Friday, February 25, 2011

Many Microscpes Examining the Yankee Rotation

As spring training gets into full swing, you can expect there to be a serious focus on the Yankees. After all, they have the largest fan base, a rabid fan base that demands constant coverage, even when there isn't much to cover.

This season, there is little to settle on the Yankee roster in spring training. It's a veteran team and they are pretty much set at every position. Except their 4th and 5th starters. So there are a bunch of hurlers in camp. Thanks goodness...everyone looks great!

On the main field, it’s Freddy Garcia. On the back field, it’s Bartolo Colon. I chose the back field, if only out of curiosity. I had no idea what to expect, but I’ll say this.

I thought Colon looked pretty good.

Russel Martin took him deep to left, but Colon seemed to have legitimate zip on his fastball. When he missed, he seemed to miss low. That’s just an observation from the sideline, and I could be completely wrong, but I came away feeling like Colon was more legitimate than I originally thought.


“(Freddy Garcia) looked pretty good to me,” Girardi said. “As I’ve said all along, Freddy knows how to pitch, and he knows how to compete. He knows what he has to do to get ready. He threw a lot of strikes and he mixed his pitches..."


(Larry Rothschild) On Dellin Betances: “He’s got a real good changeup, he can spin the ball, and he’s a big kid that has a pretty good feel for delivery for that big a kid. It usually takes taller kids a little bit longer, but he’s pretty good. He’s got three pitches, it’s just a matter of being able to repeat a lot. He’s certainly got the makeup. I don’t think he scares. He’s got a look that’s pretty intense.”

I don't know what you can tell from the first week of camp from a bunch of guys throwing batting practice but I defy you to find a pitcher in Yankee camp that looked bad in the Yankee coverage. Although, I would say that anyone giving up a homer Russell Martin can't be pleased, no matter when it happens.

Seemingly, the further away you are from the big leagues, the more the beat writers want to create a sense that they are a dark horse candidate for a rotation spot.


The men who will determine his future watched closely from behind their sunglasses, though none of it seemed to bother Yankees pitching prospect Andrew Brackman as he threw a batting practice session today...

But Brackman, 25, pitched as if none of them were watching, displaying a much-refined delivery and improved command. The highly touted prospect, who is considered a longshot in the competition for a spot in the Yankees rotation, may have improved his odds with his well-timed performance.

More gravitas was never assigned to BP session in the history of baseball.

You would expect a little of this from the beat writers though. The fans are craving information and these guys have to dig up a story somewhere. It's odd and bit absurd but you can understand where it comes from.

But the national baseball media...

Et tu, Buster?

The international sign for good pitch is a catcher jabbing his glove hand toward the mound, and time and again on Sunday morning, a glove was aimed at Manuel Banuelos, a left-hander who is in the Yankees' camp as a non-roster invitee and had his turn at throwing batting practice to hitters.

Banuelos doesn't turn 20 for a few weeks, yet he already has a sharp breaking ball that can freeze left-handed hitters and a changeup that fades away from right-handers...

Which is important, because while the Yankees will look for solutions all over the place this summer -- whether Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon or Mark Prior, or from the yet-to-be identified veteran pitcher they will inevitably target -- they will also need some help from their farm system...

And when can Banuelos, who seems to have the stuff that would make him a good late-season reliever? Maybe Dellin Betances, regarded as the best of the Yankees' pitching prospects, will be able to help at some point, despite having never thrown a pitch above Class A....

So they don't need the No. 4 and No. 5 starters to be great; the Yankees just need them to be competitive, to hang in there, and to hold the fort for what should, again, be a very strong offense. They just don't know what names will be attached to the solutions -- perhaps someone like Manuel Banuelos.

Manny Banuelos. Has there ever been so much ink spilled in a national piece for an A-ball pitcher from Mexico? I mean...really? Banuelos for the 2011 Yankee rotation? That's quite a stretch.

I used to think the media scrutiny and pressure for Yankee players was overstated. I'm not sure I feel that way anymore...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spring Training Moods

Hats off to Karl Menton Ferron and the video team at The Baltimore Sun for the excellent video they are putting up at as they cover Spring Training for the Orioles. What makes it excellent? First, it looks great. It's video for sure but looks like it's shot on film and the colors are warm and lush...just beautifully shot and edited. Second, they are doing, for lack of a better term, "mood pieces" for Spring Trianing in addition to interviews and more informational video posts. They capture the sounds and feel of Spring Training so well as to make you forget the winter that still lurks outside your window. This is sports photojournalism (vid-journalism) done right. Bravo.

Check them out here. I've embedded three here to give you a feel.

For more general rambling about the Baltimore Orioles, go check out Dempsey's Army...

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Baltimore Oriole Projections - My Take (Kind Of)

Now that spring training has started and the roster is a bit more projectable, I figured it was time to formulate a win projection for the 2011 version of the team. Well, I kind of formulated it. I'm using the WAR spreadsheet from Beyond the Boxscore.

Here's the work but before you look, the ground rules and caveats:

* I used Marcel Projections and I grabbed those from FanGraphs. I stuck to those pretty tightly.

* Playing time was adjusted a bit from Marcel, usually granting a bit more than less to fill in the gaps.

* I gave Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis, JJ Hardy and Matt Wieters some above average defensive value scores and a slight bump to Derrek Lee. Jake Fox, Brian Roberts and Josh Bell got defensive demerits. All others were neutral.

* Only Roberts got an adjustment for baserunning.

* I assigned all batters their exact Marcel projections with three exceptions. I selected Adam Jones as my breakthrough player for 2011. I bumped him up from a .333 to a .345 wOBA (bascially a .762 OPS to a .803 OPS). It a nice jump but not a crazy one. I bumped Nick Markakis from a .353 to a .356 wOBA (an .807 OPS to roughly an .820 OPS) and I knocked Brandon Snyder's .330 wOBA down the .300.

* I used FIP for the ERA projections.

* Since I used FIP, I adjusted Jeremy Guthrie's ERA projection down by a quarter run. All other pitchers kept their Marcel projections. Except...

* I put Jake Arrieta's name on Chris Tillman's projection and vice versa. Arrieta's projection was better but I still think Tillman can miss more bats than he showed last season. So I gave Tillman the better stats even though the combined projection remains the same.

All that gives us a Win Talent of 79.8 wins which we can round up to 80.

I don't think any of these numbers I plugged in are either crazy or overly optimistic. One thing I will say is that this team is pretty thin. Any significant injury to, say, Guthrie or Matusz on the pitching side or Markakis or Scott on the hitting side throws all of this out of whack and spiraling out of control.

But with a little luck and a couple of young guys taking steps forward (even if Jones doesn't), this team could (can't believe I'm going to say it) actually win this year. I am not alone. PECOTA has the Orioles winning 82 games in 2011.

And if the young guys keep getting their starts and at bats in the process, all the better.

For more general rambling about the Baltimore Orioles, go check out Dempsey's Army...