Sunday, April 22, 2007

Just to get it up top...

I'm currently writing for Pending Pinstripes at the Most Valuable Network. I looked back and saw that nearly 300 people per day were still checking this site.

The new address is

Monday, March 12, 2007

Yankee Blogger Fantasy League

I'm participating in a fantasy league set up by Patrick from Yanksblog. Mike from River Ave Blues reviewed his team here. I drafted the following team:

C Kenji Johjima
1b Mark Teixeira
2b Chone Figgins
SS Julio Lugo
3b Bill Hall
OF Lance Berkman
OF Jermaine Dye - accidently picked
OF Corey Patterson
Util Derrek Lee

SP Johan Santana
SP Jeremy Bonderman
RP J.J. Putz
RP Eric Gagne
P Brett Myers
P Curt Schilling
P Rich Hill
BN Javy Vazquez
BN Mark Prior
BN Josh Beckett
BN Tim Hudson
BN Ian Snell

I love my team. I really think that I have a big edge in this league with the guys that I drafted. I have three bona fide first round sluggers in Berkman, Lee, Teixeira, and Jermaine Dye should give me at least 30/100/100. I've got two huge SB threats in Figgins and Patterson, plus Lugo. My batting average won't be pretty, but it shouldn't kill me too much in a head to head league.

My pitching is beautiful. This is a standard 5x5 league, so I was giddy to pick up Santana with my 4th overall pick. I think that Santana is top-2 material. Bonderman is a big breakout candidate, and he was still damn good last season. Putz is my primary closer, and I'm betting on a Gagne comeback season. I love the Ks out of Schilling, Myers, and Hill, and their ERA/WHIPs should be good as a result.

Overall, I think my team is going to be a powerhouse. I may be the new kid on the blogging block, but this championship shall be mine!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

It's Official

I am officially writing for MVN at Pending Pinstripes as of tonight. I will still update this blog occassionally (writing about the MLB Yankees), but not as frequently. Besides the change in address, don't expect a whole lot of change. Thanks for sticking with me this far, and I am looking forward to this next step!


John Sickels on Phil Hughes

I'm a fan of John Sickels, though I personally think that he really stretches to fill his blog with new material every day. There is a lot of fluff in between the good stuff. Sickels is a genuine prospect expert in the stat-head mold, and his opinion is golden. One of those fluff pieces that he likes to project his opinion on he calls his "Crystal Ball". He'll take a prospect or young player and try to guess what he thinks the player's career will look like.

The Crystal Balls are incredibly arbitrary and ultimately meaningless as a whole. Sickels projects things like trades and injuries. The important information that can he gained from Sickels in this case is about a player's peak. How good does Sickels think this player will be?

Sickels recently took a look at Phil Hughes. He predicted Hughes to go down with Tommy John at age 26, ruining the better part of his upper peak. This is a meaningless besides that Sickels expects any young pitcher to have injury problems. What does Sickels expect out of Hughes?

First off, he's going to have a transition period to the majors. He'll pitch a little over 200 innings of 4.20 ERA ball his first two seasons. Starting his third season (age 23) Hughes will put together three bonafide ace seasons, where he should win a Cy Young or two. Sickels has him throwing 230 innings of 3.00-3.15 ERA ball. He sees him retaining his excellent control in the majors (2.20 BB/9 during this time). He sees him striking out about 7.5-8.0 per 9. After the Tommy John surgery, Hughes has a few ace-like seasons, but for the most part becomes an innings eater. He finishes with a David Cone type career.

I disagree with Sickels on a few things here. First off, he's not going to the minors in 2008. He may very well post an ERA in the low 4s, and the Yankees very well may put an innings limit on him, but he's not making only 25 starts. Second, I don't think that Hughes is a Tommy John risk at his peak. He has no mechanical red flags, no max-effort red flags, and no workload red flags at this point. He is as good of a bet to stay healthy as any top-flight prospect. Third, I don't see Hughes as maxing out at 8.00 K/9. Hughes doesn't strike a ton out by accident in the minors. I see him with the occassional 8.50-9.00 K/9 season, which will result in one or two sub-3.00 ERA seasons.

I do agree with Sickels that Hughes will become a major innings eater due to control. I love how Sickels sees him maintaining a league-low HR rate of 15-20 in a 230 innings season. Bottom line, Sickels thinks that Hughes is the real deal, and he very clearly is not a Yankee fan.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

In Transition

Yeah, it's been a slow week. Spring training has started and we're all getting excited for baseball again. I'm still in the process of transitioning over to Pending Pinstripes, but the webmaster at MVN is being really slow about it. I have a few things prepared, but I'm saving some minor league analysis for the new site.

On a plus note, there is a cool little blog tracking site out there called They track and rank blogs by "influence" - or the number of incoming links to the blog. Somehow the stars have aligned to make me the #4 Yankee Blog on the internet today (Though the omission of Peter Abraham's blog is a crime). I'm still far behind the "big three" of RLYW, Bronx Banter, and Yanksblog, (and WasWatching is usually up there) and will remain so for some time.

Bragging rights? Yeah, that's pretty much all this means. The numbers fluctuate from day to day. But #4 baby... #4.

For now, it's simply a matter of waiting for MVN. My apologies. I'll be posting a lot on spring training this week.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prospect Profile: Eduardo Nunez

(I'm testing out a new profile format, so tell me what you think. I'm thinking about redoing some of my earlier profiles, which frankly suck, in this format.)

Age: 19 (20 in June)
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 170 lbs
Drafted: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2004 at age 16.
Position: Shortstop
Throws: Right
Bats: Switch

Offense: Nunez opened a lot of eyes by hitting .313/.365/.427 for Staten Island in 2005 at the age of 18. Staten Island is a really funky place to hit. Based on BBTF's Minor League Park Factors, the park does not make it harder to hit a double, home run, or single, but has a .87 park factor - among the lowest in the minors, and roughly equal to PETCO's park factor in 2006. The weather and sun conditions in Staten Island make it a lot easier for pitchers to strike hitters out. For this reason, Nunez's line was pretty amazing. PECOTA jumped on him, and Nunez shot up everyone's depth charts. The Yankees sent him straight to Tampa, where Nunez categorically flopped. He hit .184/.223/.340, showing power but not much else. He was striking out like he did not in Staten Island (28 in 37 games vs 43 in 73). He didn't do much else when he was sent down to Charleston, hitting .227/.278/.294. Nunez has good offensive potential, but 2006 may have proven that 2005 was a just luck.

Defense: Nunez is a shortstop, with plenty of arm strength and range, but is still learning how to use his skills. As is typical with shortstops his age, Nunez needs to work on footwork and consistency. He has been struggling defensively, but most people believe that he will eventually become a very good defender at the position. The Yankees will not attempt to move Nunez from shortstop any time soon. They have a wealth of players at 2nd base and centerfield, and can afford to be patient with the very young Nunez.

Health: Nunez stayed healthy in 2006, playing 127 games. His struggles were not caused by injury.

Comparison: I think that Nunez has the potential to become a Felipe Lopez type hitter.

My Take: Nunez was rushed to Tampa in 2006, there is no question. His placement there was less of an endorsement of his advanced style and more of a neccessity brought on by first round pick C.J. Henry's level of rawness. The Yankees did not want to slow down Henry down by alternating the two at Charleston, or sending Henry to a short season league. So they gambled on Nunez (and Battle, and Vechionacci) and got hosed. He was way too young for his league - a league and a ballpark which traditionally murder hitters. He may have gotten a little unlucky (.197 BABIP), but there were few bright spots in his performance except for a .268/.318/.439 line with runners in scoring position. There might be some future brightness signified by his .340 slugging average despite hitting just .184. In the Florida State League, that is some serious power (5 2b, 3 3b, 4 HR in 37 games, 21/13/17 over 155 games), but the lack of plate discipline is very concerning. Nunez is going to have to learn to walk to go with his good strikeout rate (career 119 K in 200 games). I didn't rank Nunez top-30 because I am not sold that his batting average driven 2005 is the real Nunez. He didn't hit in the DSL in 2004, and only showed faint glimmers of hitting ability in 2006.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What is our ideal lineup?

Joe Torre is going to be given a wealth of hitters to score him runs. If things break his way, he could have the best lineup in baseball history. That does not mean he is without his challenges. Torre has just two regular right handed batters (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez) and one switch hitter (Jorge Posada). Beyond that, the Yankees have all left handed hitters.

Some of those left handers handle southpaws better than others. Bobby Abreu loses half his production. Robby Cano goes from a .363/.378/.581 hitter to a .287/.328/.372 hitter. Hideki Matsui loses about 50 points of OPS. Jason Giambi becomes a bench player (.213/.356/.472) against them.

Of course, there is good news. Johnny Damon pretty much hits lefties the same as righties. Derek Jeter (.339/.405/.533) and Alex Rodriguez (.301/.423/.600) kill them. Jorge Posada loses only a bit of production vs lefties.

The Yankees also have Melky Cabrera, for a young player, hit lefties pretty well (.286/.359/.365 vs .278/.361/.405 against righties) , which is a sign that he just might kill lefties in the future. Rule V pick Josh Phelps hit .288/.343/.551 against lefties.

This gives the Yankees some room to work. I don't see Joe Torre doing any real crazy lineup manuevering. It just isn't his thing. So I am going to post what I think is the optimal - and likely - "standard" lineup. After that I'm going to suggest one against lefties.

"Standard" Lineup

  1. Damon - He's leading off, even if he's be better served later in the lineup.
  2. Jeter - Maybe he realy is fit for the #2 spot? Don't mess with what's working
  3. Abreu - Right between the two big right handed hitters. Abreu will post a .410+ OBP, setting up runners for the big sluggers.
  4. Rodriguez - Arod came in to camp this year leaner, and I expect him to be meaner. His performance will look more like 2005 than 2006. With the L/R splits, he has to hit 4th.
  5. Giambi - Hopefully he takes to DH well.
  6. Matsui - His past reputation, and ability to hit LHP a little better put him above Cano.
  7. Posada - Need that switch hitter.
  8. Cano - .343 hitter batting 8th. Damn straight.
  9. Minky - I can't spell his real name.
  10. Bench - Cabrera, Phelps, Cairo
In a perfect world, I'd bat Cano 6th, but he won't. He won't get as many RBI opportunities and I would like him to, but the pressure will at least be off him.

Doug Mientkiewicz (had to copy and past his name) is an interesting figure. I have Josh Phelps making the roster over Andy Phillips. This means that Phelps and Giambi are our only alternatives to Mientkiewicz. Doug hits lefties and righties equally well - or not so well. He'll put up a reliable .350 OBP/410 Slg against them. Sucks for a 1st baseman, but his defense is the reason he is there. Against righties and when Wang is on the mound, he has to be in the lineup.

So, my lineup against lefties, when Wang is not on the mound:

  1. Damon
  2. Jeter
  3. Abreu - DH
  4. Rodriguez
  5. Matsui
  6. Phelps - 1b
  7. Posada
  8. Cano - Until he learns to hit lefties better (which usually takes until a player is 25-26), he has to sit back in the lineup
  9. Cabrera
  10. Bench: Giambi, Minky, Cairo

Yeah, Phelps moves up. I'm not totally excited about him at 1st, but it'll be a neccessity. If Wang (or if we really think it's neccessary, Pettitte or Pavano) is on the mound, personally I would sit Abreu and let Phelps DH.

When Posada sits, these lineups look significantly worse. What could the Yankees do to improve their overall situation? They could definately use a right hander who can play 1st base reasonably well (Cody Ehlers, please hurry!). Luckily, the only really dangerous starters in the AL East are Erik Bedard and Scott Kazmir. The Red Sox are all right handed, and the Blue Jays have just Chacin. The O's have Loewen, who killed the Yankees last year, but he was playing way over his head. I don't really consider Cassy Fossum much of a pitcher, period. So the Yankees lucked out.

Of course, specialized bullpens could hurt us. Joe Torre will need to bite the bullet and pinch hit for some of our better players late in games. Josh Phelps is going to need to adapt to this role.

One final note: if Andy Phillips makes the roster instead of Phelps, we get hurt a lot. He is a career .500 OPS against lefties. Sure, he can play 1st, but we need the potent bat of Phelps.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Fantasy League Draft

Yep, we've drafted. This was a huge league, with 15 teams, and we somehow got our draft done in under 2 hours. Good job guys!

I drafted a pretty risky team, but with a lot of upside.

1. Albert Pujols - First overall pick, gives me a lot of room to take risks in the 2-4 rounds.

2. Hanley Ramirez - Since I was able to get Pujols, I was able to take a decent risk with my late 2nd round pick. Ramirez is going to steal me a lot of bases, but the rest of his performance is up in the air. He could give me 20 home runs, 50 steals, 120 runs, and a .300 average, or he could give me a .270 average, 90 runs, 10 home runs, and 50 steals. It's a risk worth taking I think. Plus, he had a killer second half, solving his strikeout problems. Premium position too.

3. Bobby Abreu - Since my strategy usually revolves around a lot of risk, I needed a solid all around hitter to go with Pujols. In such a deep league, outfielders are going to be at a major premium, so he helps me there. With any luck, I'll get .290/100/20/100/30 out of him.

4. Felix Hernandez - A risky pick, but I love Felix. He's a 2.50+ GB/FB guy, who could strike out over a batter per inning. That's Kevin Brown type stuff. Seattle's ballpark will help him too. He's a breakout pick, but I think pretty safe to do so. Gives me 5 category support.

5. Rickie Weeks - My first real gamble. Weeks was killed by injuries last season, but still managed to hit .279. I'm betting that his .320/.435/.655 line at AAA at age 22 was not an abberation. Weeks hasn't had injury concerns in the past, and is ready for a breakout. He'll also lead off in front of a decent little Brewers lineup. He could give him .290/100/20/60/40. He's a risk, but I think he will work out for me big. 2b is really thin this year too.

6. Trevor Hoffman - I needed a closer, and the Padres use Hoffman in a way that is perfect for fantasy baseball. 40 saves are mine! I'm crossing my fingers that he doesn't break down, because he's my only real closer.

7. Aaron Harang - People didn't realize it, but Harang led the NL in strikeouts. If the Reds ever learn to play defense, he'll be one of the better fantasy picks in the NL. He is durable too.

8. Raul Ibanez - Kind of a risky pick. I'm pretty sure that Ibanez, batting 4th for the Mariners, will give me at least .290/80/25/90, but he could end up giving me 2nd round numbers.

9. Mike Piazza - Kind of a value pick. He got killed by Petco last year - he was a monster away from there. Combine that with the designated hitter, and we'll see Piazza put up some nice numbers for a catcher.

10. Adrian Beltre - With Alex Gordon snatched away from me, I had to find a 3rd baseman. Beltre is a good as a bet as any left at the time, and has a pretty high ceiling. His 2nd half was awesome last year, and he may have a chip on his shoulder with that big contract. Not happy about him batting 2nd though. Hopefully he'll be moved to 3rd once Guillen falters.

11. Jonathon Papelbon - Closer or Starter, Papelbon should be pretty good. I'm crossing my fingers (fantasy wise, not as a Yankee fan) that he'll be somewhat healthy. It still hurts to draft a Sox player though.

12. Frank Thomas - I didn't expect Thomas to be around this long. Hey, I'll take my 40 HR and 120 RBIs if Thomas is healthy. Sure, it's a big risk, but could pay off. Once he found his stroke last year, he raked. He won't have 2 years of rust to shake off in 2007. Toronto should give him some RBI opportunies and protection that he didn't get in Oakland.

13. Freddy Garcia - With so many risky starting picks, I needed a good fall back, reliable option. Garcia just doesn't get injured, and is moving to the National League. His ERA should fall below 4.00. He won't strike a ton out, but the Phillies will help him win some games.

14. Jeremey Hermida - There weren't a whole lot of good OF remaining, and I may need some stolen bases. Hermida is a reasonable bet to be healthy and break out in 2007. A risk, but I can always find some 3rd OF on the Pirates or somewhere that breaks out.

15. Bob Howry - Solid ratios out of a RP, and Howry might take over the Cub's closer job in 2007. I'm not entirely happy with the pick, but maybe it'll work out.

16. Jeremy Sowers - One of the game's top young pitchers, but often overlooked. Cleveland is going to support him on offense and defense a lot, and Sowers has a head start with 13 MLB starts under his belt. His WHIP will be solid, and his milb numbers are crazy.

17. Justin Duchscherer - Another Bob Howry type. If Street goes down or is ineffective, Justin will get saves. He'll provide me solid all around relief work.

18. Joe Saunders - Kind of a bad pick, but I'm a Saunders fan. I think he will be a solid MLB starter. This is kind of a "pick of personal priviledge"

19. Jason Jennings - Between moving away from Coors and the great Astros defense, I'm hoping that Jennings can repeat last year's success. He's another solid starter who I can slip in and out daily.

20. Boof Bonser - Can you believe that this guy was traded with Liriano and Nathan or A.J.? I can't. If he breaks out, I'll have a really solid pitcher. Lots of strikeouts too.

21. Anthony Reyes - Another young pitcher who I am hoping will break out. If two of the four guys I picked work out, I'm set. Reyes is all but promised a spot in St. Louis this year, and will cash in on his potential.

22. Roberto Hernandez - Hoping that he gets the saves for Cleveland, because I'm light on them.

The key to fantasy baseball is correctly predicting future success. I think I've taken a lot of risk which will correctly predict future success. Matt Holliday and Brandon Webb served me well last year.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How Good is Bobby Abreu?

Back in 2004, Bobby Abreu was one of the major's best players. He did everything. He hit .301/.428/.544, with 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases, only being caught 5 times. In terms of a power/speed/patience combination, Abreu was the major's best.

When the Yankees traded for him last season, Abreu wasn't the same player he was in 2004. Abreu was still a great hitter, but had seen much of his power dissolve despite the favorable ballpark that he played in. He won the Home Run Derby in 2005, he hit just 24 home runs that year, and only 15 in 2006. His on base skills were retained, but Abreu clearly had left his prime.

The Phillies were eager to get rid of the contract, and the Yankees needed a right fielder. He was hitting just .277/.427/.434 on the season with only 8 home runs in 98 games. He was one of the Yankee's best hitters after the trade, hitting .330/.419/.507 with 7 HR in 58 games.

Was it Yankee Stadium? Abreu was moving from Citizens Bank park (where he hit just .267/.419/.426), so I can't see Yankee Stadium (where he hit .299/.349/.474) making a huge difference. In reality, Abreu was probably profiting from the unfamiliarity of American League pitchers. He might have been reinvigorated by a new team, but I'm more inclined for the former explanation. It should be noted that outside of Citizens Bank park, Abreu had to play a lot of games in Florida, Washington, and Shea, all major pitchers parks.

Abreu has a lot of value for a lot of reasons. First off, he should age well. Power and patience are traditionally the last skills to decline, and athletic players age better than others. Abreu still has his speed, and hasn't slowed in taking walks with age. Not to mention that I don't think he has ever been on the DL. We can probably expect his HR power to return to about 20, although we should remember that he averaged less than 25 per year during his career. His ability to get on base is his primary skill, and he's as good as anyone in that regard. His career OBP is .412, and he hasn't ever been below .393 for a full season.

He's sure make a good #1/2 hitter, but Abreu will likely bat 3rd. This isn't a terrible idea, because Giambi and Alex Rodriguez will have a lot of runners to hit in. The protection both in front and behind him should help Abreu hit a little more comfortably.

What do the projection systems say?

CHONE: .279/.406/.439, 17 HR
ZiPS: .287/.414/.466, 20 HR
Marcel: .289/.417/.480, 19 HR
PECOTA: Averaged in
Average: .282/.407/.459, 17 HR

Again, hat tip to RLYW for the technique.

I think that CHONE and PECOTA are too pessimistic. Abreu isn't going to slug .450 for a full season. I really like that ZiPS line. All the systems seem to agree that Abreu will suffer some inevitable decline in batting average, due to age. They seem to believe that his power decline in 2006 will not become the norm, and they seem to agree that he's a .400 OBP guy still. Beyond that, we're just talking about small differences.

It should also be noted that Abreu is fighting for another contract. He has an option for 2008, which the Yankees would probably want to pick up (unless Melky breaks out in a big way, or Abreu flops), but he may find himself a free agent. I don't like to underestimate what a contract year can do to the player.

I am going to take that Marcel line and cross my fingers. I predict .289/.417/.480.

I've decided that I will continue to both maintain this blog (where I will write about the MLB Yankees and my general baseball thoughts) while I write for Pending Pinstripes. Stay tuned! I plan on writing my lineup analysis tonight, and we have a fantasy draft at 8:30!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Not Gone Yet! How Good is Cano?

It'll be a few more days before I transfer over to Pending Pinstripes at MVN, at which time I will no longer be able to write about the MLB Yankees to any great length, so I'd like to take a look at Robinson Cano. Depending on how much time I spend, I am considering keeping a second blog going for my Major League opinions (or I'll just stick to the message boards).

I was complaining about Cano's plate discipline at the begining of last season. He just wasn't selecting pitches to drive. He would hit a lot of singles off balls way outside, and a few nasty breaking pitches, but he didn't really generate any power. Something changed early-June, and I think Don Mattingly deserves a lot of credit. Cano began laying off those first pitch balls in the dirt, and stopped getting himself in to bad counts. He hit .398 that month, but still wasn't driving the ball for lots and lots of extra base hits. I went away to the woods (I ain't around during the summer) expecting it to be an abberation.

Then Cano gets injured. He must have spent some time working with Mattingly on something, because all of the sudden he started to rip the ball. He hit 11 home runs and 24 doubles over his final 54 games following his injury. That's equal to a 30+ HR and 70+ doubles over a full season! Cano raked. He slugged .615 after the all star break. There is a strong argument to be made that he was the best player in baseball after he returned.

Do I think that Cano is that good? Hell no. But I do think that, if properly coached, Cano has the potential to become an absolute monster at the plate. I was very skeptical last season, but after watching those final two months, holy crap I was impressed. Kevin Long is a very good hitting coach who probably deserves credit for Cano's success in the minor leagues. Between him and Mattingly, I want to see if they can keep Cano selective at the plate. I don't expect him to start taking walks or anything - it's against his natural style - but I do want to see him take pitches in the dirt.

I think that we need to remember a few very positive things about Cano. First off, he is incredibly young. He turned 24 at the end of last season, and could have 2-3 years of improvement ahead of him. Second, he's done things that precious few young hitters have done. SG at RLYW did an excellent analysis of this, putting Cano on a list with guys like Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Don Mattingly, Vlad Guerrero, Al Kaline, Joe Mauer, Gary Sheffield, George Brett, and Miguel Cabrera. Bad hitters don't hit .340 at age 23.

I would not be at all shocked to see Cano dominate the AL next year. I could see a .330/.360/.550 line out of him without exceeding my reasonable expectations. I could also see 30 home runs out of him without shocking me. At the same time, Cano's "swing away Merril" approach could lead to massive regression and variance in his performance. Some years he may dominate, while some he may bat .290/.320/.430 (which is still better than an average 2b). We'll have to see what Cano does with his bad habits.

What do the projection systems say?

CHONE: .312/.349/.488, 17 HR in 522 AB
Marcel: .321/.364 /.497, 15 HR in 509 AB
PECOTA: Averaged In (using the RLYW technique, thanks SG!)
ZiPs: .315/.343/.493, 18 HR in 568 AB
Average: .313/.350/.485

I am going to deviate from the projection systems here. They all seem to believe that Cano's ability to hit for high average is going to stay, but the power won't be anything too special. Maybe it's my Yankee-blinders, but I think that Mattingly and Long will find a way to keep most of Cano's late-season power surge in 2007. I think that Cano will suffer from an inevitable drop in batting average, but will hit for more extra bases. All of those projection systems assume Cano missing 10-20 games, mostly because he landed on the DL in 2006 and spent April in the minors in 2005. Projected over 155 or so games, those systems almost all predict 20 home runs on the nose. I'm not projecting a huge increase in Cano's power over them.

My prediction? .320/.350/.530, 25 home runs. In the Boston vs Yankee showdown, Cano may provide us with the best competitive edge over our rival.

We might just get one more "How Good is This guy?" post in this weekend. For once, I'm not doing anything important. How does Bobby Abreu sound?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Moving... Again?

I've enjoyed my time here at Pinstripes Potentials. Aparantly, I've been able to fool people in to thinking that I know something about baseball. After many spelling errors, typos, and the occasional scouting report, I have recieved an invitation to take Mike Axisa's spot at Pending Pinstripes on the Most Valuable Network.

It's a bigger gig, and will give me the opportunity to write for an established site. I first began blogging a little less than a year ago, and enjoyed every second of it. I originally started the Fire Joe Torre Blog to think outloud about the New York Yankees. I never really intended to become a "prominent" blogger, as I've heard people call me. I still think that I am overrated.

Besides the change of address, my loyal readers won't notice a whole lot of change. I have some exciting things planned for the next few weeks (If everything works out well, some really exciting things).

Depending upon how long it takes for the MVN webmaster to add me, this will probably be the last post in this website. Thanks for sticking with me!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tampa Yankees Preview and some more

I figure that I should start my pre-season previews of the four Yankee full season leagues with the most certain of the teams, Tampa. The A+ Yankees finished 2nd in their division in 2006, going 41-28. Tampa fans saw a solid team of players, but after Phil Hughes, Marco Vechionacci, Brett Gardner, and Tim Battle were either demoted or promoted, didn't have a lot of players to really get excited about. That will change in 2007.

I am going to be saying this a lot in my previews. The Tampa Yankees have the most exciting pitching staff in the Florida State League. The starting rotation should look something like this (in no particular order):

1. Ian Kennedy
2. Joba Chamberlain
3. Zach Kroenke
4. George Kontos
5. Tim Norton

Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain should both move fast. If everything goes right, they will be ready to be promoted to Tampa by the begining of the summer. By then, Daniel McCutchen should be off his suspension and ready to play again. He will take a spot. Rolando Japa and Erik Abreu both may have an outside chance at Norton's spot.

In the bullpen, we'll see a lot of converted starters. Eric Wordekemper is an underrated right hander who may make a solid middle reliever in the majors. R.J. Swindle, the submariner southpaw, throws a nasty 55 mph curveball and dominated A- ball last season. Nick Peterson will likely make the jump from Staten Island, despite horrendous control problems. The Yankees haven't said much about David Robertson, but his 600,000 dollar bonus might send him straight to A+ despite not making his professional debut in 2006.

The lineup should look something like this:

LF: Jose Tabata
CF: Austin Jackson
RF: Tim Battle*
3b: Marcos Vechionacci
SS: Eduardo Nunez**
2b: Reegie Corona
1st: Juan Miranda
C: Irwil Rojas
DH: Ben Jones

* - The whole outfield could be any combination of the three.
** - Although he flopped at Tampa last year, I can't see the Yankees demoting him

That is one hell of a lineup. Hopefully Tabata, Vechionacci, and Battle will all finally have their break out seasons and hit for some power. Juan Miranda and Ben Jones should both be good for 25 home runs, and the overall defense is as good as it gets. Between the ballpark effects, the Florida State League in general, and that outfield defense, we may have to adjust some pitching ERAs way up.

Tampa is the FSL favorite right now. That is pretty certain. How far they go will be determined by a) How long Kennedy, Chamberlain, and to a lesser extent, Miranda stay at the level and b) If the young guys finally learn to hit for power like they are supposed to.

R.J. Swindle could move very quickly. He's got a lot of experience in high-level independent league play.

Most Interesting Storyline: Will one of George Kontos or Tim Norton turn their short season success in to a top-10 rating next season?

Darkhorse: Eduardo Nunez was a top-8 prospect on a lot of lists this year. He flopped in 2006, but has so much talent on both sides of the ball that he could regain his place. Was I wrong not to list him top-30?

My Personal Favorite Prospect: Ian Kennedy. Way underrated.

The fantasy league drafts on Sunday at 8:30. I sent out emails for 14 spots, including myself. We're still waiting on a few people to register. If you want to be included in the league and did not get my email, post in the comments section below and I'll put you on the waiting list.

Monday, February 19, 2007

How Good is Kei Igawa?

Kei Igawa is our biggest wildcard for the 2007 season. The Yankees invested almost 50 million dollars in him, and expect him to perform. He's no Daisuke Matsuzaka, but what can we expect from Kei Igawa?

This is a lot harder to predict than Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, or Chris Britton. Igawa throws an 89-92 mph fastball, a plus changeup, an above average curvebal and an average sliderl. He has average command, maybe a little better. If he didn't throw with his left hand, no one would give him a second look.

However, the Yankees thought that Igawa was worth a posting fee twice the size of Ichiro Suzuki's prior to the 2001 season. Why were they so confident? Igawa posted some very good looking numbers in Japan. In 1,244 NPB innings, he struck out 1,174 batters and posted a 3.15 ERA. However, that ERA is skewed by two bad years in 2004 and 2005, where he posted ERAs over 3.73 and saw his strikeouts dip. His ERA held under 3.00 for every other year in his career, and Igawa led his league in strikeouts three times. Afte the two poor seasons, he rebounded to post a 2.97 ERA, and 194 strikeouts in 204 innings. He consistently posted K/BB ratios above 3.50.

Let's put these numbers in perspective here. First off, strikeouts are a little harder to come by in Japan. Japanese hitters tend to make contact much more than major league hitters. As a result, they don't hit a lot of extra base hits, and pitchers overall find it easier to prevent runs than in the MLB. If the level of competition in Japan is equal to somewhere between AA and AAA, Igawa's 2006 would be about equal to posting a mid-3s ERA in the International League, while his bad seasons would be about equal to a high-4s ERA.

I don't know what to think about Igawa. Although he looks absolutely badass, there isn't a whole lot very special about him. But he's a lefty, and has four major league average or better pitches with average command and no makeup problems. Coupled with his impressive statistical record, I think that Igawa will overcome his lack of velocity or incredible command and be an above average to average pitcher.

But didn't Hideki Irabu look like that too? Irabu had major control problems, even in Japan. He would walk 30-40% more batters than Igawa currently does. In addition, Irabu wasn't all that bad when he was healthy. He was a valued member of the 1998 squad. Being a lefty doesn't hurt Igawa either. In the end, I think that we have to trust the Yankee front office staff a little bit. They spent 26 million dollars on a player who has never played in American, so I think Cashman has to have some confidence in him. Considering the luxery tax, Igawa's contract could be a real value. Igawa costs the Yankees 10.8 million per season including the 40% tax, equal to a 5 year, 32.4 million dollar contract signed by a normal free agent. Considering that Ted Lilly cost a decent amount more than that, this is a good deal.

I'm not going to bother with the projection systems on this one. Igawa is a wild card in every sense of the word, and regression analysis won't get us far. I predict:

31 starts, 186 innings, 172 strikeouts, 72 walks, 4.34 ERA.

I'm a little more optimistic than most, but in the end I expect to be right.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fantasy League?

Would anyone here be up for a Yahoo! fantasy baseball league? I'd be interested in running an all-PP league. Course, your all going to get destroyed by me, but it'll be an interesting run for 2nd place :)

Let me know in the comments section.

I'm going to be away this weekend, but I want to try and get two articles out of the way before then. I will be looking at Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano. Sorry Steve Jackson fans, he's going to have to wait until Monday. I'll probably have my Kei Igawa thoughts up late tonight (I'll write it during Mythbusters... best show on TV).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Prospect Profile: Ross Ohlendorf

Age: 24
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 235
Drafted: 4th Round in 2004 out of Princeton by the Diamondbacks
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right

Stuff: Ohlendorf has undergone a transformation since he first began pitching. A superb athlete, Ohlendorf only moved to the mound in his early high school years, and quickly started throwing very hard. He was clocked around 92 or so by the time he graduated, and he drew a lot of interested from big-time Texas programs near his home in Austin. However, Ross cared much more about academics, and was able to get in to Princeton on his academic qualifications alone. It turns out that was the ideal choice for his future baseball career, as the Princeton team was more interested in cultivating their players rather than cutthroat winning. Ohlendorf eased his arm in to that of a true power pitcher, pumping his fastball up to 98 mph. He also learned a changeup and improved his curveball. However, his control was lackluster and he often got himself in to high pitch counts. The Diamondbacks dialed down his velocity quite a bit, but the result was a huge boost in control. They also tweaked his delivery for more top-down action. Some people say that he throws a 2-seamer, while some say that he simply slowed down his 4-seam fastball. I can't offer an opinion.

Control: Aluminum bats took their toll on Ohlendorf in college, and he consistently walked more than 3.80 batters per 9 innings. The Diamondbacks made it their prerogative in 2005 to get him to challenge batters and pound the strikezone. He cut his historically bad walk rate nearly in half, and pitched a considerable amount of innings for the first time in his career as a result. In 2006, he got even better, pitching 182 innings and walking just 29 in 28 starts against 129 strikeouts. The declining K rate is a concern, as he struck out 8.25 per 9 in 2005 but just 6.33 per 9 in 2006.

Health: Princeton was the right place for Ohlendorf's developing arm. He didn't have to pitch as much before or during the season as many of his college peers. Ohlendorf is a completely healthy pitcher at age 24, not missing a start since he was drafted in 2004. He has pitched 339 innings over the past two years.

Performance: Ohlendorf was one of the minor's best workhorses in 2006, pitching 182 innings in 28 starts. He posted a 3.29 ERA in a major hitters park. He posted a 1.55 G/F ratio, down from 2.13 in 2005. He solved his hittability problems from 2005, when he allowed 181 in 157 innings, to allow 186 hits in 182.2 innings. As previously mentioned, his strikeout rates declined significantly, which is a major cause for concern. He succeeded because he allowed a very low home run rate (13 in 2006, .64 per 9) and for the most part prevented runners from reaching base (1.47 BB per 9). However, he's going to have to regain some of those strikeouts if he is going to be an effective major league pitcher.

Comparison: I see Ohlendorf as a David Bush type if he make the majors. He can't afford to lose any more of his strikeout rate, or else he'll never get enough major league hitters out to be an effective pitcher. If everything goes well, he has the ability through his control to pitch 220+ innings pretty regularly of 4.30-4.60 ERA baseball.

My Take: I'm mixed on Ohlendorf. The prospect graveyards are filled with players who had great control in AA, but poor strikeout rates. Still, Ohlendorf has a lot of things going for him. He is a healthy speciman with great control. He doesn't have a lot of miles on his arm, but has handled big workloads. I think that he can remain a starter, but needs to move quickly. He doesn't turn 25 until August, but is way down in the Yankee depth charts. If he doesn't succeed at AAA fairly quickly, he is in danger of being passed by a half dozen promising young Yankees. Nardi Contreras and the Yankees have become famous lately for improving the changeup/curveball combination of pitchers, so maybe they can find his strikeout touch again. If I had to rank him in the top-30, I'd probably place him in the middle teens somewhere. At the very least, Ohlendorf is a smart guy with an engineering degree from Princeton, so he has a happy future somewhere out there.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

20 Predictions, Major Leagues

I'm still undecided on a few of my "pessimistic" minor league predictions, so I'm going to move up my major league predictions. I think that a few will surprise you. I have to say that some of these divisions are tough calls. The majors certainly look to be competitive in 2007.

National League West

1. Final Standings - San Diego, Arizona (Wildcard), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Colorado

* - This is a really hard division to predict. Every team but Colorado has improved over the winter. I'm giving it to San Diego because their pitching staff should eat a lot of innings. Maddux and Wells will have ERAs around 4.00, which makes them valued players if they pitch 200 innings or more. This might just be the hideously weak National League's best division.

2. Jake Peavy will rebound to post an ERA under 3.00 and over 200 strikeouts.
3. Barry Bonds will break Hank Aaron's record with 26 HR for the season. He will play again in 2008.

National League Central

4. Final Standings - Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Cardinals, Pirates

* - Another competitive division. I am counting on Ben Sheets cashing in on his great peripherals and posting a healthy, ace-like season. The Brewers have the most well rounded team in the division, with competent pitching (Capuano is underrated, plus Suppan), and good depth (good bench, some minor leaguers like Gallardo ready to step in). The Cubs, thanks to their suddenly elite hitting and the possibility of Mark Prior's return, and the Reds - with a 1-2-3 of Arroyo, Harang, and Bailey - could also make a run at it. The reigning World Series champions are going to be desperate for some pitching - and their thin farm system isn't going to help them there. Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter can't win a division by themselves.

5. Lou Pinella will be ejected seven times.

National League East

6. Final Standings - Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Braves, Nats

* - The Mets are going to feel their lack of pitching hard this season. They still have a fantastic lineup - but they aren't going to get so lucky with the Jose Valentins and Endy Chavezes of the world in 2007. Pedro won't be around to save them, and Tom Glavine wasn't as good last year as Mets fans think. It's going to be a long summer when they realize that John Maine is their best pitcher. Things could change if the Mets decide to trade Lastings Milledge for a good starter sometime in the season, but I doubt it. The Phillies made a good win-now move by trading for Garcia, and Cole Hamels is going to be a good starter. They might be best off if Jon Lieber stays on and eats some innings, but we'll see if that really happens. The Marlins remain a darkhorse, but you could probably expect some regression from their hitters. All three teams should be in play for the Wild Card.

7. The Nationals will be baseball's worst team, losing 105 games.

National League Awards

8. Cy Young - Jake Peavy.
9. MVP - Ryan Howard
10. ROY - Homer Bailey

American League West

11. Final Standings - Angels, Rangers, A's, Mariners

* - Shock of all shocks! Another competitive division. It is clearly the worst of it's kind in the AL. The Angels edge out the Rangers thanks to their version of the Johnny Damon signing, leaving the Rangers without a real centerfielder. Jered Weaver should be one of the better sophmores in the majors, and Howie Kendrick should be pretty good. The A's are a darkhorse if Rich Harden is finally healthy, as that would give them four good or better starters and a reliable bullpen. Still, they fall in the standings thanks to Frank Thomas.

12. Sammy Sosa will make the Rangers as their starting right fielder, but post an OBP under .300. He'll hit a few home runs, but if the Rangers are smart, they'll jettison him by the all star break.

American League Central

13. Final Standings - Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, Kansas City

* - I'm a big Mark Shapiro fan, and he clearly had the major's best offseason. Nixon, Delluci, Blake, and Shoo will combine for high-OBP and modest power at the outfield corners. With Grady Sizemore, you have the best outfield outside of the AL-East. Their pitching will be better than expected, and their bullpen will pick up any slack. Gary Sheffield will help Detroit, and but I think his 35+ home run days are over. Conversely, he'll enjoy the line-drive friendly confines of his new home ballpark. Either Minnesota or Detroit could win the AL Wildcard, as both will be very good teams. I'm counting on slight regressions from The Twins' catcher position (No way that they get that kind of help from their backup catcher this year) and in the bullpen (Yeah, Reyes is not for real). Chicago is going to regret getting rid of Garcia and McCarthy in the short term, but will love the trades in 2008.

14. Alex Gordon will hit the majors with a storm. He'll hit 30 home runs if he plays a full season. Royals fans will have a reason to come to the ballpark.

American League East

15. Final Standings - New York, Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay

* - This division isn't much worse than the AL Central. Every team has improved over last season. Tampa Bay should see it's farm system finally reap real rewards, and Baltimore may actually have a pitching staff (although their hitters leave a lot to be desired). Teams may have lower win totals due to beating each other up. In the end, New York wins out due to it's superior hitting lineup (Although Toronto and Boston have excellent ones), combined with some of the most consistent pitching in the division. New York will suffer injuries, but will replace players better than any of the other teams.

16. Daisuke will pitch to a 3.85 ERA.

17. Daniel Cabrera will finally break out and be Baltimore's best starter.

American League Awards

18. Cy Young - Johan Santana (tough one)
19. MVP - Grady Sizemore (though Alex Rodriguez will be in contention)
20. ROY - Alex Gordon

I'll have a Ross Ohlendorf profile up sometime this weekend. I've been working hard trying to verify the incredibly inconsistent reports on everything he throws.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Mel Stottlemyre and Ron Guidry

Brent asks:

How do you assess Mel Stottlemyre's time as pitching coach as the Yankees?

It has been said that he works well with soft-throwing and breaking-ball pitchers than power powers. In assessment to the type of pitchers the Yankees are seemingly focusing on through the draft and trades (sinkerballs and developing pitchers with great breaking stuff), would he have been the better fit (now and in the future) than Guidry in the same spot?

Evaluating a pitching or hitting coach has to be the hardest job in baseball. We don't see all the decisions that they make - unlike a manager. All we see is the result on the mound. The problem is, the pitching coach can only do so much with what he has. We can't blame Mel for Donovan Osbourne, can we? At the same time, we can't give Leo Mazzone credit for John Smoltz?

It all really comes down to my opinion. My personal opinion? I think he did a bad job with the Yankees. It's often said that "The best players make the worst coaches". Mel was a very good player. If he hadn't retired at age 32, he would probably be in the Hall of Fame. However, he was an unconventional player. He was the 1960s version of Chien-Ming Wang. Stottlemyre was a bonafide innings eater who forced players to pound balls in to the ground, but not strike out.

Who succeeded under Stottlemyer? Pettitte did. Cone did. Wells did. Mussina has. Duque did. Lieber sort of did. Who got worse under Stottlemyer? Clemens, Johnson and Vazquez. I think we can dismiss Brown, Contreras, and Weaver for other reasons.

It seems pretty clear to me: Pitchers whose primary weapon is the ground ball did well under Stottlemyer. Of course, Cone, Wells, Pettitte, and Mussina are all near hall of fame level, so they Mel may have had little to do with it.

I think that Johnson's problems can be attributed a little bit to age. Still, he went from the best pitcher in the National League to a decent little pitcher in the American League under Mel. But hell, he was pretty good in 2005.

Let's look at Clemens and Vazquez. Clemens came to the Yankees in 1999, coming off two of the best seasons of his career. Entering the Yankees, his strikeout rates declined and his performance went with it. He may have won the Cy Young award, but he didn't deserve it. Nor was he his old self until he left the Yankees, and was a top-3 pitcher in baseball again.

Javy Vazquez looked like a great pickup for Cashman before 2004. I was singing his praises. Vazquez was the jewel of the National League in the prime of his career. He was coming off a 241 K season, with great control. He was never much of a ground ball pitcher. He lost a third of his strikeouts with the Yankees, leading to his poor season. Of course, since moving away from Stottlemyer, Vazquez hasn't gotten much better.

The verdict? I think that there is some truth to Stottlemyer's problem with power pitchers, but I don't think that he is to blame for the Yankee pitching demise after 2003. Let's be honest, the Yankee pitching staff from 1997 until 2003 was as good as it gets, and few teams could win 102 games the season after losing Andy Petttite, Roger Clemens, and David Wells. I think a lot of factors - injury, bad luck, defensive decline, coaching, and less talent - resulted in our post-2003 pitching decline.

I like what Guidry has done so far. Mussina was throwing his changeup more. Wang blossomed (in a Stottlemyre style). I can't fault him for Randy Johnson's bad back. Beyond that, he didn't have a whole lot to work with. 2007 will help to define what kind of coach he is. He neither has a large group of hall of fame talent nor does he have a bunch of scrubs. Igawa is going to be a challenge, and so will the potential group coming up from Scranton.

I'm working on the Ohlendorf profile now. It will either be up on Thursday or late this weekend.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Prospect Profile: Alberto Gonzalez

Age: 23 (24 in April)
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 165 lbs
Drafted: Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Diamondbacks in 2002
Position: Shortstop
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Tools: Any discussion of Alberto Gonzalez begins with defense. Alberto Gonzalez has one of the best infield arms in the minor leagues: a certified cannon. I heard one person compare his arm to Cal Ripken's. He doesn't have phenominal range, but he is above average to both sides. Combined, Alberto Gonzalez is one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball. On the other side of the ball, Gonzalez isn't as bad as other defensive wizards of the minors. He has been very good at limiting the strikeout, striking out just once every two and a half games in three minor league seasons. To put that in perspetive, that rate is somewhere in between Melky Cabrera and Robby Cano. He doesn't hit for much power but he's no Joey Gathwright either. He hit 6 home runs in 2006, and has consistently put up .100 ISOs in the minors. Gonzalez isn't particularly fast on the basepaths.

Performance: Alberto hit .290/.356/.392 at AA last year, and .318/.359/.426 in Low A ball in 2005. These numbers interest me. First off, Gonzalez was able to maintain high averages for both years. He puts the ball in play enough with his line drive swing that he may just hit .290 in the bigs. He also seems ready to take 40-50 walks a year, which will make him a useful little player. If he hits .290/.350/.390 in the majors and plays the kind of defensive game that is capable of, Gonzalez would be a viable major league regular. On a team like the Yankees, he'll be a great defensive replacement and utility infielder.

Health: Gonzalez is a perfectly healthy 24 year old.

2007 Outlook: Alberto may just bump Andy Cannizaro from his hard earned AAA starting spot. I feel sorry for Andy, but Gonzalez is better than Cannizaro in all aspects of the game. Cannizaro might be pushed to another position (although he's not much worse than Gonzalez at shortstop) to prepare for a role as a utilityman. Gonzalez is on the 40-man roster and is first in line for a call up if Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, or Miguel Cairo get injured. Gonzalez has been push aggressively through the minors, so he could require some AAA adjustment time,

Comparison: The conventional comparison is David Eckstein, and I agree. Gonzalez looks to hit better than guys like Adam Everett or Alex Gonzalez, by virtue of a higher batting average. Eckstein makes contact, takes the right amount of walks, and will hit the occassional extra base hit.

My take: At first, I wasn't sold on Gonzalez. He looked like the typical Neifi Perez or Alex Gonzalez defensive wizard who hits like a pitcher. Then I took a closer at his batting line and saw that he had a little stick in him. I was impressed about how he skipped A+ ball entirely, and then put up a very similar batting line at AA. This tells me that he knows how to make adjustments and figure out his competition. In addition, I found it interesting how Gonzalez batted better when the pressure was off him to produce. In 2006, he hit .236/.314/.324 batting 2nd, but .333/.390/.425 batting 8th. A lot of that OBP is fueled by the pitcher behind him, but still Gonzalez hit a similar line to his 2005 A- totals. I think that Gonzalez is the reason that the Yankees got Ross Ohlendorf instead of Micah Owings, and Brian Cashman may just have made the right decision. If I reranked the prospects, Gonzalez would probably be in the middle teens.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Some Reader Questions

I'm pretty stretched for time right now, so I'll answer some questions that have been popping up in comments.

b/c asks EJ, are you going to get profiles on the pitchers from the trades. i really want to see Jackson's and Ohlendorf's?

My prior objection to doing so was ignorance about the who the prospects really were. I don't like to rehash other people's analysis because I couldn't come up with anything original alone. I'm starting to become more familiar with the guys, so I'll probably put out profiles for Ross Ohlendorf and Alberto Gonzalez before battery mates report.

Jepedo - DO you know why Joshua Schmidt is still in High A Ball - Tampa? Where do you think He will end this year?

It's a pretty standard path for a reliever to spend a full year in A+ ball after being drafted and sent to short season play. I am glad to see in the Baseball Analysts article that someone mentioned that Schmidt has both above average K rates and top-line ground ball rates.

In case anyone did not know, Jason Schmidt absolutely decimated the short season A ball league in 2005 after being drafted. 33 innings, .27 ERA, 45 Ks, 8 walks, 2.29 GO/AO. He did pretty well in Tampa before the all star break (2.59 ERA, 32 K, 14 BB, Zero HR allowed), but fell apart after the break (5.65 ERA, 36 innings, 34 K, 17 BB, 4 HR allowed). Overall, in the Florida State League, it's a bad year (4.24 ERA). I think that Schmidt still has a lot of potential, but I'm not sold on him until he solves his control problems. He is a sidearmer who throws 89-91 with (as the reader mentioned) a sick little slider.

I think that Schmidt was kept down in Tampa because Tampa needed some bullpen help. They were in a serious playoff hunt and needed the arms. Plus, Trenton had a pretty strong staff. He'll go to a strong Trenton team next season. I would expect him to spend the whole year at Trenton, unless he really dominates. The Scranton bullpen is crowded enough.

Jedepo also asks - Do you think Wang's can learn how to throw new pitch like a 12-6 curveball or knucklecurve from Mussina to the lefties and cutter to the righties?

I doubt that he could learn a curveball. It's really difficult for a pitcher already in the majors to learn a new pitch. Wang already has a slider - which used to be pretty good. He throws it every once in awhile. Reportedly, Wang was working on a cutter toward the end of last season, which you may see a little more in 2007. You do have a point though that Wang needs an out pitch against lefties.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How Good is Phil Hughes?

All right. I've asked the same question of two sophmores, but can my methods handle a rookie?

Phil Hughes
it the top pitching prospect in baseball. No, Dice-Kai is not a pitching prospect, nor should he be ranked ahead of Hughes even if he was one, but that is another story.

Hughes is one of the more enigmatic prospects in recent memory. Twenty-two teams passed on him before the Yankees had a pick in the 2004 draft. The Yankees, knowing what other teams did not, barely let him throw a pitch that year. They taught him a curveball, let him throw one minor league game, and stashed his golden arm away for the winter. Hughes hit A ball with a storm in 2005, dominating hitters for a 1.97 ERA, 9.44 K/9, and 2.10 BB/9. He earned a promotion to Tampa, where he would pitch 17 more innings of 3.06 ERA before being shut down with mild shoulder concerns. That was one year ago. Since then, you all know what happened.

Hughes has a career minor league ERA of 2.13, K/9 of 10.21, BB/9 of 2.05, and a miniature .23 HR/9. He has the minor's best power/command combination, an exceptional curveball, and a developing changeup. On top of it all, he hold it all together with plus "moxy", or whatever you wish to call it.

He has the kind of package that we see in great pitchers. Mark Prior. Jake Peavy. Chris Carptener. Curt Schilling. Roy Halladay. He is on the level of these right handed pitchers. He has the potential to be even better. Hughes is the kind of prospect that cannot be overestimated.

What do the projection systems say? They are pretty conservative:

CHONE: 4.05 ERA, 90 ip, 75 K, 35 BB, 11 HR
ZiPs: 4.06 ERA, 164 ip, 127 K, 58 BB, 15 HR
PECOTA: 3.91 ERA, 130 ip, 108 K, 45 BB, 14 HR
Average: 4.00 ERA, 128 ip, 103 K (7 per 9), 46 BB (3.23 per 9), 13 HR (.91 per 9)

(Marcel does not project minor league players. These systems don't try to predict playing time accurately, so adjust mentally for whatever playing time you predict for Hughes in 2007)

I included the PECOTA projection because it seems to be floating around every site. PECOTA is a projection system from Baseball Prospectus, which any true stat-head needs to have a subscription to. I think that these projections are lowballing Hughes. I think that Hughes' K rate will dip in his major league season to about 7.5 per 9, but his BB rate will stay in the mid-2s.

Hughes is a unique prospect because few others have combined the power, ground ball rates, and control that he owns. Baseball Analysts just did an excellent study on pitchers who have the best combined groundball and K rates in the minors. Hughes was #2. Unlike any of the other top names on the generated list, Phil has plus-plus control. That is why he is truely special.

I think that Hughes will post a lower ERA in 2007 than those projection systems expect. I think that he'll allow more home runs than he ever did in the minors, but his groundball rates will still remain above average. The Yankee defense should be pretty good in 2007 (more on that tomorrow), so Hughes should gain a boost there.

My prediction: 3.67 ERA, 116 innings, 95 K, 35 BB, 11 HR.