Tuesday, September 30, 2008

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.


Boston said...

Phil Coke an A-... Pettitte a C? What?

Enjoy the offseason!

Jeff said...

Phil Coke had a 0.61 ERA out of the bullpen. Andy Pettitte went 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA. The grades were based on performance and expectations.

Had I been reviewing the Red Sox I would have given Sean Casey a higher grade than David Ortiz. Does that mean I'd rather face Ortiz in a big spot? No thank you.

Steve said...

Put your hatred for the guy aside, Carl Pavano earned a higher rating. I was under the impression that your grades were for this season only.