Travis Hafner has been better than anyone could have imagined this year. Given his history of DL trips, it was unclear if Hafner would even be able to stay on the field, never mind post a gaudy 148 wRC+. The soon-to-be 36-year-old dealt with a plethora of injuries in his career, averaging just 86 games played over the last 5 years. But other than a minor shoulder issue, Hafner has managed to stay on the field in 2013.
Pronk hasn’t quite been an everyday player as he’s been part of a strict platoon at DH. Nonetheless, he’s played in 36 of the team’s 46 games, putting him on pace for 127 games played—which would be his highest total since 2005. All told, he holds a robust .396 wOBA, good for best on the Yankees. While Hafner’s strong performance is unexpected, it’s not entirely shocking. He’s posted a wRC+ of 115 or higher every year since 2009. Most of it came in fragmented seasons though, due to his numerous injuries. There’s no denying that Hafner has been great, and it’s a little scary to think about what the team’s lineup would have looked like without him. But can we realistically expect him to continue to be a reliable offensive piece going forward? Continue reading →
There have been two distinct sides of Phil Hughes this season. The good: a four start stretch of dominance across mid-April and early May, along with last night’s performance against Baltimore. The bad: his first two starts of the year and the previous two before last night. Can his volatility simply be chalked up to his inconsistent career, or is it correctable? Even if an issue is found, can it be resolved?
When Hughes appeared to be turning the corner, I wrote about how his slider had become a difference maker. The pitch has been dominant, against which batters have posted a paltry 18 wRC+. However, his slider can be thrown out the window when his heater is leaking over the middle of the plate, and it’s become impossible to predict which starts he’ll be able to locate his fastball, and those in which he he’ll be unable to. It’s too straight of an offering for it not to be precise. Heck, sometimes when it’s located well it gets pounded. Both of Chris Dickerson‘s homers looked to be on the corners last night. (video: first and second homer). Fastball command is essential for just about any pitcher, but when Hughes’ can’t get a feel for it, he doesn’t get lucky in the way that a guy with a lot of movement can. Continue reading →
After shutting down the Blue Jays last Friday, I wondered: Is Hiroki Kuroda the Yankees’ best pitcher? This year, he’s been the de facto ace of the staff. This is no knock against CC Sabathia, who still has posted strong numbers despite the scrutiny of his velocity. When push comes to shove, Sabathia deserves the ball in a do or die spot. But, Kuroda deserves an immense amount of credit.
Since joining the Yankees last season, Kuroda has made 44 starts (including two postseason outings), and the Yankees have won 27 of those games (61.4%). He’s posted a stellar 3.04 regular season ERA, and a 2.81 ERA in a 16 inning postseason sample. He’s been nothing short of fantastic, and has certainly exceeding expectations before donning the pinstripes. While he was a very good pitcher with the Dodgers, nobody could have foresaw this excellence after transitioning to the American League.
What’s been most impressive about Kuroda is his consistency. It seems that day in and day out, Hiroki can be penciled in to the seventh or eighth inning, allowing only a couple of runs. To figure out just how steady he’s been, I crunched some numbers using game score, a statistic Bill James invented to measure the quality of an individual start. The computation of the stat can be found here. Continue reading →
Now that minor league teams have several weeks of games under their belts, individual player sample sizes are becoming something less than useless. We shouldn’t completely re-evaluate a player’s prospect status based on 40 games, but there’s certainly something to be gleaned by observing player’s statistics at this point. This is especially true for hitters as most have accrued 150+ PA’s at this point. K% “stabilizes” (Reaches an R Squared coefficient of .5) after just 60 PA’s while BB% takes 120. Power numbers (HR% and ISO) also stabilize relatively early at 170 PA’s and 160 AB’s respectively.
The Yankees are only a month and a half into Ichiro Suzuki‘s new contract, and it already looks like they will rue the day the two sides reached a deal. Well, perhaps the business side of the organization is pleased, but I digress. Ichiro is hitting .239/.280/.328 through 145 plate appearances, and finally broke a 22 at-bat hitless skid last night. At this point, it is hard to be optimistic about him going forward.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Ichiro is scuffling. From 2011 through 2012, Ichiro hit .277/.308/.361 in 1,384 plate appearances. That’s good (bad, really) for a 84 wRC+ in his age 37 and 38 seasons. With this in mind, I can’t imagine a scenario in which the organization’s baseball ops department expected him to revert back to his previous performance. Ichiro was a beast last September (.362/.376/.486 in 112 plate appearances), but sample sizes do not justify a two year, $13M deal for a guy pushing 40 that has barely hit since he turned 37. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff here, but it sure is frustrating. Now, the Yankees are stuck with an overpaid fourth outfielder, who will probably get more playing time than deserved based on reputation alone.
One might point to Ichiro’s low .261 BABIP this season as a leading indicator of oncoming improvement, especially considering his .357 mark in his career through 2010. However, from 2011-2012, Suzuki’s BABIP stood at .297. Again, that’s across nearly 1,400 plate appearances, and thus much more likely his current true talent level. Continue reading →
Today’s a big day for David Adams. Not only is it his birthday, but he’s also being called up to the major leagues for the first time. Adams is 26 years old today, which indicates he’s not much of a prospect at this point. There was a time when Adams showed lots promise, however. A third round pick out of college way back in 2008, Adams was expected to move relatively quickly through the system. He has hit well while on the field– He holds a .296/.379/.450 batting line over six minor league seasons. The issue for Adams has always been staying healthy, though. He earned the nickname “Day Off Dave” due to his propensity to miss time. That nickname is certainly warranted. His games played totals for the last three seasons: 39, 29, 86. In fact, he was put on a regimen last year that prevented him from playing more than 4 consecutive games. If you recall, his injury history held up a potential deal with Seattle that would have put Cliff Lee in pinstripes.
This year, Adams has been uncharacteristically healthy aside from a back injury in spring training. And thus far, he’s done nothing but hit. His wOBA sits at a robust .408. His strong performance is backed by healthy plate discipline stats as well: 11.5 BB% and 16.8 K%. He most likely would be in the majors already if not for a rule that required him to stay in the minors until today (rule took effect when he was released in March). Most of Adams’ experience in the minors was at second base until he was moved over to third in the middle of last season. He’s also seen time at first this year. Adams has never played shortstop, but he’ll at least provide some defensive versatility. At worst, Adams should provide an offensive upgrade over right-handed bats Chris Nelson, Ben Francisco, and even Jayson Nix. Adams is no great shakes defensively due to a debilitating ankle injury from 2010 that continues to affect his play. Nonetheless, he should be able to be adequate at the hot corner.
Adams may be 26, but he’s a very young 26 in terms of games played. All told, he’s played a total of 380 minor league games. Even though those games spread out over parts of six years, that’s only two and a half years’ worth of games. It’s probably fair to say that he still has some learning to do as a hitter. So there may even be some upside there. Given the team’s roster constitution, he should receive ample playing time at least until Kevin Youkilis is ready to return. Hopefully, Adams can capitalize on this opportunity by staying healthy and continuing to hit like he has in the minors.
As some of the Yankees’ walking wounded inch closer to the active roster, Brian Cashman will be busy creating space for those returning. Considering how many injuries the Yankees have been dealt, there’s going to be a pretty high 40-man turnover over the next couple of months. Who might go, and when? Let’s take a look at who needs to be added, and then who is likely to go.
There are currently six players on the 60-day (Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, and Cesar Cabral) Assuming all six return (a big assumption), six guys will have to be taken off the 40-man roster. There are complications, however. For instance, Cabral was a Rule V pick a couple of years ago, and must spend 90 days on the 25-man roster this season to satisfy the draft rules. If the Yankees don’t like what they see from his rehab, perhaps they just let him go before they have to make a 40-man move. Moreover, of the other guys on the 60-day, some of them may have setbacks and never even return in 2013. There are other additions that will force the Yankees to reduce the expanded roster headcount as well: David Adams is expected to be added Wednesday, and Clay Rapada could return as well. Let’s delve into some names who could be gone:
Ben Francisco: He’s been terrible, but with Brennan Boeschoptioned today, it appears he’ll live on a bit longer. I’d prefer him to be the first 40-man casualty when Adams is promoted Wednesday, but I expect one of the following two names to go first. Continue reading →
Entering opening day, I think just about any Yankees fan would signed up for an 18-13 start. The injuries have been aplenty, and the doom and gloom entering the 2013 campaign was prevalent. A 1-4 start didn’t help quell the concerns, either. However, the Yanks have gone 17-9 since that point, just two games off the pace set by the first place Red Sox.
Just because the team has played much better since its inauspicious start doesn’t mean they are out of the woods just yet. The offense is depleted, 17th in the league in runs scored. Vernon Wells has cooled down significantly, and despite Travis Hafner‘s success, his health is a ticking time bomb. As presently constituted, outside of Hafner, Wells (meh), and Robinson Cano, nobody provides much confidence at the plate. Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez (yes, Alex Rodriguez), can’t come back soon enough.
Despite the offensive woes, I’m certainly pleasantly surprised with what the team has done thus far. Am I concerned going forward? Of course. But good thing the team has created a margin of safety of sorts.
Now, let’s look out how the Yankees have performed compared (in terms of WAR) to an objective viewpoint, ZiPS preseason projections. For position players, I prorated projected WAR based on plate appearances. For pitchers, I prorated it based on innings pitched. Click the following “continue reading” button to see the breakdown. Continue reading →
Following last night’s 5-4 victory over the Astros, the Yankees announced the acquisition if infielderChris Nelson from Colorado. To make room for Nelson on the 40-man, Francisco Cervelli was placed on the 60-day disabled list. Nelson, 27, debuted with the Rockies in 2010, but didn’t get much tread until last season, in which he hit .301/.352/.458 in 377 PAs. He’s played mostly third and second base at the major league level, with limited experience at shortstop.
The Yankees already were skinny in the right-handed bat department, even when Kevin Youkilis was healthy, so Nelson will try to help fill the void with Jayson Nix during Youk’s absence. Compared to Nix, Nelson is a bit of an upgrade with the bat. Nix is off to a dreadful start at the dish, and is a career .214/.284/.364 hitter, so there isn’t much upside there. The one distinct advantage Nix holds over Nelson is the glove. Nix isn’t a defensive wizard, but he can hold his own unlike Nelson. UZR and DRS have Nix as an above average fielder at third and second, but poor at shortstop. I’ll get into Nelson’s poor fielding statistics shortly.
The trade probably means Corban Joseph is going back on the shuttle to Scranton, after just being promoted a few days ago. Joseph has hit very well in AAA, and may very well be a better hitter than Nelson. However, Joseph has limited experience at third base, and isn’t exactly known for his glove anyway. Furthermore, the Yankees clearly prefer having an extra right-handed bat with Youkilis hitting the disabled list. It’s unfortunate for CoJo; in most other organizations, he probably would be getting a chance at the big league level. Tough luck for a guy with a 134 wRC+ last year in AAA, followed up by a 129 mark so far in 2013.
I wasn’t expecting much out of Eduardo Nunez‘ bat this season, given his minor league performance and limited time at the major league level. Rather, like everyone else, I was much more concerned about his defense. But it’s getting to the point where is hitting, or lack there of, has become the intolerable facet of his game.
Through last night’s debacle against the Astros (hey, it happens), Nunez is hitting .169/.273/.185, a 32 wRC+. Per wRC+, he’s the worst hitting shortstop this season in all of baseball. Putting it nicely, Nunez isn’t making the best of this opportunity with Derek Jeter on the shelf.
Nunez isn’t this bad of a hitter, but that doesn’t mean he’s any good at the dish. His career 81 wRC+ is nothing to brag about, so even as his .204 BABIP regresses to the mean, it’s not like he’s going to be anything special. What’s more – the same flaws I illustrated in this article are recurring in 2013, so he’s not making any strides. He’s still popping the ball up a quarter of the time, and only hitting line drives a hair under 17% of his PAs. Continue reading →