Saturday, February 8, 2014

It's Time To Move On From The Steroid Era

This was part of the pinch hitting segment on Lohud, SEEN HERE, yesterday and is now being re-posted here today on the blog. Enjoy.

Unless you have been living under a rock since the Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention, you all know about the whole Alex Rodriguez suspension, subsequent appeal, and the plethora of lawsuits that came along with the fallout, so I will not bore you with the details. What I will do — and I ask that everyone reading this keep an open mind and that you hear me out until the end whether you agree with me or not — is tell you why I think that all steroid users should be forgiven and allowed into the Hall of Fame.
I am a firm believer in the “social” part of social media so I am very active on Twitter, and it perplexes me how many people want to see the likes of Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson in Cooperstown but in the same breath use the not-so-creative nicknames like “A Roid” when speaking about Rodriguez. I believe there is a huge double standard going on inside the MLB and in the media when it comes to the steroid era, and I think I have the solution to the problem.
With that said my name is Daniel Burch and I forgive Alex Rodriguez, and all steroid users, not because I am part of #TeamARod but because I am part of #TeamYankees and because it’s the right thing to do.
We all — and obviously I use the term loosely because you will never have a 100% consensus — forgave Ryan Braun, for lack of a better word, after he failed a steroid test and blamed it on the poor old FedEx man before the 2013 season. Even if forgave is not the best word to use, then maybe ignored is more appropriate as once the season started we heard nothing about it on the major news outlets or on social media. Absolutely nothing. Braun’s failed test was swept under the rug to never be spoken of again, and it’s not the first time this double standard has occurred with Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball.
David Ortiz was named in the Mitchell Report that Commissioner Selig had drawn up by Senator George Mitchell way back in 2007 which released the names of players that had failed tests or used steroids in the past, but you never hear Ortiz’s name while linked to steroids. Ortiz is, in fact, treated like a God in Boston while his suspected use is never mentioned and even blatantly denied by some in the industry and in the New England area. There are players like former teammate of Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, who has three more failed tests than Alex has in his career (by the way Alex has zero for those keeping score at home, and you never saw pitchers throwing at Manny four times in one at-bat not even after he retired to duck a steroid suspension and was allowed back in the game with yet another slap on the wrist and a reduced suspension). The double standard is blatantly obvious here and it upsets and concerns me not because I am a fan of the Rodriguez or even because I root for the Yankees, it is because I am a firm believer in what is right is right for all. If Ortiz and Manny can be forgiven, then why not A-Rod?
Alex RodriguezAs I mentioned earlier, there is a huge following to get Pete Rose’s ban from baseball lifted, and a movement to get him into Cooperstown, a rally that I am 100 percent behind. All Pete did was bet on his team to win, what’s the harm in that I ask? It did not affect the outcome of the game, unlike Joe Jackson who threw World Series games, and it made sure that Pete and the Reds were doing all they could to win ball games, something they were doing anyway. I am in no way trying to compare what Rodriguez and others have done to what Rose or Jackson have done because they simply do not compare, but it gives you something to think about. Think back, if you’re old enough to remember, to that day in 1989 when Rose was banned. Very few thought that Rose should be allowed to ever step foot on a baseball field again, let alone be in the Hall of Fame. Twenty some years later, there is a movement, or even a cult following if you would like to call it that, to get Rose reinstated and allowed into the Hall. The moral of the story is, with time comes change, and in time I truly believe that the whole steroid era and its users will be forgiven, so I ask why not get ahead of the game and be a leader, not a follower? If Pete Rose can be forgiven, why not A-Rod?
The steroid era is and forever will be a black eye to this great game of baseball that I love so dearly. The difference between this and the Black Sox scandal, for example, is this is much more widespread, so how does Major League Baseball deal with it and fix it? In my opinion you have two options, one more likely than the other. You can wipe the slates clean and put an asterisk by everything and every one of the past 20-30 years, or you can allow it all to stand, allowing for no middle ground here. If the Hall of Fame is a place to enshrine the best players and the players with the best stats, and the MLB has done nothing to suggest that the numbers of the steroid era and the steroid using players playing in it will be changed or not be included by default, then you have to include the best players with the best stats and that includes the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez to name a few. Clemens was in the same Mitchell Report referenced above as David Ortiz and was found not guilty of perjury while testifying on the subject, so it all goes back full circle. If it works for one it needs to work for all.
I will finish with this and if this is not enough to change your mind then I believe that nothing will, did you cheer for Andy Pettitte on his farewell tour? If you did, then there is a great possibility that you forgave him for his steroid use by now. So why not A-Rod? If Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, or Mariano Rivera got caught using PED’s, would you forgive them? If so, then why not A-Rod? A-Rod is a human being who plays baseball, that’s it. He’s not a firefighter, he’s not a police officer, he’s not an emergency room nurse, and he’s not a brain surgeon, he just plays baseball. He’s human. He makes mistakes, and he may be a little “unpleasant” at times, but at the end of the day, he’s paid very well to play a child’s game. In my opinion, if you take his steroid use personally, then you are not enjoying this game for its intended purposes, to be entertained, and that’s OK. I love this game too, and I pour my heart and soul into it every day, but in the end, players like Alex are still human and still deserve the most basic of common courtesies. In closing, don’t forgive Alex because MLB Network or ESPN tells you to, forgive him because it’s the right thing to do.

Scranton Wilkes Barre RailRiders Unveiled New PNC Field

Watch as the Scranton Wilkes Barre RailRiders unveiled their newly renovated PNC Field for the 2013 season. This is prospects month on The Greedy Pinstripes.

Saber-Series: Part 3--Pitching

On to my personal favorite, analyzing pitchers performance and possible future performance really gets my goat. It just so happens that it could be one of the more complex areas to look at it but I will guide you through. Unlike Part 1 and 2, pitching is unique because many of the stats used to evaluate pitchers come along with other stats that could help predict future performance. This is particularly intriguing during the off-season when fan optimism is at its peak. Let's get to work, shall we.

WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched): WHIP is much more mainstream in terms of pitching statistics but I want to make sure its included. Its only goal is to determine how many base runners a pitcher lets up and it does this by combining the hits and walks a pitcher allows and divides this by their innings pitched. 
Above Average1.25
Below Average1.40
This chart provided courtesy of FanGraphs shows the range of WHIP's although I would have to say the average seems a bit high here and probably falls closer to 1.15-1.25.

FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching): This stat is my favorite in this category and is widely used in the saber community. When analyzed correctly FIP does more to predict future performance. FIP, in the simplest terms is put into an ERA format and attempts to quantify what a pitcher SHOULD have done based on league average defense. Studies have shown that pitchers do not have very much control over balls in play so this stat was created to show how the pitcher should of performed based on the things they CAN control like strikeouts, hits, HBP and home runs. 
Above Average3.75
Below Average4.20

K/9 (Strikeouts per 9 Innings): This is pretty self explanatory but shouldn't be underrated. K/9 measures a pitchers strikeout totals and is a great tool to look at when evaluating a pitcher. Pitchers with higher K/9's usually have lower BABIP's because the hitters don't make as much contact.
Above Average7.520.0%
Below Average6.015.0%

BABIP (Batting Avg. On Balls In Play): I discussed this in Part 1--Offense but if you read it you would of seen that I said this stat is often  utilized when evaluating pitchers. BABIP will reveal how hard a pitcher gets hit and how much contact they make although luck and defense plays a big role in the number. It is not always reliable to look at a pitchers BABIP due to these reasons but it is still a solid stat. An average BABIP is about .290-.300 and if you see a pitcher with a BABIP that radically deviates from this expect a regression from them.

BB/9 (Walk Per 9): Like K/9 this is pretty easy to calculate, this is the number of batters faced that ended up in walks.
Above Average2.87.0%
Below Average4.09.0%
GB% (Ground Ball Rate): The number of hits that result in ground balls. Ground ball pitchers typically have lower BABIP's because ground balls typically result in more outs. Fan Graphs puts league average at around 44% for GB% and anything over 50% is considered above average.

FB% (Fly Ball Rate): The number of hits that result in fly balls. Pitchers with high FB rates tend to give up more long balls and have higher ERA's in hitter friendly parks. League average sits around 35%. Along with GB% these two stats are nice indicators of performance, specifically in certain ball parks.

LOB% (Left on Base Percentage): This looks out how many batters a pitcher strands on the bases over the course of the season. This number does not fluctuate much and most pitchers sit in the area of 70-72% LOB% and if you do see a deviation of significance then you can expect a regression or improvement.

O-Swing%: This stat measures how many pitchers a batter swings out outside the zone. This is a true talent for pitchers and average sits around 30%.

FRA (Fair Run Average--Exclusive to BP): FRA is BP's version of FIP but the philosophy behind its calculation is different. FRA also takes into account a pitchers HBP totals and gives credit to pitchers for good pitch sequencing who work their way out of jams or tough AB's. Excellent - Clayton Kershaw 2.90
Great - Brandon McCarthy 3.42
Average - Ivan Nova 4.36
Poor - Brett Cecil 5.14
Horrendous - Jake Arrieta 5.88
(Based on 2011 season)

OBP: OBP for pitchers is just the OBP allowed.

Continue to take notes and enjoy the info! Just a friendly reminder, I STRONGLY encourage you to respond with comments whether they be compliments or criticism. Ask questions and get a conversation going that is the purpose of this! Until next time- TC

All stats, charts and some dialogue provided courtesy of Fan Graphs and Baseball Prospectus.

Meet A Prospect: Dellin Betances

Dellin Betances was born on March 23, 1988 in Washington Heights, Manhattan in New York. Dellin was born to parents Jamie and Maria Betances after they emigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. Jamie was a boxer and drives for a car service to support Dellin and his two older brothers and younger sister. The Betances family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan when Dell was ten years old where Dellin attended many Yankees games with his family. One of those games he witnessed firsthand at age 10 was David Wells perfect game in 1998 while sitting with the Bleacher Creatures. This, according to Dellin, was the reason that the 6’ 9” right hander chose baseball over basketball and forces him to play summer baseball in the Youth Service League. Betances spent his High School years at Grand Street Campus School in Brooklyn, New York and could throw an 85 MPH fastball as a freshmen. By his Junior year in 2005 Betances was up to 90 MPH on the fastball while towering over his competition at 6’ 4” on his way to being named an Aflac All-American, the first player from New York City to receive the honor. Betances also played for the Team USA Junior National Team that season. By 2006 Betances was  6’ 9” and was rated as the tenth best High School prospect in all the land by

Betances went into the 2006 MLB First Year Players Draft expecting to be chosen in the first round even though he was committed to Vanderbilt University on a full baseball scholarship. His commitment to the Vanderbilt Commodores baseball team as well as him coming out and asking for a high signing bonus made him fall in the draft and fall fast. The New York Yankees finally took a shot on the local kid in the eighth round of the draft giving him a $1 million signing bonus snatching him away from College Baseball. Dellin used that money to buy his family a house in  Teaneck, New Jersey as a thank you for all that they did. Great kid with a great makeup, local kid, seems destined to be a great Yankee, no?

Betances spent his 2007 season with the Staten Island Yankees in the New York Penn League as the Yankees third best prospect and made it all the way to Low A with the Charleston Riverdogs by the 2008 season began. Another year and another promotion for Dellin in 2009 as the Yankees fifth best prospect according to Baseball America went up to High A with the Tampa Yankees, although struggling with a 2-5 record and a 5.48 ERA in 11 starts before suffering an elbow injury in early June of that season. Betances had surgery late in 2009 which was a ligament reinforcement procedure and not the dreaded Tommy John surgery that so many power pitchers have to receive. Betances began the 2010 back in Tampa but quickly received a midseason promotion to the AA affiliate the Trenton Thunder pitching so well the Yankees added Dellin to the 40 man roster after the season. Another season another promotion for Dellin as he started the 2011 in AAA with the Scranton Wilkes Barre team. Betances was called up to the majors for the first time that season on September 8, 2011.

Betances had a pitching sessions in the street in front of his Teaneck, New Jersey home with his brother before joining up with the Yankees in Anaheim to face the Angels. Betances and fellow prospect and “Killer B” Andrew Brackman both made their Major League debuts on September 22, 2011 and Betances only saw one other appearance for the Yankees that season. Betances was sent back down to AAA for the 2012 season and after struggling in the rotation the Yankees moved Betances to the bullpen on May 10, 2013. Betances was brought up to the majors when Ivan Nova went down last season with an injury but was used very little and sent back down when Nova came off the disabled list in May. Betances pitched to a 1.46 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 49.1 IP as a reliever in AAA and was recalled back to New York on August 11, 2013. Betances spent four days with the big league club before being sent back down on August 15 and brought back as a September call up on September 1st. Betances was seldom used for whatever reason and spent most of September sitting on the bench rather than gaining valuable experience. Most of that may have been the fact the Yankees were in a dog fight for the second Wild Card.

Due to a weird rule written into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement Dellin has a fourth option and is able to be sent down to AAA for the 2014 season but will be in Spring Training camp fighting for one of those bullpen jobs. I truly believe that Dellin has turned the corner with his development and could be a big time piece of the Yankees bullpen this season and going forward. Good luck to Dellin this spring and I really do hope he proves all the haters and doubters wrong this season like I know that he will. Go Dellin! You have to root for the local guys, unwritten rule here at The Greedy Pinstripes.

Stephen Drew, Where art thou?

Thirty year old free agent shortstop (by trade) Stephen Drew is still on the open market and like many other fans I am wondering why the Yankees haven't pounced? Well if it was that simple the issue would of already been resolved so lets look at whats in front of the Yankees.

When the Yankees signed Japenese sensation Masahiro Tanaka back in January they effectively abolished the $189 million dollar payroll idea. With that in mind, why don't they just keep spending? If they are willing to go this far to field a championship team then they ought not stop there. Signing Tanaka was not only needed it was necessary, so when they shattered that magical one-eight-nine number they should of shattered even more.

As I picture it, the Opening Day 2014 New York Yankees infield looks like this:
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Kelly Johnson

Doesn't sound like the most dominating crew now does it? Lets take a look at the numbers. 1B through SS had a COMBINED 432 PA and averaged a whopping 0.1 WAR. Now, I know that given a full season Mark Teixeira won't post a -0.2 WAR and if The Captain can stay healthy he'll put up much more than 73 PA but when we start getting into this IF business it starts looking like a lot of things must go right. Brian Roberts is probably even a bigger "if" then Jeter. I know all Yankee fans have heard this dreary evaluation so the point I am trying to make is Stephen Drew looks like a very attractive platoon that could be stretched to play 3B, SS and 2B. Now I know Drew is looking for regular playing time but when looking at the Yankees infield, if he's willing to get that playing time at multiple positions it could happen.

Lets give Stephen Drew the microscope treatment for a moment.
What does he bring to the plate? Well Drew is an average defender (at best) who could bring a slighlty above average bat (for a shortstop). Drew has shown the ability to have a 3 WAR season (2013=3.4), although that will probably fall to about 2 over the next few years. Drew brings a solid bat to the plate and has shown some on base ability with the potential to drive in some runs posting a 109 wRC+ last season. I am not projecting Drew to be a spectacular talent covering all of our infield holes but his proven talent platooning those holes with Johnson, Roberts, Brendan Ryan and Jeter is much more attractive than him not being there.

Daniel reported today through Adam Rubin that the soon to be thirty-one year old is looking for a two year deal with an opt-out clause after his first year. This is where I see the Yankees getting held up, why give him $10-12 million in 2014 with the possibility of him saying bye bye in 2015? Especially when he put up a .196/.246/.340 with a 53 wRC+ stat line against southpaws in 2013. The Mets seem to be unattracted by the idea of an opt-out and besides Boston I don't see a market for Drew. There is the good, the bad, and some ugly with Drew but with some big market acquisitions this off-season and a PECOTA system that still sees the Yankees with a win total in the 80's it just feels like there is work to be done. Hopefully we will have some clarification in the coming weeks. 

Yankee Stadium Legacy: #52 Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson has always denied the "straw that stirs the drink" comment but we as fans cannot let it go, true or not. Jackson was a sensation on and off the field for the Yankees as he brought two World Series to the team and four postseason appearances in his five years as a Bronx Bomber. In 1980 Jackson hit 41 home runs, drove in 111 RBI's, and finished second in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting for the Yankees.

52 days until Yankees Opening Day

Prospects Month: Top 28 Yankees Prospects List #21

Continuing our look at The Greedy Pinstripes Top 28 prospects list as a part of Prospects Month we name our #21 prospect, Nik Turley!

Here is the complete up to date list. Check back every day as the list fills out and we continue our look at the prospects in the New York Yankees system during Prospects Month here on TGP.

21. Nik Turley
22. Cito Culver
23. Ramon Flores
24. Mark Montgomery
25. Rookie Davis
26. Jake Cave
27. Ben Gamel
28. Angelo Gumbs

Exclusive Interview w/ Former Yankee Alan Horne

The Greedy Pinstripes has snagged an exclusive interview with former Yankees starting pitcher and farm hand Alan Horne. We want to thank Mr. Horne for taking the time to answer our questions and be an all around friendly and nice guy for a small time blog like ourselves.

Alan was one of the Yankees pitchers that seemed to be the "next big thing" much like Adam Warren and David Phelps are now but a shoulder injury set him back for good unfortunately. He did not let them keep him back or knock him down though and he continues to do his thing and live his life so kudos to him. Now on to the interview.

Was your dream as a child always to be a baseball player? If not then what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I always wanted to be a baseball player as long as I can remember. I didn't really play other sports when I was younger besides soccer for a few years and it was more to get in shape for baseball season. I've always been kind of an all in or not at all person and baseball was the only sport I was like that with. When I wasn't playing I was hunting or fishing. Truth be told my dream as a little guys was to play baseball long enough that I could be famous enough to have my own hunting and fishing show. Aspirations of a small town country kid I guess.

What team did you root for growing up as a kid? 

For whatever reason growing up I loves the cardinals. I have no idea why because I had absolutely no ties to them what so ever. 

Favorite player(s) growing up? 

My favorite players growing up were definitely Nolan Ryan, Mark McGwire, and Dale Murphy.

Your biggest inspiration when it came to baseball? 

My biggest inspiration was definitely my dad. He was a heck of a ball player himself playing at Chipola Junior College and Florida State. Unfortunately he had his career derailed by injuries as well. He taught how to do things the right way from the very beginning. That was the only option I had and I have a deep respect for him teaching the game to me that way.

Favorite moment as a Yankees prospect? 

My favorite moment would have to be the culmination of the 2007 season. I was lucky enough to have a great season, get named pitcher of the year, and go up to NY for several days after our season. I'll never forget that phone call from Cash congratulating me and telling me he would see me soon.

Who was the best prospect in the Yankees system that you ever played with? 

You know I played with so many talented guys.....Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Brett Gardner, Austin really goes on and on so it's hard to pick a best or favorite. If I had to pick a player and pitcher who I admired how they played the game and loved watching them play it would have been Brett and Ian. They are both ultimate competitors and even more outstanding guys. I'm still close with them to this day.

Do you keep in touch with any other current or former Yankees prospects or coaches? 

I keep in touch with a lot of guys and a handful of coaches as well. Our lifestyle is a kind of fraternity I guess and will forever share bonds with the people we play with.

Hardest part of being a prospect? 

Being a prospect was never hard for me because I was very goal oriented and had bigger hopes and dreams than any person could have had for me. Unfortunately things didn't work out but I got to leave the game knowing it wasn't that I wasn't good enough or I didn't work hard enough. Just some bad breaks and that's the way the game works.

Why did you decide to sign with the Yankees when they drafted you and not the Angels or the Indians? 

Ya know what all three teams are great organizations and it was never about that. I tried to make the decision that was right for me at the time in each case. I'll be forever grateful to each for giving me an opportunity and extremely proud of being a Yankee for 7 years. Not everyone gets to be a part of the greatest organization in professional sports and I'll cherish every up and down that went with it. 

Do you have plans to try and give baseball another shot? Do you have long term goals and plans for life after baseball? 

Again unfortunately I'm done with baseball. My shoulder is to the point where it is pretty miserable for me just to play catch. I'd have to have another shoulder surgery just to try again and it just wasn't worth it after all I've been through. As for plans after baseball I'm currently in training to become a State Farm Agent in Jasper, Georgia. It would have been way too hard for me to stay in baseball after everything that happened. I don't think I could be around it everyday. And this is a great opportunity. Instead of coaching baseball it gives me a chance to coach people in financially structuring their lives so they too can one day have a chance to achieve all their hopes and dreams. It's something I'm very excited about and look forward to.

How are you adjusting to living in small town America? 

Small town America is no adjustment for me. It's how I've lived my whole life and wouldn't have it any other way now that I am through with baseball

Most famous person in your cell phone? 

Most famous person. I have no idea. I'll probably have to give my buddy Ian props on that one haha.

Most embarrassing song/artist in your ipod? 

And as far as my iPod goes I'm quite prejudice in the fact that I have the best iPod ever assembled. No bad or embarrassing stuff on there haha.

Again we want to thank Mr. Alan Horne for taking the time for the interview. Guy is a great guy he has never shyed away from talking to me or taking the time for me on facebook and for this blog. It is also cool because I am 15 minutes away from his State Farm Office in Jasper, Georgia! Good luck in all your travels Alan and thank you again!

This Day In New York Yankees History 2/8

On this day in 2006 Johnny Damon stopped being an idiot and signed a free agent deal with the New York Yankees, leaving the Boston Red Sox. Johnny took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe thanking the fans for their support and their loyalty.