Friday, March 28, 2014

Kuroda, Tanaka lead Yankees to 3-0 win over Marlins

SP Hiroki Kuroda threw three scoreless innings and Masahiro Tanaka followed him with another 6 tonight as the Yankees beat the Marlins in overall ugly fashion, 3-0. Threw 7 at-bats here, the Yanks amazingly were held hitless, but then Brian Roberts and Yangervis Solarte singled home runs in the bottom of the eighth to really put this one away. 

Anyway, in those six frames Tanaka was obviously pretty good, giving up just 3 hits while walking nobody and striking out 10. So yea, I guess you could say he looked pretty good tonight. Not necessarily amazing (this was the Marlins after all), but definitely good. 

Dean Anna Will Wear #39 For New York Yankees

Wally Matthews of ESPN New York said so.

Tampa Yankees 20th Anniversary Home Opener

Tampa, FL. - Come out and join the Tampa Yankees as they kick off their 20th Anniversary season on Friday, April 4th, when they take on the Lakeland Flying Tigers. The gates will open at 6:00pm with the first pitch at 7:00pm. The first 250 fans will receive a 20th Anniversary Tampa Yankees T-Shirt sponsored by AllergEase.
Fans can take advantage of our Bill Currie Ford Social Media Friday promotion with $2 Admission for ALL Social Media Fans. Check the Tampa Yankees' Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages for a Keyword to use at the box office. In addition, all fans can enjoy select drink specials and $10 All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Wings on the Walgreens Deck and $1 Sodas at the Grill from 6-8:00pm. Fans are encouraged to stay after the game to enjoy a post-game Fireworks Show courtesy of Wells Fargo and will receive an AllergEase coupon upon leaving.
Then join us again on Sunday, April 6th, as we take on the Lakeland Flying Tigers at Steinbrenner Field. The game is at 1:00pm and gates open at 12:00pm. It's Seniors Eat Free Sunday and Senior Citizens ages 55 and older receive a FREE hot dog, small popcorn and small soda with the purchase of a reserved ticket for $5. This ticket/food special must be purchased at the Steinbrenner Field Box Office. All children ages 14 and under can receive FREE admission as well.
Tickets are $4 for general admission, $6 for reserved seating and can be purchased at the George M. Steinbrenner Field Box Office.

Being posted with permission from the Tampa Yankees organization. The original article can be seen HERE.

Dean Anna Wins Last Bench Spot, Maybe

Jedd Gyorko may have accidentally leaked some news before the New York Yankees were ready to announce it on Twitter today when he congratulated Dean Anna for breaking camp with the Yankees. I would have to assume that Eduardo Nunez would get the second bench spot, which leaves Yangervis Solarte as the odd man out. All of this is unofficial as of the time of this writing though so stay tuned.

New York Yankees vs. Miami Marlins 3/28

The New York Yankees have two games left in spring training before they close out their Grapefruit League schedule, both against the Miami Marlins. Hiroki Kuroda will be on the mound for the Yankees tonight in the first of those two games against Miami at 7:05 pm ET. As far as I know and can tell this game will not be televised anywhere, not on television or the radio. Seems odd that the YES Network would not pick up a Yankees game in prime time but maybe a Brooklyn Nets game is on or something, I don't know. Anyway enjoy the game Yankees fans and enjoy your weekend as we prep for Opening Day 2014.

Here is the Yankees lineup:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Alfonso Soriano DH
Kelly Johnson 3B
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki CF

New York Yankees Spring Training News & Notes 3/28

Michael Pineda threw a side session today and will throw Sunday again before joining the team in Houston to get ready for his first start in two seasons in Toronto.

Hiroki Kuroda will officially get the start tonight but he will basically be splitting the start with Masahiro Tanaka as he is expected to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen tonight when Kuroda's shortened start is finished.

Chad Jennings with one of the final set of assignments for the day:

Today’s second string: C Francisco Cervelli, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Eduardo Nunez, SS Dean Anna, 3B Zelous Wheeler, LF Yangervis Solarte, CF Antoan Richardson, RF Adonis Garcia
· Today’s scheduled relievers: Masahiro Tanaka, Shane Green and Cesar Cabral (with Matt Daley and a few minor league guys list as just-in-case options)

Yankees Sign Alfredo Aceves

The Yankees have signed Alfredo Aceves to a minor league contract. Aceves will reportedly be able to opt-out of the deal on June 1st.

It was learned earlier today that Alfredo had opted out of his contract with the Baltimore Orioles, and the Yankees swept in and nabbed him for some starting pitching depth to stash in AAA.

Aceves had some rough seasons last year and the year before, so I wouldn't expect much out of the guy. I'm guessing the Yankees wanted him around just in case, as they don't have many days off to start the year. With Tanaka working more often than he's used to (in Japan they pitch just once a week, not every five days), and Pineda returning from two years off, the move makes sense.

Yankees Finalize Bullpen With Betances & Nuno

This morning I predicted that the New York Yankees bullpen would be finalized today with the additions of Cesar Cabral and Dellin Betances, well I was close. It was actually Vidal Nuno and Betances who joined the "locks" for the Yankees bullpen in David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, David Phelps, and Adam Warren. Betances really excites me as I could see him being Joe Girardi's go to man and setup man before the season is out. I haven't been this excited about a setup man since Mariano Rivera burst onto the scene in 1996.

No word yet on the two infield spots but that announcement is expected today as well before the Yankees host the Miami Marlins.

MLB Expands Drug Agreement

A few changes were made to the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Agreement. I've given those below, along with my thoughts of each...
  • Instead of there being 1,400 random urine tests a season, there will now be 3,200... more than double. And those tests are in addition to the ones players receive during Spring Training and the postseason.
The more testing the better.
  • In addition to the 1,200 mandatory collections conducted during Spring Training, the number of times blood will be collected for HGH detection will go up to 400. 
It was already the best blood testing program for HGH in professional sports, and it's now even better.
  • The penalties for violating the Joint Drug Program have been raise as well. A first time violation will go from a 50-game ban to 80 games, a second violation will go from 100 games up to 162 (as well as a loss of 183 days of pay), and a third violation will result in a player being permanently banned from baseball.
I never really understood the 50 and 100 game suspensions. They just seemed like they were numbers chosen because they are nice, round, numbers. A half-season, then full-season, ban seemed to make more sense. Then again, 80 games isn't technically half a season, so it's still a bit strange.
  • If a player is suspended for a JDA violation he will be ineligible to play in the postseason, nor will he be eligible to receive an automatic share of the Player's Pool for participating in the postseason. 
While others have said this doesn't make sense, as it not only hurts a player but also the team, I like it. A team may not be aware of a player's usage of PEDs, and therefore should not be punished for it, but why not? Shouldn't a team that's paying a player millions of dollars know if they are breaking such an important rule? Major League Baseball can't monitor the situation themselves... getting help from teams in order to avoid such a suspension can only help. 
  • Every player that is suspended for PED use will be subject to an additional 6 unannounced urine tests, and 3 more blood tests, every remaining year for the rest of his career.
Again... why wouldn't a player that failed a test be subject to more tests in the future? It only makes sense. Especially when you may have a player try to trick the system in the future, as his PED usage was a big reason he has a career in MLB.
  • A program will be implemented in which players will have year-round access to supplements that will not cause a positive test result.
This is big in my opinion, because it gives players a legal alternative. It's the same reason why after-school programs are important in keeping kids off the street or simply out of trouble. Don't just tell them not to do something, give them something else to do that is of benefit to them and/or the community.

There are a couple more additions to the Joint Drug Agreement that I didn't go over, but you can check out for yourself if you want to here.

I've Got Til 5! - Questions Going Into 2014

There is a lot of pessimism surrounding the Yankees. Not just this season, but every season. Whether you're following the Yankees on Twitter, or just talking about them with somebody at your local tavern, you're bound to hear some sort of complaint regarding the front office, the manager, a coach, or a player. That's not to say such pessimism isn't warranted, but oftentimes it goes too far.

Take this coming season for instance. There are plenty of questions revolving the 2014 Yankees. But you have to keep in mind that it's the same every season, and it goes for every team. Whether we're talking about a perennial loser such as the Houston Astros, or a team that's always in the thick of things like the St. Louis Cardinals, nobody is certain about what the future of the team holds.

Although there's no question about whether or not they have some hot fans.

Without much thought I came up with seven questions going into this season. But this column is about lists of five, so I had to cut a couple of things. Then I remembered that this is my column, so I can do whatever I want. So here are those two questions I cut from the official list of five...

Will Masahiro Tanaka be as good as advertised?

Between 2014 and 2019, Tanaka will make $22 million a season. Last season, according to Fangraphs, only 14 pitchers in Major League Baseball were worth that much or more (can you believe four of them pitched for the Detroit Tigers?). Hiroki Kuroda was the Yankees top guy in that category, and his value last season was only $19.1 million.

Of course, by the time we get towards the end of Masahiro's deal, chances are the top pitchers will be making quite a bit more than $22 million a year. Heck, Clayton Kershaw will be making $30+ million in each of the last six years (2015-2020) of his contract with the Dodgers.

Either way, the team has made a large gamble on Tanaka, and everybody has to be wondering whether he'll live up to his potential. So why didn't that question make the list? Simple... we won't know the answer to that question for years. That is a question that can't be answered simply going by what he does in 2014. Dasuke Matsuzaka was good in his debut season in MLB, and was great in his sophomore effort, but fell off the face of the Earth after that. While Tanaka > Matsuzaka, we can't get ahead of ourselves.

Will the Yankees make a big trade?

With the depth the team has at catcher, and many other teams looking to acquire a young backstop, it seems like a big trade is inevitable. But like with Tanaka... let's not get ahead of ourselves. Depth can disappear pretty quickly, as all it takes is an injury or one of those young catchers to have a poor season. Say McCann gets injured, meaning Cervelli is our primary catcher. At that point John Ryan Murphy is called up as the second catcher with the big club. Austin Romine wasn't lighting MLB on fire, so his value isn't "all that" to begin with, and the team may want to hold onto Gary Sanchez in case McCann's injury turns out to be serious. Just like that, the catching depth is gone.

On top of that, it seems like we're looking for a big trade to happen every year, and every year we're left with nothing. Or maybe not "nothing", but something small or uninteresting will happen like a trade for a middle reliever or an aging player that we can only hope will produce.

Furthermore, there's a chance that one or more of Kelly Johnson, Dean Anna, Brendan Ryan, or Brian Roberts could surprise us and erase the team's need for a middle infielder or third baseman. I'm not counting on that, but putting that together with the other two things I talked about above, and this question was cut.

Just like how Lou Brown did not cut Roger Dorn.

With all that said, here is my official list of five questions the Yankees have going into the 2014 season...

1. Will Derek Jeter go out with a bang or a whimper?

Seeing as how he was still recovering from breaking his ankle in the playoffs the previous season, I think you can totally eliminate the 2013 season when evaluating Derek Jeter. Even though he didn't play those 17 games in the beginning of the season before he was fully recovered, and was then put on the DL for the remainder of the season, it's pretty hard to sit out for 9 months and then come back and be the same player Derek was before. So I can look beyond the pitiful triple-slash of .190/.288/.254 Jeter put up.

So what did The Captain do in 2012? Well, he only hit .316/.362/.429, made the All Star team, won the Silver Slugger award, and finished 7th in American League MVP voting. Many thought Derek was going downhill back in 2010 when he only hit .270, only to bounce back in 2011 and bat .297. Beyond that batting average, Jeter also saw his strikeout rate drop in each season between 2010 and 2012.

So we should expect him to go out with a bang, right? Not so fast...

While Jeter did see a rise in his walk rate in 2013, that number had fallen in each of the previous four seasons. Combine that lower walk rate with a lower strikeout rate, and Jeter is putting a lot more balls in play. That's not a good thing for a guy that hits the ball on the ground nearly 65% of the time. And if you add in the fact that Derek will turn 40 in June, then you have reason to believe his final season will be more of a whimper.

2. Can Jacoby Ellsbury stay healthy?

Due to Ellsbury missing some of Spring Training with calf issues, it's easy to believe that many of you reading this are yelling "no" at the screen. But looking at his injury history his calf doesn't concern me. Jacoby hasn't had issues with is lower leg since the 2007 season, and even then he only had some cramps that led to him missing zero games. 

Like I pointed out in my reaction article to Ellsbury's signing, Jacoby has missed the vast majority of games due to freak injuries... sliding wrong into second base, running into teammates on defense, getting run into by runners, and fouling a ball off of his foot.

The only question that's really rattling around in my mind regarding Ellsbury doesn't have to do with his health, but whether he can get back his power. Any lefty in Yankee Stadium is going to make me optimistic, but I want to see 20+ home runs this season, rather than 12 or so (which would be a slight increase from the 9 he hit last year).

When he's healthy, Jacoby's batting and on-base averages look pretty good too. So as long as Ellsbury is on the field, I have reason to believe we're going to be in for a nice surprise. 

Pessimistic about Jeter and optimistic about Ellsbury? Blasphemy!

3. Which Ivan Nova will we get?

Here are two players

Player A - 3.10 ERA, 1.285 WHIP, 3.6 bWAR
Player B - 5.02 ERA, 1.468 WHIP, 0.6 bWAR

Player A is the 2013 Ivan Nova, while Player B is the 2012 Ivan Nova. The Ivan Nova from last season would help make the 2014 Yankees' starting rotation a monster, while the Ivan Nova from two seasons ago will make winning every five days very difficult.

The good news is that Nova's strikeout and walk rates were fairly similar in each of the past two seasons, as was his line drive percentage against. Those stats tell me that Nova was pretty much the same pitcher, just with very different results. The reason for the large gap in numbers seems to be from a much larger extra-base hit percentage in 2012. In fact, that number in 2012 was more than double the one from last year.

My initial thought on what the difference was was team defense, particularly in the outfield. Unfortunately I can't back that up with any numbers. However, on the surface, there is a big difference... The 2012 outfield mainly consisted of Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Raul Ibanez. The 2013 outfield was mainly made up of Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells.

If you look at the fact that the outfield defense in 2014 should be better than Nova has ever had, with Ellsbury, Gardner, and Soriano, then I think there's reason to be optimistic about Mr. Nova.

4. Can CC Sabathia cope with the loss of velocity, and be a top of the rotation starter again?

We've already seen him pitch well in Spring Training with a fastball that topped out in the low 90s, so there is some reason for optimism. However, you have to keep in mind that Spring Training numbers mean jack squat. Pitchers are trying new things, hitters are trying new things, minor leaguers are getting more at bats, and bench players are getting more at bats. Even if you were to say Sabathia has only faced MLB hitters in Spring Training, you don't know whether those hitters were trying out different stances, shorter or longer swings, etc.

And look at what Sabathia did last year... he put up the highest ERA and WHIP of his career, which resulted in a pitcher that was only the third most valuable on the staff (looking at fWAR). Actually, if Nova had thrown a few more innings, then Sabathia would have been the fourth most valuable starter for the Yankees (Kuroda and Pettitte were first and second). And this is the guy that the Yankees signed to be the ace of the staff. That's not good.

So can we be optimistic at all? Sure. CC's strikeout and walk rates were nearly identical to his career marks. All Sabathia really has to do is make that slower fastball a little less hittable by adding some movement to it, and he should be all good. Then again, that's not an easy task, so I'd keep that optimism in check. If Sabathia could be no worse than a solid #3 starter this season, then I think we'll be in a good shape.

5. Will Michael Pineda be a top of the rotation starter?

While I liked the Pineda/Montero trade from a couple of years back, I can't argue with those that didn't. The Yankees traded away their top prospect, after all. And it's not like it was Pineda or nothing. The Yankees could have dealt Jesus Montero for a number of top starters, most notably Cliff Lee, but decided on the younger/cost-controlled pitcher. And not only has that young/cost-controlled pitcher not lived up to his potential after a stellar rookie campaign, but thanks to a major shoulder injury he hasn't even thrown a pitch for the Yankees.

But we can't cry over spilled milk. While some are still waiting to get an answer to the question of who won the trade, this guy doesn't care. Jesus Montero is no longer a Yankee, and Michael Pineda is... end of story. What we should be talking about is the fact that Michael Pineda is not only healthy, but has looked strong this Spring.

Before the injury, in Seattle, Pineda's fastball sat in the mid-90s. This Spring, that fastball has been right around the mid-90s too. Furthermore, Joe Girardi has said that the big righty may not be done healing, meaning his fastball may even get up to the high 90s like it did pre-injury.

My only real question surrounding Pineda deals an innings limit. I find it hard to believe that Girardi will run Michael out there every fifth day without an regard to his workload, like what the manager said on Tuesday when he announced Pineda as the fifth starter. There's just no way a guy that's thrown less than 50 innings in the last two years will turn around and throw ~175 innings this season. There's a chance a guy that big and that young (he's still only 25) can, but I'd feel better if Girardi and his coaching staff found a way to make sure he stays strong all season, and doesn't falter down the stretch due to fatigue.

"Just get it done!!!"

Well that wraps up my top five questions going into the 2014 season. I'm incredibly excited for the season to start on Tuesday, as I'm sure you are too.

Remember to drop me a line, here in the comments or on Twitter (@BryanV21 or @GreedyStripes), regarding possible future lists. I have plenty of them in mind, but I'd love to hear what you think.

Playoffs & World Series Predictions For 2014

Yesterday I took a stab at predicting the standings and records for all 30 teams in the majors and today I want to take a stab at the playoffs and World Series predictions. Last year I did this and I was terrible at it, I had the Yankees and the Atlanta Braves in the World Series, so this year maybe I can do a little better.

Here are your playoff teams, bolded teams win their series:

Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox in Wild Card game

Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

When the Yankees won the 2009 World Series they had to go through the best teams in the league that season including a team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, that have given them fits in the playoffs in recent years. The same can be said with the Detroit Tigers who have given the Yankees a heck of a time in the postseason recently and it's about time the Yankees reversed this run and made yet another trip to the World Series.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals in Wild Card game

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals

The Dodgers do not know how to spend billions of dollars and actually win, not yet anyway, and will run into a buzz saw with a hot, young, and fresh Washington Nationals team. The Nats have Natitude and the power pitching, the young power pitching at that, to succeed in the postseason. Mix in some Jayson Werth timely hitting and the speed at the top of their order and the Nationals will be too good to lose this season, even against the Dodgers.

Not that kind of homer...
The homer in me wanted to go for the Atlanta Braves and the Yankees again in the 2014 World Series because being a Yankees fan in exile living in Atlanta Georgia I would be able to go to a few games but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I know this will not be a popular pick but the Washington Nationals have too much pitching and too much hitting for the National League to compete. The Yankees did the most this offseason, had a decent core to begin with, and I am a homer with a Yankees site, sue me, so they are my American League representative. And the winner is...

The New York Yankees in seven games, I refuse to pick against my team ever. The Yankees have the pieces to compete and the minor league depth to either make a trade or fill in holes and a lot of the rest of the league have taken small steps back. It's time for the Commissioners Trophy to come back to the Bronx and I think it will in 2014.

Yankee Stadium Legacy: #4 Wally Pipp

Wally Pipp was the man who famously replaced Lou Gehrig in the Yankees lineup in 1925 and the man who spent 11 seasons in Yankee Pinstripes. The first basemen batted a career high .329 in 1922 and finished eight in the American League MVP Award voting that season. Pipp also helped the Yankees reach three straight World Series starting in 1921 and also helped win one in 1923, beating the Giants.

4 days until Yankees Opening Day.

Quick Hit: My Guess At The Opening Day Bullpen

Just a quick hit to start your Friday, a busy one for me, by guessing who I think will make the bullpen out of the gates in 2014. I originally had Preston Claiborne making the bullpen but giving up 14 hits and nine runs in 5.2 IP of work tends to hurt those chances some.

Here is my proposed bullpen, in a very specific order, for 2014 taking into account the 40 man roster, minor league options, and all that good stuff:

David Robertson
Dellin Betances
Shawn Kelley
Adam Warren
Cesar Cabral
Matt Thornton
David Phelps

Yes I am giving Dellin Betances the chance to set up for David Robertson. Yes I want Cesar Cabral on my team and I want Vidal Nuno down in the minors staying stretched out. Yes David Phelps is the long man because yes I believe Adam Warren can pitch middle relief. Yes I have no faith whatsoever in Matt Thornton. That is all, have a good day Yankees family.

This Day In New York Yankees History 3/28

On this day in 1986 the Boston Red Sox traded designated hitter Mike Easler to the New York Yankees for designated hitter Don Baylor in a rare trade between the two rivals.

On this day in 1988 the Yankees decided to waive pitcher Phil Niekro just four days shy of his 47th birthday.

On this day in 2003, just three days prior to Opening Day, the YES Network claims Cablevision has pulled out of a deal signed 17 days ago that would have provided televised Yankee games to three million cable subscribers in the New York City area. According to the YES Network Cablevision failed to sign a finalized version of the hand-written document that both parties exchanged on March 12.