Friday, April 2, 2010

Prediction Round Up

There isn't a whole lot of variety in these, but I wanted to consolidate the predictions that we asked everyone to make at the end of the AL East interviews we did this week.

Here are the interviews with our fantastic guests:
And everyone's predictions in graphical from, including Matt's and mine:

There you have it folks. According to our panel of experts, there is a 100% chance that the Yankees win the AL East this season!

Actually, that's not what it means at all. You can't divine overall probabilities based on individual predictions (in this scenario at least). For instance, let's say that we are going to flip a coin that has a 60% chance of coming up heads and a 40% chance of landing on tails. Which one are you going to pick? Well everyone that's not a moron is going to pick heads. As a result, you'd end up with something like 95% of people choosing heads with the remainder of the superstitious dummies telling themselves that "tails never fails". And that doesn't reflect the actual probability of the event. It's the kind of thing that happens when you have some rational people looking at similar data.

Realistically, what this means is that the Yanks are in the neighborhood of 50-45-40%, the Sox are 35-30-25% and the Rays are 30-25-20%. Or something? I don't know but the midpoints sum to 100 and that sounds about right. Take it from me, I predicted the correct order that the AL East would finish in last year and had every team's total within 5 wins. (What's that you say? I also had the Mets playing the Cubs in the NLCS? Nevermind that.)

Anyway, that's it for today. We'll have some good stuff running over the weekend, so in the unlikely event that you need a break from the awesome weather that is forecasted for the northeast, we'll be there for you.

AL East Q&A: Drunk Jays Fans

And now it's time for the final installment of our quest to survey the landscape of the AL East. After this, we can all stick our heads back up our asses and go back to only caring about the Yankees and the team they are playing at the time.

In some ways I think we've saved the best for last. Drunk Jays Fans has been providing the kind of vulgarity and analysis that we at Fack Youk strive for since the very beginning of 2007 - back when this blog was just a couple of pixels in a server in White Plains. Andrew Stoeten and Dustin Parkes might be drunk, but they are kindly drunks. One of the signature offerings on their site are the helpful guides which explain things like how to delude yourself into believing your team will still make the playoffs and how to sneak down into good seats at the Rogers Centre. They also do a post each year breaking down the most prominent Blue Jays-related blogs on the interwebs which is well worth the read. Now they well help us make sense of where the Toronto Blue Jays are at heading into the 2010 season:

FY: For the first time since 2002, the Jays' Opening Day starter will not be Roy Halladay. How are you dealing with the loss? Are you satisfied with the package that the team got in exchange for Doc? Could Kyle Drabek help the Big League club this year?

Dustin Parkes: Jays fans have had so little to cheer for outside of every fifth day when Roy Halladay would start otherwise meaningless games that removing him from the team is like cutting off the index fingers of a thumbless man. It hurts for now, but if there's hope that the procedure somehow leads to having Antonio Alfonseca hands in the future, the pain becomes berable.

While no one is going to replace Halladay to Toronto's fan base, as far as the package that the Jays got in return, Brett Wallace can definitely fill out a pair of trousers. And Kyle Drabek and Travis d'Arnaud aren't too shabby either.

I recently saw one of those Jim Bowden videos on where he interviews baseball executives on a webcam (because he just like totally gets social media and internetty things). In the episode that I saw, Bowden spoke with all of the GMs involved in the Halladay deal, and while Alex Anthopoulos doesn't come right out and say it, it's fairly clear that he got the best deal he possibly could have.

Considering that Roy Halladay in his prime couldn't help the Blue Jays out of their mediocrity, it's doubtful that Drabek, Wallace or d'Arnaud will supply anything close to an immediate impact. However, if Toronto's playoff drought has been good for anything, it's been in developing patience and all Jays fans have right now is the hope that things will improve, and this threesome makes that hope more realistic than it's ever been.

FY: Thirty-two year old Bronx native Randy Ruiz was excellent at the plate for Toronto over 130 plate appearances last year, smacking 10 home runs (3 against the Yanks) and accumulating a line of .313/.385/.635. How does he fit into the picture this year? Will he finally see significant playing time in the Majors after 10+ years spent almost exclusively as a farmhand?

Andrew Stoeten: He doesn't really fit into the picture, and it's unfortunate, but there just isn't a realistic place to put him-- especially with a manager like Cito, who would love nothing more than to fill out the exact same lineup card every day of the season. (Ugh). Most fans, I think, would love to see the Jays give Ruiz a genuine shot, but not if it means watching Adam Lind butcher balls out in left field all year, or anybody other than Lyle Overbay attempting to corral all the throws Edwin Encarnacion is going to try to launch into the first row.

It's funny, because this year's Jays are exactly the kind of team that should be giving a guy like Ruiz a chance to show he's not just a AAAA player, but barring injury I really don't see it happening. Even if Overbay is eventually moved, it will open the door more for Wallace than Ruiz.

Perhaps if he makes good use of the few at bats he's given something will change, but as far as it seems now, as usual, it's a longshot.

FY: The Jays signed Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechevarria to a $10M deal in March and rumor has it that he passed on a larger offer from the Yankees. How do you feel about the acquisition and how high in the farm system is he going to start the season?

Stoeten: There's really nothing not to like about the deal. Ownership and the new GM have said repeatedly that, while they're not going to spend money just to spend it, they've still got capital, and they're open to anything that they believe will help the club in the long run. Not only does the Hechevarria deal add the kind of potential asset that, as Alex Anthopoulos likes to say, doesn't often become available, it also shows ownership's willingness to put their money where their mouth is.

Most expect him to start at New Hampshire in Double-A, which sounds reasonable-enough to me.

FY: Aaron Hill broke out with 36 homers (more than twice his highest previous total) and a .357 wOBA last year (also a personal best), but his OBP (.330) was slightly lower than his career mark. IS HE ON STEROIDS? In all seriousness, what are the chances he can duplicate or improve on his production this season? Where do you think he ranks among the very deep second base crop in the AL East?

DP: Here's my theory on the Aaron Hill power surge: While he was out with a concussion for most of 2008, the only thing he could do was lift weights. He managed to beef up a bit and it resulted in a more powerful swing. However, it would be foolish to expect the same power numbers this year. What we might be able to expect, based on his Spring Training numbers, is a more patient approach at the plate.

Less home runs, but more doubles and walks will still rank Hill as the most valuable second baseman in the AL East, no matter what Dustin Pedroia's brother tries to tell children.

FY: Lastly, how do you think the standings will look when the season comes to a close?

Parkes: Yankees, Rays, Sox, Orioles, Jays.

FY: Thank you gentlemen for your time.

Reconsidering Outfield Alignment

In an unsurprising move, Curtis Granderson was officially named the Yankees' center fielder yesterday. Granderson made but one appearance in left field this spring, so there wasn't much question about where he would play.

That wasn't the story for much of the off-season. Once it became apparent that Brett Gardner would be amongst the starting outfielders, speculation ran rampant as to whether the Yankees would be better served with Gardner or Granderson patrolling center.

Through his first two Major League seasons, Brett Gardner has posted an asburd UZR of 16.7 through nearly 800 innings in center field. Granderson is no slouch defensively, with a UZR/150 of 4.9 in CF through four plus seasons, but recent scouting reports have been critical of his jumps and routes, and his UZRs over the past two years have been -8.9 and 1.6.

Initially, I was in favor of playing Gardner in center. However, with just 86 defensive games in center to his credit, he hasn't accumulated enough playing time to inspire full confidence in his impressive numbers. Further, people far smarter than I am explained that the difference between Gardner in left and Granderson in left was virtually infinitesimal.

In light of that, and knowing that it's no sure thing that Brett Gardner spends the entirety of 2010 as a starter, it's probably best to leave Granderson in center. It should keep him more comfortable as he settles into life as a Yankee and it saves him from having to switch positions again should the club choose to add another left fielder later this year (or in 2o11 since so many can't seem to stop talking about acquiring Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford next year even though not a single pitch has been thrown this year).

Going outside the box for a second here though, is the Yankees' outfield defense best off with Gardner in left? Last month, TYU took a closer look at the defensively maligned Nick Swisher, finding that he actually grades out above average from a range point of view, but his overall UZR is hindered by his poor arm rating. Gardner meanwhile, not only covers a lot of ground, but as we examined last year, he also has a plus arm thanks to his accuracy.

With that in mind, might the Yankees be better served to play Swisher in left where his poor arm won't be as much of a detriment and Gardner in right where his arm could be a greater asset?

Probably not. Gardner's defensive is still plagued by small sample size, particularly when it comes to his arm. Range is far more important than arm when it comes to outfield defense. Left field in the new Stadium isn't as expansive as it was in past incarnations, but it's still big for a corner field. Intuitively at least, the Yankees are probably better off with Gardner in left and Swisher in right, even if the numbers might suggest otherwise right now.

Canadians And Crowes

Good morning Fackers.

Friday at long last. Good Friday. And the final baseball-less Friday until the fall. That's a very good thing.

For those of you who are off today: you're lucky. For those of us who aren't: we're almost there.

We'll be back with more in a bit, including our final AL East preview, courtesy of some drunken Canadians. That ought to help the day go by a bit quicker.

Speaking of Canada, here's a performance from London, Ontario from last September. I suppose the song title is appropriate for today, or inappropriate for today, depending upon your point of view.

And speaking of both Drunk Jays Fans and the Black Crowes, here's DJF's outstanding picture of Jays' pitcher Brian Tallet looking exactly like former Crowes guitarist Marc Ford circa 2005.