Back end of the bullpen

    Monday, February 7, 2011, 5:30 PM [General]

    Even though the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee, the Rafeal Soriano signing was a crucial one because he gives the Bronx Bombers two dominant pitchers at the end of the bullpen. This is something that they have not in essence had since Mariano Rivera was pitching the eighth and John Wetteland was pitching the ninth in 1996.

    With all the talk about the core four turning into the core three right now, since Andy Pettitte ended his brilliant career on Friday, it is reassuring to know that the Yankees have a replacement for Rivera once he does retire. Another question on lots of peoples mind right now is if Derek Jeter will be able to bounce back from his sub-par 2010 campaign. Last season, Soriano struck out 57 batters while walking only 14, while converting 45 saves with an impressive 1.73 ERA. Even after 16 seasons Rivera has proven that he is not slowing down yet, posting 33 saves with a 1.80 ERA, and a 0.83 WHIP but this strong tail-end of the bullpen will be even more crucial taking into consideration the teams questionable rotation.

    I think that the Yankees should make an effort to trade Joba Chamberlain, but if not, there will now be less pressure on him as well as the rest of the pitchers in the bullpen. Somebody who is surely positively affected by this signing is Pedro Felicano because he has led the majors in appearances in 2008, 2009 and 2010. This season, he will not have to shoulder so much of the burden, but Girardi should be able to continue to rely on him to get batters out when called upon like he has for much of his career. Another key contributer to the bullpen will be David Robertson. He is a young pitcher coming of a solid season in 2010, having converted more than a strikeout per inning.

    For a reliever, Soriano was signed for a high price of three-years, $35 million contract, but he has been one of the elite closers.  This signing proves all the more valuable now that Pettitte has retired.  I thought that bringing Soriano to the team would have helped Pettitte have the urge to pitch one more season, but since it did not, the Yankees need a dominant bullpen even more. 

    Even though the Yankees have a deep bullpen, after the CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, the rotation surely has some question marks. AJ Burnett needs to be able to pitch like he did in 2009 and not like he did in the 2010 campaign. If the number four and five starters can pitch deep into games and not tax the bullpen too much, the season can be a success.  

    Rafeal Soriano's value should not be understated because if he is able to replicate his dominant performance from last season, opponents will essentially have seven innings to score runs. This might be obvious, but, it is necessary to have somebody who can be relied upon to get outs in the eighth inning to be a "bridge" to Rivera because if they can't hold leads for him consistently than that reduces the wins that he Yankees can lock down. Finally, the Soriano acquisition will be making a bullpen that was strong last season (3.47 ERA) even more reliable. 

     

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    State of the Rotation

    Thursday, February 3, 2011, 5:03 PM [General]

    Even though Andy Pettitte is retiring, and the Yankees will truly miss him in the rotation, the Yankees still have starting pitchers capable of holding their own until the trading deadline.

    They will be without his patented stare down, has always clutch play in big-time games, and one of the best pick-off moves of all-time, but he is retiring in a classy way.  He is not continuing to play past when he is still productive and is retiring before Spring Training which is what a former Yankee was not able to do. It was unfortunate that Cliff Lee choose to pitch for the Phillies instead of the Yankees, but they were wise to sign Freddy Garcia and even Bartolo Colon to minor league contracts.  Since there were not many free agents worth signing it made sense to gamble low even though these two have not had great success recently. Ivan Nova is another candidate for the starting rotation.  He had a 4.50 ERA in seven starts, pitching much better in the beginning.

    If Freddy Garcia can replicate his stats from last year with the White Sox, where he won 12 games, had a 4.64 ERA, 89 strikeouts and pitched 157 innings then that would work as the number five starter.  Apparently, Bartolo Colon pitched very well in the winter league, and during the 2009 season for the White Sox Colon made 12 and had a 4.19 ERA.  Out of the two Garcia is surely the better option since the Yankees can count on him to last longer into games than Colon. 

    The Yankees have some promising young pitchers in the minor leagues but they need to count on new pitching coach Larry Rothschild helping AJ Burnett to revert back to his 2009 form. Last season he had a miserable campaign, but if he can improve on his 13 wins, 4.04 ERA and 195 strikeouts from 2009 the Yankees rotation will be less of an issue. The team also has one of the best minor league systems in the majors with the restocked farm system under Cashman.  

    Some of the pitchers that should be able to contribute soon include Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, D.J Mitchell and Adam Warren.  Brackman (25) is the most experienced of the bunch, having recovered from Tommy John surgery like Betances. Betances, who is from New York City, showed a lot of promise last year, is only 22 and has a fastball in the mid to upper 90's.  It is probably worth calling on him at some point this season.

    Not having Pettitte in the rotation makes it weaker for sure, but they should be able to upgrade come July, when a team has fallen out of the playoff race.  The Yankees will be able to use one or more of their talented minor leaguers in a trade for a solid pitcher.  At least the Yankees should be able to count on a very deep bullpen to help limit the length that the back-en of the rotation has to pitch. 

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    The Dedication of Robinson Cano

    Saturday, January 29, 2011, 3:51 PM [General]

    Robinson Cano has always been known for his hitting, but his overall game and hustle has improved exponentially which caused him to be an MVP candidate last season.  The Yankees will need this consistency from him going forward, and it seems like it will continue based on his off-season in the Dominican Republic. They will not need him to continue to produce in clutch situations.

    There was a report by Jack Curry where he chronicled Cano's off-season in the Dominican and it showed excellent dedication and humility. This proves that Cano truly wants to play at an MVP type level year-after-year.  Video footage also displayed that he is willing to let any of his adoring fans share the field with him. Admirably Cano played the role of coach, while also working on his overall game, since he gave invaluable instruction to teammates Francisco Cervelli and Eduardo Nunez.  Cervelli is a young catcher and Nunez is a 23 year-old infielder. 

    Cano wants to succeed and be the best that he can be, and it is noteworthy that he is on the field with many up-and-coming kids in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris. Also, Cervelli and Nunez realize how talented Cano is, and are willing to travel far from where they live to benefit from his knowledge and expertise. It is a testament to Cano that he is willing to still train on a field that is far from major league caliber, while helping younger players in the process. This field does not appear very aesthetically pleasing, but it has his name as well as his father's and it is where Cano comes to diligently work on his craft. He even sometimes comes across four legged animals. He also gives toys to kids at a school for deaf children which says a lot about his character.

    He has come a long way from being benched for his lack of hustle in the field, and not going all out running to first base when he could have been safe. Cano is one of the best raw talents in the major leagues and even though sometimes it seems like he is not giving all out effort, that is made up for with his stellar results. Based on last season, it does not seem like he is being non chalant, because he is able to make so many plays in the field that a normal second baseman would not be able to convert.

    For Cano, the only facet of his game that could really use improvement is if he could draw some more walks and in turn cut down a little on his strikeouts, but last season he was able to nearly double his walk total from 2009. Another slight negative is that he has never stolen more than five bases in a season, which he has done twice, but his power numbers more than make up for that.  A definite plus about Cano, which should not go understated, is that from the 2007 through the 2010 seasons, he has always played in at least 159 games. If he can continue to produce seasons with stat lines of .319, 29 home runs, 109 RBI and 57 walks he will continue to be in MVP consideration especially from the second base position. I think he will be able to continue to improve his walks and home runs, since he is only 28 and is in the middle of his prime.

    His dedication in the off-season surely helps him stay so injury free, which the Yankees will count on for years to come. Cano was eight strikeouts away from his career high of 85 strikeouts in 2007 but it is likely that he will be able to cut down on those in the future.  Even if he does not, as long as he continues to get on base and drive in runs at a high rate, he will be considered one of the games elite.

    Cano is a great inspiration for the kids back in San Pedro de Macoris, and it seems like he has been able to positively impact the community. He said it makes him happy to put a smile on the kids faces and it seems like he will be able to continue to do that based on his off-season work in the Dominican as well as his production for the Yankees.

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    Pettitte should not pull a Clemens or Favre

    Thursday, January 27, 2011, 2:56 PM [General]

    Andy Pettitte should keep in mind how his good buddy Roger Clemens dealt with the topic of retirement and try and do the opposite.  The Yankees could really use his talents back in the Bronx, and he has a 12 million offer on the table which he would be wise not to turn down if he wants to further cement his Hall of Fame credentials.

    He should make his decision before Spring Training so that the Yankees will be able to be fully prepared for the season.  It makes sense that he wants to spend more time with his family but he should give himself one more chance at a World Series.  The addition of Rafeal Soriano only increases his chances of adding to his current 240 win total.  Given that he has so many reasons to come back, he should come to the realization that leaving the Yankees in limbo for so long is somewhat selfish, so he should not put himself above the team.  However, if he truly does not have the desire to pitch every fifth day, and try and win a sixth World Series championship, and add to his 14 World Series wins then he should hang up his spikes.

    Even though his image has been tarnished since he has admitted to taking human growth hormones in 2002, while recovering from an elbow injury, his overall stats are quite impressive.  If he pitches one more season he would deserve to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, with an asterisk.  Some of his notable achievements include, pitching 200 innings 10 times, three time All-Star, eight 15 win seasons, no losing seasons and a .635 winning percentage in 16 seasons. In addition, if he pitches this year he will surely get to 250 victories.  Last season, he proved that he still had something left in the tank because he had an 11-3 record with a 3.28 ERA.

    With Pettitte in the rotation, the rotation one through four, could potentially be CC Sebathia, Phil Hughes, Pettitte, AJ Burnett and then Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Barolo Colon or a free agent.  This would be much more formidable than a rotation without Pettitte, and after the season that Burnett had in 2010 he should not be relied upon as a number three pitcher.  Pettitte has been doing his normal preseason workouts, and has had no setbacks, so hopefully he plays one more season to have the chance at another championship so that he can retire as the champion he has been so many times before.

    If Pettitte was coming off a shaky season in 2010, I would say that he should have decided to retire by now, but since he was dominant at times, at the age of 38, he should add to his already impressive stats, but just make his decision in timely manner unlike what Roger Clemens did.  Clemens announced his come back, in 2007, during an impromtu announcement to the crowd during the seventh-inning stretch, of a May 6th game.

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    The Legacy of Derek Jeter

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 2:46 PM [General]

    Derek Jeter is one of the truly great Yankees of all time, and has continually carried himself in a respectable manner. Jeter is now 74 hits short of reaching 3,000 hits for his career, which he will probably reach sometime in June and in turn would be the first Yankee to do so. However, yesterday his possible position change was publicly brought up by Brian Cashman. 

    He has been known over his career as a player who often comes through with hits in the clutch and will make the extra effort in order to help his team to victory, defensively.  Two examples of this stick out in particular.  One is during the 2001 Divisional Series, the Yankees lead 1-0, and Jeter appeared out of nowhere to flip the ball to Jorge Posada getting Jeremy Giambi out at home.  Another play is when Jeter sacrificed his body to get an out against the rival Boston Red Sox. It was the 12th running, and runners were on second and third and a pop up was hit that was approaching the stands near third base.  Jeter was determined to catch the ball so he did not hesitate to dive into the stands and cause his mouth to bleed in the process.

    The previous two examples proves how Jeter puts winning above everything else.  He has perfected the jump throw when a ball is hit into the outfield between him and the third baseman, he is the active leader in hits with 2,926, has a .314 lifetime average, has been named to the All-Star game 11 times and has received the gold-glove five times.  However, it has been rumored that he has received preferential treatment in regards to his defensive accolades in recent years.  This is because his defensive range has declined.  This is not all that surprising because he is older than any MLB starting shortstop, other than Omar Vizquel.

    Brian Cashman, at a Breakfast with a Champion event with fans at the Hark Rock Cafe, in Manhattan, said that he would be "be surprised" if Derek Jeter stayed in shortstop for the remainder of his contract. Not this year, but next Spring Training Jeter should start to practice taking flyballs in the outfield.  His skills set would be conducive for any outfield position, and it would be best if he replaces Nick Swisher, since the Yankees already have Curtis Granderson in center-field.  

    This year, it is safe to say that Jeter will be the everyday shortstop, and has earned every right to even though his skills have diminished.  However, what Cashman said makes sense because there have not been many everyday shortstops at Jeter's age, and if his defensive skills continue to decline, it would be best to have somebody younger manning the shortstop position.

    Since the captain has done so much for the Yankee organization, it should be a mutual decision, possibly playing part-time towards the end of this 2012 season and full-time in 2013. If he can come to grips with his decline, it will further enhance how much of a team player he is and make the Yankees better overall.

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  • Jesus Montero is one of the top catching prospects in baseball, and even though the Yankees have the option of having Francisco Cervelli ... more
  • Even though the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee, the Rafeal Soriano signing was a crucial one because he gives the Bronx Bombers two ... more
  • Even though Andy Pettitte is retiring, and the Yankees will truly miss him in the rotation, the Yankees still have starting pitchers ... more
  • Robinson Cano has always been known for his hitting, but his overall game and hustle has improved exponentially which caused him to be ... more

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