Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yankees Postseason History Recap: Alex Rodriguez in 2009

The 2009 season was a season for the Yankees and their fans that came with a lot of hope but a lot of pressure at the same time. The team had went out and signed huge free agents like CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira while acquiring the likes of Nick Swisher from the Chicago White Sox while their big-money star third baseman Alex Rodriguez started the season on the DL with a hip injury. Alex came back seemingly healthier than ever hitting a home run on the first pitch he saw this season and he ended up with 30 home runs and 100 RBI on the dot after a huge final game of the season.

Alex was riding high into the postseason as he looked to finally break out like a 13-year old boy and while the Yankees searched for the 27th World Series title in the franchise’s history. Alex finished the 2009 postseason with a .365 average, six home runs and 18 RBI but no home run may have been bigger than the one he hit on October 9th, 2009.

On this day against the Minnesota Twins the Yankees DH slugged a two-run home run late to tie the game, a game that the Yankees ultimately went on to win. Without that win the ALCS and eventually the World Series may never have come.

ARod, Yankees Reunion in 2017?

Did Alex Rodriguez drop a bombshell over the weekend while working as an analyst for Fox Sports? Maybe so and it may have included Alex’s future plans for the 2017 season. Do the Yankees know? Was he just doing it for television? Is the Centaur coming back and will it be in the Bronx? So many question, so few answers unfortunately and I think that was part of Alex’s plans all along. You know, because he’s Alex Rodriguez after all.

So where did all this come from? Well on Saturday during the Nationals and Dodgers game Pete Rose asked Alex on air about what he thought about David Ortiz lacing up his cleats for his final games of his career since Alex had just gone through the same thing, so we thought anyway, and Alex responded with a very vague “stay tuned.” What else could “stay tuned” mean if Alex did not have plans to return to Major League Baseball in 2017?

Alex is well within his rights to come back to MLB in 2017 and on the Yankees dime as well at the tune of $21 million so would the former Yankees slugger be willing to return to New York? Would he prefer to stay closer to his hometown and his children while playing in Miami with the Miami Marlins as their first baseman or bench piece? I can tell you this I can’t see the Yankees taking him back after finally committing to a youth movement so it may be Miami or bust… and I’m leaning towards bust.

And really, so what if it is bust? What does Alex have to lose? If a team invites him to spring training and he doesn’t make the team he would presumably still have a job with the Yankees as a special advisor. If not he’ll have plenty of time on his hands to count his $21 million in the bank for 2017. Here’s an idea though, what about if he returns to baseball and to Miami but not as a player but as the team’s hitting coach? Barry Bonds didn’t work out, could Alex be next? Honestly, I think so. Stay tuned because somehow, even in retirement, Alex has made himself front page news again like he always does, he is Alex Rodriguez after all you know. 

If Tanaka Wants to Pitch in WBC for Japan, Yankees Should Say ….

The World Baseball Classic returns in 2017 disrupting spring training camps across the league while playing for bragging rights for your country and nothing more. Don’t get me wrong, I like the World Baseball Classic but the United States didn’t do themselves any favors when they decided to set it up. Most of the world plays baseball year round yet by the time the WBC comes around most of the players from the United States are just now getting loose, getting their work in and getting their timing down. Until and unless that changes the US will never win a WBC, period, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about the Japanese team in the upcoming WBC and one certain Yankees pitcher who may or may not want to represent his homeland in the competition. Masahiro Tanaka, should the Yankees let him pitch in what essentially is an exhibition set of games?

In a word, no. Want two words? Hell no. The New York Yankees do not need a Mark Teixeira type incident again, remember Teixeira hurt his wrist and basically missed the entire season in 2013 while prepping for the WBC, and the Yankees cannot afford a loss of a pitcher. Especially Tanaka. Now if Tanaka hadn’t suffered from a partially torn ligament in his throwing elbow, which granted has not given him any trouble since, and hadn’t been on the disabled list every year since for some arm-related injury including his forearm strain that ended his season prematurely in 2016 then I would be willing to give him a shot but I just can’t. I can’t bring myself to see him go down in the WBC pitching for a team that isn’t the Yankees. I can’t.

Tanaka heads into the 2017 season with a huge decision regarding his future. Tanaka has an opt-out clause in his contract for after the 2017 season and if he is going to accept the opt-out or decline to use it I’d rather that decision made from his work on a Major League pitching mound, not because he let it go or went too far too early for Team Japan. Call me selfish if you want but the Yankees are paying him $22 million to pitch in the Bronx, not sit at home in Japan injured.

I’m not sure if the Yankees truly even have a say in the matter, especially for a big-named pitcher like Tanaka, but if they do they have to say no in my opinion. If they don’t they need to at least make it seem like skipping the WBC is Tanaka’s idea and keep him out of the game by any means necessary. It’s just not worth the risk if you ask me. Just say no, Tanaka.

Article Revisit: I Have a Bad Feeling About 2016

Bryan Van Dusen wrote this almost exactly one year ago about the 2016 season. Did he get it right? You have to think he did in a lot of cases so enjoy this article revisit from October of 2015 and check in on the original post HERE. Enjoy.

I want to be optimistic about next season. I really do. This is especially true after the team got my hopes up in the 1st half of the season, only to stumble into the Wild Card game. It also doesn't help that I'm not a patient person. But, alas, I don't have a good feeling about 2016.

"I've been looking through this thing for hours, and I still don't see anything good."

While there are teams that were good, and could very well get better next year, the Yankees are not one of them. Let's face it... the team is unlikely to change.

Let's start by taking a look at players that are either under contract or team control, and will probably be regulars in the starting lineup....

Catcher - Brian McCann
1st Base - Mark Teixeira
3rd Base - Chase Headley
Shortstop - Didi Gregorius
Left Field - Brett Gardner
Center Field - Jacoby Ellsbury
Right Field - Carlos Beltran
Designated Hitter - Alex Rodriguez

The only position that's not set right now is 2nd base, and while anybody would be better than giving Stephen Drew another 428 plate appearances, chances are it won't make much difference.

Drew's bWAR this past season was 0.3, while Ben Zobrist had the highest bWAR among upcoming free agent 2nd basemen at 2.9. For argument's sake, let's say Zobrist would be worth 3 more wins thanks to the upgrade. That would give the Yankees 90 wins, which would probably not be good enough to win the division, leading to another winner-take-all Wild Card game.

No thanks.

Speaking of improving at one position, and the team getting better, you have to assume the other eight hitters produce like they did this past season. That's no certainty.

Carlos Beltran's poor 2014 season for the Yankees was easily his worst since 2005, which could simply mean it was an aberration. But the guy will turn 39 in April. I don't think his best case scenario next year is to be better. No, his best case scenario is to simply not be to be any worse.

Then we have Alex Rodriguez, who may be healthier now than he's been in years. Along with that he might not be as dumb as he once was, either. But you know what would be more surprising than his 2015 season was? Him having a better 2016 season. Again, like Beltran, his best case scenario for next year is probably that he doesn't get worse.

Next we have Mark Teixeira. Sure, Mark is not exactly old, as he'll turn 36 in April. Then again, he's far from being part of the Yankees' youth movement. So I can't really buy into that 146 OPS+ continuing for another season. Mark's slugging percentage was over .500 for the first time since 2009, and that's easily where the largest chunk of his value comes from. If that power goes back to the 2010-2012 levels (average SLG of .484), then we're going to hear much more about his defense next year than his offense.

When it comes to players that are unlikely to improve next year, you can add Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, and Didi Gregorius.

McCann's OPS+ of 107, while better than the 93 he put up last year, was still pretty darn low for him considering the fact that it was 118 the year before joining the Yankees. That might make you think he could be better, but it's hard for me to believe somebody on the wrong side of 30 is going to get better. It's possible, but hard to count on.

Gardner's OPS+ of 105 was lower than the 110 he put up in each of the previous two seasons, but he's actually older than McCann is. Brett's game relies on his legs, and in case you aren't aware, a person's legs tend to get worse as they get older... not better.

I'm a fan of Didi Gregorius, but that doesn't mean I'm fooling myself into thinking he's a future All Star. Despite Yankees fans generally being pleased with their new shortstop, Didi's OPS+ was still only 90. His batting average of .265 was well above the .226 he had in 2014, while his slugging percentage was about the same (.370 vs. .373). So the only place I can see him getting better is in the on-base percentage department, which won't do a whole lot of good when he's hitting at the bottom of the lineup.

But it's not all bad. I believe Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury can hit better.
"I knew he couldn't stay negative for long."
"Hold on, buddy."

The days of Headley finishing in the top 5 of MVP voting are long over with. So while he could improve upon that 92 OPS+ he had this season, it likely won't get much higher than the 101 he put up in 2014. At the same time, there's a good chance Ellsbury's OPS+ is better than the 84 he put up this year, but will probably not get any higher than the 110 he put up the previous season.

So you can take that smug look of yours and... use your imagination.

I think that about covers the offensive side of things. So how about the starting rotation?

The good news is that the starting rotation for next season already has plenty of options... Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, Ivan Nova, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell. Yeah, I said it has plenty of options. I didn't say those options make for a strong rotation.

I will admit to feeling pretty good about Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino. However, those guys are not a strong 1-2 at the top of the rotation. Don't get me wrong, they aren't bad up there, but you have to wonder what will happen with Severino after the league sees him a little more. Plus, Tanaka's strikeout rate went down quite a bit (9.3 K/9 in 2014 to 8.1 K/9 in 2015).

Despite having an ERA of 5.80 in the second half, I think Michael Pineda should be a solid starter next season. Will he be a #2 like some of us thought going into this season? I'm not holding out a ton of hope. But I believe he'd make a really good #4.

Those three guys would make me comfortable in the 2-4 spots in the rotation, but as of now we're looking at 1-3. Which leaves the last two spots for Sabathia (2015: 4.73 ERA), Nova (2015: 5.07 ERA), Mitchell (5.13 ERA in his MLB career, and only 3 starts), Eovaldi (has given up 10 or more hits per 9 innings in his past two seasons), and Warren.

I'm going to give Adam Warren his own paragraph, because he may very well be the only player on the 2016 Yankees that actually helps make the team better. Adam's got a 3.98 ERA in 20 MLB starts. Now, his strikeout rate is a tad low as a starter (6.4 K/9), but I think it may be time to see what the guy can do. Heck, he's already 28 years old, so it's time to put up or shut up with him.

Oh, and speaking of pitcher, I loved reading about Jeff Samardzija. Not because I think he's awesome, but because the Division Series has just started. Let's at least wait until the World Series is over before we start spreading rumors around.

The fact of the matter is that unless Brian Cashman is able to trade away an outfielder to open up a spot for somebody like Jason Heyward, along with making room for even a Jeff Samardzija or... oh would this be nice... David Price, then you're unlikely to see me be very optimistic before Opening Day.

I'm sure to try, as the Yankees may only add another reliever or two, but a stronger bullpen is not going to turn this team from one that barely makes the postseason to one that is a true World Series contender.
"So, Mr. Cashman... are you up to the challenge?"

Has Larry Rothschild Really Made a Difference?

In case you missed it the New York Yankees had one member of their coaching staff that was set to become a free agent before the 2017 season and that one coach was the Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. New York seems high on Rothschild and they didn’t let him dangle for long as they signed him to a one-year deal for the 2017 season and that got me thinking. Has Rothschild really made a difference in the Yankees pitching over his tenure in the Bronx and should New York be stumbling over themselves to get him signed again for the 2018 season?

Rothschild signed with the Yankees back in 2011 after being the pitching coach for many teams but most recently the pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs. The year before Rothschild signed the Yankees pitching staff as a whole had a 3.73 ERA while the team posted a 3.84 ERA in 2012, a 3.94 ERA in 2013, a 3.75 ERA in 2014, a 4.15 ERA in 2015 and a 4.16 ERA in 2016. In the six years prior to Rothschild the Yankees staff as a whole posted a 4.52 ERA in 2005, a 4.41 ERA in 2006, a 4.49 ERA in 2007, a 4.28 ERA in 2008, a 4.26 ERA in 2009, and a 4.06 in 2010. While these numbers look good on paper you have to remember that Rothschild has a much better bullpen these days in the Bronx that skew these numbers just a tad from before he was the pitching coach.  

Does the pitching coach even matter or is it the pitchers that make all the difference? You have to remember that in 2011, the first year under Rothschild, the Yankees pitching staff consisted of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia. This season the pitching staff on Opening Day was Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia with Ivan Nova in the bullpen and Bryan Mitchell on the DL. I said all that to say this, you can’t compare apples to oranges here unfortunately because in the era of free agency the team’s change so much from year to year.

With that said has Larry Rothschild really made a difference in the Bronx? Most would argue that no he hasn’t but looking at the numbers I’m not sure that’s as much of a failure of his as it is a general rule for all coaches and managers. Talent is talent and you can only give so much guidance in these days and times. Larry hasn’t made a huge difference in my opinion, he “lost” Luis Severino this year while Nathan Eovaldi also took a step back, but no one off the top of my head (that is available) would have made that big of a difference either. Just my speculation.

Just something to remember when everyone is looking for a scape goat after a tough season is all. Carry on. 

MLB Playoff Schedule for 10/11/16

Ladies and gentleman it’s do-or-die time for the American League and National League Championship series if they don’t end before tonight. At the time of this writing this is the schedule for today but this is subject to change, please keep that in mind before clicking the send button on the hate mail. Thanks.

Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox (Game 5 if necessary) – 2:08 pm ET on TBS

Washington Nationals @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Game 4) – 5:05 pm ET on Fox Sports One

Chicago Cubs @ San Francisco Giants (Game 4 if necessary) – 8:40 pm ET on Fox Sports One

This Day in New York Yankees History 10/11: Four Game 5's

For the first time since divisional play began in 1995 all four American League and National League Division Series went to a decisive Game 5 on this day in 2012. The Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles knotted up their series with the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees joining the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants as they beat the Detroit Tigers and the Cincinnati Reds the day before to send their series to a Game 5. In case you were wondering St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, and Detroit all won their elimination games.

Also on this day in 2006 Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor Tyler Stanger die in an airplane crash. Lidle was learning to fly the four person plane crashed into an Upper East Side high-rise building in New York.

Finally on this day in 2002 former Yankees and Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter was hired to be the manager of the Texas Rangers. The Cubs, Brewers, Mets, and Devil Rays all were courting Showalter before he decided to sign in Texas.