Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thirsty Thursday

Honestly, I've been enjoying these Thursday off nights as of late. When the Yanks don't play, it means that I don't have to stay up late to write a recap of the game and instead can get a head start on content for the morning. Or not and just get drunk. Which is probably what I am going to do tonight since I have secured about a dozen different kinds of Oktoberfests, Autumn and Pumpkin ales. Possible review in the morning, but no promises.

In any event, this Thursday doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Had the Twins won last night, there might have been an intriguing baseball game to watch. But they didn't. (Damn you, Carl Pavano!) It would be nice if there was an entertaining college football game on TV, but Colorado vs. West Virginia most certainly isn't. It would be nice if I was a hockey fan, since the season begins tonight with a doubleheader on Versus, but I'm not. If I lived in Brooklyn I might go to the Joe Posnanski book signing at JLA Studios, but I don't.

A few more items from the "not so much" department:

OMG, Kate Hudson is pregnant! Except if she isn't. Her publicist denies said rumors but that doesn't stop the Post from reporting those two things in the same headline.

OMG, Joe Mauer is stealing signs! The Twins say he wasn't, but they obviously aren't going to cop to being nabbed by some couch vigilante. What I found enjoyable were some of the things the conspiracy theorist who uploaded the video to YouTube was trying to infer (1:54):
Very ironic statement by Bert about trusting your catcher... talking about Mauer?"
Yes, Bert Blyleven is dropping hints about sign stealing so cryptic that only you can pick up! Makes for a hell of a broadcast if you're listening from the Grassy Knoll. Rolemodel2008 also talks from the omnisicent viewpoint, dropping gems such as (3:30):
Verlander is pissed off and pretty much everyone IN the game knows what's happening...
and (4:00)...
You can tell the Twins know this happened... Cuddyer knows about it... Leyland knows about it...
I mean, do they really? You can tell by looking at the screen?

The guy seems to be going a bit overboard with his "insight", yet this has been addressed by everyone from Deadspin to the Bats blog on the New York Times' website. Did anyone bother to look at the last time Mauer was on second base? It's happened a lot of times this year, you know. Am I the only one with the package?

The clip is interesting, but I think the allegations merit further investigation, which no one (to my knowledge) has bothered to do. Welcome to the internet, where we just link and comment.

/dismounts soapbox

Okay, some other links...

More alleged cheating, but these accusations come without much evidence.

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who has the clutchiest bullpen, of them all?

Attendance is down at Yankee Stadium this year, but by how much?

The MLB Postseason announcing pairs have been, well, announced. Courtesy of, um, Awful Announcing.

And we're probably the last Yankee blog to link to this, but here is Tom Verducci's piece on Mariano Rivera from the upcoming Sports Illustrated.

Good night and good luck. I'm out.

FanGraphs Salary Values

When trying to quantify a player's contributions to their team, sometimes Matt and I link to FanGraphs because in addition to Runs Above Replacement and Wins Above Replacement, they also translate that player's value into salary dollars. According to their calculations, here are the 15 most notable Yankees and their respective values:
Seems pretty high, doesn't it? That's not even all of them. There are part-time contributors like Chien Ming Wang (yes, he actually had positive value) and Hinske and Hairston and Bruney and Cervelli and Pena that add to that number incrementally as well.

The Yankees' Opening Day payroll was $201.5M, which is roughly what the top 10 most valuable guys on the team add up to (Damon and above on that list). Are the Yanks actually getting that much more than their money's worth?

Well, that depends on your view point.

As David Pinto of Baseball Musings points out, FanGraphs calculates player value based the value of marginal wins, and thereby attempts to valuate all players as if they were free agents. So, when you add up the value of all the batters and pitchers on FG, it comes out to $4.6B, whereas the total payroll of the MLB is roughly $2.7B.

With the obvious disclaimer that the folks behind FanGraphs are much smarter than I am, I would like to respectfully disagree with this methodology.

They use a system that corrects for the artificial forces depressing the salaries of players who are not available to the free market, which makes sense in it's own right. But we are all familiar with these artificial constraints and understand that is the reason why guys like Tim Lincecum are paid a fraction of what they are actually worth.

Instead of creating a system where the value of players is always going to far exceed the payroll, why not base it in reality? When I look at that dollar figure on FanGraphs, I want to know how much a player was actually worth in relation to what other players throughout the MLB are getting paid. I want to be able to tell who is getting their fair share or the pie. Part of that is the fact that guys like Phil Hughes are able to contribute at far beyond their pay grade but someone like CC Sabathia is unlikely to be worth the checks he's cashing, even during a very productive season.

I want to look at salary on a scale that is familiar to me, not one that is based on a contrived scenario in which everyone is a free agent and would make far more than they really do or even would make under those circumstances. It's not like the owners would suddenly shell out an extra $2.1B dollars if everyone hit the market over the next offseason.

Here is that list above, based on the MLB's actual payroll:
  • Derek Jeter -$19.5M
  • CC Sabathia - $16.3M
  • Mark Teixeria - $14.2
  • Robinson Cano - $11.3M
  • A-Rod - $11.2M
  • Jorge Posada - $10.6M
  • Nick Swisher - $10M
  • Andy Pettitte - $9.4
  • A.J. Burnett - $ 8.3
  • Johnny Damon - $7.1M
  • Hideki Matsui - $6.5M
  • Phil Hughes - $6M
  • Mariano Rivera - $5.2M
  • Brett Gardner - $4.9M
  • Joba Chamberlain $4.2M
  • Melky Cabrera $3.9M
  • Alfredo Aceves $3.5M
  • Phil Coke - $59K

  • Total: $152.2M
Seems like a better approximation of their values. At least to me it does.

The Other Type Of Football

In the early days of the YES Network, as the network searched for programming to fill airtime, YES reached an agreement with English soccer club Manchester United, where YES would re-air recent Man U games on "Manchester Mondays", much as they currently do with Notre Dame football. Thanks to their free spending ways and successful history, Manchester United and the Yankees are often compared to each other. When Bill Simmons undertook a search for an English Premier League team to support three years ago, he immediately ruled out Manchester United based on the parallels to the Yankees.

I never played soccer, but I've had a passing interesting in the sport since the United States' strong showing in the 1994 World Cup. While I'll watch international competitions, I never really took an interest in club play.

Lately however, I've started paying some attention to the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League. Having the Fox Soccer Channel has helped, as have the early morning Saturday games airing on ESPN prior to College Gameday.

In attempt to nurture to my interest, I've been trying to do a little reading on the sport. This morning, I came across an interesting piece on Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs. At 35 years old the career-long Red Devil is climbing or atop all sorts of Man U all-time leader boards. After it was assumed he was on the downslope of his career, he's enjoying a late career renaissance, highlighted by being named Player of the Year for the first time following last season. In reading the article, I couldn't help but notice several parallels to a resurgent 35 year-old career-long Yankee.

It's yet another Thursday off day. It's slow around here. Give it a read and I promise not to mention soccer again any time soon.

Thanks, But That Would Be A Complete Waste Of A Roster Spot...

Good morning, Fackers. Last night, a suddenly contrite and shockingly self-actualized Joba Chamberlain told reporters that he would "fold towels" if that's what it took to win with the Yankees during the postseason.

Aside from the towel quote that Sam Borden transcribed in his post, here is another exchange that caught my ear from the audio he provided.
Joba: You know, I didn't have fastball command at all. It could have been a lot worse than it was but it was just lack of fastball command from the get-go... Mechanics-wise, I wasn't great. My delivery wasn't great and the delivery affects your command in every aspect.
Kim Jones: You were so good your last time out. How do you explain the inconsistency?
Joba: If I had an explanation, I could probably fix, you know, quicker than things go. That's part of this game and that's why people go in and do bullpen work and look at watch video and figure out what you can do better.
So he did have a bad outing because the players on the other team were "great hitters" or "a couple pitches" that went wrong as he claimed in the past.

Perhaps this is only because the Royals are astoundingly bad at hitting, but more likely it's that someone with the Yankees organization finally explained to Mr. Chamberlain how the media works. They aren't your parents trying to get you to admit your shortcomings as a way to make you take responsibility for them. Reporters need to pair your performance with a reaction so they can write a story about it that conveys what happened to the fans and get the fuck out of there. That process doesn't work when you give up 7 runs and say everything is fine and dandy.

It turns out that Joba wasn't just a delusional headcase, unable to acknowledge his mistakes. He was a kid from Nebraska being forced to come to terms with his failures in front of cameras and reporters with microphones and was getting a little defensive.

Joba mostly dodged questions about about his place on the postseason roster but made clear with his offer to do the work of a clubhouse attendant that he's not going to pout about being used out of the bullpen. I personally think that he is still enough of an asset to warrant occupying a spot on the postseason roster. I'd prefer a hypothetical ALCS Game 4 start to be made by Chad Gaudin and backed by Alfredo Aceves but Joba is still a better option to pitch an inning or two out of the bullpen than Brian Bruney. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but Joba seems to find his stroke when the pressure builds; Bruney just walks a lot of guys.

Since today is an off day, it's conceivable that Girardi uses Chamberlain sometime during the last two games of the Tampa Bay series to get him an inning or two out of the 'pen if indeed they plan on bringing him along for the ALDS. It would give him 3 or 4 days of rest which should be enough to free him up for a limited number of pitches.

I'm a lot less worried about Chamberlain's role in the postseason than I was a week or two ago, though. He's going to be one the the least important players not named Eric Hinske on the postseason roster if he is even ultimately included on it. The Yanks have won 102 games this year in spite of Joba, not because of him.

Game 159 Cliffs Notes

The game last night was by no means a classic work. However, just like like many pieces of supposedly great literature some have tried to force you to endure, this one is probably best skimmed over.

Game Summary:
  • Despite protesting his displeasure for limited outings in the past, Joba Chamberlain, shortens his own start by throwing 91 pitches through 3 2/3 innings. He limited the damage against him however, somehow arranging 7 hits and 4 walks (the same number of baserunners as outs recorded) and allows three runs. Such a complex character.

  • Leading of the first inning, Derek Jeter ripped a home run off of Royals starter Robinson Tejeda bringing his line when leading off the game to .382/.416/.540. The way he takes advantage of a pitcher trying to settle in has been so brilliant and makes you wonder why he hasn't been leading off his entire career.

  • With the Yankees trailing 3-1 and no one out in the fifth inning, Nick Swisher laced a two run blast to right field, tying things up. Tejeda made a spectacular play to steal a bunt base hit from Melky Cabrera in the next at bat, but Jeter and Damon reached based in succession giving the appearance that the Yanks were poised to rally. 'Twas not to be however, as Mark Teixeira grounded into an inning ending double play.

  • Shortly there after Joe Girardi began the reliever and scrub parade, trotting out 5 more pitchers and 7 non-starting position players. He used Damaso Marte for TWO whole at bats, recording a strike out and allowing a walk. Girardi yanked him in favor of Sergio Mitre who, to the surprise of absolutely no one, allowed the runner he inherited to score, giving Marte the loss.

  • He didn't replace Nick Swisher soon enough though, as Royals catcher John Buck smacked a go-ahead triple (off of Mitre) which was catchable, but was fielded by Swisher as if he was a second grader with his shoe laces untied.

  • Mariano pitched a scoreless top of the ninth and the Yanks staged a late rally, putting the winning run on first base, but fell short.

  • Final score: 4-3

  • The End.