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.


Minnesota Twins Offer Better Deal for Seattle Mariners Than Do The New York Mets

June 25, 2010

I wrote a piece on Wednesday night about how the Seattle Mariners traded Cliff Lee to the Minnesota Twins for minor league catcher Wilson Ramos, left-handed pitcher Brian Duensing and a low-level minor league outfielder.

The trade disintegrated when Ramos got hurt last Saturday playing for Triple A Rochester.

Once Ramos returns to active duty (he is day-to-day with a strained oblique), the trade will be consummated like a new bride on her wedding night.

It is no coincidence that the Twins pitched Duensing for 3.1 innings last night in relief of a very ineffective Twins starter Nick Blackburn. It was 3.1 scoreless innings of relief by the way, where the lefty allowed three hits while striking out three Milwaukee Brewers hitters.

It basically cements the deal for Lee, with the only obstacle coming in the form of the New York Mets. With the Philadelphia Phillies floundering, the Mets believe they have a real shot of winning the NL Eastern division this season.

Renting Cliff Lee will not only help them achieve that goal, but when combined with a healthy return of outfielder Carlos Beltran, it would help them get to a World Series.

Never forget that Omar Minaya will strip an entire franchise’s farm system for one pitcher he feels can put him over the top. He already did it in 2002 when he was GM of the Montreal Expos.

Back then he TRADED Cliff Lee as part of a package of young players for right handed pitcher Bartolo Colon.

The Mariners could get greedy and, by using the Mets as leverage, try to wrest more away from the Twins.

But oftentimes the greedy get what they deserve, and that is usually something not nearly as good as what they had in pocket.

Why would the Mariners trade with the Mets anyway? The Mets have nothing the Mariners need, who, for starters, want a young catcher with the potential to start right away.

Ramos fits that bill. But is that why the Mets brought up catcher Josh Thole the other day, to show him off in the big leagues? The Mariners will have a few scouts in town this weekend scouting the Twins and can get a look at Thole. The Mariners will also be in town next week when they come in to play the Yankees.

But while Thole has rebounded well from a horrible April, he is very young defensively behind the plate and does not hit for much power (10 career HR’s in 3+ minor league seasons).

The Mariners also want a left-handed starting pitcher. While Duensing is not a complete youngster (he is 27), he does have good major league experience and can step right into Lee’s spot in the rotation–maybe throwing to Ramos. The Mets only have Jonathan Niese as a starting left-handed pitcher, and with his pretty good season thus far in 2010, it does not look like he is going anywhere.

The Mets do have other prospects they would give up for their rental, including a package built around prospects such as Ruben Tejada, Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores, and Jeurys Familia.

But although these players are good, none are what the Mariners are seeking, so the Twins deal makes better sense for the Mariners.

But if the Mets give them ALL of those prospects, then you might have a deal.


MLB Trade Rumors: Mariners Cliff Lee Will Be Traded to the Minnesota Twins

June 25, 2010

The Minnesota Twins are tired of running headlong into the buzzsaw that is the New York Yankees. This is the team that has beaten the Twins in the playoffs three separate times during the managerial reign of Ron Gardenhire.  

In their new 2010 Target Field, the Twins want to win the whole thing this season. They have a potent offense, led by three-time batting champion and 2009 MVP Joe Mauer and former MVP Justin Morneau.

They have the financial wherewithal with the new stadium and have upped their payroll already to $98 million, more than the Los Angeles Dodgers’. In addition, the Pohlad family, owners of the Twins franchise, are one of the wealthiest families in all of sports.

Yankees be damned!

Speaking with someone familiar with the situation (and verifying the initial conversation), the Twins traded for Cliff Lee last week, but the deal fell through. The primary player going to the Seattle Mariners, catcher Wilson Ramos , suffered a strained oblique during Saturday’s game. Ramos is expected to miss seven to ten days .

Ramos was not yet placed on the seven-day minor league disabled list, keeping the trade possible. Unless the Commissioner’s office signs off on the deal, players on the disabled list are usually ineligible to be traded. There must be an understanding that both teams know that player is on the disabled list.

The deal included Ramos, a Twins Major League-ready pitcher (believed to be left-handed reliever Brian Duensing ), and a low level minor league outfielder. The Mariners might be including a low level player, too.

Once Ramos gets clearance to play baseball again, this trade will again be made.

It appears that this deal heavily favors the Twins, as they would get one of the premier pitchers in baseball essentially for a young catcher their system sorely needs, a possible starting pitcher, and a filler.

If I were the Mariners, I would hold out (briefly, like a day) for 3B Danny Valencia , instead of the low level player, in addition to Ramos and Duensing.

This deal would give the Twins a very formidable starting rotation with Lee, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and Nick Blackburn.

Pavano, Baker, and Blackburn are without any type of innings limits. Slowey (91 innings pitched in 2009), and Liriano (138 innings pitched in 2009), are both coming off arm injuries and will likely be monitored for the rest of 2010.

In addition, Blackburn, who is signed through 2013 and is usually the team’s most reliable starting pitcher, has had a very off year so far. His record is a respectable 6-4, but with a 5.80 ERA. We all know, however, that the pitchers’ wins are more important.

Seattle had scouts watching Blackburn’s start on Thursday night, and weren’t impressed. They really want to get back a left handed pitcher, and Duensing fits that bill. He will be converted to a starting pitcher. The Mariners are also adamant about getting back a high level catcher, and would likely move their top catching prospect, Adam Moore, to first base.

The Twins staff already has five good starters, but Lee would fit in nicely in any team’s rotation. As I write this, Lee just finished up another complete game , beating the Chicago Cubs 8-1 with nine strikeouts and ZERO walks.  

It is Lee’s fourth complete game this season.

He is now 6-3 with a 2.39 ERA and a 0.912 WHIP. He has struck out 76 batters in 86.2 innings, and he has walked only four batters.

Dontrelle Willis walked seven hitters in only two-plus innings last night.

Ramos is a good, young catcher but is blocked by Joe Mauer, making him expendable. Ramos came up to the majors earlier this season when Mauer was hurt and hit .296/.321 OBP/.407 SLG/.729 OPS with three doubles and an RBI in limited time.

However, he is struggling with the bat in Triple-A Rochester, hitting only .218 with four homers and 18 RBI.

That positive Major League time gave the Mariners an idea that he can be a good starting catcher. In fact, Ramos could step into a starting role right away.

Duensing is a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher who was squeezed out of the Twins rotation in 2010. He started nine games last season, including this gem over the rival Detroit Tigers, which helped lead the Twins into the playoffs.

Duensing was 5-1 as a starter down the stretch last year for the Twins.

Even though he has been great as a reliever this season (2-1, 1.88 ERA, 0.812 WHIP), and really tough against lefty hitters (.122 BA), I do expect the Mariners to convert Duensing back to a starting pitcher.

It is not enough of a haul for the Mariners, especially well before the trading deadline and with Lee pitching brilliantly right now.

The Mariners are basically giving the American League Central division title to the Twins.

And that is bad new for the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and any other possible American League playoff team which could face Lee in the 2010 playoffs.


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