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Ol' Man Winter am Still Here
2008-02-22 05:55
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

It's snowing, really snowing, here in New York this morning. Here are a couple of few things to get you going:

Gary Sheff on Joe G:

"I think Girardi will do great," the former Yankee told The Post yesterday at Tigertown. "I'm not saying that he's better than Joe (Torre), he's just different. He's an X and O guy, that is something I've stressed and I believe. When a guy is smart about the game, you can never trick him, you can never fool him. He's always prepared and he puts his players in the right spot. It's up to you to succeed. You either do or you don't.

Alex Rodriguez, already in the headlines, thinks that Derek Jeter will win the AL MVP this year. According to George King in the Post:

"I think Jeter is going to have an MVP season, that's my prediction for the year," Rodriguez said. "And I think Bobby is going to have a monster year."

..."I think he is in great shape and he did some great things this winter with his workouts," Rodriguez said. "I am very excited for him."

Jeter left Legends Field before he could react to Rodriguez's prediction. A day before, he spoke about what he did differently this offseason.

"I switched up a little bit," Jeter said of his workouts. "I focused on agility, legs, first step and lateral movement. I really made some adjustments. I feel a lot quicker and I am moving around a lot better."

Over at BP, Joe Sheehan believes that Damon in left, Matsui at DH, and Giambo at first is the way to go:

Once you start with the premise that Cabrera has to be the everyday center fielder, the rest of the dominoes fall naturally. Left unsaid, of course, is that Damon, Matsui, and Giambi are all signed to contracts that are unmovable, and there's no stomach for releasing any of them. In fairness, none of the deals are excruciating; the Damon deal has predictably looked worse two years in than it did on the day it was signed. The two years left on Matsui's contract are a tough call—his production, from a DH, isn't special, and he's not as durable as he was three years ago.

Joe Girardi will have options on a daily basis, of course. When a Chien-Ming Wang starts, you can sacrifice some outfield defense, using Damon in center and Matsui in left. Ensberg or Duncan should make the roster as a righty bat, someone Girardi can also use at first base or DH. Ensberg's OBP, past track record, and ability to fake playing third base or shortstop all make him the better option in that role. Given the age and recent histories of these players, the Yankees could actually use a fifth outfielder on the roster, although it's unclear if a 12-man pitching staff will allow for that. Oddly, while Brett Gardner is never going to develop into an everyday player, the skill set he currently possesses would make him an asset in that job right now.

Joe Girardi's true test isn't the position players, but the pitching staff, where he'll be challenged to contend in a tough division under crushing expectations while also developing three very good young pitchers. It is good to see, however, that he has alighted on the right answer to an early question. For a manager we really don't know very much about, every decision carries a little extra weight this spring.

There are a lot of questions about the Yanks this year--the offense, while still potent, is a year older, the defense isn't strong, and who knows about the starting pitching (I, for one, think that Andy Pettitte is going to have a rough go of it). Still, I'm really excited to watch this team, aren't you?

Comments
2008-02-22 06:44:43
1.   williamnyy23
0 You had me questioning Sheehan's sanity when you wrote that he suggested Matsui play CF instead of DH!

One area I definitely disagree with Sheehan is in how the Damon and Matsui contracts look now. At $13mn for the next two seasons, both contracts look fair/pretty good next to: Rowand (5 years/$60M), Hunter (5 years/$90M), Matthews (5 years/$50M) and Pierre (5 years/$44M).

I also don't get why everyone is so down on Matsui. Sure, his health has become an increasing concern, but he did put up an OPS+ of 123 in 547 ABs. I'd sign up for that right now...DH or not!

2008-02-22 06:50:49
2.   Cliff Corcoran
1 Indeed, that was a typo. Fixed above.
2008-02-22 06:54:45
3.   mbtn01
Forgive the plug, but I thought you Yankee guys might be interested in veteran beat reporter Marty Noble recounting his childhood Yankee fandom in this interview:

http://mbtn.net/node/3016

2008-02-22 07:05:41
4.   RIYank
I wonder whether Jeter's new training regime is some kind of reaction to the sabrpundit criticism that he's bad at defense. It couldn't be a reaction to the recent hubbub surrounding the conference paper, obviously, but the general criticism has been brewing for a while.

Also, did everyone see the Onion article, "Yankees To Play Exhibition Game Against The Media"? Hysterical. A few excerpts:

Though the Yankees have dominated the media in the past, winning 76 of 107 contests, if they hope to continue their string of success, they must overcome such factors as an aging veteran core, young inexperienced pitchers, and ESPN.com's Buster Olney adding a late-moving cut fastball to his pitching repertoire.

"No doubt about it, the New York media is tough," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "[New York Post columnist Mike] Vaccaro's got a nasty splitter that dives away from right-handed hitters, [WFAN radio host] Chris "Mad Dog" Russo can wreak havoc on the basepaths, and [New York Daily News writer] Mike Lupica is just a gigantic asshole. But we've got a good team, too."

YES broadcaster and sports talk-radio host Michael Kay will be doing the play-by-play. The media refused to let him join their team again, as in previous years, he has openly rooted for the opposing Yankees, and according to Caple, he "throws like a girl."

http://tinyurl.com/2sovkz

2008-02-22 07:36:41
5.   monkeypants
4 Jeter's defense was particularly painful last year, but his base running was also down, as were his power numbers. I strongly suspect that he was hurt. I'm not saying that he'll suddenly become the Wizard of Oz this year in the field, but perhaps a stronger workout regimen can forestall some injuries.

1 123 OPS+ for a fulltime DH or 1B is just not that exciting.

0 Heck yeah I'm excited. I think the vet pitchers will do worse than expected, and the kids will do a tad better.

I would play Giambi at 1B until he shatters, and then go from there.

I would LOVE it if they went with only 11 pitchers and a deeper bench, at least for part of the season. I know that the counter-argument is that the kids are on innings/pitch limits, so they need a deeper pen. But it occurs to me that they could try to use the MiL more cleverly this year, by swapping in and out various spare part pitchers and basically playing with a roster larger than 25 players. The danger is that occasionally pitchers would have to be exposed to wavers, but for most middle relievers, who cares?

2008-02-22 07:39:55
6.   monkeypants
5 So then I look at RLY and see that they already posted about Jeter's banged-up knee.
2008-02-22 08:02:41
7.   williamnyy23
5 It might not be exciting, but here is the list of AL'ers who had at least 450 PAs, at least 75% of which came as a DH or 1B (sorted by OPS+:

Carlos Pena 172
David Ortiz 171
Jim Thome 150
Frank Thomas 125
Justin Morneau 121
Gary Sheffield 120
Casey Kotchman 119
Travis Hafner 118
Ryan Garko 117
Kevin Youkilis 117
Paul Konerko 116
Jose Vidro 109

As you can see, Matsui's 123 OPS+ would rank him 5th, just behind Thomas. Sure, it might not be "exciting", but relatively speaking, it is productive, even at 1B or DH.

2008-02-22 08:34:20
8.   weeping for brunnhilde
First of all, how nice to hear Alex come out all warm and positive!

Really, it's nice, after all the nonsense. Welcome back, Alex!

As for Derek, good for him!

You guys think he's trying to step up his defense?

First step, footwork?

2008-02-22 08:37:14
9.   Shaun P
7 By VORP - and admittedly the calculation would change because in '07, Matsui was considered a LF, and replacement level at LF and DH are different - Matsui would have been the 4th best DH in the AL - .2 behind Cust, and between 1-2 runs better than Thomas, Hafner, and Sheffield. (Thome and Ortiz pace the field).

If you include 1B, Matsui falls to 5th, behind Thome, Ortiz, and Pena. He was about a run better than Youkilis.

My guess is, adjusting for the change in position, Matsui probably falls a run or so behind the Thomas-Hafner-Sheff group at DH, and a run or so behind Youk at 1B. Still, not bad at all.

2008-02-22 08:38:53
10.   weeping for brunnhilde
As to Matsui's production, from a DH not being special?

Well you all know I think tying production to position is silly.

But whatever, maybe I'm wrong about that and that a DH has to produce thus and such and no worse.

The question is, is there NO value in reliability?

Fine, Matsui doesn't hit 40 homeruns, but God, the man is a solid producer.

You know what to expect and you can expect 100 RBI, .300, 20-25HR.

How could such production, from any position, be made light of?

It is true that he may not produce so well, due to age and wear-and-tear. Of course.

But man, with his track record, I'll pencil him into my lineup any day.

2008-02-22 08:39:19
11.   weeping for brunnhilde
Oh, and one last thing:

Winter. Bah.

2008-02-22 08:41:28
12.   weeping for brunnhilde
1 4

Hear, hear, friends.

I respond to the piece first (those bits that push my buttons), read the comments second.

Hence the repetition of your points, which you both expressed adequately.

2008-02-22 08:43:20
13.   weeping for brunnhilde
5 You want excitement? Try WWF?

:)

2008-02-22 08:45:37
14.   tommyl
I'm excited, but I'm trying to temper it a bit. Last year at this time I was excited about Kei Igawa's love of video games and even optimistic Crash could make something of a comeback. Of course, its really nice to not have to listen to constant commentary on the A-Rod/Jeter not sharing a bedroom and opt out clauses.

That said, this is the first year in a long time where I feel like there's not a feeling of entitlement with respect to making the playoffs. I'm actually more excited about that. There's something about seeing the possible future nucleus of this team come together that just makes me smile. I can get excited just to watch Hughes or Kennedy pitch a game. Hard to say the same thing about Igawa, Pavano and Rastens.

2008-02-22 08:51:51
15.   Sonya Hennys Tutu
I'm waaaaay too lazy to look it up but can't we reasonably expect Matsui to perform better on O as a DH than when he was a LF? Hasn't that been his pattern historically?

Yes, I understand that those DH PA's were in the context of 'rest' from the rigors of LF. But still, unless I'm just mis-remembering :) he has proven he can rake as DH, unlike Giambi whose output at the plate is way better when he's also in the field at 1B.

Just sayin.

2008-02-22 08:52:16
16.   Knuckles
Got 4 bleachers for the Cards @ Cubs on 9/20! That, plus a rooftop game in June will probably be the extent of my Wrigley games this year.

Gonna be a big baseball year for me. New ballpark opening in my current town (DC), a few Chicago trips, and multiple trips home to see the Yanks a handful of times before they shut down the old ballpark in the Bronx.

2008-02-22 08:57:52
17.   weeping for brunnhilde
14 Hear, hear!

"That said, this is the first year in a long time where I feel like there's not a feeling of entitlement with respect to making the playoffs. I'm actually more excited about that. There's something about seeing the possible future nucleus of this team come together that just makes me smile. I can get excited just to watch Hughes or Kennedy pitch a game. Hard to say the same thing about Igawa, Pavano and Rastens. "

Hear, hear.

2008-02-22 08:59:01
18.   weeping for brunnhilde
15 "The rigors of leftfield."

Ha ha haha ha!

I don't know why, but that phrase tickles me pink.

:)

2008-02-22 09:03:55
19.   williamnyy23
16 Better get those tickets! I just participated in the pre-sale and even mid-week games seemed to be selling out fast.
2008-02-22 09:05:30
20.   williamnyy23
15 In 288 PA, Matsui's OPS as a DH is .937. His career OPS is .856.
2008-02-22 09:08:22
21.   Yu-Hsing Chen
I dunno man, Giambi hasn't played more than 100 game on the field since he joined the Yankees, there is just no way you throw him out there and still see him walking around in one piece by June.

Having one of Cabrera/ Giambi / Damon / Abreu / Matsui in a game is probably counter productive, but having them on the DL is even more counter productive.

It doesn't take a physisian or Scientist or even baseball fan to realize that a fat 37 year old that hasn't been healthy in ages is the last guy you want to run out there on the field...

2008-02-22 09:14:17
22.   Shaun P
10 Sure, and on its own, Matsui's typical production is great. But context is everything. That's what makes Jeter and Posada such awesome players, because - in terms of hitting - they decimate the field at their positions.

I could imagine a league where Matsui hits well at DH, but there are 6 other DHs who out-hit him. In comparison, the last time Posada was outhit by 6 other AL catchers was 1999 (and he only played 50% of the time), and for Jeter, well, is it fair to count 1995, since he only had 51 PAs? No? Ok, he's never been outhit by 6 other AL SS.

BTW, over the last 11 years (1997-2007), by VORP, the best season by a SS was . . .

Derek Jeter in 1999 (108.5).

A-Rod tops it only if you go back to 1996 (112.2). And going back to 1983, A-Rod's '96 season is the only one who tops it at SS. Amazing.

2008-02-22 09:14:24
23.   weeping for brunnhilde
21 I think we all recognize that, Yu-Hsing.

What are the options?

1) Run him out there at 1B everyday for sixty days--or however long he can endure the rigors of firstbase--and then enlist Miguel Cairo to play first.

2) DH-1B him in a way designed to stretch out his usefulness over the long haul. But to do that, you have to screw around with everyone else, which might prevent them (i.e., Matsui and Damon) from finding the rhythm they need to be productive.

I'd suggest #1. Squeeze him dry and move on from there.

2008-02-22 09:18:51
24.   weeping for brunnhilde
22 I take your point, Shaun.

Maybe that's why I don't understand the urgency of finding a better DH than he, as if somehow he's holding the team back.

Maybe it's the slippery slope thing: we can't have the number one player at each position nor do we need to scheme and plot to assemble such a team.

Plus, the consistency thing is important to me. I like the fact that Hideki's reliable. I think that's important.

2008-02-22 14:15:13
25.   Chyll Will
13 The World Wildlife Fund is exciting? Really?
2008-02-22 16:53:41
26.   weeping for brunnhilde
25 Oh, for sure.

It's a jungle out there.

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