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.

Everyone’s analysis: It is only possible to compare Japanese pitchers to other Japanese pitchers

March 18, 2014 | 10 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by Vizzini

When in doubt, compare Masahiro Tanaka to another Japanese pitcher, even when it makes no sense whatsoever.

The Atlanta Braves’ BJ Upton:

His off-speed stuff you couldn’t pick up spin on it because he keeps the same arm action. He looked pretty good to me. He reminds me of Dice-K, moving the ball, the splitter.’’

Ah yes, compare a pitcher known for his superb control to one of the wildest pitchers in MLB (and one on a minor league contract).

Some points that bear repeating…

March 17, 2014 | 12 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

Piggybacking off our Saturday night post, Stephen Drew remains available.

1. The Yankees have a definite and ridiculously identifiable infield deficiency.
2. The Yankees are already over the luxury tax level, so the Hal-Cap™ is now meaningless.
3. The Yankees have punted the 2014 draft, so who cares if Drew costs another pick.
4. Drew has indicated he’s open to other positions besides shortstop.
5. Derek Jeter has a bad ankle and is retiring after this season.

What’s the problem here?

Kiss me, I’m Irish

March 17, 2014 | 2 comments | in Featured | by SJK

Masahiro Tanaka St. Patricks NoMaas Yankees

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from your friends at NoMaas.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…

March 16, 2014 | 4 comments | in Featured | by SJK

The Yankees get no-hit in Panama.

Mariano No Hit Panama Yankees noMaas
You would cry too if it happened to you.

Saturday night humor: “Much different”

March 15, 2014 | 5 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

Much different?” Boy, we’d say.

Meanwhile, the bizarre case of unsigned free agent Stephen Drew continues on. Coming off one of the best years of his career, agent Scott Boras has indicated that Drew might wait until after the 2014 draft (June) to ink a deal, so a team wouldn’t have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.

With Opening Day two weeks away, you can’t imagine that Drew has any leverage whatsoever. Look at how Ervin Santana succumbed to a one-year deal. We highly doubt that any player would want to wait until June to sign, and thus not receive a full year’s pay. Drew is available for the plucking.

Most importantly, the “much different” Yankee infield is an obvious weakness for this club, and in our view, is the difference between being a wild-card contender and “championship-caliber.” With its current construction, the Yankees are still not an elite team. An infield upgrade would be huge, and Drew represents exactly that. He has also indicated that he would play other positions besides shortstop.

He really just makes too much sense for the Yankees. He has no leverage and could be signed to a short-term deal. The Yankees already punted this year’s player draft when they signed Ellsbury, McCann, and Beltran. The team’s first pick in June is now #56, per the MLB.COM Draft Order, so who cares about another pick forfeiture. There’s also a minor detail of a 39-year old shortstop with a bad ankle who happens to be retiring at the end of the season — you know, it could be a decent idea to get another shortstop into the fold.

Cashman/Hal/Randy have to know that this infield could be a big problem, and there’s a solution ripe for the picking.

File under ‘You Can’t Make This Sh** Up’ – Ortiz: “I don’t think there’s a baseball player that has lived through this pressure.”

March 13, 2014 | 19 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by Vizzini

WEEI.COM:

I’ll give it a try, but I don’t think there’s a baseball player that has lived through this pressure at my age. Think about it. Guys my age are supposed to be complementary players. Nobody signs guys my age to be ‘The Man.’ If you look at every team, ‘The Man’ are guys in their prime. Because it’s hard. It’s hard. I don’t take anything for granted. I go at it every day. But living through the pressure, having to be the man every day, at this stage, when everybody is asking you when you’re going to retire …”

“But like I said, there’s no relaxing for me. But that’s also what my motivation is about. That’s what keeps me going, knowing I have to be The Man. Because I can see that in some other players, when they don’t have to be The Man.

Asterisk

March 13, 2014 | 5 comments | in Quick Analytical Blurbs | by SJK

Next time those idiots talk about A-Rod, remind them:

Manny Ramirez has finally admitted he’s made mistakes with performance-enhancing drugs.

“When you make a mistake in life, no matter what you do, you’re going to pay the price,” Ramirez told FOX. “That’s what happened to all of the players that did it. I’m not going to judge people. Everybody is human. Everybody makes mistakes.

“You’re going to feel guilty about what you did. But you did it. You move on. And you learn from it.”

“Sometimes, we get caught up in the moment. We start hanging out with the wrong people. But you know, everything in life happens for a reason, so you can appreciate what you are.

But naturally, a free pass for…

Guest post: Mariano Rivera’s unusual relationship with Panama

March 12, 2014 | 0 comment | in Guest Post | by SJK

The Yankees will travel this weekend to Panama for exhibition games versus the Marlins, with plently of pomp and circumstance for famous Panamanian, Mariano Rivera.

However, Mariano’s relationship with the Central American country and its residents is not as strong as the bonds that other Central and South American professional athletes share with their respective countries. NoMaas reader, Avi Miller, recently spent time in Panama and researched how the local population views the legacy of the greatest reliever in baseball history.

*******

Luis Aparicio represents Venezuela just as Edgar Renteria is the pride of Colombia. Aparicio, the 1956 Rookie of the Year, is celebrated by way of streets and avenues bearing his name throughout Venezuela as well as a major baseball stadium in Maracaibo. Embarking on a recent study tour in Panama, my mind began to grow curious: how is Mariano Rivera honored in his home country?

Rivera, known for his Major League record 652 career saves, was born in the quaint town of Puerto Caimito more than a half hour outside of the bustling Panama City. The son of a mere fisherman, Rivera had youthful aspirations to play soccer professionally. Recreationally among friends, Rivera engaged in pick up baseball, where the kids used milk cartons for gloves, tree branches as bats, and wadded up fishing nets in place of a ball.

His first position was shortstop in an amateur baseball league at the age of 19. Given an opportunity on the mound less than a year later, Rivera never looked back. He was promptly scouted by the New York Yankees Latin American Operations team, given a signing bonus of $3,000 on February 17, 1990, and the rest is history.

Though he ventured back to Panama following his first few professional years with the Yankees, Rivera eventually took up full-time residence in the United States. Rivera, talking with the NY Daily News back in 1998, stated, “I won’t trade Panama for New York.” Yet, by seldom traveling back south in the years since, Rivera has left a slew of Panamanians with a sour taste in their mouths. While his wife and kids fly regularly between the two countries, Rivera has settled permanently in the States.

Rivera has never played for the Panamanian national team in tournaments like the World Baseball Classic or the Summer Olympics. Yet Carlos Lee has, and there are fans that are quick to mention that. While the Yankees may have pressured Rivera to sit out these international events due to injury risks, the Astros did the same with Lee. Lee showed up regardless, and this fact is not forgotten. One fan remarked, “Imagine if Messi refused to play for Argentina in the World Cup.”

It is thought that most of Rivera’s monetary contributions and charity work are strongly focused in the U.S., though some of his efforts are certainly directed to his childhood community. To this day, the Mariano Rivera Foundation backs an abundance of causes that include supporting underprivileged families back in Panama. He funds the Evangelical Church as well as the main school in Puerto Caimito, a “very poor fishing village,” according to one Panamanian. He went on to say that Rivera’s family still holds a strong presence in the area, “But just at the entrance there is this huge mansion. You will recognize it immediately, for it is the opulent chateau in front of humble concrete shacks.” Just south of the impoverished province of Chorrera, I was unable to venture out to see this prospect for myself. The 60 dollar round trip taxi ride was the least of my worries; it was the high volume of security concerns outside of the established parts of Panama City that I was told to avoid.

When asking locals about the most famous national athlete, the most common name given to me was Roberto Durán, not Rivera.

A top ten boxer of all-time and considered by many to be the number one lightweight fighter in boxing history, Durán held the world title in four different weight classes throughout his career which stretched over five decades. His top feat came on June 20, 1980, as he took down Sugar Ray Leonard in a 15-round rumble and claimed victory in a unanimous decision, forever known as “The Brawl in Montreal.”

Durán is the majority owner of a small restaurant in the heart of El Cangrejo, a popular downtown neighborhood in Panama City. Named “La Tasca de Durán” and what was just a short walk from my hotel, the establishment is coated with his memorabilia along the walls as well as paintings and murals depicting his large number of robust accomplishments. Television sets are positioned in every corner displaying repeat airings of his fights, while Durán himself makes nightly appearances to socialize with the late night crowd and sign a few autographs.

Durán is the name that comes to mind for such a myriad of Panamanians. Not Rivera.

As far and wide as I searched, I couldn’t find “Calle Rivera” or “Tiendas de Mariano.” No statues in the old city of Casco Viejo, no plaques along the Panama City boardwalk titled Cinta Costera. I spotted a group of children playing baseball on a bus ride back from the beach one day, but did not detect a sign above the field’s fence backstop that read “Donado por Mariano Rivera.” Exploring the many corridors in the local Albrook Mall on a casual Sunday afternoon, the highly populated apparel shops showed no signs of Sandman jerseys.

There are a selection of Major League players who hail from Panama. Most notably in the big leagues now are Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ruben Tejada of the New York Mets, and Bruce Chen of the Kansas City Royals. Rod Carew, the 18-time All Star with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels, is recognized to a degree. The 1967 American League Rookie of the Year, 1977 AL MVP, and first ballot Hall of Famer (receiving 90.5 percent of the vote) has a baseball park named after him. Estadio Nacional de Panama, or the National Stadium of Panama, was renamed Rod Carew Stadium in 2004, just five years after it opened. It has played host to a vast number of international competitions, most recently featuring a group of qualifiers for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

On a Friday evening trip out to Rod Carew Stadium on the outskirts of Panama City, I got a firsthand feel for the enthusiasm and electric sporting environment we so often hear about in Latin America. I found myself sitting in the scouts section behind home plate for the Panamanian youth league season opener, the same league which hosted Rivera back in 1988. A boisterous group could be spotted down the third base line as about 1,000 fans packed into a modest section in order to be a part of the band. Yes, the band. These folks had drums and whistles, trumpets and tubas, symbols and streamers. And it was nine nonstop innings of noise and elation.

Admission was just a few bucks while 12 ounce beers cost only a dollar a piece. The roving concession workers actually donned t-shirts branded with whatever product it is that they were selling, perhaps a marketing technique that could be implemented among U.S. ballparks. With over one million people, about 37 percent of the country’s population, living under the poverty line, this was the one night for thousands to loosen up. With no amusement parks in Panama, sporting events are a primary entertainment option for those without interest in the clubbing scene. Soccer is prominent alongside baseball, while American football is catching on, at least in viewership if not in physical participation.

Panamá Metro pulled ahead with a 10-0 victory over Chiriquí, a team hailing from an extensive rural province bordering Costa Rica. Almost like a west coast team that travels out east in the States, very few Chiriquí fans were present and in turn, celebration among the masses began for Metro. The band gathered in the concourse, singing and shouting reigned supreme, and the scene didn’t calm down for another 45 minutes once the merriment had shifted toward the parking lot.

And that is what the Yankees will be greeted when they play two exhibition games against the Miami Marlins during the “Legend Series” at Rod Carew Stadium. With a capacity of 27,000, the series aims to honor Rivera and his legacy. “As long as I can remember, it has been my dream to bring my team, the Yankees, to play baseball in Panama,” said Rivera. “It is my hope that this legacy series will inspire other young players to pursue their dreams.”

As one person bluntly affirmed: “In essence, we are proud of spawning him, but sometimes we feel forgotten by him.” Perhaps this homecoming will be just the catalyst needed for Panama to embrace their own Mariano Rivera.

Avi Miller is a graduating senior at Stevenson University aspiring to one day cover the MLB beat. A member of CoSIDA, Avi currently works in sports information at the NCAA Division III level and has previously held positions with the Baltimore Jewish Times and Fox Sports Radio.

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