortstops. And Plan B for Jeter, if the ankle doesn’t hold up or if he simply can’t perform at a high level anymore as he approaches 40, underwhelms us. Brendan Ryan ideally serves as Jeter’s late-inning replacement, and Eduardo Nunez remains a fragile, frustrating talent who might be needed at third base, anyway.

That leaves Jeter, who put up an All-Star 2012 with his .316/.362/.429 slash line and 216 hits in 133 starts at shortstop and 25 more at designated hitter.

“I think everyone is hoping that’s who we get this year,” said Brian Roberts, Jeter’s new (and profoundly fragile) double-play partner at second base.

The Yankees probably would settle for closer to 100 starts at shortstop and a slash line in the .280/.330/.400 neighborhood, when you consider their shortstops last year provided a ghastly .228/.286/.312. Defensively, we all know Jeter will be a significant liability with his range, and the Yankees will accept the trade-off of his sure-handedness.

The downside of a Jeter downslide would be more than just wins and losses, of course. There would be the psychological turbulence of Girardi playing Jeter less often, or dropping him in the lineup.

“Offensively and defensively, it’s important for me to be out there every day,” Jeter said. “That’s the approach that I’ve always had. It doesn’t change. That mind-set has always remained the same since I came up in ’96.”

Many players enjoy their retirement tour while representing past glory far more than present potential. Cal Ripken Jr. stopped playing every day and toiled for a lousy 2001 Orioles team. Tony Gwynn could still hit yet couldn’t stay healthy, and his 2001 Padres finished under .500, too. Craig Biggio regressed dramatically.

Jeter’s role models here can be his longtime teammate Mariano Rivera and longtime interleague foe Chipper Jones, both of whom remained excellent for ambitious teams in their last round. And whose clubs depended on them.

If he matches those guys and gets the expected help from his teammates? Rest assured, there will be far more fanfare surrounding his October goodbye than his February hello.

Robinson Cano, Lloyd McClendon bond in Seattle

Robinson Cano, Lloyd McClendon bond in Seattle

PEORIA, Ariz. – During his free-agent negotiations with the Seattle Mariners, Robinson Cano inquired about what kind of help he would get in trying to turn around the flagging club.

He didn’t realize at the time how much of that support would come from someone who hasn’t swung a bat in the majors in 20 years – although he did steal a base in 2001.

JETER: Business as usual

New manager Lloyd McClendon, hired five weeks before Cano left the New York Yankees for a 10-year, $240 million contract with Seattle, has made it clear early in his tenure that he’ll be a vocal, commanding figure in the Mariners’ attempt to reverse a slide that has seen them miss the postseason each of the last 12 years.

McClendon vigorously defended Cano when Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long criticized his former pupil’s reluctance to run out routine grounders, and he’s constantly impressing upon his youthful team that it can compete with anybody, past records be damned.

“He’s going to have a big, big impact on this team, and a positive one,” Cano said. “McClendon comes from a Detroit team that has been to the World Series twice in the last (eight) years. He’s got a winning mentality.”

The Mariners enjoyed just two winning seasons in the last 10 years, finishing fourth in the American League West eight times in that spell. That made it all the more surprising they would land Cano, who never experienced a losing season in nine years with the Yankees and went to the playoffs seven times.

Even with his signing and the addition of closer Fernando Rodney and outfielder-first basemen Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, preseason projections have Seattle as the fourth-best team in the division.

But the initial signs that McClendon’s message is getting through were evident in Thursday’s 7-1 victory over the San Diego Padres, in the Cactus League opener for both clubs.

Twice in the first two innings, Seattle runners forced the action by aggressively taking an extra base, and both times they wound up scoring on sacrifice flies. Cano was in the middle of a two-run rally, singling on the first pitch he saw as a Mariner and later scoring. He went 1-for-1 with a walk.

“We’ve been preaching all spring that baserunning wins games,” McClendon said. “We did a pretty good job. We can get a little better. First-to-third is one of the things we have to do.”

McClendon spent the last eight years on the Detroit Tigers coaching staff under manager Jim Leyland – seven of them as hitting coach – and in that time they reached the postseason four times, getting to the World Series in 2006 and 2012.

Part of his mission with the Mariners is to change the culture, ideally to one that suits his confident, sometimes-fiery personality.

McClendon is not crazy about the replays of his memorable meltdown as a rookie manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001, when he yanked first base and walked away with it after being ejected. But after a succession of placid managers, the Mariners could benefit from someone who goes all Mount St. Helens once in a while.

And folks in the Great Northwest likely won’t object to someone who may remind them of the beloved Lou Piniella, who guided Seattle to four playoff appearances in 10 years.

Frankie Cervelli phones home

Friday, February 28, 2014

Frankie Cervelli phones home

Posted by el duque at 6:37 AM

I’ve always liked Francisco Cervelli. Soft spot in my heart, (along with the one in my head.)
Twice, Cervelli has gone to a hospital in an ambulance, while wearing his Yankee uniform. Both times happened while blocking home plate. Once, it came in a meaningless spring game, yet Cervelli didn’t grow bitter. The second time, he knocked him unconscious, and he struggled with headaches and dizziness, and had to finally wear a huge helmet that made him look like a cartoon character. But he didn’t grow bitter.
Two years ago, as Cervelli was packing his locker to head to New York for the start of the season, the Yankees traded for Chris Stewart, and sentenced him to Scranton, which at the time didn’t even have a home ballpark. He spent that whole riding on buses along the New York State Thruway. Yet Cervelli didn’t grow bitter.
Last spring, Cervelli finally won the starting catcher role with the Yankees. He had worked hard and elevated his game. For the first month, he played like an all-star. He was proving to be one of our most dependable clutch hitters. Then came broken hand, and then came his long, drawn-out guilt by association with A-Rod. Bud Selig chased the Biogenesis scandal because Alex Rodriguez’ name turned up a notepad. Cervelli’s name was in there, too. I’m not saying it was OK to be that notepad, but if Cervelli played with any other team but the Yankees, he’d have skated. Now, when venturing into Fenway, he’ll hear calls of “Juicer,” as if the Redsocks are clean.  (What a joke.)
Cervelli’s future with the Yankees is a roll of the dice. Either he or Austin Romine will almost surely be traded. The Yankees won’t keep three catchers, and with their two top prospects playing the position in Triple and Double A, there’s no place to park Cervelli, if he is not the Yankees’ backup. Anything can happen in the next month. But flip a coin. Either Cervelli or Romine will be gone.
Yesterday, Cervelli coaxed a few Yankee teammates to join him in an Instagram picture, showing a message of support for the growing resistance in his homeland of Venezuela. It’s rare to see a Yankee take a political stance in a hopeful direction. But I’m not surprised about Cervelli. And wherever he goes, I suspect he’ll pick himself up and soldier on. He simply is not one to grow bitter.

Which club has the best front office?

Which club has the best front office?

By                        on Feb 28 2014, 9:00a

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Which baseball brain-trust is the best?

Sandy Alderson thinks the Mets can win 90 games. In fact, he “strongly believes” the Mets can win 90 games, which would almost guarantee them at least one of the Wild Card spots. Maybe you are laughing right now. Maybe you were drinking coffee when you read that and you are wiping that coffee off your monitor right now. The Mets won 74 games last season and 74 games the year before. I’m not a betting man, but those who are have the Mets over/under at 73.5. Take a guess at how many games Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system projects them to win. No, wait. Actually, it is 72, but that is probably just a glitch or something. The Mets have been mired in mediocrity for five years, but as Marc Normandin points out in the article linked above, they are not far from turning the corner. I don’t strongly believe they will win 90 games in 2014, but it is not as ridiculous as it sounds at first.

But, let’s imagine for a moment that the Mets do win 90 games. Maybe David Wright makes a run at hitting .400 and Curtis Granderson hits 40 home runs with Wright on-base ahead of him for all of them.  Maybe Ike Davis figures it all out and Juan Lagares learns to hit and Noah Syndergaard makes the world forget about Matt Harvey’s UCL. Draw it up however you like. Just imagine it happens and that it isn’t just some 2012 Orioles run-differential fluke-job. It would be hard not to deny Alderson’s genius. At the end of the 2010 season, he took over a franchise in turmoil and by the end of 2014, he built a 90 win team while ownership dropped payroll and begged for the money to make payroll and he did it without the kind of tanking that the Astros and Cubs have employed in the course of their total overhauls.

Would this dream scenario put the Mets near the top of the list of the best front office’s in the game? The specifics would probably matter quite a bit, but the turnaround, combined with Alderson’s prophetic line might give them a solid case. The Cardinals seem to be the default answer to the  best front office question and they have an excellent case. The Rays have done more winning with less money than anyone else in baseball… except the Athletics, who were the Rays back when the Rays were still the Devil Rays. There is also the 2013 turnaround story. The Red Sox followed a 69-win in 2012 season with a 97-win World Championship season in 2013 and Ben Cherington’s reclamation of the baseball decision-making process in Boston powered that about-face. Maybe it isn’t one these teams at all. There are tons of smart people in baseball and winning recently isn’t the only criteria for front office brilliance.

Which club has the best front office?