Your new Hall of Famers:
Roberto Alomar — and (at long last, love) Bert Blyleven.
Barry Larkin’s totals were third-highest, with 62.1% of the vote (short of the 75% needed, but in good shape to get in a few years down the road); Jack Morris managed 53.5%, Lee Smith 45.3% (…seriously?), and Jeff Bagwell 41.7%, so get ready to have that fun discussion all over again next year. You can see the full results over at the BBWAA’s high-tech website of the future.
According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system and series of articles over at Baseball Prospectus, there were eight deserving candidates on the ballot this year: Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell. I wasn’t so sure about Raines and Trammell initially, but I’ve completely come around on Rock over the last year and I’m edging towards being convinced on Trammell. It’d help if the guy had a better nickname, which I believe is not a factor JAWS takes into consideration, but it really ought to be. That’s something I’ll have to bring up with Jay, and I won’t have to wait long because he’s chatting live over at BP this very moment.
For those of you who are sick of reading and debating about the Hall of Fame, exhale. For those who aren’t, have at it in the comments. What would your ballot look like?
Over at Pinstriped Bible, Jay Jaffe takes a look at the Yankees on the Hall of Fame ballot.
As the winter meetings begin, the Yanks have their sites set squarely on Cliff Lee. According to George King in the Post:
“My priority list is pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching — I’ve been focusing on pitching,” GM Brian Cashman said yesterday.
…”When you’re a free agent, we kind of have to dance to their dance card,” Cashman said. “I’ve kind of been reacting to them.
“I flew into Arkansas especially to meet with Cliff Lee and his wife and his agent. I did that very early in the process. I was the first one out of the gates there.
“So, everybody knows I got ahead of everybody else. But it’s their dance card. They’re setting the pace of this thing. I can only wait and respect the process they put themselves in. It took them a long time, they fought through a lot of different cities to get to this point. I’m hoping this will be the last city he ends up in, in New York.”
It will cost the Yanks plenty in dollars and years to secure Lee.
UPDATE: Hall of Fame disgrace continues as Marvin Miller comes up one vote shy. No shock there.
Over at the Pinstriped Bible, Jay writes about Bill Hall:
At some point, Hall began working out in the offseason with Yankee hitting coach and noted resurrectionist Kevin Long, who’s done a magnificent job of straightening out both Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson over the past couple of years. Traded to Boston for Casey Kotchman, Hall found plenty of playing time in left field, at second base and in spot duty at five other positions (including an inning on the mound!) for the injury-wracked Sox, and he turned in a season whose overall line is almost a dead ringer for his career numbers, hitting .247/.316/.456 with 18 homers in 382 PA. Underneath the hood, he had a strong rebound against righties at the expense of a brutal year against lefties, some of which may have had to do with habits developed to succeed in Fenway; he took advantage of his natural pull tendency and hit a lot of fly balls off of and over the Green Monster.
In all, Hall would bring an intriguing skill set to the Yankees, as well as liabilities. Unlike Peña, he can competently fill in at six positions (second, short, third, and the outfield) for weeks at a time in the event another player hits the DL, and he can pop a ball out of the yard every now and then. But he’s got a history of contact woes and widely variable performances; anyone who’d be surprised if he were to be suddenly released in June while hitting .141 in minimal playing time because he’s suddenly forgotten how to hit to the opposite field hasn’t been paying attention. Still, for a few million dollars — and particularly with Long on hand to monitor his swing — he’d be a big upgrade on what the Yankees had on the bench last year.
Upton is one of the most talented young players in baseball. The first overall pick of the 2005 draft, he tore the cover off the ball at two levels at 19 and made his major-league debut that same year. His age-20 season wasn’t great by the standards of right fielders, but was fantastic given his age. In 2009, he followed with one of the better seasons ever produced by a 21-year-old. His hitting .300/.366/.532 in the majors when most players his age were in Single- or Double-A compared favorably with any number of current or future Hall of Famers, a list stretching from Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx to Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.
This season was a different story. Like his older brother B.J., who had a big season at 22 and then went backwards, Upton disappointed with a .273/.356/.442 season in 2010. Ironically, if he had been a 22-year-old rookie, we might look at the season and say, “Not bad. A little inadequate for a right fielder, but he’s only 22 and maybe he builds on this.” Upton had already set a higher bar for himself, so his season was inevitably seen as a letdown.
It is difficult to pinpoint is the reason why Upton had such an off year, but at 23 it is far too soon to give up on him. He has speed, power, good speed in the outfield, and is probably still several years from the center of his prime. He is also right-handed, and though he didn’t hit lefties very well in 2010, in 2009 he murdered them, hitting .377/.445/.762. In games started by left-handers, the Yankees were 31-27 (.534) versus 64-40 against right-handers (.615).
AJ Burnett isn’t all bad, after all. Dig this from Chad Jennings:
“It would be silly for Hughesy not to start,” said Burnett.
…“Joe’s the best manager I ever played for…He’s done more for me this year probably than any manager has ever done. He cares about me as a person and as a player. I’ll be down in that pen and be ready to get one out or two outs or whatever I’ve got to do for him.”
Andy Pettitte starts Game 2: This isn’t necessarily a bad decision, because if healthy, Pettitte is a terrific, experienced pitcher who any team would like to have on the mound in a tight spot. That said, foregoing the opportunity to let Phil Hughes pitch before Target Field’s wall of wind (“The Air Monster?”) seems like an error.
…Greg Golson makes the postseason roster: This is not a bad call as Golson can play defense, pinch-run, and swing at a southpaw in an emergency. Hopefully, Joe Girardi can remember not to make moves with Golson that he wouldn’t have made during the regular season. Otherwise, Golson will pinch-run for Nick Swisher in the fourth inning of some game and then end up getting three at-bats.
[Picture by Chris Giarrusso]
Three cheers to Jim Bouton, whose classic book, Ball Four, turns 40 (Jay Jaffe had a great post to mark the event over at the Pinstriped Bible last week).
When asked how the title “Ball Four” came into being, Bouton explained Saturday how he and editor Leonard Shecter were at the Lion’s Head Tavern in New York, the famous literary bar near Columbia University, having just turned in the finished product into the publisher:
“We went to have a drink to celebrate this piece of cardboard we had just turned in, and we’re thinking, ‘Now what are we going to call the damn thing?’
“We were talking about the need to have a downbeat title. This isn’t a story about how somebody just won the World Series. It’s about struggling, about difficulty. What’s the toughest thing for a pitcher — a knuckleball pitcher in particular — it’s to get the damn ball over the plate. It’s walking guys ….
“So we’re talking about all this, and there was a lady sitting at the bar. She was very drunk. And she was listening to our conversation. And at some point, she leans over and says, ‘Whyyyyy don’t you caaaaall it Baaaaallllll Foooouuuuurrrrrrr?’
“And we said, ‘nawwwww.’
“Finally we couldn’t come up with anything. And I was walking Shecter back to his hotel before I went home to New Jersey, and then Shecter says, ‘You know, Ball Four isn’t a bad title.’ So we owe it all to this woman at the bar.”
Jay Jaffe has a good post on Jorge Posada and concussions over at PB:
Sadly, concussions have become a Very Big Deal in professional sports in recent years as their devastating and harrowing long-term effects have come to light. Among football players, they’ve been implicated in the onset of dementia. On the diamond, they’re thought to be the real cause of what’s previously been accepted as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a/k/a Lou Gehrig’s Disease, at least according to one recent scientific paper. Concussions have ended the careers of players such as Brewers’ third baseman Corey Koskie, who collided with a wall while attempting to catch a pop-up in 2006, and Giants’ catcher Mike Matheny, who was forced into retirement in early 2007 as a result of the cumulative effect of all the foul tips he took in the mask — a situation that rings a bell both literally and figuratively as far as Posada is concerned.
Other players such as Jim Edmonds, Ryan Church, Justin Morneau and Jason Bay have been forced to the sidelines for extended and maddeningly indefinite periods of time due to concussions and their aftermath, the poorly understood post-concussion syndrome, which can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, loss of memory, insomnia… a potpourri of misery. Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa basically impugned Edmonds’ manhood while the latter recuperated, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel similarly made a hash of Church’s situation to the extent that his club came under well-deserved fire for their general handling of such cases.
The Dodgers’ Blues have Jay Jaffe seeing red. While Manny Ramirez has been getting killed for his final days, in particular his last at-bat, which was classic Manny, Jay takes aim at Joe Torre:
Torre hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory elsewhere this season. He’s made a hash of the bullpen at times, failing to get closer Jonathan Broxton save opportunities early in the year, then overusing him in non-save situations. Worse, he quickly burned out his top setup men, a tale that will be all too familiar to Yankee fans. Righty Ramon Troncoso and lefty George Sherrill made a combined 28 appearances in April and another 25 in May, a pace that comes out to 168 combined appearances over the course of the season; not coincidentally, that not-so-dynamic duo has combined for an 8.06 Fair Run Average while each facing demotions to the minors. To be fair, the Dodger bullpen ranks third in the league by BP’s advanced metrics, but those quality arms may be in Proctorville by the time the season is all said and done.
Worse, the young, homegrown players on whom so much of the Dodgers’ present and future depends have regressed on Torre’s watch. Catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney and center field Matt Kemp have played mediocre ball for most of the season. The production of Martin, who once looked to be the Dodgers’ answer to Derek Jeter — a face-of-the-franchise leader — declined for the third straight season before it ended abruptly due to a hip injury earlier this month. Torre’s overuse — starting him behind the plate 271 games in 2008-2009, the third highest total in the majors, and using him in 298 overall, the highest — can’t help but be implicated in that decline; as a former catcher himself, he should have known better, particularly as Martin’s production flagged. After earning All-Star honors last year, the still-raw Kemp has at times suffered from braindead play at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths. After some heavy-handed benching by Torre which was accompanied by unsubtle comments from henchman Larry Bowa, Kemp appears to want to talk his way out of town if he can’t play his way out.
Finally, there’s Torre’s handling of Ramirez, who at .311/.405/.510 still rates among the game’s top hitters; his .328 True Average would rank third in the league given enough plate appearances to qualify. Around his injuries, he started just 54 games out of the 72 games for which he was active, meaning that Torre didn’t start him a whopping 25 percent of the time — about double what you might expect for an aging player of his caliber. The Dodgers went 32-22 in his starts, scoring 5.3 runs per game, and 35-42 in games he didn’t start, averaging 3.7 runs. Four of those non-starts came in the days immediately after Ramirez hit the waiver wire, three of them against the Rockies, the team directly above them in the NL West standings.
And for an even more lively take-down, head on over to Futility Infielder.
[Photo Credit: Zimbio]
Over at PB, Jay Jaffe smokes ‘em up, Johnny:
The Yankees would do well to take another look at Albaladejo as another middle inning option down the stretch; contrary to what Kevin suggests, he might still find a home on the postseason roster. Even as more of a one-inning proposition than a multi-inning guy, he’d be more valuable than Chad “Second Coming” Gaudin given that he doesn’t have such infernal platoon splits; righties are hitting a microscopic . 105/.179/.124 against him this year, with two measly doubles the only extra base hits in 105 at-bats. Meanwhile, lefties are hitting a still manageable .226/.280/.348. Given that the Yankees now have Javier Vazquez in the bullpen and Ivan Nova in the rotation — a situation that could eventually reverse — they have less need for a craptacular long man than another middle-inning arm.
Furthermore, it’s not as though they can count on Alfredo Aceves to fulfill that role once he returns from his rehab assignment. After allowing just one hit and one run in five innings in his first three rehab appearances, Aceves has been cuffed for nine hits and four runs in 3.2 innings over his last two appearances — against Double-A hitters, mind you. Five of the six hits he allowed on Wednesday night were doubles, not a good sign. At the very least, he’s a ways off from helping the big club.
Over at the Pinstriped Bible, Jay Jaffe weighs in on Javier Vazquez being skipped a turn:
Like an injured wasp, Javier Vazquez is still able to sting once in awhile, but he’s desperately in need of being relieved of his misery with a rolled-up newspaper, or at the very least swatted to the sidelines. On Saturday, his season reached another low point, as he yielded four runs in three innings against the Mariners, the majors’ lowest-scoring team. While the Yankees nonetheless emerged with a win thanks to strong work from Chad Gaudin and a late offensive burst which produced five unanswered runs, the start marked the third straight time that Vazquez had failed to reach five innings.
Alas, this should surprise exactly no one. After Vazquez allowed 10 baserunners and six runs (three earned) in 5.1 innings during his first start of the month, manager Joe Girardi admitted that his velocity was down, while pitching coach Dave Eiland conceded, “He has a little dead arm,” which isn’t as serious as it sounds. “Dead arm” is a term for muscular fatigue, a warning sign from the body but something which will improve with rest, rather than a structural problem with ligaments or cartilage which would require intervention.
Over at PB, Jay Jaffe takes a look at the two-halves of Phil Hughes’ season:
On both sides of the line, Hughes has received virtually identical defensive support from his teammates, above-average support at that, given that the league batting average on balls in play is .294. He’s got two main problems: he isn’t striking out hitters at nearly the same clip as early in the year, and his home run rate has more than doubled. The latter is a byproduct of him generating fewer groundballs (which don’t go for homers) and getting a bit more bad luck on his increased number of fly balls (which do, given enough of ‘em).
The new bible study group: Steven Goldman, Cliff Corcoran and Jay Jaffe.
Yesterday, Jay Jaffe, took a detailed look at Vazquez over at BP:
Taking a more dramatic route, if not necessarily a smarter one, the Yanks could also start Sergio Mitre in Vazquez’s stead, though it’s tough to imagine Mitre’s lone supporter (Girardi) subjecting a pitcher with a career ERA of 5.48 to such brutality even given Boston’s recent struggles. More elaborate solutions are unlikely, at least at this juncture, given that the Yankees have few places to stash an $11.5-million pitcher in a funk. In years past, struggling pitchers like Jeff Weaver or Jose Contreras have been sent to the team’s spring training facility to work with pitching guru Billy Connors, taking the so-called “Tampa Cure.” But that would require a DL stint, and thus far, nobody has suggested Vazquez is injured. Short of a serious injury which could shelve the struggling starter for awhile, the one thing the Yankees almost certainly won’t do is haul Chamberlain back to the rotation, particularly given the concerns they have about their set-up corps, with Chan Ho Park lost to a hamstring injury and David Robertson and Damaso Marte just lost, period.
So the Yankees and their fans will have to endure Vazquez for the foreseeable future. Which shouldn’t be so hard, given that they sit at 16-8, with the second-best record in the AL, and that despite the weight of his personal history in the Bronx and in the league, Vazquez’s current rough patch still amounts to only five starts. In recent years, upstanding hurlers such as Sabathia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Justin Verlander have overcome similarly ugly season-opening patches to wind up ranking among the majors’ top pitchers, and a change in Vazquez’s fortunes may only be a mechanical tweak or two away.
Even with his patchy situational stats, it’s simply too early to resort to panic over a pitcher not expected to carry the team, one whose overall track record is as long and as solid as Vazquez’s is. Expect Cashman, Girardi, and company to resist the temptation to resort to more drastic measures—firing squad, stoning, trepanning, or Clockwork Orange-style loops of the 2004 ALCS—while riding out the storm for a while longer.
[photo credit: YOM]