As players arrive in Tampa, so does Yankees’ equipment

February 16, 2012 | 36 comments | in Featured | by SJK



Pronk?

February 14, 2012 | 19 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

SI (via CBS Sports):

The New York Yankees could potential deal starting pitcher A.J. Burnett to Cleveland for Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner, according to CBS Sports.

The Yankees have been attempting to move Burnett this offseason after the 34-year-old starter has failed to perform since signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract in 2009. Hafner is in the final season of a six-year, $66 million deal he signed in 2007.

Travis Hafner, last 3 years vs. RHP

2009: 257 PAs, .292/.375/.490/.866
2010: 351 PAs, .279/.385/.478/.863
2011: 260 PAs, .302/.404/.482/.886

Annual salaries are close to each other (Hafner – $13 mil), but Hafner will be a free agent after the season if his team doesn’t exercise his option.

For Valentine’s Day, purchase your man that magical fragrance

February 13, 2012 | 19 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

MLB.COM:

Ever wonder what five-time World Series champion Derek Jeter smells like?

The world will soon find out when the Yankees release their two official fragrances in Manhattan on Feb. 21.


Now you too can smell like arrogance.

VOTE: Pulling the plug on Electric Stuff

February 13, 2012 | 48 comments | in Featured | by SJK

December 18, 2008:

No one needs to remind the Yankees what A.J. Burnett could be capable of accomplishing in the American League East. They’ve had a front-row seat for some time.

When news broke of the right-hander’s five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees, the happiest people in New York may have been members of the lineup. Now they’ll never have to see Burnett’s biting arsenal hurtling in.

“I’ve had my players working on me,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “His stuff is electric, everybody sees that. Our players, especially some who have relationships with A.J., say this guy is perfect here.”





They must have missed this.


Is Russell Martin secretly awesome?

February 12, 2012 | 49 comments | in Featured | by Vizzini

I was pretty underwhelmed when the Yankees made it clear that they were bringing back Russell Martin for another year. Back then, we were still anticipating the beginning of the short-lived Jesus Montero era, and Martin’s presence would ensure that Montero’s full value would not be realized. Even after the Montero trade, catcher was the position I was least excited about on the Yankees. Sure, Martin makes good financial sense — he’s a one-year commitment and only needs to be average to bring back value on his $7.5 million deal. But, I’m just not gonna get a chub for an average player.

On the surface, that’s just what RussMart appears to be. The Fans’ Scouting Report and Fangraph’s Fielding Runs both see Martin as above-average defensively. Yet, his bat has been about 10% below league average over the last 3 years. Add it up and you’ve got a guy on a good contract who’s nothing to write home about. With the Yankees’ budget, you expect more than that.

Yet, what if he’s not just an average player? What if Russell Martin is a 5 WAR player in a 2.5 WAR player’s mask? There are reasons for optimism on both sides of the ball.

Defense

In 2009 and 2010, Dodgers fans rated Russell Martin as 7% and 6% better than average, respectively. In 2011, Yankee fans thought RussMart was 14% better than average — which could be exaggerated since watching Jorge Posada for 15 years will make anyone else look like Pudge Rodriguez by comparison. Fangraphs says Martin has been worth 2 runs (one fifth of a win) above average per season defensively.

Both of these metrics have severe shortcomings. The Fans’ Scouting Report isn’t likely to do as well with catchers as other positions. Fans can gauge arm strength and how well a catcher blocks wild pitches. However, the casual observer will have a much harder time calculating the nuances of catching (framing pitches, calling a game, handling a pitching staff).

Fangraphs’ metric similarly only accounts for blocking pitches and controlling the running game, without attempting to measure the finer things which former catchers like Joe Girardi claim are of great value.

A recent spate of statistical research indicates that one of those finer points — framing pitches — is a valuable skill. This February 10th Baseball Prospectus article by Max Marchi is about former Yankee, Jose Molina, and the defensive skills he will now bring to the rival Rays. Marchi says that Molina does well controlling the running game (9.8 runs above average over the last 4 years) and fielding batted balls (1.2 runs). However, the money shot comes in the listing of the leaders for runs saved by framing pitches. Jose Molina is third-best — good for 62.8 runs above average over the last 4 years. Guess who was right ahead of the Middle Molina…

Yup, your boy…Russell Martin. By coaxing strikes out of umpires on borderline pitches, Russell Martin has saved 70 runs above average for his teams over the last four seasons. If Marchi’s model is accurate, this means that Martin is capable of adding as many as 2 wins to his WAR total via the unseen art of framing. Suddenly, Martin is looking like a no-doubt All-Star 4+ WAR catcher.

Offense

Martin’s offensive prowess is also probably understated. His wOBA over the last three years has been below average, but going into his age 29 season, we should probably expect him to be right around his career average (.335). As it turns out, Martin has been almost exactly league average for his career. League average may not sound impressive, but it makes him one of the better hitting catchers in the league. Since the start of his career in 2006, only 11 catchers have had better wOBAs (min 1000 PAs).

Moreover, there are several reasons to think Martin will surpass his career .335 wOBA. In 2007, Martin posted a career-best .368 wOBA. He followed that up with a .351 wOBA campaign. He was a 25-year old catcher putting up All-Star numbers in over 1200 PAs.

At 29, we shouldn’t expect Martin to be too far off from that peak. In fact, many catchers peak later than other position players (possibly because young catchers focus more on their defensive responsibilities, and learn to hit to their potential only after much seasoning). For example, Jorge Posada’s 8 best hitting seasons came after he turned 29.

So why did Martin deviate so far from the offensive talent he showed in his early years? The answer might lie in his hefty workload. In 2007, Martin appeared in a 151 games, more than any other catcher. So what does Joe Torre do to Martin for an encore? In 2008, Torre played Martin in 155 games. This apparently wore Martin down, as the following season his wOBA fell 44 points to .307. Torre kept Proctoring him though, riding Martin for 143 more games that season. Martin’s body broke down in 2010, as he hit for a .306 wOBA and was limited to 99 games due to injury.

Martin came into the 2011 season for the Yanks still dealing with hip and knee issues. His .325 wOBA looked decent, but it was an underwhelming bounce back. Yet, underneath was a .170 ISO that matched his power from his salad days. The wOBA was suppressed by a very unlucky .252 BABIP. Despite being a catcher, there’s no reason to think Martin ought to suffer a lower than average BABIP. He hits for decent power, puts the ball on the ground a lot, and has about average speed. It would be nice to see Russell get that walk rate back up a tick or two, but if can maintain his power from last year, Martin will likely see his wOBA jump the .340 mark and maybe even push .350.

Russell Martin gets overlooked by a lot of Yankee writers (this one included) due to his mediocre surface numbers. Yet, behind the the mask, might be squatting one of the most valuable assets on the Yankees.


With his ability to frame pitches, Martin provides extra security for Yankee pitchers.

Blackout on YES Network

February 10, 2012 | 18 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by Louis Winthorpe III


YES Network commentator Bob Lorenz charged with a DUI in CT.

After his arraignment, Lorenz was reportedly asked if he was a host on YES.

“No. I get that all the time,” he replied.

Trading AJ Burnett: Cutting off the nose to spite the face

February 9, 2012 | 83 comments | in Featured | by SJK

There’s been talk over the last couple days that the Yankees are shopping AJ Burnett, with recent reports suggesting interest from Pittsburgh. Anytime we’ve heard mention of Electric Stuff being traded this offseason, it’s always accompanied by “the Yankees must pay a significant chunk of his remaining contract.”

There is no question that the AJ Burnett signing was a mistake. However, if the Yankees have to eat the bulk of his remaining $33 million, trading him would also be a mistake. It would be a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

While Electric Stuff is not the top-tier pitcher Cashman and Co. stupidly thought he was, he’d actually make a great 5th starter. His peripherals last year were actually pretty good (3.86 xFIP). His strikeout rate vastly improved in 2011 over 2010 (8.18 K/9 v 6.99). He suffered from an abnormally high HR/FB of 17%. He’s only 2 years removed from a 3.5 WAR season. If the home runs normalize a bit and he keeps all the other rates around the same level, you’re looking at a fantastic 5th starter.

Everyone knows Burnett’s been a huge disappointment. We’ve made fun of him at every opportunity. But if the Yankees trade him while eating a ton of salary, it would be an overreaction to the original mistake they made. Burnett could really tear it up compared to other 5th starters around baseball.


If baseball doesn’t work out for AJ, he can keep dogs in their yards.

He’s so dreamy

February 5, 2012 | 96 comments | in Featured | by SJK


Coming soon: Pics of Vicente Padilla on Revere Beach!

The Stealth Bomber Series: Interview with 3B Dante Bichette Jr.

February 3, 2012 | 39 comments | in Featured | by SJK

In the our Stealth Bomber series, we talk to players in the farm system who aren’t yet on the New York radar, but hope one day to be so.

Dante Bichette Jr was the Yankees’ top pick in the 2011 draft (51st overall). In his debut campaign, he hit .342/.446/.505, led the Gulf Coast Yankees to a championship, and picked up the league’s MVP award. NoMaas’ Sensei John Kreese sat down in the inferno and talked to the Florida product about his first year in professional baseball, his father’s words of wisdom, his approach to hitting, and more.

Sensei John Kreese: So how long have you been in Tampa (working out)?

Dante Bichette Jr: Well, I live in Orlando, but I’ve been in Tampa since the 17th [January].

SJK: Was it mandatory that you be there so early?

DB: I’m not sure if it was mandatory or not, but they gave me the option, so I definitely wanted to take advantage of that.

SJK: Putting in work and making a good impression…

DB: Of course.

SJK: So what types of things are you working on now?

DB: Right now we’re in rotations — hitting in the cages and taking ground balls. We’re getting our arms in shape too.

SJK: Any weight training?

DB: Yes, we work out 4 days a week with a day in-between each, and we also do conditioning in the morning.

SJK: How did your offseason go?

DB: Offseason was great. I went to Instructs when the season was over. I was in the Dominican Republic, that was a lot of fun. Then I went home and took a few weeks off. I went on a cruise and then got back into hitting. I feel great now. I think I did it right.

SJK: You had a killer year last season. You won the Gulf Coast championship. You were the MVP of the league. What are you going to do for an encore?

DB: I want to be more consistent with my approach and learn how to make adjustments quicker. Instead of making an adjustment after a game and realize I was messing something up, it would be a lot better if I could make the adjustment during a game or an at-bat.

SJK: When we spoke with Tyler, he said he didn’t know what team he would be playing with to start the season, because the Yankees typically don’t let players know until Spring Training is nearly over. Do you have any idea where you’re going?

DB: I’m not really sure. They make that decision at the end of Spring Training.

SJK: Lots of guys put up big stats on your team last season. What was it about your team that enabled you to put up these huge numbers?

DB: Our Gulf Coast team was crazy. It was one of the better hitting teams I’ve played on. I don’t think the hitters are ahead of the pitchers either. I actually think the pitchers are further along than the most of the hitters in the league. Our team was gifted. Everybody could hit. Everybody could hit for power. We all got along really well too, and when that happens, everyone gets a little better.

SJK: Any guys really stand out to you?

DB: Yeah, Tyler is one of the first guys I met when I got there, and he helped me get accustomed to pro ball. He raked obviously and got moved up. Isaias Tejeda and Jose Rosario stood out big-time. Ravel Santana went crazy. He’s a great hitter as well.

SJK: Your dad was a longtime big leaguer. You grew up around the game. Is the minor league experience different at all from what you expected?

DB: I grew up when my dad was in the big leagues, and that’s a lot different from the minor leagues. I thought the minors would be a lot of fun, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s a great time and I’m enjoying the grind. I’m enjoying getting to know the guys, and this organization has a lot of great people in it, which is awesome.

SJK: After you were drafted, did the Yankees change anything about your swing? Did they make any adjustments?

DB: Not at all. The Yankees have this rule where they are not allowed to touch you for 100 or 90 days, something like that. My hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez, he wasn’t allowed to say anything, but I was trying to pick his brain within the first week. He didn’t change anything in my swing though. So no adjustments. The big thing is getting adjusted to the pitching. It’s a lot different in pro ball than in high school, competition and speed of the game.

SJK: You played SS in high school?

DB: Yes.

SJK: How’s 3B going, and is there any talk of trying out other positions?

DB: That was up in the air after I got drafted, but the coaches have said I’ve improved a lot. I’m hoping to keep improving and keep my spot at third. If I end up in the outfield, that’s fine. That’s where my dad played, so that would be a lot of fun.

SJK: Only being 19 years old, how does it feel when keyboard heroes talk about your limitations or say “he’ll end up at this position or that position?”

DB: There’s one thing my dad taught about handling things like that — you never believe how bad anybody says you are, and you never believe how good anybody says you are. You just have to stay within yourself and know what you can do.

I actually got a little taste of that when I played in the Little League World Series as a 12-year old. People say good things. People say bad things.

SJK: I actually read about that. During the Little League World Series, there was this story on ESPN about you and Harold Reynolds. You wanted to sleep in or something, instead of doing an interview?

DB: Yeah, it was something early in the morning on a show called Cold Pizza. I slept in and I got some heat for that. It was not meant in a bad intention at all. Our family is pretty close with Harold Reynolds. My parents probably talk to him every other day. I didn’t even think anything of it.

SJK: Amazing, under the microscope when you’re 12. So, your family is pretty tight with Joe Girardi, right?

DB: Yeah, I call him “Uncle Joe.” My dad and him bonded while they were on the Rockies.

SJK: Do you talk to Joe a lot?

DB: I haven’t talked to him much this year and only a couple times last year. He left a message for my dad with “congratulations” after the draft. I haven’t talked to him too much, I know he’s a busy guy, so I try to leave him alone.

SJK: How would you describe your approach as a hitter?

DB: Well, I need to learn to make adjustments quicker. I think I have a decent eye. And if I can use the bat speed that God gave me, it should result in some good hitting.

SJK: Are you looking to work the count when you go to the plate?

DB: No, very rarely do I go up there and say “I’m taking this first pitch.” Normally, I’ve got a plan on every pitcher. I watch them warm up and how they pitch to guys before me. I’ll take that plan into the at-bat and stick to it.

SJK: Did you ever get to hit in Coors when you were a little kid?

DB: Maybe on Family Day, but I don’t remember. I do remember hitting at Fenway Park though. That was a blast. My dad took me out there before a game and I hit a whole bucket of balls, which was pretty awesome.

SJK: Maybe one day you’ll be back there, knocking them up against the Monster.

DB: Maybe, yeah.

SJK: Well, that’s about it, Dante. We appreciate it and we’re definitely looking forward to watching you this year. Best of luck, brotha.

DB: Alright, thank you very much.

Many thanks to Dante for talking with NoMaas. This is two interviews in a row where we were left very impressed by the attitude of these young players. Dante was poised, well-spoken, and already possesses such a professional view of the game. He’s a great kid with a superb head on his shoulders.

The Stealth Bomber Series: Interview with 1B/3B/COF Tyler Austin

January 31, 2012 | 43 comments | in Featured | by SJK

In the our Stealth Bomber series, we talk to players in the farm system who aren’t yet on the New York radar, but hope one day to be so.

After being drafted by the Yankees in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, Tyler Austin was hit by a pitch that broke his wrist, forcing the Georgia product to sit out the rest of the Rookie League campaign after only two games. He returned in 2011 to absolutely slay opposing pitchers, hitting a combined .354/.418/.579 between the Gulf Coast and Staten Island clubs. At Staten Island, he registered the first 6-hit game in the NY-Penn League since 2007, which earned him a NoMaas MLPW Award. Sensei John Kreese sat down with the 20-year old to talk about his debut season and his outlook for 2012.

Sensei John Kreese: Let’s start with last season. You straight killed it at the plate. What worked and why was it so easy for you?

Tyler Austin: I put in a lot work before and after games, during practice – there was an approach I wanted to carry with me into the game, taking the same swing from batting practice into the game. I didn’t want to rush anything, just stay relaxed.

SJK: At each level, both at Gulf Coast and Staten Island, you were basically the best hitter on each of those teams. That’s really impressive considering some of the names on those clubs, including a bunch of 1st and 2nd rounders. Were there other teammates that impressed you or stood out from your perspective?

TA: Yeah definitely – Cito Culver, Ben Gamel, Mason [Williams], Dante [Bichette Jr], Branden Pinder — I love watching all those guys play. Everybody plays hard. But those guys really stand out to me. Those guys are unreal.

SJK: How’s the wrist?

TA: It’s perfectly fine. No problems at all whatsoever.

SJK: How would describe the pitching at the lower levels? Do you feel like the hitters are more advanced?

TA: I don’t think there’s any advantages either way. The pitchers are just as good. Velocity is still the same. Obviously, when you move higher, the pitchers can spot better, throw more breaking pitches for strikes – but I don’t think there’s an advantage, honestly.

SJK: What did your offseason look like?

TA: Just stayed in the gym, stayed in the cages – staying in shape and keeping the swing I had during the season. Other than that, I went to few concerts, hung out with my girlfriend…

SJK: So in other words, you’re not sending girls any signed baseballs like Derek Jeter does?

TA: HAHA. No, there’s none of that. I had a few guys tell me about that story. I couldn’t believe it. He’s actually been down here [in Tampa] lately hitting and taking groundballs, stuff like that.

SJK: So have you met Jeter?

TA: No, I’ve never gone up and talked to him, or anything like that. He’s always busy every time I see him. I don’t want to interrupt his sessions.

SJK: Have you met anyone on the big club or in the front office?

TA: Andruw Jones, Joba Chamberlain…just a few guys, not too many.

SJK: Have you met Cashman yet?

TA: I have not.

SJK: Have you received word yet that you’re starting the year in Charleston (Low-A)?

TA: I haven’t heard anything yet, none of us really have. We probably won’t hear until one or two days before we leave.

SJK: Really? They don’t tell you where you’re going until Spring Training is just about over?

TA: Yeah, that’s how it was last year.

SJK: Let’s back up a bit, you were a catcher in high school and the Yankees squashed that idea from the get-go. How soon after you were drafted did you realize the Yankees wanted to change your position?

TA: Well, they drafted me as an outfielder, so I knew the catching thing would probably be out the window. I didn’t mind it. I had a feeling that it would be gone with any team that took me.

SJK: Why’s that?

TA: Just because I hadn’t caught that long. I played other positions in high school a little bit. I just figured I wouldn’t catch after I was drafted.

SJK: You played 1B and 3B last season. Do you have a preference?

TA: Not really, either one I’m comfortable with. But now, I’m back in the OF a little bit, so it’s probably going to be left field, right field, third, first…mixed all the way up this year.

SJK: What do you think you need to work on defensively?

TA: Every aspect of it, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

SJK: What do your strengths are as a hitter?

TA: I try to put the ball the other way. It helps me make contact better and helps me stay through the ball a lot longer than most people would.

SJK: What about working a pitch count and taking a walk?

TA: I feel like I’m getting better at that. I’ll definitely take a walk.

SJK: How about those stolen bases? You didn’t get caught once (18 for 18).

TA: I take a good lead and have a good idea of the count to go in, especially with the guys hitting behind me this past year. I knew they would see the majority of the breaking balls. I picked a count and just went when I could.

SJK: Alright Tyler, that’s all I got. We appreciate it, had a good time interviewing you. Best of luck this season and hopefully we can talk again.

TA: Yes, sir. Sounds great.

Many thanks to Tyler for talking to us. He is definitely one of the most personable people we’ve interviewed on NoMaas. He was really fun to talk with and has a great attitude. Make sure to follow him during the season.

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