Saturday, October 24, 2015

How It's Made: How to Make a Major League Baseball

Have you ever wondered how a Major League Baseball was made? Wonder no more thanks to How It's Made, a great television show if you've never watched it. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.

Were They Worth It?

For a while after The Greedy Pinstripes opened, I would constantly write about salaries. I pretty much became obsessed with the team's total payroll, and how their players fit into it. I would write about how much money was allegedly on the books, and whether they would or would not sign one player or another. It took me a while to realize what many others already knew... it was a waste of time. Not only did I not know how much the team was willing to spend, but it ultimately didn't matter to me as a fan because I was not the one writing the payroll checks.

"There are people that still write checks? Hello! It's called a debit card!"

I don't mean to say that I've completely abandoned the idea of player salaries and the team's payroll. I'm not going to waste my time saying the team could sign Jason Heyward, David Price, and others, while putting big money players like Carlos Beltran on the bench. Major League Baseball is a business, which means the league and its teams are out to make money, therefore team owners are going to treat it as such.

One thing I bring up often when talking about money is the Dollar Values done at Fangraphs. No, I don't think it's a perfect formula, but I do believe it's a good way to measure a player's worth. For example, Fangraphs lists Bryce Harper as being worth $75.9 million last season. You may say he's probably only worth like $70 million, but the fact is he's one of... if not the most valuable hitter in MLB.

So I decided to take a look at the Dollar Values placed on players from the 2015 Yankees. You're probably going to notice that the following chart doesn't include every player that spent time on the team's Active Roster this season, but it does cover those that spent a significant amount of time on it.

Let's start with those that actually cost the team money last season.

Sabathia was the biggest waste for the Yankees in 2015, giving the team nearly $15 million less on the field than they gave him on his paycheck. Ellsbury wasn't much better, as the Yankees spent a little over $14 million more on him than he gave to the team. Drew was another waste for the team, as his salary was $3.7 million higher than what he gave the team in performance. While Tanaka is on the list of players that under-performed their salaries, if he could have made five or six more starts he would have likely covered his salary and then some. The teams loss with Headley was minimal, however I believe he'll make up for that during the last three years of his contract. Oh, and as for ARod, many would have taken him as a $64 million loss spread out over his final three years, so a loss of only $600,000 this season was fantastic.

Now for those that gave the Yankees more than the team gave them.

Take another look at that chart above. That list of "plusses" is pretty nice. Pineda (+26.1), Gregorius (+24.146), and Eovaldi (+21.9) would have been welcome by any owner in baseball. And, although a number of Yankees fans feel otherwise, Yankees brass has to love using young players. Just look at what young guys like Gregorius did... Betances (+18.692), Warren (+16.528), Wilson (+11.244), Bird (+6.9), Murphy (+4.981), Severino (+4.8), Heathcott (+2.1), and Refsnyder (+.7). Finally, you can add another $29 million for the Yankees, thanks to Gardner (+7.9), Miller (+6.9), Young (+6.9), McCann (+6.5), Nova (+.4), and Beltran (+.4) all outperforming their salaries.

You may have noticed that I haven't talked about Mark Teixeira. Even though he was technically a "loss" for the Yankees last season, if it wasn't for an injury he would have outplayed his salary by quite a bit.

In summary, how about that total? The team's total payroll for 2015 was a little under $218 million. The total for the players in that chart ($332.9 million) means the Yankees got around $115 million more out of their team than they had to pay. I would call that a big win for Hal and friends.

So if anybody brings up the Yankees eating a player's contract, or at least part of it in order to facilitate a trade (*cough*Ellsbury*cough*), you don't have to feel bad for Hal, Brian, Joe or anybody else employed by the New York Yankees.

"Yeah, we're all doing just fine."

Christine Brennan, It’s Time to FORG1V3

Christine Brennan is a writer for the USA Today, a website that I frequent quite often as you probably already know, and a personality that I used to respect. A personality I used to respect up until she took, in my opinion, a hypocritical stance regarding Fox Sports decision to bring Alex Rodriguez into the fold for their postseason and World Series coverage and analysis. Brennan didn’t hold back whatsoever in her piece, which I was so ever graciously link HERE because I’m not a hater, but I personally believe she missed out on a few key points that I will try and cover here and yes, Christine, I will leave my Yankees fandom at the door.

Christine wasted no time pulling punches in her article as she called Alex Rodriguez the “worst” baseball player and expert they could have picked to join the Fox Sports crew. Of course it didn’t take more than two or three lines to bring up Alex’s steroids suspension and PED use but nowhere in the article does it mention that he did his time, apologized and has done everything in his power to turn his image, and more importantly his life around. Christine brings up the image that we as a society are sending to the children by using “the guy” for steroid use, what about the message that everyone makes mistakes? That everyone is entitled a second, and sometimes even a third or fourth chance, if they earn it? What about the image that no living man walking this Earth is perfect? What about the message of forgiveness?

I have children, one of which is old enough to watch and understand baseball but not quite old enough to understand the severity of steroid use and such yet, and while I will never prop up Alex Rodriguez as a role model or someone I want my son to emulate I will not merely throw him by the wayside either because of past mistakes. There are two sides to every story and every situation, there is also a high road and a low road. I prefer to take the high road with anyone who earns that, and Major League Baseball and Alex’s peers have him up for the AL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award so I’m obviously not the only one who thinks he’s earned at least something back, while you Mrs. Brennan decided to take the low road. What will your children think and the children of others think about the message being sent by a judgmental and hypocritical article like the one you wrote this week?

I have used the term hypocritical multiple times in this article but I haven’t fully explained what I thought was hypocritical. To quote your article you were quoted as saying “this tells us that the game, and Fox Sports, will do anything to get attention. Anything.” What exactly do you think you’re doing as a writer for the USA Today when you write what is more than likely going to be a controversial article about Alex Rodriguez? Are you not doing it to get attention, to get clicks and to look good for your publication? Of course you are, if you weren’t you wouldn’t be getting paid for it. No one is blaming you for that either, I just prefer to call it like I see it and call it fairly for both sides which is something that you showed you were incapable of in this article.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi said that, Alex Rodriguez is doing that and you, Christine, are everything that’s wrong with the world. Again, that’s just my opinion. Carry on. 

MLB Trade Rumors: New York Yankees Offseason Outlook


The Yankees could have a bit of room to add another big contract this winter, though a greater need may be finding young depth to bolster its veteran core.

Guaranteed Contracts
Masahiro Tanaka, SP: $111MM through 2020 (Tanaka can opt out after 2017)
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF: $105.714MM through 2020 ($21MM club option for 2021 with $5MM buyout)
Brian McCann, C: $51MM through 2018 ($15MM club option for 2019, can vest to become player option)
Alex Rodriguez, DH: $40MM through 2017
Chase Headley, 3B: $39MM through 2018
Brett Gardner, OF: $36MM through 2018 ($12.5MM club option for 2019, $2MM buyout)
Andrew Miller, RP: $27MM through 2018
C.C. Sabathia, SP: $25MM through 2016 ($25MM vesting option for 2017, $5MM buyout otherwise)
Mark Teixeira, 1B: $22.5MM through 2016
Carlos Beltran, OF: $15MM through 2016

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections by MLB Trade Rumors)
Sergio Santos (5.110) – $900K projected salary
Andrew Bailey (5.034) – $900K arbitration projection (has $2MM club option).
Ivan Nova (5.024) – $4.4MM
Michael Pineda (4.099) – $4.6MM
Dustin Ackley (4.087) – $3.1MM
Nathan Eovaldi (4.013) – $5.7MM
Adam Warren (3.036) – $1.5MM
Justin Wilson (3.035) – $1.3MM
Didi Gregorius (2.159) – $2.1MM
Non-tender candidates: Santos

Contract Options
Brendan Ryan, IF: $2MM club option/$1MM player option for 2016
Andrew Bailey, RP: $2MM club option

Free Agents
Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Chris Capuano

In many ways, 2015 was a successful year for the Yankees. They returned to the postseason (albeit for just one game, losing to the Astros in a wild card matchup), got some solid contributions from building-block younger players and received several bounce-back seasons from their expensive veterans. While anything short of a World Series championship is generally considered a disappointment in New York, the Yankees at least made some positive strides.

The trick for GM Brian Cashman, however, is figuring out how exactly to add major upgrades to a roster that has over $180MM committed to just 10 players. There’s a light at the end of the guaranteed-salary since at least $37.5MM (Mark Teixeira andCarlos Beltran) will be freed up after 2016, plus Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia (a combined $45MM) will be off the books after 2017. The Yankees don’t seem likely to go on another free agent spending spree, but with some financial relief in sight, it doesn’t seem out of the question for them to make one or two major free agent signings on backloaded contracts. It may make more sense for New York to strike in free agency now rather than next winter, when the projected open market doesn’t look nearly as deep in talent, particularly in frontline pitching.

Starting pitching indeed stands out as an area of focus, and free agent righty Jeff Samardzija has already been cited as a Yankee target this offseason. Samardzija would cost less than pursuing one of the top-tier arms in this winter’s free agent pitching market, though the lower price tag is due to Samardzija’s lackluster 2015 season. He posted a 4.96 ERA over 214 innings with the White Sox, and while ERA predictors were a bit more kind to his performance (Chicago’s bad defense certainly played a role), Samardzija also suffered drops in his strikeout and grounder rates. It should be noted, though, that the Yankees weren’t interested in signing free agents that required draft pick forfeiture, and Samardzija reportedly will receive and reject a $15.8MM qualifying offer from the White Sox.

Acquiring a new starter would require the Yankees to bump a current rotation member. The 2016 rotation projects as Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi,Michael Pineda and Sabathia, with Ivan Nova and Adam Warren on hand as depth. Sabathia recently entered an alcohol rehabilitation program, adding a far more pressing personal concern to his 2016 status beyond just his knee injuries and declining performance. Sabathia has only made one relief appearance in his 15-year career (during the 2011 playoffs) and he still ate 167 1/3 innings last season, yet as strange as it would be to see him coming out of the bullpen, he’s the most logical candidate to leave the rotation. Tanaka and Severino obviously aren’t going anywhere, and trading promising young starters like Eovaldi and Pineda (whose ERA indicators show he drastically outperformed his 4.37 ERA) would be an odd move for a club that claims to want to get younger.

It’s hard to see where a major new salary could be fit around the diamond since that’s where most of the Yankees’ payroll commitments can be found. Aside from shortstopDidi Gregorius and the unsettled second base situation, every other position is filled by a veteran with an eight-figure salary, the youngest of whom (Chase Headley) is entering his age-32 season. The Yankees enjoyed several bounce-back seasons from many of these older stars in 2015 but even those came with some caveats; Teixeira missed the last six weeks with a shin fracture and Rodriguez hit only .191/.300/.377 in 213 PA after Aug. 1.

Combine those with down years from Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and a team-wide lackluster defense (24th in team UZR/150, 27th in team Defensive Runs Saved), and you have to question if the Yankees can realistically expect to catch lightning in a bottle again and contend with this aging lineup. Manager Joe Girardi was already pretty liberal with off-days for many of his veterans last year, and the same can probably be expected in 2016 now that the manager has a few more young reinforcements to be called upon.

Greg Bird and John Ryan Murphy lead the way in this regard, as the rookie first baseman and third-year backup catcher both had strong seasons, particularly Bird stepping in to deliver big numbers after Teixeira was lost to the DL. There has been some speculation that Bird could be tried out at third base or right field so he could get regular time spelling Teixeira, Headley and Beltran, though it remains to be see how Bird could adjust to playing two new positions for the first time in his pro career. Murphy could also see some time at first base, though it’s probably more likely that he could get more time behind the plate spelling Brian McCann (who would either rest on those days or play first himself). More at-bats for Murphy would also get a right-handed bat into the lineup on a more regular basis, which would help a Yankees offense that struggled badly against southpaws.

Chris Young was a valuable weapon against left-handed pitching last season, posting a .972 OPS in 175 PA against southpaws en route to an overall very solid .252/.320/.453 slash line and 14 homers in 356 PA. Young and his new representationwill be looking for a multi-year contract and a job that offers more regular playing time, though I’d expect the Yankees will explore keeping a lefty-masher who can play both corner outfield spots and handle the occasional fill-in game or two in center. If Young signs elsewhere, the Bombers will be in the market for another versatile backup outfielder.

Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela were the two young second base candidates rumored to be in for long looks in 2015, though Stephen Drew ended up seeing most of the at-bats at the keystone. It’s unlikely that Drew returns in the wake of his rough season, so the Yankees could go with a platoon of left-handed hitting Dustin Ackley and either Refsnyder or Pirela (both righty batters) at second next season. Ideally, the Yankees would probably prefer to have Refsnyder or Pirela win the job outright in Spring Training as Ackley has only played in 10 games at second over the last two years.

Could New York look for a more permanent answer at second base? Names likeHowie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy and Ben Zobrist stand out as the most promising options on the free agent market. Murphy and Zobrist, in particular, could fill depth needs as Murphy can also play third and Zobrist can play short and left. Neither are defensive standouts, though, as Zobrist’s usually-solid defensive metrics took a plunge in 2015; signing Zobrist in particular would mean the Yankees would commit another big contract to another mid-30’s player.

Signing an everyday second baseman would allow the Yankees to package Refsnyder as part of a trade, as he could be a young talent the club would be willing to part with if rumors of attitude issues are true (Cashman has denied these rumors, for the record). The Yankees have become much more wary about trading top prospects for established stars over the last few years, so you’re more apt to see the likes of Aaron Judge, Eric Jagielo or Jacob Lindgren in the pinstripes next season than another Major League uniform.

The bullpen was rebuilt last winter with good results, as Yankees relievers led the league in K/9 (10.11) and ranked third in fWAR (5.2). Andrew Miller, Dellin Betancesand Justin Wilson should again be a very tough late-game trio for opponents to overcome, and if another starter is acquired, adding Warren or Nova as a full-time reliever would further strengthen the pen. Warren and Nova could also be trade chips; Nova’s stock isn’t high after a tough 2015 campaign, but it was his first year back from Tommy John surgery.

While the relief corps was already a strength, the Yankees also explored adding elite bullpen arms like Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline. If the Yankees make another attempt at creating a super-bullpen, perhaps they could offer Major League pieces rather than prospects. This is entirely speculation on my part, but maybe the Padres be interested in adding a needed left-handed bat and outfield defense in the form of Gardner (plus a prospect or two) for Kimbrel.

Since Ellsbury may be untradeable at this point due to his big contract and disappointing season, moving Gardner or Beltran would open up a corner outfield spot. This could open the door for a big signing, and Mike Axisa of the River Ave. Blues blogrecently opined that Jason Heyward would be an ideal fit, even without the Yankees making room by trading someone else. Heyward would play every day and then Ellsbury, Gardner and Beltran would be rotated (or, Beltran would DH on days that A-Rod sits), which would be a uniquely big-market way of solving a fourth outfielder problem if Young doesn’t re-sign. The juggling of playing time would only be an issue for 2016 since Beltran’s contract is up next winter, or it might not end up being an issue at all if someone gets injured, as Axisa notes.

Heyward is only 26, is one of the game’s elite defensive outfielders, and he’ll commandthe kind of massive long-term contract that only the Yankees and a handful of other big-market teams can afford. He’s also a player that New York targeted last offseason in trade talks when Heyward was still with the Braves, so the interest is there. The Yankees, as usual, will be linked in rumors to just about every notable free agent name, though in Heyward’s case, there could be some legitimate substance to the whispers. Adding Heyward would bring both youth and elite talent to the Bombers in one fell swoop.

On the surface, Cashman doesn’t appear to have a ton of maneuverability given that his club is still a year away from finally starting to shed some of its major salary commitments. Last winter, however, Cashman was very active on the trade market and came away with such important pieces as Gregorius, Eovaldi and Wilson. If he can expand on that creativity and manage to unload one of his big contracts, it could unlock several new offseason possibilities.

Improving the 2016 Yankees Starts w/ Putting the Ball in Play

The New York Yankees had one of the worst team batting averages in 2015 with many players hitting well below the magic .300 mark. The team’s leading hitter was Carlos Beltran with a .276 batting average while two members of the team hit below the .250 mark leaving the team hitting just .251 as a whole. The moneyball craze began with an emphasis of getting on base in a world where a strikeout counted the same as a line out to the shortstop but is the new craze moving towards putting the ball in play regardless of an out or not? Maybe.

If the new craze is not putting the ball in play, putting the pressure on the opposing team’s defense and running out every single play then it may be before we all know it. If it’s not this is an advantage that the Yankees need to explore and begin to build their team around and if it already is and we just don’t realize it yet it may be time to jump on board. The emphasis of taking pitching and merely getting on base or striking out is working about as well as #TooManyDamnHrs. If this team wants to be better in 2016 and relatively unchanged, which seems very likely, then a change at the plate may be in order.

New York fell into a very predictable pattern in 2015. If it was obvious enough for me to catch onto it with two kids climbing all over my wanting my attention then you know the opposing teams scouts and such caught on to it as well. The team would play patient with a lead or a tie game and the second they fell behind they would swing at anything and everything. The offense could be running on all cylinders but the second the team would fall behind they would get overly aggressive and lull themselves to sleep. With the lead the Yankees were making the opposing pitchers throw 15-25 pitches an inning and without the lead you saw the 7-10 pitch innings that frustrated the fans for much of the second half. So how do you fix it?

Swing at strikes. Sounds simple but it works. Who cares if the count is 3-0 or 0-2, if it’s a strike swing then you swing at it, simple. There are obvious exceptions to the rule, if the opposing pitcher hasn’t thrown a strike for the last two or three batters then you make him throw at least two strikes before you swing, but the general premise is the same. In Major League Baseball you may only get one good pitch to hit per at bat and too many times in 2015 the Yankees watched that best pitch go right down the middle because it was a 3-0 count or the first pitch of the at bat. SWING!

That’s what the players can do, what the GM Brian Cashman can do is bring the team hitters that can hit for average. Too Many Damn Home Runs is nice to watch but the Kansas City Royals are hitting too many damn home runs, they are spraying singles and doubles all over the park and scoring 10 runs a game (slight exaggeration) against a team that owned the Yankees all season long. Put the ball in play, swing at strikes, run out every play and put the pressure on the other team instead of yourselves. It sounds simple on paper but if the team and coaching staff can buy into the philosophy then I truly think it can help the team win in 2016. 

Happy Birthday to the BYB Hub

On this day one year ago my good friend Robert Casey, owner and chief of Bleeding Yankee Blue, approached me with an idea that he called the BYB Hub. What the BYB Hub was designed to be was a central place for you, the baseball fan, to get all your news in one place… but with a twist. You aren’t going to see the ESPN news feed or the recycled news articles here on the hub, you’re going to see the best of the best (in my opinion) of the up-and-coming and established bloggers on the internet.

The gorillas of the blogging world, for Yankees fans it’s places like River Ave Blues for instance, have their own market and they do their own thing. On the hub the focus is on the little guy that is just starting out or the aspiring writer and blogger that wants some new, and free I might add, exposure to their writing and their respective blogs.

See when blogs like Bleeding Yankee Blue, or own blog here at The Greedy Pinstripes and others started they were built without help for the most part. They were built on hard work, dedicated and a load support from everyone reading this blog post this morning. Casey, the great baseball mind and person that he is, wanted to give a new avenue to writers and the BYB Hub was born.

While Robert Casey and I run blogs centralized around the New York Yankees, and there are plenty of Yankees blogs on the hub if that’s what you’re looking for, the Hub was designed to feed a general MLB fan’s craving for news and opinions as well. There is a great Red Sox blog on the Hub, Section 36, an awesome blog centered around the Oakland Athletics, Bullpen Baseball and Sock Talk , and even a blog devoted to players in Major League Baseball with Dutchbackgrounds. There’s a little something for everybody.

I want to take this time to once again give my sincerest gratitude to and appreciation not only to Casey for starting the Hub but to all the great blogs and writers that participate in the Hub. We made it one year guys and gals, let’s make the second year even bigger and even better! So CLICKHERE and check out the BYB Hub and if you’d like to be a part of the Hub (or you know of a blog that should be included in the hub) contact Casey on Twitter by tweeting @BleednYankeeBlu or contact myself @GreedyStripes and I will contact Casey direct.

Have a great day everyone and Happy Birthday to the BYB Hub!

This Day in New York Yankees History 10/24: El Duque Orlando Hernandez

Orlando Hernandez was a God send to the New York Yankees during their Dynasty run during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, especially in the postseason. El Duque started his career 8-0 with a 1.90 ERA in the postseason before the Mets got to him on this day in 2000. The Mets beat the Yankees on this day in the Subway World Series after Benny Agbayani hit a game winning 8th inning double to give the Metropolitan's a 4-2 win. New York native and Mets closer John Franco secured the victory for the Mets ending the Yankees 14 game World Series winning streak.