Archive for February 28th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

One of the cardinal rules about spring training is you have to take the results with a grain of salt, especially the early performances of eager rookies who are either facing veterans slowly ramping up to speed or overmatched secondary talent. With that disclaimer noted, some of the bad vibes from the Yankees’ offseason of discontent dissipated yesterday thanks to impressive early performances from three of the team’s young prospects.

Can Dellin Betances continue to make Joe Girardi take notice (Photo: Daily News)?

The biggest impression from the spring contest against the Phillies was appropriately left by imposing 6’8” right hander Dellin Betances, who struck out the side in his one inning of work. More impressive than the result, however, was the way the Brooklyn-born hurler achieved it. In addition to featuring a mid-90s fastball (that topped out at 97), Betances also wielded a late breaking knuckle curve that had several Phillies’ batters fooled completely. After striking out Wilson Valdez to end the inning, YES cut to a shot of Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild practically leaping to their feet. Could one performance alter the Yankees’ stated intention to have Betances start the season in the minors?

During Betances’ inning of work, there was a very lively discussion in the YES booth. Jack Curry stated that the Yankees were very reticent to bring Betances north, but the door was slowly opening. After yesterday’s performance, you can officially consider it ajar. As Michael Kay noted, however, even if Betances does make the team, he’s likely to face an innings limit of around 120 innings, or about 20 starts. Although that might not seem like a great option, the best solution might be the one suggested by Ken Singleton: give Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia a chance to fail and then use Betances as a mid-season replacement, just like the Yankees did with Chien-Ming Wang in 2005. Of course, in order to do that, the Yankees will need to limit Betances’ innings in the minors. Considering the likelihood that the Yankees will need midseason rotation help, and Betances’ ability to provide it, wasting valuable bullets in the minors would be shortsighted.

One other thing worth noting from the conversation in the YES booth was Curry’s thought that had the team not signed Rafael Soriano, an arm like Betances could have been used as a shut-down reliever in the eighth. If for no other reason, Soriano’s signing should be considered a blessing if it helps prevent the team from turning its top-line arms into short relievers, although one would imagine the lessons learned from the Joba Chamberlain experience would prevent a repeat of the same mistakes. (more…)

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Duke Snider’s Hall of Fame baseball career is ably defined by the statistics he compiled. However, it is his position as an ironic focal point in literature and song that have made his legacy even more enduring.

The book, of course, is Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer”, which is more a story about the individuals on the early-1950s Dodgers than the team itself. In many ways, Kahn’s book, with its focus on the 1952 and 1953 seasons (the years he covered the team for the New York Herald Tribune) and often melancholy tone, permanently stamped those great Brooklyn teams as a hard luck lot whose failures are trumpeted ahead of their successes.

Now my old friend, The Bachelor; Well, he swore he was the Oklahoma Kid; And Cookie played hooky; To go and see the Duke; And me, I always loved Willie Mays; Those were the days!” – Lyrics from Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball”

In 1981, songwriter Terry Cashman (known as Dennis Minogue when he was a pitcher in the Tigers’ farm system) wrote a baseball anthem that was called “Talkin’ Baseball”, but became better known by the thematic line that gave resonance to the song: “Willie, Mickey and the Duke”. Although Snider’s inclusion with the two immortals might seem like a nice tribute, the constant comparison was probably more of a curse. As great as Snider was during his career, the shadow cast by the two brighter stars in New York’s centerfield trinity was immense. As a result, Snider, like many of the teams for which he played, was often relegated to being an “also ran” just because he had the misfortune of playing the same position at the same time and in the same city as two of the game’s greatest players. Undoubtedly, that constant unfavorable comparison contributed to Snider having to wait 11 years before finally being inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Even though his career didn’t quite measure up to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, Snider still has a whole host of accomplishments that make him worthy of being mentioned along side those greats. His performance in the 1955 World Series is a shining example. In that series, Snider belted four homeruns, knocked in seven and had an OPS of 1.210, helping the Dodgers finally overcome the Yankees, the perpetual hurdle that prevented the franchise from winning the World Series in five prior attempts. It should also be pointed out that Snider’s 1955 series performance may not have even been his best. In the 1952 World Series, he also had four homers with one more RBI and a higher OPS of 1.215, but the Dodgers lost a tough game seven to the Yankees.

If the good burghers of Brooklyn are pinching themselves with unaccustomed violence this morning, they need do so no longer. It wasn’t a dream folks. Implausible though it may seem, the Dodgers won the world championship for the first time in their history yesterday. Honest, injun. It really did happen.” – Arthur Daley, New York Times, October 5, 1955

As my tribute to the Duke, his postseason numbers are presented alongside Mays and Mantle (including a head-to-head comparison with the latter). At least in this one respect, Snider didn’t take a backseat to his more acclaimed centerfield counterpart.

Willie and Mickey versus the Duke, Relative Postseason Performance

Willie 25 99 12 1 10 0.247 0.323 0.337 0.660
Mickey 65 273 42 18 40 0.257 0.374 0.535 0.908
The Duke 36 149 21 11 26 0.286 0.351 0.594 0.945

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Snider versus Mantle, Head-to-Head

1952 Mantle 7 32 5 2 3 0.345 0.406 0.655 1.061
1952 Snider 7 31 5 4 8 0.345 0.387 0.828 1.215
1953 Mantle 6 27 3 2 7 0.208 0.296 0.458 0.755
1953 Snider 6 27 3 1 5 0.320 0.370 0.560 0.930
1955 Mantle 3 10 1 1 1 0.200 0.200 0.500 0.700
1955 Snider 7 28 5 4 7 0.320 0.370 0.840 1.210
1956 Mantle 7 30 6 3 4 0.250 0.400 0.667 1.067
1956 Snider 7 30 5 1 4 0.304 0.433 0.478 0.912

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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