The Pope and Dalai Lama narrowly edge Jeter

March 26, 2014 | 11 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

Fortune published a list of who the magazine believes are the the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, and coming in 11th was…Derek Jeter.

The Yankees captain was only 2 spots below the Dalia Lama and barely missed the Top 10, highlighted by the top-ranked Pope Francis.

He ranks a cool 23 spots ahead of Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year old Pakistani female education activist who was nearly murdered by the Taliban.

No longer baseball’s biggest spenders…

March 26, 2014 | 8 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

Kansas City Star:

The Dodgers are ending the Yankees’ 15-year streak as baseball’s biggest spenders and as of Tuesday had a projected payroll of $235 million, according to study of all major league contracts by The Associated Press.

New York, which last failed to top the payroll rankings in 1998, was second at $204 million.

And here are your Top 10, per the Associated Press:

1. Dodgers: $235,295,219
2. Yankees: $203,812,506
3. Philadelphia: $180,052,723
4. Small Market Boston: $162,817,411
5. Detroit: $162,228,527
6. LA Angels: $155,692,000
7. San Francisco: $154,185,878
8. Texas: $136,036,172
9. Washington: $134,704,437
10. Toronto: $132,628,700

Other teams of note:

15. Baltimore: $107,406,623
..
22. Junior Varsity: $89,051,758
..
25. Billy Beane’s Oakland: $83,401,400
..
28. Tampa: $77,062,891

Teixeira on the shift: “I won’t hit balls the other way”

March 25, 2014 | 15 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

In a cool little article written by Pete Caldera of The Record, the Yankees reportedly will be implementing more defensive shifts this season.

One of the big advocates of this defensive modification is ironically Mark Teixeira, whose personal offensive numbers have declined over the last few seasons, partly due to opposing teams utilizing the shift against him:

It’s taken baseball over 100 years to figure out guys seem to hit the ball in certain spots,” Teixeira said. “Why not put more people in those spots?”

Oddly though, Teixeira stated that he won’t make any adjustments to his own hitting approach, even though he’s aware of the defensive efficacy of the shift:

“I’m trying to hit line drives, hit balls in the alley, hit home runs,” Teixeira said. “When I start trying to hit groundballs the other way, it’s time for me to retire.”

Ok then.

Props to Eric Wilbur of Boston.com

March 24, 2014 | 9 comments | in Mediot Observation | by SJK

In a reaction to David Ortiz’s contract extension with the Red Sox, Eric Wilbur of Boston.com dared to go where no one has gone before — the questioning of an untouchable city icon:

Hometown discount?

Is that what we’re calling $16 million these days?

David Ortiz’s annual soap opera revolving around his contract finally was resolved for 2014, as the Red Sox tacked another year onto the designated hitter’s deal that will pay him $16 million in 2015, and comes with a pair of club vesting options for ’16 and ’17, perhaps with the intent that the team wouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense for at least a couple more years.

But this is what really threw us for a loop:

He’s rebounded nicely from the mysterious drop-off seasons he endured at the end of last decade, when there was serious talk of the Red Sox releasing the Boston sports legend.

What happened? Magic dust?

Ortiz’s past with steroids is indeed a tricky one, but it’s one that he’s managed to escape without the least bit of repercussion. The “investigation” he promised he’d undergo in 2009, when reports surfaced that his name was among those on the infamous 2003 positive list. However, the Major League Baseball Players Association treats the “list” about as reputable as a Westboro Church confessional. Ortiz hasn’t publicly failed a drug test that we know of since, so doesn’t he get the benefit of the doubt, even as he’s hitting an otherworldly .688 and leading Boston to its third World Series in a decade?

Bravo to you, Eric Wilbur — not just because you’re questioning an untouchable diva and media darling in David Oritz, but also because you’ll never see this happen with the sacred cows in New York.

Latest reports: Yanks infield will stand as constituted

March 24, 2014 | 13 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

Per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:

According to one big-league scout in spring training, the Yankees have to have the least range on the infield of any major-league team. While he’s only in Florida, he seems pretty certain.

“It’s got to be the worst in baseball,” the scout said.

And yet, the Yankees once again said they couldn’t make an offer to top free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. The Yankees and Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, are said to have talked in the past couple days, but the main message for now apparently is that the Yankees are “tapped out,” meaning out of money.

How inefficient/efficient is the Yankees’ payroll?

March 24, 2014 | 3 comments | in Living in Mom's Basement | by Vizzini

In our article projecting the Yankees for 86 wins, we pointed to the front office’s inefficiency as a reason for the team’s less-than-elite position. Just how inefficient have the Yankees been in compiling this roster of big name geezers?

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs recently wrote an article listing teams by how efficiently they were spending money on player payroll. His method of calculating payroll efficiency builds off of Doug Pappas’ Marginal Payroll/Marginal Wins (MP/MW) metric. The basic idea is that you take the total amount a team is spending on player salary and divide it by their wins in that season (or the wins you project them to have). If a team’s payroll is low and their win total high, their MP/MW number will be low — meaning they are spending efficiently on free agents, extending their younger players at good rates, and producing players from their farm system. If a team is spending a ton of money to produce a low win total, their dollars-per-win number is high — meaning they are paying retail prices.

Cameron makes one important tweak to the Pappas formula. Instead of using a team’s projected wins in the denominator, he uses Fangraphs’ Projected World Series Odds (which they get by using a combination of ZiPS and Steamer’s 2014 player projections, and simulating the season 10,000 times). The Yankees have World Series odds of 2.8%, per Fangraphs (more on that below because it’s a misleading number).

The idea is that you don’t want to credit a team the same for paying an extra $5 million to get from 78 to 79 wins, as you do for a team to get from 88 to 89 wins. Getting that extra win in the high 80’s makes a meaningful difference in your chance to get to the playoffs and win a championship. Using World Series chances gives extra credit to teams like the Yankees, who do spend a ton, but they are paying for extra wins that are worth more.

Even with the weighting in their favor, Cameron’s list supports our contention that the Yankees have significant room for improvement when it comes to spending wisely. They are squarely in the bottom half of the league, sitting at 19th in team efficiency. You can see Cameron’s team rankings here. However, there are a couple of glass half full takeaways here.

First, it could be worse. At least they’re not the Phillies. The Phils spend big — they’re the next team after the Yankees in total payroll. However, the Phillies could be the most clueless organization in baseball. And, for that matter, at least they’re not the Indians, Royals, or Reds. These are teams who rate higher in payroll efficiency than the Yankees, but their owners spend such a miserly absolute amount on player salary that the Yankees are always in a better position to win it all than them.

Second, the Yankees are actually more efficient than this list lets on. Cameron’s metric is a useful cursory glance, but it likely underrates the Yankees to a significant degree. The 2.8% World Series odds is only that low because the Bombers play in the toughest division in baseball. Their odds would be much higher if they played in the super weak NL East. So, they’re not really spending quite so inefficiently, so much as the other teams they’re competing against include some of the best-run franchises in baseball. Also, the betting markets show that Fangraphs is underrating the Yankees. Bovada has them at 6.7% to win the World Series.

In the end, it’s that WS Odds number that really matters. There are only two ways for a front office to hike it up: spend a lot and spend efficiently. We’re certainly happy Hal finally decided to throw down, and we think Cashman/Levine invested in good players. Yes, they’re overpaying — but at least it’s for top talent at the right roster spots, instead of adding Rafael Soriano to be a middle reliever. But ultimately, when you’re in the bottom half of the league in payroll efficiency, it’s a sign you need to tighten up your game.

Vegas agrees with us

March 22, 2014 | 23 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

On March 19th, we posted our 2014 Yankees’ win total prediction and came up with 86.

And naturally, we had those who appreciated the analysis we put into our prediction, and we had those who had this type of reaction:

Well, it’s time to elect Las Vegas into the “bag of dicks” club, because the oddsmakers have come up with nearly the exact same total as we did. According to Bovada Sportsbook, the over/under for the Yankees’ 2014 win total is 86.5.

bovada

Vegas must be anti-Yankee and do terrible analysis too.

Masterson would look nice in stripes

March 21, 2014 | 11 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

CBS Sports:

Talks between Indians star pitcher Justin Masterson and the team have broken off, and it appears that Masterson will be headed for free agency at year’s end.

Masterson a little more than two weeks ago proposed two short-term deals to the Indians, one for three years and another for two, with both deals having a value of about $17 million per year. The Indians responded Thursday by countering with an offer of two years and a team option, believed to be for something in the range of $14 million per year on average.

Rivals who heard about Masterson’s proposal generally saw it as reasonable, considering the Reds signed a comparable pitcher — Homer Bailey — to a $105-million, six-year deal (counting his arbitration year). Said one, “I’d have signed off on that in a second.”

We’d sign off “in a second” on that too. Considering he was only looking for 2-3 years, we’d do that all day. Masterson is a pitcher who will get you ~ 3 WAR per season. He gives you 200 innings. He strikes out batters at a nice clip (7.45 K/9 career). He’s a big groundball pitcher. He’s only 29.

He’d look awfully nice in pinstripes. A 2015 target for sure.

2014 Forecast: The Yankees’ win total

March 19, 2014 | 33 comments | in Featured | by Vizzini

Now that we have completed our series analyzing the Yankee offense, rotation, bullpen, and defense, it’s time to offer our Official NoMaas Win Total Prediction for the 2014 New York Yankees.

It has been a dramatic offseason of Streinbrennerian proportions. Mariano and Andy retired. The Yankees made a huge splash by signing McCann, Ellsbury, and Beltran, only to see their best player head for Seattle. And just when it appeared the Yankees were stuck with a marginally improved roster, hemmed in by the Hal-Cap™, they threw off the shackles of the past two seasons’ strategy and spent $175 million to sign Masahiro Tanaka. So what does it all add up to?

Drum roll please………

Eighty-six wins. 8 followed by a 6. In Italian, that’s ottantasei. It’s oitenta e seis for you Portuguese out there.

That’s it. After all that drama and spending, the New York Yankees stand today as an 86-win team. How can it be that after handing out $544 MILLION DOLLARS in new contracts this offseason, they are only in line to gain one win over the dismal 2013 season? Here’s how:

1. The Pythagorean Illusion: The starting point for this team was not really 85 wins. The club’s negative-21 run differential in 2013 revealed a true talent level of 79 wins. A combination of a strong bullpen and flat-out luck pushed them to 85 wins (inflated by an unrepeatable 30-16 record in one-run games). Everybody agrees (including us) that the Yankees have improved this offseason, but they were building off a below .500 roster.

2. Cano: The offense is where the Yankees made the the biggest strides this offseason. They scored fewer runs than any AL East team last year, and were 50 runs behind the next team (Tampa). McCann, Ellsbury, and Beltran are all big offensive upgrades. Moreover, the Yankees will make gains just by not having the huge albatrosses of Nunez, Ryan, Nix, Stewart, Wells, and Overbay in the lineup regularly. All that by itself would have been enough to make this roster a playoff contender. Yet, Cano is a better player than any of the new editions. This is a player who averaged 6.3 WAR over the last 4 seasons. That’s a major countervailing force on the other side of the balance sheet.

3. Andy: As with the offense, the signing that lit up the back pages is not quite the windfall the MSM makes it out to be. Scouts think Tanaka is at least a very good pitcher, and his early spring training returns have done little to dispel that. However, everybody is forgetting just how solid a swan song Andy Pettitte had in 2013: 185 IP, 3.74 ERA. Tanaka is certainly capable of replacing these numbers, but he is unlikely to best them by a huge margin. Likewise, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova have a low probability of beating their 2013 contributions. The Yankees have the best shot of making big rotation gains at the front and back ends, with a potential return to form from Sabathia and Pineda.

4. Fragility: Beneath the gilded Yankee roster lies the rust of age. No other team is counting on major contributions from so many players over 35: Kuroda (39), Jeter (39), Soriano (38), Beltran (36), Roberts (36). Kuroda and Soriano have at least proven their durability to this point, but Jeter, Beltran, and Roberts are among the biggest injury risks in baseball. In addition, 33-year olds Sabathia and Teixeira also have questions surrounding their sustainability. New signings McCann and Ellsbury have both had injury-shortened seasons in their recent past.

5. Depth: If and when some of the above floorboards come loose, it’s a long way to fall. Current replacements on the 25-man roster include: the worst hitting OF in the league (Ichiro), Punch & Judy hitter Brendan Ryan, and the worst baseball player to don pinstripes in my lifetime. After the collapse of the farm system in 2013, there are currently zero position players ready to step in as regulars.

6. Rivera: NoMaas does not buy into the closer hoodoo-voodoo. David Robertson has been an elite pitcher in the 8th inning, and we believe he’ll be an elite pitcher even when he pitches 20 minutes later each night. But, Robertson alone is half of Robertson and Rivera. When the undisputed best reliever in history retires, it’s going to be a hit to the pen.

7. Inefficiency: When you are spending $40 million more than the next AL team, there should be no question that you are the top dog in the league — no less a question about whether you are even a playoff team. Yet, since the Yankees have continually overpaid for players, they just aren’t squeezing enough wins out of the dollars they invest. For example, despite the hundreds of millions spent, the club still has an infield that projects to be below-average. The Yankees could easily fix that problem by signing Stephen Drew — and they should — but after blowing their wad, they are now reluctant to spend money even where it would clearly be wise. We’d have no problem with the Yankees out spending everybody at every position. However, if they are going to put artificial restraints on the budget at arbitrary points in time, they need to be much more efficient in player contracts.

The team desperately needed some bats and a rotation upgrade, and Hal Steinbrenner unleashed the purse strings to get some of the best free agent candidates available. The team is no doubt improved over its 2013 edition. Yet, it is sad fact that $500 milllion of spending isn’t enough to cancel out years of mismanagement. The front office put the club in this position by overpaying for players like ARod and Jeter; by not trading Cano for prospects at last year’s deadline; by making non-baseball-motivated moves like signing Ichiro; by making bizarro draft picks like Cito Culver; etc. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 — except that these were predictably bad decisions and we said as much at the time they each came to pass. That’s why this is an 86 win team right now.

Could the current roster outperform our projection? Of course. It’s not hard to imagine Jeter, Teixeira, Roberts, and Beltran staying healthy long enough to convince ownership to go all-in and solidify the team as a true playoff favorite. However, it’s just as easy to imagine Jeter’s age slowing his bat and his ankle making his defense intolerable — for Teixeira’s wrist injury to sap his power — for Roberts to spend long stretches on the DL — for Beltran’s knees to keep him out of the lineup here and there — for Sabathia’s reduced velocity to keep him from a big rebound year — for Kuroda to see some decline — for Tanaka to just be solid, but not an ace — for Kelly Johnson to be Kelly Johnson –and for the bridge to David Robertson to be a shaky one.

An 86-win ball club. Not bad, but certainly not a premiere team.

And now cue the ‘NoMaas is anti-Yankee’ sentiment.

Russ goes off

March 18, 2014 | 11 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by Louis Winthorpe III

During the Yankees/Pirates rainout yesterday, Russell Martin had a lot to say about his former club and its lack of an attempt to re-sign him.

Newsday:

When asked Monday about those failed negotiations, Martin said the Yankees did talk extension with him during spring training of 2012, but he couldn’t recall anything beyond that.

“Maybe somebody told [Cashman] to say that so he wouldn’t look as bad,” Martin said, smiling. “From my understanding, it’s something they never did. It’s a rare exception if it happens. They don’t want that distraction.”

Russell is referring to the archaic “no extension policy”, which hopefully is now changing as evidenced with the Gardner deal.

And as we’ve highlighted in the past, RussMart acknowledged the dysfunctional divide that sometimes exists between Cashman and Randy Levine/ownership.

NJ.com:

I definitely didn’t feel like it was in the general manager’s hands at that point. I always believed [Brian] Cashman and [assistant GM Billy] Eppler and the coaching staff did want me back. I had some presence and a good impact on the team. But the money doesn’t come from them, and I felt at the time, they had different priorities and I wasn’t at the top of the list.”

Finally, he added this backhanded compliment on the Yankees 5′ yr/$85M deal with McCann.

It becomes an expensive mistake, no question,” Martin said to the newspaper Monday. “They can’t turn back the clock. They went and got a good guy who, offensively, puts up better numbers than I have and so costs a lot of money. I love McCann. They got a good one.”

Letting Martin walk was obviously a big mistake, which directly affected the outcome of the 2013 season. Now, we receive unique confirmation from the player himself that it was Yankee front office nonsense at its best.

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