Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
It's Official
2005-12-03 07:25
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

The Yankees came to terms yesterday with free agent relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth to a three-year deal worth $17 million. Farnsworth is much younger than Flash Gordon, but, as Tyler Kepner reports in the New York Times, there are questions about the young gun's mental and emotional make-up:

In his conference call with reporters yesterday, Farnsworth was asked how he knew he would be able to adapt to the intense environment of New York. He answered candidly.

"I really don't know," Farnsworth said. "That's another reason why I wanted to come to New York and really test how good I really am. I think I did good enough last year to be able to pitch anywhere."

SG, up at The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog details why he likes the signing.

The Yankees have stated that Bubba Crosby will be the starting center fielder in 2006, but quite frankly, that's just hard to believe. Steve Lombardi takes a look at the possibilities. Perhaps there will be some movement this coming week in Dallas at the Winter Meetings.

It should come as no surprise that our pal Steven Goldman is wary of Florida's diminutive center fielder, Juan Pierre. Over at the Pinstriped Blog, Goldman opines:

Pierre is not a great player. Last season he was not even a good player. He has no power. Neifi Perez has a higher career slugging percentage. Luis Rivas has a higher career slugging percentage. Deivi Cruz. Scott Bloody Podsednik. He is, EMPHATICALLY, not a better leadoff man than Derek Jeter. Yes, he steals more bases. He also gets caught quite frequently, and doesn't get on base very often. Thought a .305 career hitter, he doesn't walk. He ranks 89th among active players in OBP (Jeter is 21st). He is also not a good outfielder. Baseball Prospectus has him as six runs below average in 2005, 11 runs below average in 2004, 14 runs below average in 2003.

The Yankees got nothing from their center fielders last year. As such, almost anyone would be an improvement. Unless Pierre hits .330, which he has never done, not even in Colorado, he will not help the situation dramatically. If the Yankees make him their leadoff hitter and give him over 700 plate appearances, he will actually hurt the team.

There is no logical reason, no matter how fast a player is, to give him over 10 percent of the team's offensive playing time when he will never hit a home run and get on base at, at best, an average rate. Further, let us throw down this gauntlet: any sportswriter — reporter or columnist — who writes that the acquisition of Pierre would give the Yankees the "pure leadoff hitter" they have been missing is guilty of dereliction of duty and of disseminating misinformation to the public.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

2005-12-03 08:08:26
1.   jkay
Congrats Alex on the SI atricle! The first of many more.
2005-12-03 08:29:49
2.   Beth
what SI article? alex, you need to tell us about these things!
2005-12-03 08:35:37
3.   debris
Off topic here, somewhat, but so be it. There are two figures in baseball history who have contributed in a large way to the development of my political consciousness as a wild eyed Bernie Sanders style Progressive.

The first was Walter O'Malley. When he took my team from me I was nine years old. Even then I wondered about the economic power he had and how that trumped the emotional ties of millions. His ability to take a team that rightly belonged to the people of Brooklyn and move them thousands of miles away had a strong influence on my perception of economic justice then and still. I have never completely recovered. Even today, on those rare occasions when I am in the presence of cigar smoke, I am taken back to Ebbets Field and I again feel the sadness.

The second was Curt Flood. I eagerly await your book Alex.

2005-12-03 09:47:06
4.   Alex Belth

I hope I've done justice to Flood's story. My book isn't academic or even especially literary; instead, it was conceived in the "story-well-told" mold. I just tried to get out of the way and let the story tell itself. The writing was fashioned in the lunch-pale literary style of the old Sport magazine writers like Arnold Hano, Ray Robinson and Ed Linn. It may not be as pulpy as some of their work (which I admire greatly), but it is measured and even-handed. Since I am trying to reach a broad sports audience, it is lean---there just isn't a lot of fat on it (which may be a drag for some baseball junkies--like us--who love digressions). But given the direction my editor and I agreed upon, I'm pleased with the way it has turned out. Thanks for the interest.

Hey, did you grow up in Brooklyn? And if you did, did you ever manage to cross enemy lines and visit the Polo Grounds?

2005-12-03 12:48:18
5.   debris

Didn't grow up in Brooklyn, but was conceived there. Family moved to south shore of LI three months before I was born. I was born 12 days after the Babe died.

Never saw the Giants at the Polo Grounds but did see the Mets and Titans, yes, Titans. First trip to the Polo Grounds was a Memorial Day doubleheader in 1962 with the Dodgers. Maury Wills hit two home runs in the first game, accounting for 10% of his career total, one was a pop up some 260 ft down one line or the other, I don't remember. The other was a line drive over the shortstop's head that just rolled for days in that big pasture.

Last trip to Ebbets Field was the last game of the 1956 series, last game of Jackie's career, and one of the worst days of my life. Johnny Kucks? Johnny Kucks? Who the hell is Johnny Kucks. We got Big Newk going.

2005-12-03 13:06:19
6.   joejoejoe
If Pierre sucks like he did when the Marlins beat the Yanks in 2003 I'll take it. Pierre strikes out at a very low rate and is very difficult to double up. He's not great but he's good at what he does. Why can't you bat him ninth and still let Jeter lead off?

Pierre is a fun player and a great bunter. On the days the Yankees are facing lights out pitching the ability to get on with a bunt hit is useful. Most days they will score plenty of runs to cover for his lack of power. You don't get a prize for scoring 1100 runs. It's about compiling wins in a variety of conditions. Pierre improves the team in a narrow band of those conditions. In the areas where he hurts the Yankees are not good, they are great. They hit a ton. And JP has a solid track record in the post season.

Pierre 2003 Post Season
73 AB .301/.378/.411 4/2B 2/3B 8BB

JP won't be running with as much with A-Rod, Sheff, or Giambi batting. But he will be going from first to third on singles and scoring on doubles. He's an upgrade over Bubba Crosby. Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

2005-12-03 13:25:34
7.   illinination
First Bowa, then Farnsworth. I think I hear Milton Bradley knocking on the door. The clubhouse is about to catch fire.
2005-12-03 13:34:55
8.   wsporter
You go joejoe. Juan Pierre was not an average ball player last year in terms of OBP or RC. He had a Bad year. But Juan Pierre in 2004 was well above average in every measurable that is relevant to his game. He is not a power hitter, Mickey Rivers was an extra base hitting machine compared to Pierre; of course his OPS is so so. If you can look at his 2003 figures as his norm he will play well for the Yankees. If he really is what we saw in 2005 Goldman is right we shouldn't give Florida a dead rat for him. Again, when Pierre is playing his game he is a disruptive force and the numbers don't tell the whole story. I'm glad I don't have to make this call. I would not give Cano or top prospects for him under any circumstance but if he really is the player he was in 2003 or 2004 a couple of midlevel prospects might not be too much.
2005-12-03 13:53:17
9.   debris

He clearly doesn't suck like he did in the 2003 PostSeason, he sucks a lot worse. In the 2003 PostSeason, he had a .789 ops. Not great, not horrible. His career OPS is .730 not bad at all for a number 9 hitter who gives great defense. The problem is he's a terrible outfielder, worse today than Bernie.

The other problem is that Florida thinks he's better than he is and is asking for more than he's worth. They want Cano plus when, in fact, I wouldn't give them Cano for Pierre straight up. Not even close.

2005-12-03 14:22:30
10.   jkay
Pierre had 10 GIDP's in 2005

Jorge Posada had 8.

2005-12-03 15:27:28
11.   alterity
IF Pierre batted ninth and IF he was a very good outfielder he would be a good pickup. But we all know that Joe is going to bat him first, probably for way too long. And we should all be aware that he is not a defensive upgrade over Bernie. Speed does not equal great centerfielder. It can help, but that's not all there is too it or else Griffey and Hunter would have led the league in SBs at one time or another (not now of course). And I'm not buying that "he's disruptive" line. There's no way to measure whether or not he really is disruptive, or whether disruption has any effect on pitchers (if someone has some stats on this too often referenced phenomenon I would love to see them). What we can measure is how often he's on base, which will give us at least the amount of disruption he will provide. Since Jeter is on base a lot more, I'll take him in the leadoff spot. Hell, let's make Giambi the leadoff hitter. I know he won't steal bases. I'm not sure if he'll be disruptive. But I do know that he'll be on a lot, mentioned yesterday that he went from first to third on singles 14 times last year, good for sixth best in the majors. Of course we'd be sacrificing some RBIs, but with Giambi batting first and Jeter second (or even vice versa), we'd be scoring more runs than we would with Pierre at or near the top of the lineup. So, if he doesn't get on as well as the pieces we have now, and if he doesn't field as well as the pieces we have now, why would we trade any of those pieces for him? The only way I would take him is the Marlins would accept Scott Proctor (who is just not a prospect anymore, if he ever was; do we really need two Farnsworths (power arm/little control) on the same team?) and a player to be named who is not named Cano, Wang, Pavano, Henn, Bean, Hughes, Duncan, or anyone else above rookie ball. The only upside I see for Pierre is that we wouldn't have him after this year, and if that's it, why bother.
2005-12-03 15:40:18
12.   strangeluck
I mentioned this in another thread, but I think its worth noting here. Henn and Proctor are not much of a price, and Pierre's percieved value is so out of proportion to his actual value that it might be worth making the trade just so you could flip him for a real player like Milton Bradley, David DeJesus, Brad Wilkerson, or Ryan Church.
2005-12-03 15:42:44
13.   sabernar
jkay: take a look at their PA. Posada had about 500 while Pierre had about 700. That being said, 10 seems like a lot for a guy with that much speed. (Note: Ichiro had 5 in about 700 PA last season, Podsednik had 7 in about 550 PA.)
2005-12-03 16:43:29
14.   nycfan
"You don't get a prize for scoring 1100 runs"

Sure you do, it's called the division title

2005-12-03 17:01:27
15.   brockdc
'You don't get a prize for scoring 1100 runs'

"Sure you do, it's called the division title"


2005-12-03 19:29:21
16.   wsporter

What you say is reflective of an ongoing discussion I have with a friend (f'n sawx fan that he is). I think that first to third stat is one of those phony stats that requires more explanation than it provides. Giambi may have gone from first to third on some of those occasions not because he is a fast runner but because there were men on base ahead of him who were attracting throws to the plate. How many of those singles hit behind him should have been doubles? Giambi is a better base runner than he gets credit for so factor that in. Unless you pull tape and watch the game you just don't know what happened. Another one of those stats is scoring from first on a double with less than two outs. But, if you do score from 1st on a double with less than 2 outs it's usually because your freaking fast, even if the runners were started. How many times did Giambi do that? I'll bet he didn't do it once with 2 outs. A reputation for that sort of base running causes outfielders to misplay balls, rush throws and miss cut-off men. It is disruptive and intimidating.

When you say speed alone doesn't make a great centerfielder we agree. Among other things you need quickness, a decent arm and instinct. Of course we can't calculate a coefficient of instinct or intimidation or disruption, yet based on our experience and observation we know those concepts exist. They are observable yet intangible. That is why scouting is an art form at which some people excel and others don't. If we're to only rely on and value game facets that are measurable what is the point of watching. Hell what's the point of using people. Just model the features you want in a set of players, use a random number generator and see what comes up. Its like an old stats professor said "sometimes you just have to watch the f'n game". The intangible aspect is part of what makes watching and talking about baseball fun, it allows for taste and opinion and variety. The alternative is simply a cold recitation of mathematical calculations. Its not that stats aren't important, they're vital because they provide structure. Yet, they don't put much meat on the bones.

I'm sorry to add more to this Pierre discussion because I don't think its worth the CPU space it takes up. He's not a long term answer. No one's sure that he's better than Bubba. If we don't have to give up much he might be worth a fling. I wouldn't open a vein about it one way or another. I'm nostalgic about it because he kind of reminds me of Mickey Rivers, without all of the Quick's incredible extra base power of course.

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