Ruben Amaro Knows How to Deal FOR Top Ranked Players but Not in Trading Them Away

July 31, 2010

When it became apparent that Roy Oswalt was finally dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for J.A. Happ and two mediocre minor leaguers, my first reaction was why didn’t GM Ruben Amaro just keep Cliff Lee?

The Phillies today are a better team with the acquisition of Oswalt, but it is a deal which should never have been done.

Amaro should never have traded away Cliff Lee  to the Seattle Mariners. 

After he traded for perennial Cy Young contender Roy Halladay last off-season, Amaro thought the organization needed to replenish their minor league system. They had traded four players for Lee during the 2009 season, and three more highly rated prospects for Halladay.

That was a huge mistake. Minor league prospects are developed for two reasons: to bring up and become productive major leaguers and to trade away for pieces of the major league puzzle.

Amaro jumped the gun in thinking he needed to replenish the farm.

In addition to Low A pitcher Jason Knapp,  Amaro did trade away major league ready players in P Carlos Carrasco, INF Jason Donald and C Lou Marson for Lee. He also dealt RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor and C Travis D’Arnaud for Halladay.

That is a lot of middle market talent, but only one player in Drabek who really would have fit into the Phillies long-term plans. Taylor is a pretty good player, too, but the Phillies liked OF Domonic Brown much better overall.

Therefore, the Phillies traded one guy who could be an impact player in Drabek and a bunch of non-impact talent for two of the top five pitchers in baseball in Lee and Halladay.

That would have made a great one-two punch for the Phillies during the regular season, and presumably, the post season. If Lee and Halladay were leading the Phillies rotation this year, they likely would be in first place in the NL East instead of a 3.5 games behind Atlanta.

So why trade baseball’s best big game pitcher? Prospects, LOL. The Phillies have a roster full of veterans at every position, and only needed to replace Jayson Werth, who would be a free agent after 2010.

Enter the young, talented Mr. Brown, who is already playing well in his first few games.

And it is not like Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez, the three players received for Lee are tearing it up this season, except if you count Gillies hamstring, which has kept him on the disabled lis t most of the 2010 season. When healthy, Gillies was not hitting well at all after performing admirably in the hitter friendly High A California League.

Aumont (the key as he was to “replace” Drabek) was terrible in AA Reading and was demoted to the High A Florida State League.

And if money is the issue, then why the long-term deal in January 2010 for the mediocre starting pitcher Joe Blanton for three years/$24 million? That money could have been used to keep Lee, and you still would have had Blanton for this season. No need to give him that money which was better designed for Lee.

Obtaining prospects? Money issues? Doesn’t anybody besides the New York Yankees want to win World Series titles anymore? The idea is to win championships, not worry about minor league talent, “team control” years or what your team might look to be two seasons down the road.  

Then by turning around and getting Oswalt as a high need, Amaro gave up three more prospects in current major league pitcher J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar, basically a swap of Oswalt and Happ. Assuming the Phillies pick up the 2012 option on Oswalt’s contract, they are now taking on $28 million in over the balance of the contract.

Add in Blanton’s $16 million due over the next two seasons, and that makes $44 million in money which could have been paid to Lee after this year. That would equate to the first two years of a four-year deal.

Amaro has made three unbelievable moves in trading almost no impact players (Happ and maybe Drabek) for three former Cy Young winners in less than a year. But the worst deal was trading away a virtual playoff spot and get to a third straight World Series appearance by trading away the best of the three.

He admitted his mistake by trading for Oswalt, and the question remains whether Roy II can pitch big games down the stretch, like Lee did last season for the Phillies.

Amaro hopes that is the case.

New York Yankees: High-A Tampa Rotation Pitching Prospect Capsules, Part 2

July 29, 2010

This is the second installment of my starting pitching capsules from my trip down to the Florida State League to watch the High A Tampa Yankees play.

I saw quite a few games which included four of the five starting pitchers. The one starter I did NOT see pitch was Dellin Betances.

The first capsule can be seen here, and included right-handed pitcher Adam Warren and left-handed pitcher Manuel Banuelos. I like both those guys, and can see Warren (who reminds me of Greg Maddux) and Banuelos (who reminds me of Johan Santana with a better curve ball), getting to the Bronx by 2012.

By reminds me, I am not saying these pitchers will have those types of careers, but they have similarities.

After my report on Warren, he was promoted to Double A Trenton where he has made two starts, and has a 2-0 record and 2.25 ERA. I saw him again in Trenton and we spoke a bit about his season. I mentioned to him that I saw Graham Stoneburner for Charleston, wrote a report, and then he was promoted to High A Tampa. I then saw Warren pitch in Tampa, wrote the report, and he was then promoted to Trenton.

I asked Warren who else does he want me to see so they can get promoted. He replied, “keep coming to my starts.” He is very mild-mannered kid, and has a good sense of humor.

This capsule includes another left-handed/right-handed due, Shaeffer Hall and aforementioned Stoneburner. I saw both of these guys pitch for Low A Charleston in early May and again in Tampa.

Shaeffer Hall – LHP   6″0″, 185 lbs.

Hall was the RiverDogs opening day starter, throwing six innings and allowing three hits, no walks while striking out four. Of the 13 other outs recorded, Hall generated nine ground outs, including one double play.

The first time I met Shaeffer Hall, he was in the Charleston clubhouse on their trip north to the Lakewood (NJ) Blue Claws.

Here was my first question:

Joseph DelGrippo: “Last year in college, Stephen Strasburg threw a no-hitter against the Air Force Academy. Do you know the other college pitcher who threw a no-hitter against Air Force last year?

Shaeffer Hall: Laughing out loud saying, “Yeah, you’re looking at him, but I guess you already knew that.”

Yes, I did. Hall threw an early season February nine inning no-hitter for the University of Kansas. The Jayhawks have a good baseball program but it is overlooked because of a great Kansas hoops team and other well-known Big 12 baseball programs such as Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Later that season, Hall pitched a complete game shutout against Dartmouth in the NCAA tournament. He was the Jayhawks Friday night starter in 2009, indicating he was the ace of that staff.

However, he did not have a great season going 5-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 15 starts, but his walk rate of 0.97 per nine innings attracted the Yankees. New York likes to take college pitchers who they feel pitched well but were the victim of “metal bat syndrome.”

Hall appears to fit into that category. He is also a hard worker, who worked to lose about 20 pounds from his college frame. I noticed the difference from his college photos to his body type in Lakewood.

Due to a slight shoulder strain, Hall only threw nine professional innings last season for short season Staten Island. The 2010 season is basically Hall’s first full year in pro baseball.

It’s funny, but Hall has had such a good season in his first full year in pro baseball, but in the two games I saw him pitch were his two worst outings of the year.

While I was “good luck” for Stoneburner and Warren, I am like a pariah of sorts for Hall.

Hall is a fastball, curveball, change-up guy who relies primarily on precise location to be effective. And based upon his results this season, he does have great control and command within the strike zone. He works quickly (a great trait) and can throw all three of his pitches for strikes.

RiverDogs pitching coach Jeff Ware agrees. “He has great command of all three of his pitches. When he has all three working and keeping the ball down, he is on top of his game. He can strike you out and can induce lots of ground balls. Schaef is also well prepared and hard-working. It is a great combination.”

Hall needs to be precise because he does not throw that hard, mostly 87-89, barely touching 90 a few times, but has some fastballs hovering around the 85 range. His curve ball is a nice weapon (mostly around 74), but while it has good bite, it is not consistent with its depth. Shaeffer sometimes leaves this pitch up, especially to right-handed hitters.

Like almost all Yankee farm hand pitchers, Hall’s out pitch is his change-up. It will arrive normally in the 76 range, and has decent bite, running slightly away from righties. It is not as good as Banuelos’ on an every pitch basis but it does have the ability to get lot of weakly hit balls in play.

Hall needs to also have an umpire who has a liberal outlook on strikes. In the game I witnessed in May up in Lakewood, the umpire has a very tight zone and would not give Hall any pitches on the corner. It forced Hall to bring his pitches over the plate more, where they proceeded to get hit.

In speaking with Hall after that game, he did not blame the umpiring, but said the zone was a little “tighter” than the day before. “I wasn’t getting many calls on the corners,” Hall said. “But I still need to work around that and throw better pitches when guys got on base.”

But that is what happens when a pitcher does not have “put away” stuff. Hall needs to work the strike zone in and out, down and away. If Hall does not get the pitches on the corner called strikes, the hitters will adjust to the tighter zone. And Hall can get hit hard when he brings the ball back over the outer and inner thirds of the plate.

In Tampa, it was more of the same. Lots of hits against Hall, who despite not walking anyone, was battered around. Some hits were dinks and dunks, but others were really belted. He seemed to not have command of his fastball. Around 88 with the fastball and similar as in Lakewood with the curve ball (74-75) and change-up (76).

Shaeffer Hall is a very nice pitcher, but is likely not going to be in any future Yankee plans. They just do not like that type of pitcher, a guy who doesn’t have dominant stuff with “great upside.”

Hall reminds me of former Yankee Chase Wright.

Mark Buehrle and maybe Jamie Moyer would also be good comparisons to what type of pitcher Hall is stuff wise.

Hall is a great kid who really likes the Yankees organization. My time in Tampa was during the Cliff Lee trade scenarios and Hall, Stoneburner and Adam Warren were asking me about what I had heard.

Graham Stoneburner – RHP  6’1″, 180 lbs

I saw also saw Stoneburner pitch twice, once in Lakewood and once in Tampa. He was great both times, and you can read about the Lakewood game here.

Stoneburner has a power fastball, above average to plus slider and a vastly improving change-up. When I saw him in Lakewood back in early May, I was told by one scout that Graham did not possess a good change. But his performance in that game, and other which followed proved that assessment incorrect.

The change-up was pretty good and he threw it quite often, generating lots of swings and misses. It had good downward bite as did his slider and two-seam fastball, which moves in both directions.

When asked about the change-up, Stoneburner said, “I think my change-up is coming along really well. It was pretty good all spring and I have more confidence in throwing, even in some fastball counts. The more I throw it, the better I get a feel for it.”  

That is the important thing about the change-up. Some pitchers don’t get a good feel for it, then they scrap it for long periods of time, which is a huge mistake.

It is a credit to Stoneburner that he continues to go with the pitch in different situations.

Graham has an explosive fastball which reached up to 96 MPH in the Lakewood start. In fact, in Stoneburner’s 95th pitch against Blue Claws that day saw him bring a 95 MPH up and in fastball past the No. 5 hitter Darin Ruff.

Stoneburner is a power pitcher to the core. He goes right after hitters and doesn’t mince his pitches as he throws strike after strike. He also has the rare ability to throw that hard and still command his arsenal within the strike zone.

His slider was consistently around 80-81 showing good, late break. Many people have talked about that he need to “tighten” up the slider, but I did not see any real need to alter that pitch as it appeared the same both times I saw him pitch. Stoneburner even told me in Tampa that he has thrown the slider the same way all season.

With his really good fastball/slider combination, some people have talked about Stoneburner becoming a power reliever as he moves further up the Yankee ladder. Maybe near the end of this season, that might happen as Double A Trenton goes into a playoff push and Stoneburner has already eclipsed 104 innings.

I spoke to him in July at a Tampa game and he feels he will be a 130-140 inning pitcher this year. It is a possibility, and I would like to see hin challenged again this season. But the Yankees do not like to promote a pitcher two times in one season, and with this being Graham’s first pro season, it is unlikely he will be moved to Trenton.

But with four pitches which he commands well, Stoneburner can be a real good starting pitcher. He has shown that this season in two levels, and owns one of the best WHIP’s for a starting pitcher in the minor leagues with a 0.90. 

Although he has a somewhat long arm action in the back, Stoneburner’s delivery appears to be consistent, and the control numbers are good. He has only issued only 26 walks in 104 IP (2.25 per 9 IP), a great number considering how hard Stoneburner throws. He reminds me of Tim Hudson, a sinewy guy with a smallish frame who throws hard, with control, and has a good slider.

While the Yankees always trade away their fringy prospects, Stoneburner is much more than a fringe prospect and can be a vital member of the Yankees pitching staff as soon as 2012. He should not be traded, but given every opportunity to continue up the ranks as a starting pitcher.

Caddyshack Remains a Timeless Classic Thirty Years Later

July 28, 2010

SATIRE — “My arm, my arm, I think its broken ,” screamed Al Czervik, magnanimous real estate developer during a high-stakes golf match in the 1980 movie Caddyshack .

This movie was released 30 years ago this week, and remains a timeless classic loved by everyone who has had the pleasure of watching it.

That match pitting Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) and Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) against Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight) and Dr. Beeper was the final scene to this classic comedy movie.

The foursome, with the help of caddy master Lou Loomis, decide that Czervik can be replaced. After being offered the booger eating Spalding Smails (the Judge’s nephew), Webb says they should get to decide their own replacement.

After deciding that “Sonja Henie’s out ,” they decide on adding Danny Noonan, fresh off winning the Caddy tournament and getting the Caddy Scholarship. Danny has brown-nosed Judge Smails all movie long to get that scholorship and, knowing the Smails will pull his strings probably his entire life, decides to forfeit the scholorship play.

Smails : “I guess you don’t want that Caddy scholarship ?”

Noonan : “I guess I don’t .” 

Smails (in mocking fashion):I guess you don’t. I guess you don’t .”

Noonan is the main character. He wants to go to college, but the family does not have the money and his grades are not that great.

Judge Smails to Danny : “There are more important things than grades. Winning the caddy tournament, for instance…might look pretty good on a young fellow’s application .”

What is great about this movie is that there are so many sidebars to the main plot, and the story bounces around like a person with ADD holding the remote control. Webb, whose wealthy Dad (along with Judge Smails) founded Bushwood, focuses on being rich and enjoying Lacey Underall , Smails’s visiting niece.

In fact, many people enjoyed Lacy. According to Noonan’s girlfriend Maggie O’Hooligan, Lacey has been “plucked more times than the Rose of Tralee .”

That line DID NOT deter Danny from enjoying Lacy!

Ty to Lacey : “So what do you do ?”

Lacey : “I enjoy…skinny-skiing…going to bullfights on acid…”

Also, Czervik, wonderfully played by Dangerfield, is aggravating many of the stodgy Bushwood folk, complete with passing gas in the dining room, and boasting that he will buy Bushwood (Czervik : “Why would I want to join this crummy snobatorium. Why this whole place sucks! The only reason I’m here is maybe I’ll buy it .), and make it into condominiums.

Al Czervik : “Country clubs and cemeteries…are the biggest wasters of prime real estate! Dead people? They don’t want to be buried nowadays. Ecology, right? Ask Wang. He’ll tell you. We just bought property…behind the Great Wall. On the good side !”

But what really steals the movie (besides the Judge) is Carl Spackler (Bill Murray), whose passion in getting rid of the pesky gopher on the golf course is among the funniest scenes.

The scene of Murray pumping water down the hole to drown the gopher is so good that even Tiger Woods and American Express borrowed it for one of their commercials.

Hmmm, I wonder if Tiger was ever with Lacy?

In doing research for this, I learned that most of Murray’s scenes were impromptu, especially the famous Cinderella Story monologue scene where Spackler is pretending to win the Masters tournament “at Augusta.”

He did that “tears in his eyes” scene all in one take, from only one bit of directing, and was all ad lib, no lines written. Harold Ramis told Murray to pretend he was a child announcing his golf victory, and the idea of cutting off the mums was Murray’s idea.

As Murray said later, “Nobody wrote a word of script. It just came from my head into the camera. I did it in one take—but knew it had worked.”

Carl : “Tears in his eyes, I guess, as he lines up this last shot. He’s about 195 yards out, and…it looks like he’s gonna hit an eight iron. This crowd has gone deadly silent. Cinderella story, out of nowhere, a former greenskeeper now about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a…it’s in the hole, it’s in the hole !”

The two funniest comedians in the movie, Murray and Dangerfield, only had bit parts in the original script, but over time, their talent won over the producers, and they had more time written in. Much to the chagrin of Knight and the caddies, who were originally the focus of the movie.

One scene written in late was the famous scene which begins when Webb’s golf ball crashes into Spackler’s “credit troubles” house. Carl: “Go ahead, sit down .” Ty Webb: “No, that’s OK. I don’t want to stick to anything .” It was added by director Harold Ramis after realizing that two of his biggest stars, Chevy Chase and Murray, did not have a scene together.

Cannonball it .”

Both stars did not get along due to a feud dating back to their days on Saturday Night Live, but the three met for lunch and wrote the scene together. This is the only time that Chase and Murray have appeared together in the movie, although another scene with both actors made the cutting room floor.

The entire concept of the movie was created by Brian-Doyle Murray (Bill’s brother) who also played the Caddy master, Lou Loomis. Doyle-Murray also played the father of the Bubble-Boy on Seinfeld .

He was a caddy when he was younger, as were director Ramis (who starred with Bill Murray in Stripes) and Murray’s brothers. According Brian-Doyle, Bill Murray was a greenskeeper at a country club in Illinois when they were younger.

Many of the great scenes, including Judge Smails getting hit by the golf ball (Czervik: “I should have yelled two!”), and the Baby Ruth candy bar scene were actual events which happened when one of the writers were caddies.

Real life people were also included in the movie. Many of the people portrayed in Caddyshack, like the Haverkamps, the really old golf playing couple (“That’s a peach, hon,” and “That must be the tea !”), and Maggie were people the writers remembered from their younger days working at the country clubs.

I remember when I was in high school and used to know every line of the movie. It was common place to recite line after line. How many times are you at the golf course and hear at least one classic line from that movie?

Classics like:

Judge Smails : “I’ve sentence boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them .”

Carl (telling a story about caddying for the Dalai Lama to D’Annunzio’s younger brother with a pitchfork to the kid’s neck):So we finish and he’s going to stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama! How about a little something, you know, for the effort? And he says, “There won’t be any money…but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness. So I’ve got that going for me…which is nice .”

There are too many parts of this movie which can be told, but there is no room for them all here. There are so many lines that to repeat many of the other great ones would produce an article about an hour too long.

However, there are a few interesting things about the movie which need to be mentioned.

First, Chevy Chase was not well liked on the set by a few people, especially Lacy Underall (Cindy Morgan). Their scene in his home where he spills oil all over her was done on purpose by him.

She acted angry, saying, “You’re crazy!” as a genuine reaction to Chase’s antics.

Second, Rodney Dangerfield was in his first movie and couldn’t come to grips with that type of set at the beginning. He was used to being up on stage and having people laugh at everything he said or did. But on a movie set, he was always worried he wasn’t doing a good job or being funny because there was no immediate reactions.

Scott Colomby, who played D’Annunzio, had to calm Dangerfield down and explain the difference.

Third, the after hours set of Caddyshack was likely one of the wildest parties known in the Hollywood circles. Every night was a sex, booze, and drug fest which everybody (except for Ted Knight) usually participated.

Last, the girl who plays Maggie, Danny Noonan’s girlfriend, was also the mayor’s 13-year-old daughter who passed out drunk at the toga party in Animal House . After making Caddyshack , Sarah Holcomb fell into serious drug use and began a downward spiral which had her end up in a mental institution for a while.

Here is an interesting story about her . Take it for what it is worth.

Despite all the issues going on, Caddyshack is a timeless classic and was ranked as the No. 9 “sports” movie of all time in the Ray Didinger and Glen Macnow book, “The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies .” 

Caddyshack finished ahead of some great sports pictures like Field of Dreams , Million Dollar Baby , Remember the Titans, and Rudy .

The book suggest that the Repeated Watching Quotient is “Endless. Once a week. For the rest of your life.”

I have to agree.

Feel free to comment about all the great dialogue and scenes from the movie.

The New York Yankees Should NOT Include Manuel Banuelos for Dan Haren

July 25, 2010

The Dan Haren trade has been discussed for a couple of days with the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher coming to the Yankees in exchange for Joba Chamberlain and Triple A starting pitchers Zach McAllister (22 years old) and Ivan Nova, who is 23 years of age.

The last place Diamondbacks are also insisting that the Yankees pay all of the remaining salary for Haren, but also taking on either unreliable Chad Qualls or catcher Chris Snyder, both of whom have money let on their contracts. Qualls has about $750K left on his one year deal, while Snyder’s contract runs through next year to which he would be owed around $7 million total.

Paying Haren’s contract is fine, and teams which trade for a player should assume the contract. But asking for the trading team to assume the big contract and then to tell them they also must take another bad player or bad contract is a little greedy.

Especially when you are getting three talented arms, two of which the Diamondbacks can plug into their current pitching staff.

The Yankees rightfully declined that offer, insisting that while they will take on Haren’s contract, they are supposedly not interested in trading Joba or taking back another player.

Now the Diamondbacks are asking the Yankees for another pitcher, High A left-handed ace Manuel Banuelos. I have seen Banuelos pitch several times this season in Tampa, and reported on Banuelos a few weeks ago. Unless the Yankees are getting absolute top talent back, they should never trade Banuelos.

He will be a star.  

Although I believe the Yankees should make the three-for-one trade, I believe the Yankees are holding off on trading Joba to try to get the Diamondbacks to pay a portion of Haren’s salary. Any money the Yankees can get back on the Haren deal could be used next year for a run at potential free agent Cliff Lee.

If Haren becomes a Yankee, they will have about $58 million tied up in their four starting pitchers of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes (eligible for arbitration) and Haren. Based upon what he does this year in the post season for the Texas Rangers, Lee would want at least $20 million per season.

Either way the Yankees decide to go, Manuel Banuelos should never be included in a deal for Haren.

Banuelos is just too good.

Arizona Diamondbacks Need to Be Realistic About Dan Haren

July 23, 2010

When the Diamondbacks were swindled by Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s on December 14, 2007, they traded six promising players for the right to the then one-time All Star.

Except for a mediocre 2010 campaign thus far, there  is no doubt that Haren is a pretty good pitcher, with ERA’s in the low 3.00’s his first two seasons in the desert and his final one in Oakland.

He also is durable. Haren has started 33 or 34 games each of the last five seasons, averaging over 220 innings pitched over that span. He also increased his innings total by 43  innings from age 23 to 24 with no problem. Doesn’t look like the Verducci Effect worked here.

Swindled is a bad word as the D’Backs thought they were obtaining Haren to form a dynamic duo a the top of the rotation with former Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb. But Webb’s shoulder injury, and some inconsistent play from their young players such as Chris Young, Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton, have left the D’backs mired in last place for two straight seasons in the National League Western Division.

There are many teams interested in the big right-handed thrower, and with the D’Backs having new management, they probably would like to move Haren’s contract. That long-term deal runs through 2012 plus an option, for at least $12.5 M plus per year.

But the D’Backs have to realize that times have changed over the last 2.5 years since the Haren trade with Oakland. Teams value their top prospects exponentially more now, and you will not see teams giving up multiple top picks in trade deadline deals. 

Or even Winter Meeting trades.

So the D’Backs new GM Jerry DiPoto, needs to come down off his demand of two major league ready starting pitchers and a major league ready relief pitcher.

That is just much in today’s market. With the absence of performance enhancing drugs the game has changed from being homer heavy to more pitching and defense oriented. Players who have those skills are widely coveted and organizations are loathe to dish out these types of top prospects for an established star.

Even if that star has been one of the top pitchers in the game over the last five seasons.

So the D’Backs need to realize they can’t get back what they gave up for Haren three seasons ago. If they believe that former ace Webb can return from his shoulder issues and return to form, then he and Haren can finally make that great one-two punch at the top of the rotation.

That is a big IF, however, and even then would the D’Backs have enough to compete in the competitive National League West?

If not, then it might be best for the D’Backs to cut Haren’s salary out now at the trading deadline when teams are eager to make a move. They can play their young players and start the rebuilding process again with young talent.

Unless the teams believes it can get much more in the off-season when all teams seemingly are pennant contenders.

But based upon current trends, I doubt it.

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.

CC Sabathia vs. Tim Lincecum: Which Pitcher Is More At Risk for Injury?

July 21, 2010

Two pitchers with heavily decorated resumes.

The first, CC Sabathia, has more of a track record and is completing his 10th full season in the Majors.

The second, Tim Lincecum, affectionately known as “The Freak,” is in his fourth season, and has two Cy Young Awards.

However, both are known as workhorses, the proverbial baseball term that gives revered status to those pitchers who miss very few starts to injury and normally throw 200-plus innings per season.

Based upon their sizes, both Sabathia and Lincecum are on the opposite ends of the spectrum of pitchers you would consider workhorses.

CC is a hulky 6’7″ 290-pound behemoth, while Lincecum stands 5’11” and 170 pounds. Yes, even though Tiny Tim appears more slight, he is listed at 170.

Both have thrown a lot of innings in their careers. Sabathia has averaged 31 starts and 210 innings during his first nine full seasons, while Lincecum has averaged 32 starts and 226 innings in his only two full seasons.

In today’s game, those are huge amounts of innings…but somewhere Steve Carlton is laughing.

Both pitchers are headed for similar (if not higher) numbers this year. CC has made 20 starts and Lincecum 19, with both having double-digit wins once again.

Interestingly enough, Sabathia is the only active MLB pitcher who has double-digit wins and a winning record in each season of his career.

But with the similarities between the two pitchers (team workhorse aces) and their differences (body type), which hurler is the more likely pitcher to eventually break down?

I don’t think either one will break down anytime soon. Both have pretty good pitching mechanics. Their arm actions are great, putting less stress on their elbows and shoulders.

But history does provide a glimpse of those types of pitchers who have long careers, and they are not usually the slight of build guys.

There have been 70 pitchers in baseball history who have thrown 3500-plus innings. The leader, of course, is Cy Young, with a ridiculous 7,356 innings. It doesn’t matter what era you are pitching in, that is a preposterous amount of innings.

So, of all these 70 pitchers, only eight are of the recent era. They are Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer, Dennis Martinez, Jack Morris, and Mike Mussina.

All of the other 62 pitchers played the bulk of their careers before the 1980s.

Almost all of these 70 pitchers were six feet tall or bigger. Ten were under six feet tall, and all but one played before the 20th century, when pitchers threw with less velocity but more often during a season.

The only pitcher under six feet tall who pitched in the modern era was Whitey Ford, who tipped the scales at a robust 5’10”, 178 pounds.

But Ford was a soft-tossing left-handed pitcher who would pepper the corners with moderate fastballs, change ups, and cut pitches (literally). Similar to Glavine, minus the cut balls.

There are not many smallish built pitchers who throw many innings, especially hard-throwing slight of build pitchers like Lincecum. Even Pedro Martinez and his lengthy career, has thrown only 2,827 innings, and he is similar in size to Lincecum with the same velocity.

Martinez, who had tremendous pitching mechanics, ended up having rotator cuff surgery in 2006. His rotator cuff issues began back in 2001 (at age 29) when he missed a good chunk of that year to the injured shoulder.

Lincecum is now 26 years old, but at the same age, Pedro had thrown about 300 more innings than Lincecum will throw this season.  

Sabathia, as of this writing, has thrown 2,027 innings. That is good for 404th place all time. At his current rate, CC will move into the 360th-place range.

He has a workhorse frame, and even with the seven postseason series (and 61 more innings), Sabathia looks as strong as the day he broke into the Majors.

With his slight build, Lincecum should not compile as long a Major League career as Sabathia. He may not break down for major arm surgery like Pedro, but I would not bet against it.

History shows us smaller guys do not last as long or throw as many innings as bigger guys.

But both smaller and bigger guys end up getting surgery. That is the nature of the beast with pitchers.

They say pitchers’ careers are made with their legs, and the arms are just along for the ride. When the legs get tired, the arm gets tired, and that is when injuries occur.

That is why a Major League pitcher who is throwing around 120 pitches can still throw more if his legs are strong, but a guy can be wiped out after 90 if his legs are weak.

From the looks of both pitchers, it appears Sabathia’s legs have a bunch more strength than Lincecum’s.

For that reason, his size, and the longer history of sustained work with no ill effects, I believe CC Sabathia will have the longer career, logging many more innings than “The Freak.”

New York Mets Woes With Jason Bay Were Predictable

July 21, 2010

When many Mets fans were clamoring for their “big left field bat” last December, I was one of the few who thought signing Bay would be a mistake.

I did the research, analyzed the situation and came to the conclusion that the Bay signing would be a big waste of money for the Mets.

You can my original article right here. You can also see what I wrote AFTER the Mets did sign Bay.

It was a complete mistake by Omar Minaya, but what else do you really expect coming from a guy who was GIVEN his first GM job because he was Latino. Minaya has no baseball acumen whatsoever, and has made countless mistakes during his two GM tenures, the first in Montreal where he single-handedly almost ruining that Expos/Washington Nationals franchise.

The Bay signing was a disaster from the start as the big free agent bats last year (Bay and Matt Holliday), I thought would only use the Mets to gain more dollars from their 2009 teams, then re-sign with them.

Well, I was wrong on that one, but the only reason that Bay did sign with the Mets was because no one else wanted him for four years. Bay supposedly had knee issues which could haunt him a few years from now.  

I did predict in the second piece linked above that Bay would end up like Richie Sexson, a hitter signed to a big deal by Seattle to provide the “next step” for the Mariners.

Sexson provided two good seasons for the Mariners but then suffered a huge decline and was an albatross for the remaining two seasons before he was released.

Boy, was I wrong about that. Bay has turned into Sexson not in the third year of his contract – but he has turned into him during the first year of his 4-year, $66 million deal.

With slugging rookie Ike Davis shooting up the system, and Daniel Murphy (obviously before he got hurt) doing well his first full season in the majors, the Mets at the time did not need Bay’s bat. They needed pitching.

And if the Mets wanted to spend $66 million, they would have been better off signing John Lackey, the biggest free agent pitcher in the last off-season.

Only if Omar listened.

New York Mets: Carlos Beltran Angry over Arizona Immigration Law

July 20, 2010

I just read this article which discusses Carlos Beltran’s displeasure with the new Arizona Immigration Law. If you would like a concise analysis of the law as it is written, click here.

Beltran stated that he was “against this law… there are a lot of Latinos who come here and try to have a better future. It’s hard for the people who come here from Mexico to this country.”

When asked if he would play if selected to next year’s All Star game, “Would I come? I don’t know,” Beltran said.

Base upon history, Beltran will probably be hurt and on the disabled list and will have no chance at playing. Realistically, however, Beltran will probably be playing hard next season because 2011 is the last year of his seven-year deal he signed with the Mets prior to the 2005 season, and he will be a free agent after 2011.

A free agent, by the way, which will bring NOTHING back to the Mets in the form of draft pick compensation.

Why? Because Beltran and his agent, Scott Boras, had Omar Minaya agree that the Mets would not offer arbitration to the Center fielder after the 2011 season. It is written in his contract and can be seen here.

You know Beltran will play often and play hard next year. He will be looking for a new multi-year deal from a team that needs a switch hitting middle of the order hitter. He will likely be better suited next year in the American League where the Designated Hitter role can help him easy the strain on his wobbly legs.

And Beltran’s legs look wobbly and he appears very sluggish in the field and on the base paths. Even though the team was crushed last night, the triple by Justin Upton to right center saw Beltran get a late start and not even come close to that ball.

It looks like he can still hit, as his mechanics are good and he is making quality contact. Doesn’t it seem like Beltran swings the heaviest bat. Maybe it is because the bat is pure white looking so it appears bigger.

As I said earlier, Beltran looks like more of an AL/DH type of guy who can play the outfield a few times a week.

But he shouldn’t be worried about the Arizona Immigration Law, after all he is a US Citizen.

He should worry more about how he ripped off the NY Mets for $119 million over seven seasons and, assuming he stay healthy over the next year and a half, has helped provide the team with one division title…their only playoff appearance.

Why New York Mets Manager Jerry Manuel is the Stupidest Man in Baseball

July 19, 2010

It has been said that the definition of stupid is doing the same wrong thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome.

As cruel as it might sound, I believe the industry of major league baseball is stuck in a method of managing of pulling your starters before they are cruising. Continuing to use the same failed pitching mistakes continues to only lead a team into more and more losses, and wasted efforts of the starting pitcher. 

I believe New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel is a stupid person, and one of the worst culprits of this pitching change phenomenon.

He obviously does not read my Bleacher Report articles .

What else would there be to explain why he continues to pull the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana, out games in which he is pitching great? Can you honestly believe that was the correct move today against the San Francisco Giants?

Especially when your team needs a victory in the worst way to avoid being swept in the first four games on this important road trip?

How about the Sunday game before the All-Star break against the Atlanta Braves ? Does Manuel himself honestly believe pulling Santana AFTER SEVEN SHUTOUT INNINGS of a game against the leader of the NL East was the correct move?

Well, Santana did already throw 107 pitches in that game. OMG! Call the papers!

And the Mets were only ahead 2-0 in that Braves game. Why would you remove your best pitcher in that game to put the ball in the hands of Bobby Parnell?

Granted, the Mets did win both games, but Manuel has to realize (especially after Frankie Rodriguez blew another save today) that Santana, no matter how many pitches he has thrown, is the best option for him at the end of the game.

Check out the photo accompanying this article. It is the on-field hand slapping between Manuel and Santana after Johan was allowed to finish his own game.

It might never happen again.  

Manuel already managed the Mets into many losses this season by pulling Santana early, and even pulling R.A. Dickey in this game where the Mets had Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals beaten.

Parnell and K-Rod gave up four runs in two innings in the eighth and ninth, but I doubt that Dickey would have allowed any more runs to the that Nats lineup. In watching the recorded game later on, they looked flustered trying to hit Dickey’s hard knuckle ball.

But Dickey threw 115 pitches already. What are we doing Jerry, trying to save the 35-year-old journeyman’s arm?

I remember driving home that day from umpiring a double header and listening to the game on the radio. I smiled when I heard that Dickey was being removed from the game. That gave the Nationals a chance.

But let’s get back to the Mets’ most effective, and highest paid, starting pitcher.

I don’t care how many pitches he has thrown into the later innings. If the game is tight and Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, or Albert Pujols was coming up, I WANT MY BEST PITCHER TO FACE THEM in that situation.

I already got on Manuel’s crosstown manager, Joe Girardi, last week regarding his pitch count limit shenanigans .

And it is not just Manuel and Girardi, but MLB in general. This entire notion that a middling relief pitcher, who isn’t good enough to be a starting pitcher and is not good enough to close games, is better than one of your starting pitchers when a game is tight is ridiculous. You can see this trend as middle relievers continue to get more and more win/loss decisions.

In 2008, Manuel pulled Santana early in four games which the Mets either held the lead or was tied but eventually lost , including two heartbreakers to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 4 and July 22 .

I heard on today’s radio broadcast that Santana had eight leads that season in which the Mets bullpen could not hold the lead.

How about Santana holding the lead?

Not until I wrote a piece two years ago did much talk center on letting Santana go longer in games because he is the team’s best pitcher, not Pedro Feliciano, not Fernando Nieve, not Elmer Dessens, not even the newly-anointed eighth inning guy Bobby Parnell or K-Rod are better than Johan Santana in these spots.
If you are talking pitch counts, and that Santana needs to be preserved for an August/September stretch run, there won’t be a late stretch run if Manuel continues to micro-manage the Johan Santana-pitched Mets games.

During those two Phillies games in July 2008, Santana had thrown 95 and 105 pitches, respectively, before he was pulled with a lead. As a reminder, the Mets lost the National League East by three games last season to those same Phillies, but were out of the National League Wild Card by a single game.

Leaving Santana in those four games when he was pulled would have likely returned three victories for the Mets.

If I am Manuel, I don’t care if Santana is at 95, 105, 115, or 135 pitches on a specific night. If Santana is still dealing and getting guys out, he is the man to be in the game. Not the aforementioned middle relievers.   

And do not pinch hit for him late either when there is no one on base or two outs in an inning. Having Santana on the mound is more important than gambling on getting a late insurance run.

Despite some successes this season, the Mets rotation is far from elite. The Mets need to win every game that Santana pitches, and that means letting your ace pitch very deep into games, if not a complete game every time out.

Then you can use the bullpen to try and bail out Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, and new rotation member R.A. Dickey—because you know Manuel, for a variety of reasons, is not going to be allowed those guys to go the distance.

Manuel needs to stop becoming more stupid—because if you have ever heard the comedian Ron White , “You can fix almost anything, but you can’t fix stupid .”