"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: rany jazayerli

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox

Dig this nice appreciation of Mark Buehrle by Rany Jazayerli over at Grantland:

Everyone makes mistakes. One of mine is that it took me a long time to appreciate Buehrle, and not just because every time he pitched for the White Sox, I had to listen to Hawk Harrelson sing his praises. I mean, Buehrle was drafted in the 38th round out of some college no one had heard of,2 he almost never hit 90 on the radar gun, and he didn’t strike anyone out. Sure, he reached the major leagues just 14 months after he signed as a draft-and-follow in 1999, but he was never a top prospect. He wasn’t much of a prospect, period. During his first full season in the majors, I fixated on his mere 126 strikeouts in 221 innings far more than on his 16-8 record, 3.29 ERA, or AL-leading 1.066 WHIP. He was a junk-tossing left-hander, and those guys always get figured out eventually.

Only, Buehrle hasn’t gotten figured out, and he’s currently helping fuel the Toronto Blue Jays’ playoff hopes. Despite pitching in arguably the AL’s best home run park for hitters for most of his career, he’s produced only one bad season: 2006, the sole year when his ERA+ dropped below 100 and, conveniently if less meaningfully, the only year when he finished with a losing record. He’s been consistently above average without ever being elite. He’s earned a single Cy Young vote just once, in 2005, and the category in which he’s most often led the league is hits allowed, four times.

He’s led the league in hits allowed four times because he throws a lot of innings, and because he gives up a lot of contact. And he gives up a lot of contact because the one thing he does not do is miss bats. After getting called up midseason in 2000, Buehrle struck out 37 batters in 51.1 innings, a ratio a tick higher than the league average at the time. He’s posted a below-average strikeout rate every season since, and has struck out 150 batters just once in his career.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Dr. Killpatient

Over at Grantland Rany Jazayerli lower the boom on the 2013 Yanks:

If everything goes right, the Yankees can win 90 games again and contend for an AL East title. But for the first time since before the strike, the Yankees need everything to go right. And it never does. Things are already going wrong, with a third of the projected lineup on the DL. They don’t have the depth to replace Granderson and Teixeira; other players will get hurt, and they won’t have the depth to replace them. Players will underperform, and they don’t have anyone in the minors who can step up. (The Yankees have a pretty good farm system, but their top five prospects — Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and Jose Campos — have combined for two games in Double-A.)

So long as the Yankees stick to their guns and aim to get their payroll under the threshold next year, they won’t be able to purchase help from outside the organization. The team’s streak of 87 or more wins is in mortal danger, and so is its streak of 20 winning seasons in a row. If the old guys show their age all at once and another key player goes down — particularly Sabathia — they could collapse like last year’s Red Sox.

And 2014 will be worse. The Yankees only have four players under contract for next year, but they owe those players — Rodriguez, Sabathia, Teixeira, and Ichiro — more than $78 million. Cano will be a free agent, and with the Dodgers trying their best to out-Yankee the Yankees, it’s no guarantee he’ll re-sign in the Bronx.

Cano is just the tip of the iceberg. Other free agents next winter include Granderson, Kuroda, Youkilis, Pettitte, Rivera, Hughes, Hafner, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. (Jeter has a player option.) As much as 40 percent of this year’s roster will be available to the highest bidder next winter, just as the Yankees will be cutting payroll. Assembling a complete roster with no immediate help from the minor leagues and precious few pre-arbitration major leaguers will be an immense challenge.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver