Adam Warren and Jose Quintana – A Review of Two Rookie Hurlers

June 30, 2012

I am prefacing this by saying I have seen Adam Warren pitch about a half dozen times, from Staten Island up through Scranton.

I have never seen him as bad as he was in his major league debut Friday night at Yankee Stadium. And I don’t mean bad by results oriented bad, but approach on the mound bad, stuff bad and command bad.

Warren can be a pretty decent major league pitcher, and it would be a mistake if the Yankees ended up giving Warren the Chase Wright treatment of permanent banishment to the minor leagues after one bad start to a major league career.

But that will likely happen. Look for David Phelps to get the missing CC start next week.

Warren did get the first two guys out in the first inning, but then walked the next two. Granted they were the biggest power hitters in the Chicago White Sox lineup, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, but attack the strike zone with two outs and no one on base! Solo HRs won’t kill you, but two-run shots will.

What I did notice was Warren has a pretty good change up last night, striking out the leadoff batter on a change up and throwing a 2-0 change to Dunn for a called strike after falling behind on two curve balls out of the zone. Memo to Warren and Chris Stewart: Adam Dunn takes a lot of pitches. He never faced you before and was likely going to take the first pitch you threw him no matter what.

With two outs and no one on, throw a 0-0 strike.

However, Warren only threw a couple other change ups in his 2.1 innings, which generated swings and misses or outs. I am surprised Warren didn’t throw more as the change up was the only effective pitch he had all night. I am also surprised the catcher, Stewart, didn’t call for more changes.

Warren was throwing his fastball with good velocity (up to 93) in the first inning, but the pitch lacked pop and the extra giddy-up required to get a fastball by major league hitters. What it also severely lacked was movement. It was as straight as an arrow. It was the lack of movement that allowed Dunn to receive that first inning walk. A 3-2 fastball was just off the inside corner, perfectly placed under Dunn’s hands, but with any tailing movement to the pitch, Warren probably gets the called third strike.

But Warren’s fastball was straight all night. I don’t remember Warren having that straight of a fastball, and he used to throw a 2-seamer once in a while, but never saw it last night.

Warren also had a very ugly slider/cutter* last night. In the past, I have seen this pitch get lots of swings and misses during his minor league stints. But it was always much tighter and with good, sharp bite and he often threw it for strikes.

*I saw Warren in back to back to back starts a few seasons ago. The first two were in High-A Tampa, which saw Warren dominate both games. He was then promoted to Trenton and I saw him that next week pitching in Double-A. He did a double take when I saw him in Trenton, “like what are you doing here, weren’t you in Tampa?” type look.  Anyway, we talked about his slider and he said it was not a slider but a combination slider/cutter, which I quickly said, “You mean like a slutter?” He laughed and said that it was funny I said that, because that is what his father called the pitch – the slutter. (His dad was in Trenton for his Double A debut, and, obviously as you saw on T.V. was in Yankee Stadium for his major league debut).

But last night, Warren often started the pitch out of the zone and the slurvy break just brought the ball further low and away, a very easy pitch for major league hitters to recognize and avoid. Last night’s slutter was more an A-ball type offering rather than a major league pitch. It has been better in the past and should (needs to) be better in the future.

Plus, if the hitters weren’t chasing the pitch, he needed to throw it for strikes early in the count to hitters. Just to show them he can and to begin to bring the strike zone back into play, to the hitter and the umpire. I am not a big Lou Piniella in the TV booth guy (too general, not enough insight) but he did say a couple things last night worth noting. One was that Warren needed to throw more strikes to keep the umpire on his side, especially as a major league debut guy. A young pitcher needs to establish the strike zone to the umpire.

Without that extra pop on his fastball, the White Sox hitters knew Warren couldn’t blow the ball by them. He may have been throwing up to 93 MPH, but it sure seems like David Robertson’s 90 MPH fastballs have more juice. When hitters know you can’t blow the ball by them, they sit on certain pitches and wait patiently until they get that pitch.

Perfect example is the double hit by Gordon Beckman in the second inning. Beckham easily fouled off two outside pitches, one maybe off the plate and when Warren came inside on 1-2, he stroked a solid double down the left field line on a 93 MPH fastball. As Warren had done often early, he worked outside early to hitters, and then came inside with two strikes. Beckham recognized this and patiently waited for the inside pitch he could handle, then…well, he handled it.

Warren walked only two batters (both in the first), but he was nibbling with his fastball all night, just missing off the outside corner. I suggest throwing the ball over the plate more, then working to expand the zone later in the game when you have established the zone to both hitter and umpire.

So to summarize, Warren had brutal stuff – a very straight , medium pop fastball, with no movement at all; a slutter with no bite, was recognized all night, didn’t get chased and wasn’t thrown for strikes; PLUS a seldom used change up which happened to be his best pitch all night.

As I said at the top, it was a very bad night for Warren in terms of approach, stuff and command, which obviously had terrible results on the scoreboard. He is better than what he showed last night, and I sincerely hope the Yankees (and their fair weather “fans”) given him another opportunity.

His opponent was Jose Quintana, who pitched last year for the Yankees High-A Tampa team, before being released in a 40-man roster crunch. Quintana was to become a minor league free agent, and needed to be placed on the 40 man roster at the end of 2011. But despite very good numbers in each of his prior minor league seasons, the Yankees chose to not keep Quintana.

Since the White Sox brought up Quintana, I have read a few reports how the Yankees blew it with Quintana, how he would be perfect fit with the major league team, etc. If the Yankees did offer their final 40 man roster spot to Quintana last winter, he would be no higher than Double-A Trenton and would never sniff the major leagues before 2014, if then. He would be on strict pitch counts and innings limits, placed on the phantom DL to limit his work and he would be buried behind all the arms at Scranton (including Russ Ortiz and now Chris Schwinden – lol).

The only chance Quintana would have had to pitch in Yankee Stadium was if it was for another team. Which last night it was.

The White Sox do things differently than the Yankees. They take risks, play young players and generally think outside the box. And they have patience with young players.

Actually, I didn’t think Quintana was all that impressive last night. He has slight movement to a nothing fastball, a weak breaking ball and so-so change up. But he has been successful thus far by keeping hitters off balance and locating his pitches well. Doesn’t sound like a Yankee pitching prospect, huh?

He has a smooth easy delivery and despite getting into a few jams last night, shows the poise of a 10 year veteran. He also trusts his stuff and throws strikes.

You know who Quintana should be? He is exactly what Yankee left handed pitching prospect Manuel Banuelos SHOULD be. But Banuelos is hurt again and has pitched only 24 innings this season.

What was impressive last night was rookie White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who confidently left Quintana in the game during the 6th inning. With an 8-6 lead, two outs and no one on base, a fielding error allowed a runner on second base, and there a right handed reliever warmed up in the bullpen. However, Quintana was allowed to pitch to Derek Jeter, a right handed hitter facing the rookie for a third time.

I guarantee Joe Girardi hooks a rookie starter in that spot, if he was allowed to start the inning at all.

Quintana calmly retired Jeter and finished his night. Ventura made a gutsy, good call leaving in Quintana. The worst case scenario the game becomes tied with a Jeter two-run homer. But more importantly Ventura gave a huge boost of support to his young pitcher, which not only helped last night but also in future appearances.


Why Is Freddy Garcia and Not David Phelps Getting the Start Monday Night ?

June 28, 2012

The New York Yankees had a mixed day on Wednesday afternoon. First, they lost both CC Sabathia (leg) and Andy Pettitte (broken ankle) to the disabled list, but held on the beat the Cleveland Indians 5-4 and sweep the three game series.

Sabathia will likely miss only two starts, and will come back within a week after the All-Star break, while Pettitte is likely done for until mid-September. The word is Pettitte is gone for only six weeks, which takes the injury out to mid-August, but the way the Yankees run injury rehabs and “stretch out” programs, it will be AT LEAST another month after his ankle heals before Pettitte will take the hill in a major league game.

So, the Yankees can easily place Andy on the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster as he will not be back until September.

If the Yankees are still cruising through their division and best overall record in late August, why even rush Pettitte? Remember the 2010 season, when Andy had to make three minor league rehab starts in Double-A Trenton? The Yankees were worried about bringing him back too soon. How do you think they will be two years later for a 40-year-old Pettitte?

One pitcher who piggybacked Pettitte during that 2010 Thunder post season was Adam Warren, who will get one call up to replace CC/Andy. Warren struck out 10 New Hampshire hitters that evening in six innings.

NOTE: As I write this, I see tweets from several Yankee beat writers saying Warren and Ryota Igarashi will get the two call ups. I thought the Yankees were going to call up David Phelps and Warren. The call ups SHOULD be Phelps and Warren. But due to the Yankee organization “build up” process, since being sent down on June 14th for David Robertson, Phelps only has 5.1 innings under his belt, in High-A no less. Can we let these kids throw the god damn baseball? So, in the last MONTH, Phelps has less than six innings pitched.

Pathetic.

However, I still believe Phelps is ready.

Warren will now likely get at least two or three starts. Beginning with his first start tomorrow night, if Warren does well, he will continue to pitch until he has one bad start. That is the Yankee way. If he doesn’t do well immediately, the Yankees will promote Ramon Ortiz or David Phelps, whenever Phelps is ready.

GM Brian Cashman stated that if Phelps was “stretched out,*” he would have received the call rather than Warren.

*Oh, man how do I hate this term.

Then why wasn’t Phelps ready? Again, I do believe Phelps is ready, as ready as Garcia is now. But why did it take seven days for Phelps to even take the mound in a game when he was sent down on June 14th? I know players returned to the minors have three days to report, but the Yankees could have nudged Phelps to get to Tampa right away so he could begin pitching.

Any why in Tampa and not Triple-A, but that is another story.

Phelps started on June 21st and threw two innings. Two. Then he started again on June 26th, and threw 3.1 innings, using 55 pitches. According to the above linked report, Phelps will throw 65 pitches in his next start. Only 10 more pitches than his last start? By the time the Yankees let Phelps be ready for a real start, it could be mid-July. I am half-kidding but it will be close to that time at the rate they are going with 10 pitch increases.

And why does Phelps need to get stretched out even more when Garcia only threw 32 pitches yesterday plus a few dozen more in the bullpen afterwards. Isn’t Garcia around 55 pitches, too?

I don’t understand why Garcia is getting starts. Is it loyalty to the “good soldier” who has not said boo since being demoted to the bullpen or because Garcia is a veteran who is more trusted by manager Joe Girardi? I think it’s a bit of both, but despite a good 2 plus inning performance yesterday, Garcia still hasn’t been that good as a starter this season.

But he has been pretty effective as a reliever. Why not leave him in that role? It was similar to Sergio Mitre a few years ago, who was terrible as a starter in 2009 and early 2010, but thrived in a relief role most of 2010 when he was moved to the bullpen as long man. But when Mitre was pressed back as a spot starter due to injuries, he regressed back to his usual starter suckiness.

I have the feeling that “Starter Freddy” will come back quickly.

Why not have Phelps throw 80 pitches, and not 65, in his next start? Like the start Garcia is getting Monday night. That is all the pitches Garcia is likely going to be allowed to throw, unless, of course, he gets bombed early. It’s not like Phelps hasn’t thrown this year, and in his appearances, he has thrown much better than Garcia. Phelps and Warren are the future, especially when the Yankees are at their self-assessed $189 million cap for 2014.

The Yankees babying of these pitchers is getting brutal, and with the recent demotion of Dellin Betances, it appears their methods with minor league guys do not work very well.

However, if Phelps was allowed to pitch the way he should have been, Phelps could have started throwing a couple days after being sent down. Let’s say June 17th, then again June 21st, then again June 26th. Phelps then Phelps could already have been at the 80 pitch plateau, and ready for Friday or Monday.

I see quite a few Yankee fans worrying about the loss of their two veterans. Pettitte has surprised me this season, as I did not think he was going to be as effective as he has shown. I saw tweets and heard analysts saying the Yankees lost their “two best pitchers.” Well, guys like Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova have also been pretty darn good for June. Plus, the high octane offense and very good bullpen gives the Yankees some breathing room.

I would have gone with Phelps and Warren to anchor the two spots (at least until CC returns in two weeks), and leave Garcia in the role which he is performing well.  Warren will go tomorrow night and Garcia will start Monday.

And whenever Phelps gets “stretched out,” he should get the nod over the eventual ineffective Garcia, like he should have had already.


David Phelps Should NOT Be Just a Short Term Solution

May 1, 2012

I was in the midst of writing a “Girardi Needs to Yank Garcia from the Rotation” piece when the Yankees announced Sunday that Freddy Garcia is being removed from the rotation. He will not make his next scheduled start and will remain as the mop up guy* in the bullpen.

  • As opposed to the 9th inning guy (Rivera), the 8th inning guy (Robertson), the 7th inning guy (Soriano), the 6th inning guy (Wade/Logan), the LOOGY (Rapada), and multi-inning guy (Logan/Wade).

In a related transaction, Triple-A starting pitcher D.J. Mitchell, who many feel could be a good, multi-inning reliever, has been promoted with Cody Eppley, who has thrown well since he was recalled last week, was sent down to make room for Mitchell. Since Eppley threw 3 innings yesterday, he was likely not available today or tomorrow, and with Phelps also not likely available due to his three inning stint yesterday, he wasn’t available either.

They still have 13 pitchers on their 25 man roster. That is at least one too many.

With Cory Wade and now Garcia in the bullpen, why the need for Mitchell right now? Did Girardi expect CC Sabathia to get knocked around early today?

The bringing up of Mitchell told me that he will not be the starting pitcher the next Thursday (Garcia’s next scheduled start). And after the game we hear that Phelps will indeed start in Garcia’s stead.

That is a great move, with Phelps GETTING a role in the Yankees starting rotation is long overdue.

I say getting because the way the Yankees have developed their own starting pitching (not good) with ways most other successful teams do develop starting pitching (pretty good) is completely different.

The Yankees force their young pitchers to pitch well in the minor leagues, and then pitch extremely well in spring training to “earn” your spot. After you “earn” your spot, then a Yankee pitching prospect needs to pitch like an ace right off the bat to keep that rotation spot. Then that kid has to pitch well again the NEXT spring training to keep that spot.

What other team (besides the Yank-Mees) in their right mind would force a 16 game winner in the prior season to have to EARN a spot in the rotation for the next season the way the Yankees made Ivan Nova do this spring training. There was serious talk in late March of Nova being sent to minor leagues after his sub-par spring training. The minor leagues! Ship out a kid who won 16 games last year, with an ERA well below 4.00.

And all that might not even get you a sniff of the major leagues, since the Yankees are always seeking to “improve” their rotation each year with the biggest name free agent available.

Teams like the Tampa Bay Rays develop their pitchers. Each of their current starting pitchers were brought up in the middle (or end) of their first major league season to start games when the Rays needed them.  Then that guy was inserted into the starting rotation for the next season, and in several instances veteran starters were traded away to allow these kids that opportunity. Guys like Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel (who seems to have turned his career around) were shipped out to allow new starters an opportunity.

Same thing has been done in San Francisco and Texas.

So after a career minor league record of 38-15, 2.61 ERA, Phelps has now been granted an opportunity to start a major league baseball game, AFTER he had to “earn” that spot this spring training to get on the major league roster. I have written about Phelps many times before, most recently here but now people are finally realizing this kid is pretty good.

http://nybaseballdigest.com/2012/03/05/david-phelps-impresses-on-the-mound-what-else-is-new/

He throws strikes with four pitches, moves the ball nicely around the zone and can blow the ball by hitters when he needs to.

However, despite his four quality appearances out of the bullpen, he also had two outings where he allowed three earned runs in each. It was in these two games which Phelps has given up three of his four home runs allowed. In fact, five of his seven runs allowed have been caused by the four long balls.

I am sure that has really destroyed that precious xFIP.

It is these two outings which has many in the blogosphere very nervous. Let me break down these two appearances.

In the Boston game on April 21st, Phelps allowed six hits, three ERs while walking one in four innings. His ERA for that game (6.75) is less than Phil Hughes ERA of 7.88 this season and well below Garcia’s. This game saw Phelps give up a bunch of ground ball singles, a double and a two-run home run to Cody Ross, who he had whiffed in a prior at bat. He also retired Adrian Gonzalez twice including getting him to hit into a double play.

I guess Phelps was just lucky on that grounder.

Anyway, he was ahead of most of the hitters that game as he was in the Texas game. But in the Texas game, Phelps allowed two solo home runs, three walks (2 IBB) in 2.1 innings. He threw good pitches which were hit out, a 1-1 up and in fastball to Mitch Moreland, and a 0-2 low and away fastball to Mike Napoli. Both pitches weren’t exactly where they were supposed to be, but weren’t great fat pitches to hit either. I actually thought he should have bounced a curve ball to Napoli 0-2 after getting ahead on two straight fastballs.

There are times when a pitcher can make the most perfect pitch (and up and in and low and away fastballs are two great pitches), but if a hitter is looking for a particular pitch they can still hit it very hard. That is why it is imperative to get ahead (which Phelps consistently does), which forces many hitters to expand the strike zone.

I am not making excuses for Phelps, but despite two “bad” outings, he didn’t pitch as bad as the numbers suggest.

I saw Phelps throw in his last outing. He moved the ball in and out; throwing the ball very well against a pretty good lineup. Just ask Garcia, he’ll agree. Phelps jammed Miguel Cabrera on and inside fastball on the black and had Prince Fielder pout in front on an outside curveball, which induced the slugger to bounce into a double play. He threw a 3-1 changeup to get Phelps also set up Austin Jackson like he was a little leaguer, striking AJax out on three pitches, finishing him off with a high fastball which Jackson swung through.

It is not practical for the Yankees to not have another young arm in the rotation. Most successful teams continue to produce solid starting pitching, many of whom are not even first round pick. And if the Yankees feel they will sign Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke next year for contracts well over $100 million (the way Hamels is throwing, he might command near $200 million), then they are nuts. As a west coast guy, if Hamels did become a free agent, he will never sign with the Yankees. And after the crap Michael Pineda endured this spring training, Greinke will run far away from the Bronx.

Who else is a possible free agent? A Joe Blanton, Kyle Lohse or Brandon McCarthy? Please.

And what type of Mat Latos or Gio Gonzalez deal are you going to swing now since your biggest trade chip, Jesus Montero, was shipped out to Seattle?

There is a great strong chance Hiroki Kuroda and/or Andy Pettitte will not be around next season due to cost (Kuroda) and effectiveness (Pettitte). And will Phil Hughes begin to fulfill all his promise as a starting pitcher and become a fixture in the Yankee rotation?

The best situation for the Yankees is to develop and use another pitcher from their system in their starting rotation. And that doesn’t include a rehash of the 40 year old Andy Pettitte. Ivan Nova has proven he belongs, and it is time for the Yankees to allow Phelps a similar opportunity. He has been their best minor league starting pitcher since he has entered their system. 

If the choice is between a 25 year old David Phelps with a four pitch arsenal to both sides of the plate or a 40 year old Andy Pettitte who can barely break 86 MPH, and from what I have seen and heard throws many his pitches over the middle of the plate, the choice is very easy.

Phelps has shown he can get out many of the game’s best hitters, and has the composure, confidence and repertoire to succeed at this level. There is no reason why he shouldn’t be GIVEN the balance of starts this season.

David Phelps needs to not be a short term stop gap and become part of the long term solution.


With Recent Acquisitions, Yanks Need to Rid Themselves of Burnett

January 21, 2012

Since Brian Cashman traded Jesus Montero for RHP Michael Pineda, and then signed RHP Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal for $10 million, the Yankees are flush with starting pitchers. It appears that in all the frenzied moments of last Friday, the Yankees lost track of how many major league ready starting pitchers they really had in their organization. For purposes of this article, they have eight who have pitched in the major leagues plus three others on the precipice, who I believe are ready for the major leagues.

The starting rotation appears to be some combination of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, with Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett battling for the final spot. Dellin Betances also has a few major league innings under his belt, but should pitch most of the 2012 season at Triple-A Rochester.

The old, but relatively new, adage is you can’t have enough pitching, especially quality starting pitching. With injuries invariably occurring within most starting rotations, smart organizations will have an additional veteran or several ready youngsters to fill in starts where needed.

See also: 2011 Boston Red Sox.

But even after these two starting rotation moves, if I told you the Yankees can get another veteran starting pitcher for their rotation, who, during various seasons, led his league in games started, strikeouts, lowest hits per nine innings and fewest home runs per nine innings, would you be interested?

And the guy is only looking for a two-year deal for a little over $15 million per, just enough time for Manny Banuelos to get a little more seasoning in Triple-A before he takes a spot in the rotation. And this veteran wouldn’t cost the Yankees a draft pick or any prospects.

Wouldn’t this be a good pickup? Don’t you want him? He would really round out that new rotation, wouldn’t he?

But the Yankees currently have three veteran arms vying for that fifth spot. Garcia threw very well last season (ERA+ of 122) in the difficult-to-navigate lineups of the AL East. Hughes threw the ball much better late last season, showing glimpses of his 2010 performance. However, many people believe Burnett, because he is being paid $16.5 million this season (and next), is a lock to get that final spot.

Most Yankee fans dislike Burnett, and I had previously written that the Yankees shouldn’t even have signed him.

If you had the opportunity, would you sign Burnett again if he were a free agent? Of course not. Not even for two years at a total of $33 million, that same amount the Yankees still owe him? Nope.

Yet, that veteran pitcher I previously mentioned for a two-year deal is A.J. Burnett. He did lead his league at one time in all of those categories.

Since he is getting paid very well, some people feel AJ should get that fifth spot, and somehow will make him a better pitcher.

The current theory is that since Burnett is getting all that loot, there is no reason to “waste” that money by shipping him to the bullpen to throw maybe twice every week. I disagree. A thought is that his win total likely would look better if facing the other teams’ fifth starter most of the time.

My win total would be better facing a fifth starter more often, too.

But there are several reasons why Burnett should NOT be considered for the Yankee rotation and, in fact, should not even be on their roster come opening day.

First, Burnett is not a good pitcher. Not even close. Many people say “he has great stuff.” A.J. does NOT have great stuff. Great stuff does not get you a 34-35 record in three seasons as a Yankee, especially with this offense, and ERAs over 5.00 each of the last two seasons. Great stuff doesn’t allow you to allow the most walks (2009), most hit batters (2010), most wild pitches (2009 & 2011) in the league while also allowing 81 home runs during these three seasons.

Second, A.J. has mostly been a malcontent. When things didn’t go his way in Florida late in 2005, he lashed out against the team and was suspended for the balance of the season. During his Yankee tenure, Burnett appeared with a black eye, which no one in the organization talked about. Do you really think that if his role with the Yankees was reduced, he would abide by Joe Girardi’s decisions regarding his reduced playing time?

And forget about Burnett to the bullpen. The Yankees already have Mariano, Robertson and Soriano, with Joba coming back mid-year. They don’t need Burnett stirring up garbage down there.

Third, A.J. will not improve his performance. He is what he is, a mediocre pitcher who USED to have the best fastball in baseball. He also has a good curve ball, which he cannot control and rarely throws consistent strikes with the pitch. He has no command over either pitch, and that costs him dearly. Like 81 HRs dear over the last three seasons. As I said last off season, new pitching coach Larry Rothschild would not be able to “fix” Burnett.

Even though Burnett did stop lots of his movement during his delivery, it still did not help his command. How many times have you seen the Yankee catcher set up outside and A.J.’s pitch is delivered up and in or, even worse, down the middle, and it gets whacked pretty hard?

Too many times to count.

Fourth, A.J. is getting worse. He was terrible the second half of last season, getting bombed in most of his starts. His slash line allowed was .316/.387/.554/.942 OPS with a 6.85 ERA and 1.746 WHIP. All that with a K/9 rate of 9.3. So much for a pitchers ability to get strikeouts.

In Burnett’s 13 year career, he has had eight full seasons with minimum of 25 starts. His two worst seasons of those eight? Yep, his last two seasons, all in Yankee pinstripes. And his 2009 season wasn’t all that great, either.

What makes you think AJ will suddenly turn it around? His glowing personality? The way he glares at Kim Jones after a biting question after another bad start?

If A.J. was in the starting rotation, the Yankees would get a .500 or worse pitcher who loses concentration on the mound, and cracks under pressure.

Fifth, the Yankees are paying Phil Hughes $3.2 million this season. The Yankees are not paying Hughes that much money to pitch in the bullpen…at least not during the first half of the season. Hughes has been the Yankee golden child since being drafted in 2004, and the Yankees want to see how he looks as a starter this season before deciding whether he will become another bullpen arm, especially after his improved performance late last season. I just wish Hughes would stop throwing that cutter, as I feel it’s a velocity reducer.

Sixth, Freddy Garcia is a better pitcher, with better stuff than Burnett, and is currently signed for 2011. In 2010, Garcia had a better season than Burnett and appears to be a better teammate. Garcia took Nova under his wing last year and was a guiding force in Nova’s development. Don’t think for a second that Garcia will not be as equally valuable to the recently acquired Pineda. Unless Garcia gives them permission (a possibility now), the Yankee cannot trade Garcia until at least June. I hope they keep him around.

Let’s say Burnett repeats what he averaged over the last three seasons. That would be a sub .500 record, ERA of 4.79, BB/9 rate of 4.0, HR/9 rate of 1.2 with a WHIP of 1.447. Those are the numbers of a kid prospect usually puts up his rookie season. Hell, Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles had a better season than Burnett last year. Would you rather have a kid prospect putting up those numbers or A.J. Burnett? I even feel that as a fifth starter, A.J.’s attitude would worsen and his actual numbers would not even be that good.

So why not have David Phelps or Adam Warren, two pitchers who I feel are major league ready get those necessary starts? I have confidence both guys could at least replicate, or likely better, Burnett’s numbers from the last two seasons. In his most recent chat (1/19/12), ESPN’s Keith Law said he feels both Phelps and Warren are “major league ready, back end starters.”

I agree, and the Yankee would be better off with one of them in the rotation rather than AJ Burnett.

With a plethora of major league ready pitchers plus two (if not three or four) major league ready prospect starters in the minors, there is no room for Burnett on the staff, either in the rotation or the bullpen.

That means he should not even be on the roster.

But no one wants to trade for Burnett. The Yankees found that out when they shopped him over the last couple months. But those trade proposals had the Yankees paying about half of Burnett’s salary for the next two seasons. No team in its right mind would trade for Burnett and pay $16 million to him.

Well, maybe Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox would, as he did for Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. Maybe Williams would trade Gordon Beckham for Burnett.

Seriously, though, the prior trade proposals did not match what the trend is for other veteran, high-price pitchers. That is for the current team to pay MOST of the salary, like the Chicago Cubs did with Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins, and Atlanta Braves did with trading Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees should be willing to pay $30 million of the current $33 million Burnett is currently owed. That would then interest a few teams.

That is money wasted, but what good is it having Burnett pitch due to his salary, if he continues to pitch very badly? That is like a stock trader throwing good money after bad money when the bad stock goes down in value. Burnett’s salary is already a sunk cost. No reason to hurt the Yankees in 2012 by pitching Burnett, especially with good team like the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and maybe the Toronto Blue Jays fighting the Yankees for the precious few playoff spots.

If the Yankees pay most of Burnett’s salary, certain teams like the San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, and Detroit Tigers might be tempted; all teams who pitch in big parks, which Burnett might benefit. But a team like the Kansas City Royals with all their kids, they might need a veteran to allow the kids like Mike Montgomery and to develop a little more.

As told to the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton after Kansas City re-signed Bruce Chen, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said “We’re not done. We’re still looking to add another pitcher.”

No matter what team would want Burnett, it is imperative for the Yankees to rid themselves of a guy who really isn’t any good. If no trades can be made, I would vote for an outright release. There are much better opportunities for the Yankees rotation and bullpen now and in the future.


New York Yankees Comeback Reveals Rangers Manager Ron Washington’s Weaknesses

October 16, 2010

I am 100 percent confident that C.J. Wilson does NOT give up five runs in the eighth inning if Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington allows Wilson to stay in the game.

He gave up two runs on two hits in that inning, and was pulled in favor of Darren Oliver following a Derek Jeter RBI double.

But the Yankees would probably have only scored those two runs (or maybe just the one already in) had Texas manager Ron Washington avoided being like Bobby Cox and Bruce Bochy.

When you try to over-manage based upon matchups, you end up losing most of the time, like Bochy and Cox in the NLDS and now Washington in Game 1 of the ALCS.

I have to give oodles of credit to YES announcer and ESPN radio host Michael Kay, who has constantly said that Joe Girardi will out-manage Washington. Girardi has proved Kay to be prophetic.  

Girardi made a good move by using Joba Chamberlain in the fifth inning, but I applaud Girardi for throwing a nice changeup and bringing in Dustin Moseley for the sixth and seventh innings.

I am not a big Moseley fan (in fact he stinks), but bringing him in after Joba was throwing 95-96 MPH heaters was a stroke of genius.

The Rangers hitters were completely off-balance on Moseley’s 89 MPH fastballs (acting like a change to Joba’s and C.C.’s heat) and were more off-balance when Moseley threw his rinky-dink high 70’s breaking pitches.

Dustin’s two-inning scoreless effort allowed that Yankee comeback to occur. Sandwiching him between two fireballers in Joba and Kerry Wood made Moseley more effective and probably made Wood’s fastball appear even quicker.

Most people are saying that Washington did not use his hard-throwing closer Neftali Feliz in that eighth inning. That is a valid point once the decision to remove Wilson was made.

But why did Washington remove Wilson in the first place? Don’t give me that bull about pitch counts, matchups, that Wilson was finished or “you want to remove him with a lead and feeling good.” Total garbage.  

There are no pitch counts in the postseason. As NFL head coach Herman Edwards has said, “You play to win the game.” Wilson was dealing very well at that point.

He gave the Rangers the best chance to win at that moment, certainly better than Darren Oliver or Clay Rapada. No need to remove Wilson. He allowed a weak ground ball single to Brett Gardner and then a hard double to Jeter.

The end of the world? Hardly. Lose with your best on the mound, not with your middle relievers. The best at that point was Wilson.

When Alex Rodriguez came up with the bases loaded in that inning, TBS commentator  Ernie Johnson said that Alex was “0-for-3 with two strikeouts.” That was against Wilson, and Rodriguez had not even come close to catching up with Wilson’s fastballs.

Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira had not done much of anything off Wilson either.

At that point in the game, the Yankee two (Swisher), three (Teixeira) and four (A-Rod) hitters were 0-for-9 with three strikeouts.

So why the need to take out your starting pitcher when he has dominated all game long?

I was watching Game 3 of the NLDS between the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. Jonathan Sanchez was on the hill in the eighth inning (that fateful inning again) for the Giants, winning 2-1. With one out and a man on first, he had dominated a very weak Braves lineup.

Cox brought in right-handed hitting Troy Glaus to hit for lefty-hitting Rick Ankiel against the lefty Sanchez. Bochy went to his bullpen for RHP Sergio Romo.

Again. Why? I texted about a dozen people at that time saying how terrible a move that was. Sanchez had dominated up to that point, so why remove him? After the pitching change, Eric Hinske pinch hit for Glaus and powered a go ahead, two-run home run.

Bochy is lucky that Cox was even more idiotic in the top of the ninth, and the Yankees are lucky that Washington is more of an idiot than either two of those N.L. managers.   

From the seventh inning on, why do managers feel the need to remove starting pitchers after one hitter hits the ball hard?

But since Wilson WAS removed by the inept Texas manager, why not bring Feliz into the game? Your best pitchers need to be in the game late, not Oliver and Rapada.

Rapada was added to the ALCS roster for this series to face lefties like Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, but Rapada had not pitched in a REAL GAME against REAL HITTERS since Oct. 2.

This is a little known secret. Throwing more bullpens between appearances to stay “sharp” is of very little benefit when facing guys with bats in their hand.

To put Rapada in last night’s game on national TV to face Cano, who hits left-handers just as well as right-handed pitchers, is akin to pulling the switch on an execution.

I prefer the dominating starting pitch to remain, but if you want to bring in your top reliever, that is less of a quibble.

In Game 1 of the 1972 World Series (a day game by the way), Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams brought in his best relief pitcher, Rollie Fingers, in the SIXTH inning with no outs and the tying run on second. Fingers stranded Johnny Bench at second and the A’s won.

Williams also brought Fingers in the FIFTH inning of Game 5 that series. Fingers shut the door early before allowing the tying run in his THIRD inning of work that day. That thrilling game was the last weekday day game played in World Series history.

Once the decision was made to remove Wilson, Washington managed last night’s game based upon the save statistic and not to win the game.

Often times during important games, the big inning is not the ninth inning, but an inning earlier in the game when men are on base and a potential game-tying rally is forming.

If the manager wants to make a move, that is when your best relief pitcher should be brought in the game. However, I wouldn’t have made the move.

Washington managed that game not to lose, but he ended up getting what he deserved.

A well-earned loss.


New York Yankees Make Mistake By Having AJ Burnett on the ALDS Roster

October 5, 2010

The New York Yankees post season roster is always highly debated, but this season the roster has a few extra spicy sidebars. We now know for sure what has been assumed for at least a few weeks: AJ Burnett will not get a post season start.

But if Burnett is not going to get a start, then he should not be on the post season roster in the ALDS at all. He is not going to get any late innings work, as those are reserved for Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood and David Robertson.

A.J. will only get long relief work, and that is if the Yankees are down by a few runs early or the games goes into a few extra innings.

In the first case, the reliever is in the game to “hold” the other team down and keep the game close. In the second example, the tight game takes on added pressure that a single bad pitch could cost a victory. 

One of the biggest needs to be a relief pitcher is to have control of the strike zone. I do not care if the reliever gives up hits, just do not walk anybody. Without a walk involved or back-to-back extra base hits, it usually takes three hits to score a run.

In either scenario, there are usually very few or no innings left and the team can not afford to put extra runners on base. If a reliever walks guys and gives up a few runs, the offense has fewer opportunities to get those runs back. While it is not OK for a starter to walk many guys, either, a team has far more chances to get early runs back if a starter gives up walks and runs early on.

It is imperative, and rule No. 1 for a relief pitcher, to throw strikes.

A.J. Burnett DOES NOT throw strikes consistently and can not be trusted to pitch in big spots, especially extra innings where his high walk rate (3.8 per 9 IP) would really hurt. He does not deserve a roster spot as he will not even get a chance to pitch.

But Burnett will pitch in the ALCS if the Yankees get that far. Probably in a Game 4, and for that reason, Burnett should also be off the ALDS roster.

It will allow him to go to Tampa to work out in Tampa and pitch during instructional league games against real hitters.

Forget the innings limit garbage and “saving the arm.” One of the keys for starting pitchers is to throw consistently against hitters, keep in rhythm and stay in pitching shape. If A.J. is in the bullpen for the ALDS, he is taken out of his consistent throwing.

I also believe Sabathia will have issues after not throwing for eight days between his last start and his first in the ALDS.

CC Sabathia will go his customary seven or eight innings win or lose, and I do not foresee him getting rocked early to where he has to be removed. So, no need for a long man in Game One. Andy Pettitte will go Game Two and will get at least five or six innings, maybe seven if he is cruising along.

And with Sabathia saving the bullpen in Game One, everybody is ready for Game Two. Phil Hughes has been pretty reliable all season. He has gone at least five innings in all but one start, and if not on an innings limit this year he probably would have gone five in that game, too. Expect Hughes to give his customary six innings in Game Three while allowing three or four runs, including at least one home run.

If those first three starts go as I anticipate, then the bullpen will need to get seven innings worth of outs. Joba, Wood, K-Rob and Rivera can do that with a little does of Boone Logan thrown in. There is no need for Burnett, unless one of the games goes extra innings.

And isn’t that what middle relievers are for?

Burnett was not great the last time he pitched in extra innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs and a walk, taking the loss. Granted he did throw that inning on two days rest (stop the presses!), but still was typical AJ Burnett.

Joe Girardi made a great choice in putting Sergio Mitre on the roster instead of Chad Gaudin. Mitre throws more strikes (2.7 BB/9 IP), has a lower ERA, WHIP and HR rate.

He also does very well against left-handed hitters (.226 BA/.261 OBP/.368 SLG) and in 13 relief appearances of more than one inning, Mitre has only allowed runs in four of those contests. Gaudin allowed runs in 10 of his 17 appearances of more than one inning. Mitre’s success against left-handed hitters (plus his ability to go multiple innings) likely cost Royce Ring a shot to get a roster spot as a second situational lefty.

And why is Dustin Moseley on the ALDS roster? He will not pitch unless the Yankees are getting killed, and they probably will end up losing by more if he enters a game. On the season, Moseley had an ERA just under 5.00, and the worst strike out rate, walk rate and home run rate of any Yankee pitcher. He is the worst possible candidate to be on a post season roster.

Girardi’s confidence in Moseley is baffling.

He has worse numbers than even Javier Vazquez, and has terrible number in relief roles. Meanwhile, Vazquez is 2-0, with a 2.70 ERA and limiting opponents to a .528 OPS in relief.

So instead of having both A.J. Burnett and Dustin Moseley on the ALDS roster, with both likely in the same role as Sergio Mitre as long man, Girardi should have been more versatile with his roster. I would have taken Vazquez over Burnett and taken an extra bench player such as Eduardo Nunez over Moseley. Burnett and Moseley are not going to pitch much, if at all, and it would be better for the Yankees to have that extra bench player.

With Golson in for Swisher for defense, the Yankees also lose their speed player in case they need to pinch run for someone. For example, Yanks are leading late and Golson is in for Swisher for defensive purposes but the Twins rally and tie the game.

Posada gets on base his next time up and you want to run for him. Run with Cervelli since he will replace Jorge? Good, but not great. It can’t be Ramiro Pena because he is your emergency infielder. If he runs for Posada, what happens if Alex pulls something? Who plays infield then?

That is where Nunez comes in to play. He can run and then provide added insurance as another infielder.

Roster management in a five game series should be much different. Teams don’t need that extra pitcher, and the Yankees have 11 arms on their ALDS roster. Extra position players would help a team more in various situations than an 11th pitcher.

The Yankees made a mistake carrying both Burnett and Moseley.


Javier Vazquez Back Into The Yankees Starting Rotation, But Why?

September 1, 2010

Back in 2007, the Yankees had a starting pitcher in the minors who blew through several levels of play. He regularly hit the gun at 95-97, even as late as the 7th inning inone game for the Trenton Thunder.

He was good starting pitching prospect, but the Yankees needed his power arm in their bullpen. So Joba Chamberlain was in the bullpen for the 2007 post season.

He was tried as a starting pitcher and despite not being Wes Ferrell right off the bat, he still did well considering he was restricted in more ways that Stephen Strasburg laughs at him.

But Joba was perceived to be a better pitcher as a reliever (where he was needed) and the numbers appeared to show this fact. Even before this inconsistent season from the pen, Joba has a lower ERA, WHIP, and higher strikeout and K/BB rates as a reliever.

Despite only starting 43 games, Joba was better in the pen than as a starter. The debate was fierce and everyone had an opinion.

However, the Yankees are going in a different direction with another pitcher who gets much better results when he comes out of the bullpen.

Manager Joe Girardi said today that Javier Vazquez will move back into the rotation on Saturday, replacing Dustin Moseley. This comes on the heels of Vazquez’ two really good relief appearances over the past week.

In the first one on August 25th, Vazquez came in the middle of the 4th inning to replace Phil Hughes. Javy completed the game, going 4.1 innings, allowing two hits, one earned run, while walking one. He struck out two.

The second appearance was on August 30th, where Vazquez replaced the increasingly ineffective Moseley. Once again, Javy finished the game, cruising through almsot five very effective innings. He finished with 4.2 IP, allowing two hits, one earned run, walked one hitter while striking out six batters.

In his last two appearances, both in relief of ineffective starting pitchers, and totaled nine innings of two run ball. He kept the Yankees in the first game (an eventual loss to Toronto) and got the win in relief of Moseley.

He also got the win in the May 17th game versus Boston, when he came in relief and struck out Kevin Youkilis in a big late inning situation. That was the game which Marcus Thames homered off of Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the 9th inning.

As a reliever, Vazquez has a 1.93 ERA, 0.643 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 4.5 SO/BB and a .125 BAA. All those numbers are considerably better than the 5.07 ERA, 1.366 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 1.9 SO/BB, and .257 BAA.

So then why put Vazquez back into the rotation? He pitches so much better out of the pen in his long-man role. At the point when Vazquez enteres games, either the Yankees are behind a few runs or the game is close and the Yankees have scored a bunch of runs already.

The game is already in its groove, and the big pressure of starting is off. Does Vazquez relish this lack of pressure role, where he is being used to give the Yankees innings?

Probably. Although he is a veteran pitcher, the pressure of New York was the reason why many people thought he wouldn’t pitch well this year after the off season trade with the Atlanta Braves.

With Ivan Nova, Moseley’s spot, and Phil Hughes commanding three straight starts in the current rotation, that is a lot of possible innings for the bullpen to pitch. You need a long man to maybe keep the Yankees in the game if one of those guys hit the showers early.

Like Hughes did on August 25th, and Moseley did two days ago.

Vazquez and Chad Gaudin (unbelievably surprising!) have formed a nice, recent one-two middle relief punch. Gaudin pitched well last night, throwing three innings in relief of another short Hughes outing.

But Moseley is not a very good pitcher, and should not start this Saturday. He is 2-1 but averages fewer than five innings a start. He’s walked 13 and struck out 11 while allowing five home runs, resulting in a 6.41 ERA.

But who to start on Saturday? You can always go the Sergio Mitre route, but that doesn’t excite me.

Nova has done well in his recall from Triple A so why not got down that well once again? While Moseley ws blowing up Monday night in the Bronx, David Phelps was throwing five innings of opne run ball in Triple A.

Phelps has a 3.23 ERA in 11 appearances. While he does allow a fair share of hits, Phelps is similar to Nova in that he does not walk many hitters (13 in 62 AAA innings). You can give up hits or walks, just don’t be good at allowing both in the same game.

Phelps doesn’t need to be on the Yankees 40 man roster until after next season, I can not see him spending all his time in AAA all next year. He will pitch in the majors sometime in 2011.  

The Yankees have too many wasted spots on their 40 man roster, such as Chad Huffman, Wilkin De La Rosa, Reegie Corona and even Mitre is expendable. He will never get a post season roster spot.

So I say lets go with Phelps and see what he can do. It won’t be for long since Andy Pettitte will be back in two weeks.

Vazquez needs to stay in the bullpen now. He is performing well in that role.

Let Phelps pitch and if he does well, you might have an idea for next years rotation with two guys (Nova and Phelps) who could challenge for a 2011 rotation spot. At the very least, it will increase his trade value in the off season.


Jesus Montero Eligible for Postseason If Not on Yankee Roster by Aug. 31

August 30, 2010

With a nice series win over the weekend in Chicago, combined with the Tampa Bay Rays taking two of three against the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees now have a 6.5-game lead over the Red Sox for a playoff spot.

While no lead is insurmountable (right, 2008 Mets?), there is a really good chance the Yankees will be playoff-bound.

With the Minnesota Twins now having a 1.5-game lead over the Texas Rangers for the second best division record, it might even be better for the Yankees to not win the division.

Their pitching matches up better against the Twins’ lineup, and the Yankee rotation would likely suffer more against Josh Hamilton and Co. in a first round matchup.

With the waiver deadline ending tomorrow, teams are jockeying for position to get their August 31st rosters set.

But why? The MLB rule states that any player in the organization on August 31st is eligible for the postseason if they are on the list of eligible players.

This list is generally assumed to be the 40-man roster, and that is true, but that list can be expanded.

Playoff rosters must be set at 25, not including disabled players, on August 31. For each player on the 60-day DL, teams may add players to the eligible list during the playoffs provided that they were in the organization on August 31. Teams must choose 25 players from their playoff-eligible list before each round of the playoffs.

For an example, let’s look at the 2009 New York Yankees.

On August 31st (my birthday, by the way) last season, both Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang were on the Yankees’ 60 day DL, and Brett Gardner was on the 15-day DL. That gave the Yankees a pool of 28 players from which to choose their 25-man playoff roster.

An injured player can be substituted for by another player who is on the 40-man roster. The Yankees added Freddy Guzman to “replace” Nady, and Guzman was on the Yankees’ postseason roster.

In 2002, Francisco Rodriguez was not called up by the Angels until mid-September, had all of five innings pitched that month, and was on the playoff roster. He ended up winning five games that postseason!

According to this unpublicized rule, a team must replace position with position. An outfielder in Nady needed to be replaced with an outfielder in Guzman.

But I also read somewhere that it does not have to be position by position.

For example, in 2007, Jacoby Ellsbury was NOT on the Boston 25-man roster on August 31st of that season, but he was eligible for the playoffs as he replaced Brendan Donnelly, a pitcher, who was on the 60-day Boston DL at the time.

This move on the roster must be reviewed and approved by the Commissioner’s office.

Current New York Yankees on the DL include Nick Johnson (60-day DL) and Alfredo Aceves (60-day DL). Aceves is likely to come back off that DL, but the Yankees do have another roster spot that can be added with another player.

Therefore, the Yankees could add any player who is in their organization on August 31st for any playoff series roster to “replace” Johnson, and that player does not even have to have major league experience or be the same position! Just be on the 40-man roster sometime in September and get the Commissioner’s office to approve.

Therefore, all players in the organization can all be on the playoff roster for the ALDS and further series.

With the way Jesus Montero has been hitting over the last two months, and with tremendous power to right field, his right-handed bat could pay dividends for the Yankees in the postseason. He could play for Scranton in the playoffs in September and still help the major league club later on.

Or if the Yankees feel that Damaso Marte or Aceves is not ready and won’t be a factor in the postseason, they could keep Aceves on the 60-day DL and then allow someone like Jonathan Albaladejo and his 43 saves this season to pitch in October.

Lots of opportunities for the Yankees to add Montero and others to the postseason roster.


Does Changing MLB Managers Midseason Actually Work?

August 20, 2010

When the Colorado Rockies fired their manager Clint Hurdle last season, the Rockies were 18-28, and had lost seven of their last 10. The Rockies named Jim Tracy as interim manager and he “turned around” the Rockies, guiding the team to a 74-42 record (.638) the rest of the way and into the 2009 NL playoffs.

It is ironic that Hurdle was replaced midseason, because that is how Hurdle got his first managerial job. Buddy Bell was fired 22 games into the 2002 season, and Hurdle was Bell’s replacement.

Tracy replaced Hurdle at a point where the Rockies were nine games back of the NL Wild Card, but ended up winning the Wild Card by five games.

What really happened though was Tracy did nothing to help his team win, except to let them play ball. Tracy had the benefit that their best player, Troy Tulowitzki, started hitting, as did the rest of the lineup. And the expected good, young pitching began to perform better.

Tulo hit only .226 for the first two months that year with a dismal .314 SLG. For the final four months, he hit .351 with a .643 SLG. That production helped boost the entire team, and when your big guy is pounding the ball, wins usually come in bunches.

Another factor for Tracy is that he appeared laid back and did not change much; he just let the guys play. That tactic is the positive theme for the majority of good team turnarounds after managerial changes.

Since 1987, there have been 81 midseason managerial changes, one of which was in 1996 when Tommy Lasorda retired as Dodger manager after suffering a heart attack. Of those 80 changes due to firings, only 19 teams played better than .500 baseball after the change was made, some just barely.

This does not include the changes that were made too early or late in the season to have a definitive impact.

And only five teams made the playoffs following that change: the 1988 Boston Red Sox, the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays, the 2003 Florida Marlins, the 2004 Houston Astros and last year’s Rockies.

Just six percent (5/80) of those teams which switched managers since 1987, made a good enough turn around to make the playoffs. Prior to 1987, there were 183 midseason changes (those not including the first or last 20 games of a season), with about 24 percent improving to a plus .500 team after the change.

Only two teams have made it to the World Series after making a midseason managerial change, the 1978 Yankees and 2003 Marlins. Both times, a more controlling manager was replaced with a more laid-back guy.

In 1978, Billy Martin constantly fought with players and management, and was replaced by a more subdued Bob Lemon. In 2003, Jeff Torborg’s hands-on approach was replaced by “let ‘em play” Jack McKeon*, who at 72 was the oldest manager to win the World Series.

* It is interesting to note that McKeon has replaced THREE different managers after a midseason firing, and all three times has led that team to a BETTER than .500 record. In 1988, Larry Bowe was fired by the San Diego Padres after a 16-30 start, and McKeon came in and lead the Padres to a 67-48 record.

In 1997, Ray Knight was let go by the Cincinnati Reds after a 43-36 start, with McKeon finishing up at 33-30. Finally, in that magical Marlins season, Torborg went 16-22 before being canned and having Trader Jack take over.

Similarly, Steve O’Neill did the same thing for three different teams. And Cito Gaston has turned around the Blue Jays on two separate occasions.

Other teams making the World Series were the 1932 and 1938 Chicago Cubs (both obviously lost), the 1981 Kansas City Royals (strike season), the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers (Harvey’s Wallbangers) and the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies.

In almost every case, the team changed from a more hands-on guy to a more laid-back guy. But in most cases of a team making the playoffs after a midseason firing, the team was already pretty good.

For example, the Marlins team that McKeon guided to the 2003 World Series was 79-83 the year before but added Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate to guide the young pitchers. Plus, many new faces were on the 2003 team, and McKeon was helped midseason by the call-up of a 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera, fortifying an already decent lineup.

Also, the 1977 Yankees were coming off a prior World Series title in 1977.  The 1988 Red Sox, who were 43-42 under John McNamara, changed to Joe Morgan who led the Sox to a 46-31 record the rest of the way and a playoff berth. Those Red Sox were coming off a down 1987 season, but had made the World Series in 1986.

All other playoff teams were already good, but did need that push of less stress and turmoil in the dugout. However, those teams that flat out stink and change managers, well, they really don’t get better. They just stink with a different guy calling the shots.

That just goes to show that good managers are usually a product of their team’s talent. Terry Francona managed four seasons in Philadelphia, but never had a winning record there. He is a flat out genius in Boston, though.

Casey Stengel was a much better manager when he had Mickey Mantle on his team when he managed the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Bees in the 1930’s and Boston Braves in the 1940’s.

Many of the great managers in the game have been fired and then hired midseason to replace someone else. Tony LaRussa and Sparky Anderson were both hired and turned around teams, but LaRussa was also fired, too, in midseason as were most good managers.

So were Jack McKeon and Steve O’Neill, those two guys who turned around three different teams midseason.

I have always thought that stability in the manager’s job is a key to consistent winning baseball. While most new in-season managers last less than four seasons, and most don’t even get to keep the job the following year, seven different managers have been hired in midseason and ended up managing that team for 10 plus seasons.

They are John McGraw, Bill Terry, Jimmy Dykes, Earl Weaver, Tom Kelly, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa. Except for Dykes, all the other managers have multiple pennants under their belts. They may not have won every season, but they did not become terrible managers when they did not win titles, and eventually came back and won titles again.

While good players make good managers, baseball front offices are usually quick to pull a trigger on the manager. As Todd Helton said when Hurdle got fired, “he was the scapegoat, but he didn’t give up the big hit while pitching, and he did not strike out with men on base.”

Good managers usually cannot make really bad teams better, but some bad managers can win with enormous talent. So far this season, the Baltimore Orioles have performed well under new manager Buck Showalter, but the Florida Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks are basically the same teams with different managers. While the Marlins have some bigger stars, namely Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, I believe the Orioles have more overall talent.

Before a GM wants to make a managerial change, he might want to evaluate the on-field talent first. If you are a good team, coming off a winning year or recent title and were thought to challenge again this season, then changing managers might be a good idea. Those teams that made the playoffs after a change are great examples. 

Just have that manager be laid back to just let the players play and not try and do too much. Tracy, Gaston, Lemon and even Jerry Manuel for the 2008 New York Mets and also, do it early enough to give the team time to adjust to the new manager.

But if you are a bad team, and you believe a change in manager will help “spark the team,” it might be wise to get some better players.


New York Yankees: Do They Really Need Bench Help? Maybe.

July 21, 2010

With the best record in baseball, the New York Yankees have a 2.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. They are also six games ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

But according to the experts, the Yankees need major help. Since Andy Pettitte went on the disabled list with a strained groin, the Yankees now need a starting pitcher. Now that Joba Chamberlain has been very hittable, the Yankees need bullpen help.

Since their bench consists of defensive wizard Ramiro Pena, 4th outfielder Colin Curtis, LHH/DH Juan Miranda and RHH/DH Marcus Thames, the Yankees need massive bench help.

Yet with all these problems, the Yankees are still in first place with the best record in baseball.

But do they really need bench help? And if they get someone, how many games is the outcome going to be affected by their presence? What needs will they fill?

Let say the Yankees go out and get bench help. Supposedly they need a right-handed hitting bat to boost their presence against lefties. Isn’t that what Thames was signed for? Anyway, with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and switch hitters Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada, isn’t that five really good right-handed hitters in the lineup?

And Robinson Cano does pretty well against left-handed pitchers, as does Brett Gardner.

So if they get a bench player, they want  a player like Jerry Hairston, Jr. who can play infield and outfield. Versatility is key.

Heck, the Rays are chock full of those type with Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac.

Lets create this “perfect fit” for the New York Yankees.

Our made up guy has a season line of .247 BA/.325 OBP/.432 SLG/.757 OPS with 15 HR and 46 RBI? How about if I tell you our guy has hit .176/.234/.282/.513 OPS with 2 HR and seven RBI over the last month, and just as bad over the last two months?

And our guy is hitting against lefties he is .247/.340/.344/.684 OPS with a single HR and eight RBI’s.

Now what I mention that our versatile guy, despite his versatility, is really below average at every defensive position he plays?

I wouldn’t think you want that type of guy.

Then why would the Yankees even entertain the thought of trading for Baltimore Orioles player Ty Wigginton?

Those are his numbers and HE STINKS!

Now, there may be better examples of versatile players who can hit a little bit. Recent mentions include Wes Helms (puuleeze!), Willie Bloomquist, Adam Kennedy and Jhonny Peralta.

None if these guys, except for Peralta, will actually make any team better. The Yankees seem intent on getting a guy who could play third base, giving Alex Rodriguez a break here and there down the stretch. When Alex sits, it is usually the weak hitting Pena who gets the start.

My first choice for another bench player would be in-house option AAA right-handed power hitter Jorge Vazquez. I have been saying since Spring Training that Vazquez will have an impact on the major league Yankee team by the season end.

Vazquez is hitting .266/.287/.531/.818 OPS with eight home runs and 30 RBI in 33 games at Triple A. This was after devastating in Double A Trenton to start the year, which began in May after an appendectomy sidelined him in Spring Training.

He plays both first and third base, and I saw him play both positions this season in Trenton. For a stocky guy, he has pretty good footwork in going after ground balls at third base and around first base. Forget about his low OBP, he does not take pitches, and is very aggressive at the plate.

But if that does not thrill you, then this is the guy I believe is the best fit for the Yankees: Adam Rosales of the Oakland A’s.

First, the A’s are out of the race, and Billy Beane will gladly trade for a young pitcher. Second, Rosales has played all four infield positions this season (many very well) and also has played left field*.

*Although with the big three-run home run hit by Colin Curtis today, I don’t think he will go anywhere anytime soon. He also plays good defense, runs well and is a GREAT KID. By the way, Curtis was also on my Baby Bomber list with Vazquez as kids who made a show in Spring Training.

Third, Rosales can hit. He has a line of .283/.336/.429/.765 OPS with seven home runs and 31 RBI in only 72 games. He filled in admirably when A’s second baseman Mark Ellis was out with an injury. He has also hit very well throughout his minor league career after being selected in the 12th round of the 2005 draft.

Rosales has mashed lefties this year with an OPS of over .900.

A combination along the likes of Sean Black in Low A Charleston and Noel Castillo at High A Tampa might do the trick. But the Yankees can even go higher than these guys if they need to (like a Shaeffer Hall), but in trading a higher end guy you would limit your trading to one higher end player even up.

Black is a decent starting pitcher, but the depth of the Yankees starting pitchers in Charleston (Jose Ramirez, Brett Marshall) and above him in Tampa, Trenton and Scranton, there is no way Black will ever get a decent shot with the Yankees. And Castillo, who I saw threw 97 MPH two weeks ago in Tampa, is blocked by mucho power-armed talent as well.

And if they do not like that, throw in another position prospect among anyone in the middle not named Eduardo Nunez, David Adams or Corban Joseph.

Yankees might need a versatile player down the stretch, and it would not be a bad idea to replace Dustin Moseley’s roster spot with another position player. Then Ramiro Pena can be put back into his usual role of defensive replacement for second base, third base and shortstop.

The only issue I see is that with Rosales’ limited service time, he is still under team control for four more seasons. This could mean the A’s would want much more than what I am offering here. That would necessitate the Yankees “going up the ladder” in terms of prospects.

I am not sure they would be willing to do that.

But Rosales fits the bill, and I like him much better than Ty Wigginton or any of that other ilk. With only two seasons of major league service time, Rosales would be an inexpensive Yankee for a few more seasons.

If the Yankees are willing to afford him.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.