Friday, December 12, 2008

Bernie Williams to Audition for 2009 WBC

Bernie Williams, New York YankeesAccording to, former New York Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams hopes to play for his native Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Williams, 40, will fly to Puerto Rico next week to play winter ball. If he performs, Williams could join Alex Rios and Carlos Beltran in the outfield. More likely, he’ll be used as a DH, pinch hitter and backup outfielder.

Still a fan favorite, Williams won four Gold Gloves in 16 seasons with the Yankees. He had a .297 lifetime batting average and slugged 287 homers.

Williams hasn’t played since his contract expired after the 2006 season. He has not officially retired and hasn’t ruled out a major league comeback.

Bernie Williams' career stats >>

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yankees Lose Six in Rule 5 Draft

INF Reegie Corona (Seattle)
Reegie Corona, 22, was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the second overall choice. At Double-A Trenton, Corona hit .274 with a .345 on base percentage, 24 steals and 27 doubles.

A switch-hitter with very little power, Corona can work the count and will take his share of walks. He’s played both SS and 2B during his minor-league career and profiles as a utility infielder (Zduriencik’s replacement for Willie Bloomquist).

LHP Zachary Kroenke (Florida)
Zachary Kroenke, 24, advanced to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2008. The 2005 fifth-round selection combined for a 2.85 ERA and .190 batting average against across two levels. He was selected 12th by the Florida Marlins.

MLB Rule 5 DraftKroenke was converted to a reliever before the 2007 season. In 2008, he averaged a strikeout an inning. Kroenke could stick in manager Fredi Gonzalez’s bullpen next year. However, the Marlins have two viable lefties – Taylor Tankersley and Renyel Pinto – on their active roster.

RHP Jason Jones (Minnesota)
Jason Jones, who turned 26 last month, went 13-7 with a 3.33 ERA and a 91/49 K/BB ration in 148.2 innings for Double-A Trenton. A fourth-round selection in 2004, has a cumulative 3.77 ERA over five minor-league seasons. He’s made 104 starts.

Jones’ low strikeout and groundball totals make it a stretch he’ll be an effective major league starter, but the Twins will likely try him in middle relief.

RHP Ivan Nova (San Diego)
Ivan Nova, 21, was ranked the Yankees’ No. 18 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season. After a promising start to his season fourth professional season, Nova was underwhelming with Class-A Tampa. In 148.2 innings, Nova posted a 4.36 ERA en route to an 8-13 record. Nova allowed 168 hits and 46 walks.

Nova gets an above-average number of grounders with his sinking fastball and has a plus curveball. He could succeed as a middle reliever.

Players taken in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft are selected for a price of $50,000 and must remain on the receiving club's 25-man roster for the entire upcoming season. If not, they are offered back to the original club for $25,000.

Significant past Rule 5 selections: LHP Johan Santana (1999), OF Josh Hamilton (2006), 2B Dan Uggla (2005), RHP Joakim Soria (2006) & 2B Fernando Vina (1992).

In the minor-league phase, the New York Yankees lost LHP Andres Santos (Pittsburgh) and RHP Josue Selenes (Oakland).

The New York Yankees made no Rule 5 selections. In fact, general manager Brian Cashman left the Bellagio before the draft began.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rivera’s Shoulder Surgery a Success

Mariano Rivera, New York YankeesMariano Rivera, the New York Yankees’ 38-year-old closer, had successful surgery his right shoulder yesterday. He is expected to resume throwing in January, five weeks before spring training opens.

Rivera converted 39 of 40 save chances this year; his 1.40 ERA was his best since 2005.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hughes (Wildly) Effective in Arizona League Opener

Phil Hughes, New York YankeesAfter an injury-marred, winless regular season, New York Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes opened the Arizona Fall League season in style -- five innings of one-hit, scoreless ball -- as the Peoria Javelinas topped the Surprise Rafters, 10-3, on Tuesday.

Hughes (1-0) struck out seven en route the victory but walked five and hit a batter. Only 49 of his 86 pitches were strikes (57 percent).

"It was good. It's been a little bit since my last start, so I'm trying to work out a little bit of rust," Hughes told's Steve Conley. "The walks were a result of not being out there in a while ... My fastball command wasn't what I would've liked it to have been, but you expect that after not having stepped on the mound in a game situation. My breaking ball was working and, when I got ahead, everything seemed to fall into place."

Yankees center-field prospect Austin Jackson (2-for-4) tripled and drove in four runs. Third baseman Kevin Russo finished 0-for-3 with a walk.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 Playoff Predictions, Division Series Schedule

Playoff Predictions

Chicago Cubs: My 2008 World Series PickHere are my two cents on how this year's playoffs will shake out.

American League Division Series
Los Angeles (A) over Boston, 3 games to 2
Tampa Bay over Chicago (A), 3 games to 1

National League Division Series
Philadelphia over Milwaukee, 3 games to 2
Chicago (N) over Los Angeles (N), 3 games to 1

American League Championship Series
Los Angeles (A) over Tampa Bay, 4 games to 2

National League Championship Series
Chicago (N) over Philadelphia, 4 games to 3

World Series
Chicago (N) over Los Angeles (A), 4 games to 1 -- "CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!"

Division Series Schedule

NLDS Game 1: Milwaukee at Philadelphia, 3 p.m.
NLDS Game 1: LA Dodgers at Chicago, 6:30 p.m.
ALDS Game 1: Boston at LA Angels, 10 p.m.

ALDS Game 1: Minnesota/Chicago at Tampa Bay, 2:30 p.m.
NLDS Game 2: Milwaukee at Philadelphia, 6 p.m.
NLDS Game 2: LA Dodgers at Chicago, 9:30 p.m.

ALDS Game 2: Minnesota/Chicago at Tampa Bay, 6 p.m.
ALDS Game 2: Boston at LA Angels, 9:30 p.m.

NLDS Game 3: Philadelphia at Milwaukee, 6 p.m.
NLDS Game 3: Chicago at LA Dodgers, 10 p.m.

ALDS Game 3: LA Angels at Boston, TBD
ALDS Game 3: Tampa Bay at Minnesota/Chicago, TBD
*NLDS Game 4: Philadelphia at Milwaukee, TBD
*NLDS Game 4: Chicago at LA Dodgers, TBD

*ALDS Game 4: LA Angels at Boston, TBD
*ALDS Game 4: Tampa Bay at Minnesota/Chicago, TBD

*NLDS Game 5: Milwaukee at Philadelphia, TBD
*NLDS Game 5: LA Dodgers at Chicago, TBD

*ALDS Game 5: Boston at LA Angels, TBD
*ALDS Game 5: Minnesota/Chicago at Tampa Bay, TBD

NY Daily News: Cashman Re-Signed

Brian Cashman Re-Signs with YankeesAccording to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News, the Yankees and Brian Cashman have agreed to a three-year deal.

“I’ve got a job to finish here. That’s the bottom line," Cashman said. “I consider coming off a season where we didn’t reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993 as a personal challenge. I’ve never been one to run from a challenge, and I look forward to having the chance to go after this thing again.”

Read McCarron's full story >>

Statement from the Steinbrenner brothers:
“Before we could move forward as an organization this off-season, we needed to come to a resolution on the person who would hold the important position of general manager and allow us to make another run at a 27th World Championship. We are thrilled that Brian has accepted to renew his commitment to this organization for at least three more years.

“Holding the position of general manager for any Major League team is a challenge. But to do so in the great city of New York, where baseball is passionately followed 12 months a year, you must possess a number of unique attributes.

“Brian has shown throughout his Yankees career that he has the dedication, integrity and know-how needed to perform—and succeed—in this environment. Having him in place allows us to begin an off-season of hard work, and we are pleased he will be working hand-in-hand with us to bring the New York Yankees back to the postseason.”

2008 Yankees' Report Cards, Part Two

Yesterday I evaluated the New York Yankees’ 2008 positional players, today I’ll take a look at the pitching staff. Again, I’ve given each Yankee a letter grade (and these grades are open for debate, people). Tomorrow, I’ll complete the series by taking a look at Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman.


The New York Yankees used 27 pitchers in 2008. Here’s how I thought they faired:

RHP Mike Mussina, A
What an incredible year for Mike Mussina. Mussina, 39, became the oldest pitcher to ever eclipse the 20-win plateau for the first time. Mussina finished 2008, 20-9 while posting a 3.37 ERA. He surpassed the 200-innings mark for the first time since 2003. Mussina entered Spring Training having to battle youngsters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy for a rotation spot. After a poor start to the season (1-3, 5.75 ERA), Mussina looked like he had nothing left. Hank Steinbrenner publicly ripped him suggesting he needed to “learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer,” and no longer rely on his fastball. Mussina responded outstandingly, going 9-1 over his next eleven starts. Not to be denied 20, Mussina won his final three starts, allowing one run over 16 innings. Mussina finished second in AL Comeback Player of the Year voting (Cliff Lee obviously won) and figures to be among the top five for the Cy Young Award. Additionally, he added credibility that your humble blogger knows jack s—t about baseball… I thought he was cooked.

Mariano Rivera, New York YankeesRHP Mariano Rivera, A-
After inking a three-year, $45 million contract during the offseason, Mariano Rivera posted his best season since 2005. Along with a 1.40 earned run average and 39 saves in 40 chances, he set career bests in a slew of statistical categories, including WHIP (0.67), OPS-agains (.422), batting average against (.165), strikeout to walk ratio (12.83), save conversion percentage (97.5%), walks (6), earned runs (11), blown saves (1) and pitches per inning (13.9). His strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second-lowest figure for a pitcher in a season (minimum 60 innings pitched) since 1900. He did not allow more than on earned run in any outing all year. Rivera will have offseason shoulder surgery but is expected to be ready for Spring Training 2009.

RHP Brian Bruney, A-
Brian Bruney
reported to Spring Training this season having lost 20 pounds. His improved conditioning resulted in a spike in fastball velocity and Bruney started 2008 on a tear. He had 1.59 earned run average and was holding opponents to a .175 batting average when, on April 25, it was learned that he’d likely miss the remainder of the season due to a fracture in his foot. Bruney decided rehab over surgery and after spending time in the minors, returned to the Yankees following the trade of Kyle Farnsworth. Bruney finished the year with a 1.83 ERA, 12 holds and a 0.99 WHIP.

LHP Phil Coke A-
The New York Yankees nearly missed out on “The Coke Side of Life.” Originally part of the deal to bring Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees, Phil Coke turned out the most effective lefty reliever at Joe Girardi’s disposal in 2008 (although it was realized too late). With the playoffs out of reach, Girardi tested Coke down the stretch and the rookie responded with 0.61 ERA, a win, five holds and a 0.68 WHIP. Coke appeared in 12 games for the Yankees and didn’t allow a run until his penultimate outing in Boston September 26th. He has the pole position for New York’s left-handed reliever job for 2009.

RHP Joba Chamberlain, B+
Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? Can you believe that the Yankees still haven’t made that decision? Ridiculous. After an offseason in which everybody threw their two cents into the ring, Joba Chamberlain opened 2008 in the bullpen. Joe Girardi said that he would be used “without restrictions (aka 2007’s Joba Rules)” and his use would be guided by common sense. On April 20, Hank Steinbrenner announced he wanted Chamberlain moved into the rotation. A month later, the process began. Chamberlain made several lengthy relief appearances to stretch out before making his starting debut on June 3rd Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankeesagainst Toronto. One June 25, Chamberlain earned his first career win as a starter, throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, en route to a 10-0 Yankees victory. On July 25, Chamberlain threw seven shutout innings (the longest single outing of his major-league career) against the Red Sox allowing only 3 hits and striking out 9. The Yankees won the game 1-0. After an early August start against Texas, Job was placed on the 15-day disabled list with rotator cuff tendonitis. When he returned more than a month later, it was once again in a relief capacity. That the Yankees still have no finite plan for Chamberlain is disconcerting; a failure by a fractured organization with too many talking heads.

RHP Alfredo Aceves, B+
Alfredo Aceves pitched in the Mexican League for six seasons before inking a minor-league deal with the New York Yankees in the offseason. Beginning 2008 with Single-A Advanced Tampa, the control-oriented righty advanced quickly. After going a combined 8-6 with a 2.62 ERA at three minor league levels, Aceves made his major league debut on August 31st. He made six appearances (four starts) for the Yankees and went 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA. Aceves has good stuff – a low 90s fastball, curveball, cutter and changeup – and locates his pitches well. Although doesn’t have the upside or projectability of say, Phil Hughes, his impressive 2008 certainly put him on the radar.

Chien-Ming Wang, New York YankeesRHP Chien-Ming Wang, B
Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees’ resident ace, opened 2008 at a full sprint. Wang finished April with a perfect 5-0 record, leading the American League along with Anaheim’s Joe Saunders. On May 2, Wang became the first six-game winner in the American League with a win over the Seattle Mariners with just one earned run over six innings of quality pitching. The pace slowed over a six start stretch (two losses and four no decisions), the longest victory drought of his career. On June 15, Wang was lost for the season while running the bases in an interleague game at Houston. Wang (8-2, 4.07) was diagnosed with a torn Lisfranc ligament and a partial tear of the peroneus longus in his right foot.

RHP Kyle Farnsworth, B-
For nearly three years, Yankees fans had a blast bashing Kyle Farnsworth. Although I am not a believer that all of Farnsworth’s previous struggles can be saddled on mismanagement by Joe Torre (who let’s face, did make some objectionable decisions with his bullpen), Farnsworth was well on his way to his best season in Pinstripes when swapped to the Detroit Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez before the deadline. Farnsworth had a 3.65 ERA and 11 holds when traded.

RHP Dan Giese, C+
Dan Giese was signed to a minor-league contract before the 2008 season. On June 3, Giese was added to the active roster. After a 3 2/3 inning performance against Toronto (he allowed one run and took the loss), Giese was optioned back to Triple-A one day later. On June 6, following an injury to Chris Britton, he was once again promoted. Giese made 20 appearances for the Yankees (including three starts) and pitched well in both roles. In early September he had a 2.52 earned run average but he struggled during the season’s final month, allowing at least one run in each of his last four appearances. He finished the season 1-3 with a 3.53 ERA.

RHP Edwar Ramirez, C
A 27-year-old change up specialist, Edwar Ramirez spent most of the season in the big league bullpen. Ramirez tallied 55.1 innings for the Yankees, going 5-1 with 63 strikeouts. Utilizing his low-80s circle changeup, he demonstrated his ability to retire left-handed hitters (.229 batting average against). Ramirez will likely be a part of next year’s bullpen.

Andy Pettitte, New York YankeesLHP Andy Pettitte, C
Andy Pettitte got off to a fast start for the New York Yankees. Pettitte got off to a 12-7 start with a 3.76 ERA before things turned south. Pettitte went 2-7 the rest of the way with a bloated 6.23 ERA. Pettitte, who will be forever remembered as the last winning pitcher at Yankee Stadium, finished 14-14 overall. His 4.54 earned run average was his highest since 1999. A free agent, Pettitte has not come to any conclusions if he’ll return in 2009. Pettitte has mulled retirement after each of the last two seasons. Joe Girardi has told him point-blank he would like to have him back in the rotation. The remaining question involves if Pettitte can handle the demands of a six-month schedule.

RHP Jose Veras, C
Jose Veras wasn’t on the Opening Day roster but emerged as an important arm in Joe Girardi’s first-half bullpen. Prior to the All Star break, Veras has a 2.87 earned run average. In the second half, opponents hit .272 and Veras’ ERA jumped to 4.44. Despite fading down the stretch, Veras (and his mid- to high-90s fastball) figures to be an important cog in the bridge to Mariano Rivera next season.

RHP Jonathan Albaladejo, C-
Acquired from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Tyler Clippard, Jonathan Albaladejo made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster and performed reasonably before being sidelined with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow. Albaladejo appeared in seven games during the season’s first two months and had an ERA of 3.95 over 13.2 innings. If he can recover from the injury, he’ll compete for a spot in next year’s bullpen.

David Robertson, New York YankeesRHP David Robertson, C-
After posting video game numbers in the minors (77 strikeouts in 53.2 innings), David Robertson punched his ticket to the show on June 28th. The 23-year-old was optioned back to Triple-A on August 28 with an earned run average of 6.31. He was recalled back to the majors in September. Robertson finished with 4-0 with a 5.34 ERA. He still struck out better than a batter per inning (36 in 30.1 innings) but his walk totals (15) were too high. Robertson pitched well against Boston (3.52 ERA over seven appearances). He figures to be in the mix for the Yankees 2009 bullpen.

RHP Chris Britton, C-
Chris Britton bounced back and forth between New York and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre seven times over 2008. Britton started strong, with a 1.29 ERA in seven innings before the All Star break but took a step back in the season’s second half (6.75 ERA) He appeared in 15 games for the Yankees this season, posting a 5.09 ERA over 23 innings. On the bright side, Britton can now cash in those frequent flyer miles and take a nice vacation someplace warm. It’s going to take a lot of sun to bronze that chiseled 275-pound physique.

RHP Darrell Rasner, D+
With the Yankees pitching staff decimated by injuries early in the season, 27-year-old Darrell Rasner was among the first to audition for the roll of stopgap. After a successful May (3-1, 1.80 in four starts), Rasner’s season sputtered the rest of the way. In June, Rasner went 1-5 with 6.47 ERA – opponents hit .341 against him. This prompted New York to look elsewhere for an answer. Given the chance to establish himself as a big league pitcher, Rasner failed; his ERA (5.40), BAA (.293) and WHIP (1.54) make him little more than a spot starter to be stashed at Triple-A until needed.

RHP Sidney Ponson, D+
When Rasner failed to nail down a spot in the rotation, the New York Yankees rolled the dice on controversial right hander Sidney Ponson. Signing the Aruban slinger was a low risk move. The results? Not that pretty. Ponson went 4-4 with the Yankees with a 5.85 ERA. Frankly, it could have been worse. In 80 innings, Ponson allowed 99 hits and walked 32 (he struck out just 33).

LHP Damaso Marte, D+
When Brian Cashman acquired Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady from Pittsburgh before the MLB’s trade deadline, it appeared the Yankees filled two needs with one move. In his Yankees debut, he struck out David Ortiz swinging. It went down hill from there. Marte posted a 5.40 earned run average for New York. In August, when the Yankees needed Marte the most, he went 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA. The Bombers hold a $6 million club option for 2009 ($250,000 buyout).

RHP Carl Pavano, D+
Having already recapped the Carl Pavano Era once, I’m afraid that doing so again will force me to do something I’d regret. Let’s just look at the numbers: Carl Pavano made seven starts, went 4-2 with a 5.77 ERA. To the commenter who asked how much money New York ended up paying of Carl’s glorious nine wins, the answer is $4.4 million. Furthermore, he made $1.5 million per appearance; I can only imagine what you can buy with that kind of money.

Phil Hughes, New York YankeesRHP Phil Hughes, D-
Entering 2008 with lofty fan expectations, Phil Hughes (version 2008) was a major disappointment. After a tough April (0-4, 9.00), “Phil Franchise” was placed on the disabled list with a strained oblique and cracked rib. After recovering from the injury, Hughes returned to Triple-A Scranton/Wikes-Barre. Following the International League’s playoffs, Hughes returned to the Yankees and made two September starts. Although he pitched much better (2.25 ERA), Hughes received no offensive support and finished the season winless.

RHP Ross Ohlendorf, D-
The key player in the 2006 deal that shipped Randy Johnson to Arizona, Ross Ohlendorf’s numbers (6.53 ERA, 50 hits and 19 walks in 50 innings) were deserving of an “F” grade; they were certainly bad enough for the Yankees to throw in the towel. Ohlendorf was jettisoned to Pittsburgh in the deal that brought Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to The Bronx. So why did I give him a bump up to “D-?” Because I’m convinced that with Oheldorf’s 97 mph two-seamer and sweeping breaking ball, he can be an effective big league pitcher. In my humble opinion, the Yankees grossly mismanaged the youngster. In his two-year career in pinstripes, Ohlendorf was a starter, a middle reliever, a setup man, a long reliever and a starter again (not to mention frequent trips to and from the minors). That can’t be good for a pitcher’s development.

RHP Ian Kennedy, F
It’s been reported ad nauseum; after passing on Johann Santana this off season in lieu of youngsters Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes, the two combined for zero big league wins. After opening eyes with a 1.90 ERA over three 2007 starts, Kennedy struggled mightily in 2008. He made nine starts for New York, went 0-4, posted an ERA of 8.17 and a WHIP of 1.92. On May 28, Kennedy was placed on the DL with a strained right lat muscle. He returned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and from July 19 to July 29, Kennedy pitched 20 innings, allowing just seven hits and four walks. The run earned Kennedy another call up but after a poor outing against the Angels, he returned to the minors for the remainder of the year.

Latroy Hawkins, New York YankeesRHP Latroy Hawkins, F
With the defection of free agent reliever Luis Vizcaino to Colorado, Brian Cashman inked Latroy Hawkins to be part of the late-inning puzzle. The Yankees had hoped Hawkins would step up and be an effective bridge to closer Mariano Rivera, allowing Joba Chamberlain to move into the rotation. Didn’t happen. How ineffective was Hawkins? During his 33-game tenure in New York, Hawkins recorded one hold. His 5.71 ERA, 42 hits and 17 walks in 41 innings didn’t help either. On July 30, the Hawkins was dealt to the Houston Astros for minor-league Matt Cusick. Of course, upon returning to the senior circuit, Hawkins posted a 0.43 ERA and allowed just 11 hits in 21 innings; what a jerk.

LHP Billy Traber, F
The New York Yankees haven’t had a reliable left-handed reliever since Mike Stanton’s first stint in pinstripes (1997-2002). Cashman did little to address the concern over the offseason citing Hawkins’ effectiveness against lefties and the market’s lack of serviceable options. Rather than pursuing a proven lefty (Jeremy Affeldt? J.C. Romero?), the Bombers rolled the dice on Billy Traber. Signed to a minor-league deal, Traber bounced back and forth between New York and Triple-A Scranton. He logged just 16.2 innings had an earned run average of 7.02. Left-handed hitting opponents battered Traber to the tune of a .410 batting average and a .511 on base percentage. Traber turned every left-handed hitter into a Babe Ruth (1.152 OPS); unbelievable.

Kei Igawa, New York YankeesLHP Kei Igawa, F
Since the Yankees sunk $46 million dollars into acquiring Kei Igawa before the 2007 season, the frustrating Japanese import has made fans long for the days of Hideki “Fat Toad” Irabu. Igawa failed to make the team out of Spring Training and made just two appearances this year. In four innings, Igawa surrendered 13 hits and six runs. Interestingly, on June 8, Peter Gammons attributed Igawa’s struggles in the Major Leagues to former pitching coach Ron Guidry. “[He] took Kei Igawa and changed his delivery and he’s never been the same,” Gammons told Mike Felger on ESPN890. Igawa (14-6, 3.45) pitched reasonably well at Triple-A but it’s unlikely he has any future in the Yankees’ organization.

RHP Scott Patterson, INCOMPLETE
Scott Patterson’s demotion to Triple-A caused a stir after the right hander allowed just one hit and no runs in 7.2 spring innings. Instead, he reported to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Patterson made his major league debut on June 1st. He allowed one run in 1.1 innings and was optioned back to the minors. On September 8, he was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres. Patterson made three appearances for San Diego, throwing 3.1 shutout innings.

RHP Humberto Sanchez, INCOMPLETE
When the New York Yankees acquired Humberto Sanchez from the Detroit Tigers in the Gary Sheffield deal in 2006, the Dominican right hander was regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in the game. Arm troubles, however, derailed his 2007 season. This year, Sanchez was among New York’s September call ups. He appeared in two games, allowing one run over two innings of work.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Grades are in for 2008 New York Yankees

With the 2008 season in the books I thought I’d evaluate our Bronx Bombers. Beginning today with the positional players, I’ve given every New York Yankees’ player (from Alex Rodriguez to Francisco Cervelli) a letter grade. Tomorrow I’ll follow up with the pitchers.


Johnny Damon, New York YankeesJonny Damon – A
Despite battling a shoulder injury, Johnny Damon posted easily the best season of his three in The Bronx. The 34-year-old left fielder hit .303, had 17 home runs and 71 runs batted in. Damon set the table with a .375 on base percentage. He scored 95 runs and stole 29 bases (his highest total since 2003). On July 6, the Yankees placed Damon on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his Major League career.

Alex Rodriguez – A-
Although his numbers were down across the board from his 2007 MVP campaign, Alex Rodriguez nonetheless had another fine season. Rodriguez, 33, finished among the American League leaders in slugging percentage (1st - .573), on base plus slugging (2nd - .965), home runs (3rd – 35), runs (5th – 104), on base percentage (5th - .392), and runs batted in (8th – 103). These numbers are particularly impressive considering he spent time on the disabled list during May. Still criticisms over A-Rod’s ability to perform in the clutch linger as he struggled with both runners in scoring position (.262) and in close and late situations (.257).

Bobby Abreu – A-
Bobby Abreu’s offensive consistency has been a hallmark of his career. With 20 home runs and 22 stolen bases, Abreu became just the third player in MLB history to record eight 20-20 seasons, joining Bobby and Barry Bonds. He appeared in 156 games (he’s appeared in at least 150 games in 11 straight seasons) and joins Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols as the only players to post at least 100 RBIs in each of the past six seasons. Furthermore, Abreu distanced himself from his Yankee peers by actually hitting in the clutch (.296 AVG, .372 OBP with runners in scoring position). The only knock? His inability to conquer the fear that should he come within 10 feet of the right field wall, the foul pole will topple over and crush him.

Jason Giambi, New York YankeesJason Giambi – B+
Relegated to predominately designated hitter for much of the Joe Torre era, Jason Giambi recovered from a horrible start (.164 batting average in April) to post strong numbers in what will likely be his final season with the Yankees. In Spring Training, new Yankees manager Joe Girardi promised Giambi increased time at first base. True to his word, the skipper penciled Giambi into first base 113 times this season – the most he’s appeared in the field since 2001 with Oakland. Although he’ll never be mistaken for Don Mattingly (9 Gold Gloves), Giambi committed just nine errors. He improved on his 2007 stats across the board and finished among the team leaders in home runs (2nd - 32), OPS (2nd - .876) and RBIs (96).

Xavier Nady, New York YankeesXavier Nady – B+
Acquired alongside LHP Damaso Marte on July 26th for Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen, Xavier Nady struggled in September but performed reasonably well appearing in 59 games for the Yankees. Nady finished with a .268 average in pinstripes, hit 12 home runs and drove in 40. More importantly, his acquisition allowed Jorge Posada to shut it down and undergo season-ending surgery with an eye on 2009. Nady is signed through next season and could be an option at either corner outfield spot or a first base.

Derek Jeter – B
2008 was a sub-par offensive year for Derek Jeter. Although the captain finished with a .300 batting average (16 points below his career average), his .308 slugging percentage was his lowest since 1997. Whether or not Jeter’s struggles are connected to being hit on the wrist on May 20th, can never be proven but before the injury Jeter was hitting .324 with a .774 OPS. A strong May (and his popularity) earned Jeter his ninth All-Star selection. On September 14th, Jeter passed Lou Gehrig for most career hits at Yankees Stadium. His tribute to the fans after Yankee Stadium’s final game was a season highlight. After that game Jeter was shut down for the season, having been struck on the left hand by Daniel Cabrera back on May 21st.

Hideki Matsui – B
Limited by inflammation in his left knee, Hideki Matsui hit .294 with nine homers and 45 RBIs in 93 games. Matsui missed all of July and wasn’t the same when he returned posting a sub-par August (.186 AVG) and September (.233). Matsui is signed through 2009 and has missed significant time with injuries two of the last three years.

Cody Ransom – C+
Signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason, Cody Ransom was assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre despite a strong Spring Training. He was called up to the Yankees on August 17th and subsequently homered in both his first and second at bats. Over an admittedly small sampling, Ransom hit .302 with four homers and eight runs batted in. Ransom posted a .400 on base percentage and played all four infield positions. Should Ransom return in 2009, he figures to battle Wilson Betemit for a utility infield spot.

Jose Molina, New York YankeesJose Molina – C
With Jorge Posada out or rendered ineffective as a result of his shoulder injury, Jose Molina was asked to play more than expected. Molina more than delivered defensively catching 33 base runners over the year. Furthermore, Molina earned the respect of the Yankees rotation and was the preferred option even after Brian Cashman brought in future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. Offensively, Molina performed as should-be expected with a .216 batting average and three home runs. Obviously Molina is better suited to be a backup.

Brett Gardner – C
With Melky Cabrera struggling, Brett Gardner was given the reigns to the Yankees’ centerfield position. On July 6th, Gardner singled up the middle off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to lift New York to victory. Sent down following the acquisition of Xavier Nady, Gardner rejoined the big club on August 15. Although he often looked overmatched during his first stay in New York, Gardner showed signs of life hitting .294 over his last 68 at bats. Gardner utilized his best tool (his speed) effectively, stealing 13 of 14 bases while playing well defensively.

Chad Moeller – C -
Chad Moeller performed admirably as the team’s third backstop. The Yankees purchased his minor-league contract on April 14th after injuries to both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina. Moeller bounced back and forth between Scranton and New York several times during the season and finished with a .231 batting average in 41 games.

Wilson Betemit – C-
Early in his minor league career Wilson Betemit was touted as a multi-talented hitter and infielder with star potential. In 2000, Baseball America ranked Betemit the top prospect in the Atlanta Braves system. Yet in his third full major league season, Betemit has yet to prove he’s anything more than a versatile defender with some pop. Betemit played in 87 games (often as a defensive replacement at first base) for the Yankees this year and hit .265 with six homers. His .289 on base percentage was awful and the holes in his game were exposed when he played too much.

Melky Cabrera, New York YankeesMelky Cabrera – D-
Granted, Melky Cabrera’s disappointing statistics were only exacerbated as a result of the lineup’s inconsistency. And granted, a team with a $200+ million payroll shouldn’t have to rely on the Cabreras of the world but still, the Melk Man’s 2008 was an unmitigated failure. Given license to roam the most hollowed patch of grass during Yankee Stadium’s final season (think DiMaggio, Mantle, Williams), Cabrera flopped so completely he earned a late season demotion and appears to have removed himself from the organizational plans. The 24-year-old Cabrera had his numbers drop across the board in 2008 and handed the keys to centerfield (for now) over to Brett Gardner.

Jorge Posada – D-
After a fantastic 2007 (.338 AVG, 20 HRs and 90 RBIs), Jorge Posada was rewarded with a four-year, $52 million contract. Unfortunately, injuries and age limited the 37-year-old Posada to just 51 games (only 30 as a catcher). A faulty glenoid labrum in his throwing shoulder gave opposing base runners the green light (34 SB, 7 CS) while Posada failed to deliver at the plate. He hit just .268 with three home runs and 22 RBIs. After toying with the idea of using Posada as a 1B/DH, the Yankees instead acquired Xavier Nady and Posada underwent season-ending surgery.

Justin Christian – D-
Justin Christian was promoted to the major league roster on June 24 prior to their interleague series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He started the same day and went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Christian finished with a .250 batting average in 24 games. He stole seven bases in eight attempts.

Richie Sexson – D-
On July 18th, the New York Yankees took a flyer on former Mariners’ slugger Richie Sexson. After 22 games in pinstripes (.250 AVG, 1 HR), Sexson was released on August 24th.

Alberto Gonzalez – D-
Having debuted last season, the slick-fielding Alberto Gonzalez was called up in early April to back-up Derek Jeter. Gonzalez appeared in 28 games for the Yankees and hit a paltry .173. At the trade deadline, Gonzalez was jettisoned to the Washington Nationals in exchange for minor-league right-hander Jhonny Nunez.

Robinson Cano, New York YankeesRobinson Cano – F
To categorize Robinson Cano’s 2008 season as a disappointment would be a gross understatement. Lauded as a future batting champion (and once compared by Joe Torre to Hall of Famer Rod Carew), posted easily the worst numbers of his four-year career. An abysmal April (.151 batting average) set the tone for the season as Cano finished with a .271 batting average, a horrible .305 on base percentage, and 72 runs batted in. Many New York beat writers predicted a disappointing season following the departure of Larry Bowa. True to form, Cano coasted through the year until Girardi finally benched him in September for not hustling.

Shelley Duncan – F
After breaking camp with the major league club, Shelley Duncan’s season quickly turned sour. Despite being praised often for his “fire,” Duncan did little to warrant his inclusion on the 25-man roster. He hit .175 with one homer before being demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That Duncan was not recalled when the rosters expanded in September seems to indicate his shaky footing within the organization.

Ivan Rodriguez, New York YankeesIvan Rodriguez – F
Acquired from the similarly disappointing Detroit Tigers in exchange for fan-favorite Kyle Farnsworth, Ivan Rodriguez’ tenure in The Bronx was disappointing. Although acquiring a future Hall of Famer to replace Jorge Posada appeared wise at the time,
Rodriguez failed to hit with the Yankees (.219 AVG, .257 OBP, 2 HRs) and couldn’t get on the same page as most of the pitching staff. Despite his acquisition Jose Molina still received the majority of starts at backstop.

Morgan Ensberg – F
Seeking to add a right-handed hitting firstbase option, the Yankees inked Morgan Ensberg to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. After winning the job out of camp, Ensberg was ineffective. He hit just .235 with a home run and four runs batted in. He was designated for assignment on June 1st.

Juan Miranda – INCOMPLETE
After paying his dues at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (.287 AVG, .384 OBP, 12 HRs), Juan Miranda earned a September call up. Down the stretch the 25-year-old Cuban appeared in five games. He had four hits in ten major league at bats.

Francisco Cervelli, New York YankeesFrancisco Cervelli – INCOMPLETE
Francisco Cervelli, the New York Yankees’ 22nd highest ranked prospect entering 2008 (according to Baseball America), had an eventful season beginning with controversy in Spring Training. On March 8, Cervelli fractured his wrist when Tampa Bay Rays infielder Elliot Johnson collided with him at home plate. The injury, which Joe Girardi called “uncalled for” kept Cervelli out of action until June. As a result of the injury, Cervelli missed an opportunity to help fill the void left by Jorge Posada. After hitting .308 at three minor league levels upon his return, he appeared in three major league contests, had five at bats and struck out three times.

Chris Stewart – INCOMPLETE
Chris Stewart was called up following the injury to Jorge Posada on April 28. He was sent down, having appeared in one game, after Chad Moeller cleared waivers and re-joined the team. Stewart was designated for assignment on June 30th and later outrighted to the minors to make room on the roster for Brett Gardner.

Abraham: Pettitte Mulling Future with Yanks

Andy Pettitte, New York YankeesFrom Peter Abraham's Yankees blog:

Andy Pettitte stopped by for a few minutes. While Joe Girardi has said he thinks the lefty will be back, Pettitte is not ready to say that quite yet.

“I need to get away and weigh some things over,” he said. “I know what I want to do and what I’m expected to do but I don’t know whether I can do it.”

Pettitte said his wife and kids have “fallen back in love with New York” and their life in Westchester. It seems pretty obvious that he will return for 2009.

When asked about Mike Mussina, Pettitte said that he and the Moose have spoken but he thinks that it’s only right that Mussina announce his intentions.

A few minutes later, Pettitte said that Moose “is strong-willed” and that if anybody could walk away after going 20-9, it’s him.

Hawaii League Update: Jeremy Bleich

Hawaii Winter League UpdateThe Yankees supplemental draft choice, LHP Jeremy Bleich, struggled in his Hawaii Winter League debut yesterday. Bleich lasted 2 2/3 innings allowed two runs on two hits and four walks. Only 23 of his 51 pitches were strikes.

C Austin Romine went 0-for-4 with a strike out. He did, however, throw out two of three would-be base stealers.

Visit Hawaii Winter Baseball’s official site >>

Rivera to Have Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

Mariano Rivera, New York YankeesAccording to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has opted for surgery to clear up some calcification in his throwing arm. The procedure is expected to be Oct. 6 and will be performed by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

Rivera, who had been throwing with shoulder pain all season, notched 39 saves and posted a 1.40 ERA. He should be ready for Spring Training.

This season Rivera surpassed Lee Smith for second place on baseball's all-time saves list with 482 in the regular season, plus 34 more in his playoff career. He is signed through 2010.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

There’s Always Next Year…

The New York Yankees completed their season tonight splitting a rain-soaked double-header with the playoff-bound Boston Red Sox. Eliminated nearly a week ago, the Bombers finished 89-73, third place in the AL East – closing with 12 wins in 15 games.

So for the first time since 1994 playoff baseball will be sans the Bronx Bombers.

What went wrong? A lot. The Yankees entered the season with a new manager, relying heavily on young, unproven pitching.

Phil Hughes (0-4, 6.62) and Ian Kennedy (0-4, 8.17) combined to go winless. The California duo made just 17 combined starts. Joba Chamberlain (4-3, 2.60) bounced from the bullpen to the rotation to the disabled list back to the bullpen. While he pitched effectively, the Yankees failed to define his role and 2009 will feature the same ridiculous speculation… starter or reliever?

The staff ace, Chien-Ming Wang, got off to a fast start (8-2, 4.07) but was derailed on June 15th when he injured his right foot running the bases during an interleague game with the Houston Astros.

Jorge Posada Spent Most of 2008 on the DLSpeaking of injuries, the Yankees had high hopes for catcher Jorge Posada (as evidenced by the four-year, $52 million contract). Why not? He hit .338 in 2007 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs. Well surprise, surprise… the 37-year-old backstop broke down. Posada appeared in just 51 games. He hit .268 with 3 home runs and 22 RBIs.

Left fielder Hideki Matsui was limited to just 93 games. The Japanese Iron Man’s season was cut short with inflammation in his left knee.

Robinson Cano did nothing to warrant the hefty contract extension bestowed upon him during the offseason. With resident baby sitter Larry Bowa with Joe Torre in Los Angeles, the 25-year-old Cano lolly-gagged his way to the worst season of his four-year career. After an abysmal April (.151 batting average), he failed to truly re-establish himself and was finally benched in September for not hustling.

Robinson Cano Struggled in 2008After sitting out the Johann Santana sweepstakes (Santana went 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA for the cross-town Metropolitans), Brian Cashman made two notable in-season moves.

1. RHP Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit for C Ivan Rodriguez. This one made a lot of sense at the time. However, the future Hall of Famer failed to hit with the Yankees and couldn’t get on the same page as most of the pitching staff.

2. RHP Ross Ohlendorf, OF Jose Tabata, RHP Jeff Karstens & RHP Dan McCutchen to Pittsburgh for OF Xavier Nady and LHP Damaso Marte. Cashman appeared to fill two needs with one move (right-handed bat + left-handed arm). Nady, who is under contract for 2009, played well… Marte? Not so much.

Finally, the biggest problem… the Yankees couldn’t score runs. The Bombers were grounded. The Yankees lineup, potent with run producers and power hitters, scored nearly 200 fewer runs in 2008 than in 2007. Anemic with runners in scoring position, New York burdened its depleted pitching staff.

Frustrating? You bet. But there is always next year.

Hawaii League Update: Andrew Brackman

Hawaii Winter Baseball: UpdateBrackman’s highly-anticipated professional debut was anything but impressive. The 2007 first-rounder was tagged for six runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings as the Waikiki BeachBoys dropped their season opener, 8-4, Saturday. Brackman through 71 pitches and struck out three.

Visit Hawaii Winter Baseball’s official site >>

Mike Mussina: 20-game Winner... Finally

Mike Mussina, 20-Game WinnerCongratulations Mike Mussina. At 39, Mussina became the oldest pitcher to ever eclipse the 20-win plateau for the first time.

During his career, Mussina has fallen short on a number of benchmarks synonymous with greatness; he had won 19 games twice before, he had taken two perfect game attempts into the ninth inning, he has never won a World Series, and has never won a Cy Young Award despite finishing in the top six eight times (soon to be nine times).

For the year, Mussina finished 20-9 while posting a 3.37 ERA. He surpassed the 200-innings mark for the first time since 2003. Not to be denied 20, Mussina won his final three starts, allowing one run over 16 innings.

Mussina joined the Yankees following the 2000 season. He signed a 6-year, $88.5 million contract. On September 2, he retired the first 26 Boston Red Sox when pinch-hitter Carl Everett singled to left-center ruining a near perfect game at Fenway Park.

Mike Mussina, New York YankeesIn 2003, Mike Mussina authored one of the greatest clutch pitching performances of his career. During Game 7 of the ALCS, Mussina made the first relief appearance of his career, trailing Boston 4-0. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Mussina struck out Jason Varitek and induced a double-play groundout from Johnny Damon to escape trouble. Mussina threw too more scoreless innings and kept the Yankees within striking distance.

Entering 2008, it appeared the Yankees’ youth movement would force Mussina out of a job. After a tough start, including an ugly pair of loses to the Red Sox, Hank Steinbrenner publicly ripped Mussina. He suggested that Mussina needed to “learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer,” and no longer rely on his fastball. Mussina responded outstandingly, going 9-1 over his next eleven starts.

In winning 20 games, Mussina supplanted Moyer as the oldest first-time 20-game winner ever. Should Mussina elect to retire, he could be the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax to retire following a 20-win season.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Carl Pavano Era Comes to an End

Carl Pavano, New York YankeesFour years, 26 starts, nine wins... $39.95 million. Boy, $10 million a year doesn’t get what it used to.

Mercifully, the Carl Pavano Era came to a glorous end last night. For all intents and purposes, Pavano's tenure in pinstripes has come to an end. Let's recap "American Idle's" four-year run.

On December 20, 2004 the New York Yankees landed Carl Pavano, considered by many to be the cream of the free agent crop. As a 28-year-old, Pavano posted an 18-8 record and an ERA of 3.00. He had thrown 200+ innings in each of the previous two seasons.

Carl Pavano, New York Yankees - Broke BackSo when the Yankees landed Pavano, who according to rumors received bigger offers from Boston and Cincinnati, fans rejoiced. Pavano would join Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, and Kevin Brown in a rotation destined to restore order to a baseball world that had seen the Boston Red Sox capture its first World Series title in 86 years.

Carl Pavano, New York Yankees - Broke BackThings started well. Pavano opened the 2005 season with quality starts in seven of his first 10 appearances, compiling a 4-2 record and a 3.69 ERA. However, Pavano battled an injured right shoulder and made just 17 starts. He dinished 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA.

2006 was a total washout. Pavano began the season on the disabled list after bruising his buttocks in a spring training game. On August 15, he broke two ribs in an auto accident that he failed to report until August 28 when the Yankees informed him he'd be coming off the disabled list. He didn't appear in a major league game in 2006, making only a handful of minor league rehab starts.

Carl Pavano, New York Yankees - Called Out by MussinaDuring Spring Training '07, fellow starter Mike Mussina made headlines calling Pavano out. Mussina said that Pavano needed to prove he wanted to pitch for the Yankees. "It didn't look good from a player's and teammate's standpoint," Mussina said of Pavano's injuries. "Was everything just coincidence? Over and over again? I don't know." Joe Torre said Pavano needed to a "sizable" amount of work to repair his clubhouse image.

When Chien-Ming Wang injured his hamstring during spring training, Pavano started on Opening Day. On April 15, 2007, Pavano was placed on the 15-day DL with what was described as an "elbow strain". On May 23, 2007, it was reported that Pavano would opt for Tommy John surgery. He made a grand total of two starts.

Carl Pavano, New York Yankees - Returns to RotationIn December, the Yankees asked that Pavano accept a minor league contract to clear space on their 40-man roster. He declined. After receeding from the minds of most Yankees fans, Pavano made his first start of 2008 on August 23 against the Baltimore Orioles. Pavano went on to make eight starts during his swan song.

So Carl Pavano's career in pinstripes comes to an end. Next year, he'll be pitching for some team that gambles on an incentive-laden deal.

Carl Pavano... Thanks for the memories.