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Archive for the ‘Arod’ Category

Albert Pujols was supposed to be a Cardinal for life.

Albert Pujols’ decision to take his talents to Southern California has inspired great joy among Angels’ fans and, not surprisingly, a considerable amount of vitriol from those who root for the Cardinals. Phony, trader, liar, mercenary, and fraud have all been used on twitter and talk radio to describe Pujols because he opted for a mega 10-year deal worth $254 million (with $30 million in extra incentives) over a hometown discount. Apparently, charity begins in St. Louis.

Although it’s understandable why Cardinals’ fans might feel betrayed, such sentiment is both incredibly naïve and logically absurd. According to fangraphs.com, Pujols has provided $194 million worth of performance in excess of the $104 million the Cardinals have paid him since 2002 (if 2001 was included, that figure would be even higher). In other words, the Cardinals already got their discount. What’s more, not one, but reportedly three different teams offered Pujols a better deal than the Cardinals, so it sure seems as if it was the team, and not the player, that had an unfair sense of his worth.

Albert Pujols’ Salary vs. Value, 2002-2011
 
Source: fangraphs (value) and baseball-reference.com (salary)

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Nakajima lines a run-scoring single during the final game of the 2009 WBC, which was won by Japan. (Photo: Getty Images)

Considered along side the other big headlines being made at the Winter Meetings, the Yankees winning bid for the rights to Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, it could signal the beginning of a new strategy designed to circumvent some of the onerous restrictions triggered by the new CBA as well as mitigate some of the difficulty in building a bench behind a strong starting lineup.

In 10 seasons with the Saitama Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League, Nakajima posted a line of .302/.369/.475 in over 4,500 plate appearances. According to Patrick Newman, who hosts a website dedicated to Japanese baseball, he is a plus defender with a strong enough arm to play all three infield positions. Although statistics and scouting reports about Japanese players should be taken with a grain of salt, all signs seem to suggest he has the potential to be a solid utility infielder.

Hiroyuki Nakajima’s Career Statistics

Source: Nippon Professional Baseball League Official Website

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For the last nine seasons, David Ortiz has been one of the most prolific hitters in baseball and the rock of the Boston Red Sox’ lineup. However, there hasn’t been much love for Big Papi on the free agent market. According to recent reports, the DH’s options seem limited to accepting arbitration or signing a discounted two-year deal with the Red Sox. If that really is the case, the Yankees should make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Brian Cashman has correctly identified pitching as the Yankees’ top priority. However, in the absence of attractive starting pitching on the market (at least not at a reasonable price), maybe that isn’t the best approach? After all, an alternative to preventing runs is scoring them, and adding Ortiz would certainly help the Yankees do just that.

With the exception of Don Baylor from 1983 to 1986, the Yankees have rarely had a full-time DH. Jorge Posada’s 90 games as a DH last year is surpassed by only seven other Yankees and ranks as the third highest total since 1991. So, if the team signed Ortiz, it would represent a philosophical reversal, especially for Joe Girardi, who has grown fond of using the DH as a “half day off” for his aging veterans.

Ironically, the man most likely to fill the DH slot for the Yankees in 2012 is 22-year old Jesus Montero. The most sensible objection to signing Ortiz is the negative impact it would have Montero’s playing time, but even that could be spun into a positive. Instead of settling on the rookie as a DH, the presence of Ortiz could force the Yankees to develop him more as a catcher, which, in the long run, would pay greater dividends.

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As Alex Rodriguez’ walked back to the dugout after striking out to end the 2011 ALDS, you could practically see the headlines writing themselves. Not surprisingly, the New York tabloids didn’t disappoint when it came to assigning a disproportionate amount of blame to Rodriguez, but unfortunately, the “you just knew it had to be Arod” sentiment has also proven to be quite popular with Yankees’ fans.

It had to be Arod? Alex Rodriguez walks away dejectedly after making the last out in the 2011 ALDS (Photo: AP).

At this point, it makes little sense to defend Arod’s performance in the clutch. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, those pre-disposed to dislike Rodriquez will dismiss it just because. Similarly, it seems futile to point out that Curtis Granderson’s and Robinson Cano’s outs, which preceded Arod’s, actually had a bigger impact on the Yankees’ chances of winning game five. Even though the first two outs didn’t offer the lasting impression of a sullen, $30 million man walking slowly from the plate as the Tigers charged the field, the fact remains that three Yankees, not one, went down in the final frame.

Based on the comments, conversation, and articles that have followed Rodriguez’ final out, one might get the impression that Arod is the only Yankees’ player to ever make the last out of a postseason series. Apparently, before being saddled with the baggage of a three-time MVP, the Yankees always won in October? In order to dispel that myth, listed below is the last out of every Yankees’ postseason series defeat.

Final Batted Outs in Yankees’ Postseason History (click to enlarge)

Note: Yankees suffered walk-offs in 1960, 1995 and 2001. Babe Ruth was caught stealing to end the 1926 World Series.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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After falling behind 6-0 to the Oakland Athletics in last night’s game, the Yankees mounted a furious comeback attempt that literally just fell short when Nick Swisher’s bid for a walk-off grand slam landed in Coco Crisp’s glove, just inches from the center field wall.

As is often the case when losing by a slim margin, there are several at bats, plays, and managerial decisions (bunting with one of the games’ hottest hitters, for example) that can be second guessed, but perhaps no one will be kicking themselves more than Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Not only did the two Yankees’ switch hitters fail to deliver with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, but the duo combined to leave 11 runners stranded.

If Swisher’s fly ball had traveled a couple of more feet, he would have been hailed as a hero. Instead, he wound up producing the lowest WPA by a Yankee batter this season. At least Swisher hit the ball hard (although the wisdom of swinging 2-0 against a wild pitcher could be questioned). After popping up to third base, Teixeira had no such consolation. Thanks to his ninth inning out, which capped an 0-5 night, the Yankees’ first baseman also cracked the top-10 lowest WPA games by a member of the offense.

Top-10 Lowest and Highest WPA Games by a Yankees’ Batter, 2011 (click to enlarge)

Note: Based on available data.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Over at least the past three weeks, Alex Rodriguez has been playing with what was termed a “sore knee”. Since first mention of the diagnosis during the Yankees June series at Wrigley Field, Arod continued to get on base and play gold glove caliber defense. However, as has often been the case during his career, much of the focus was on what he hadn’t been able to do: hit homeruns.

Pain in Arod's knee could have a crippling effect on the Yankees' lineup.

It now seems obvious that Arod’s inability to drive the ball over the wall was the result of playing on an injured knee. Now, the question becomes did his sore knee originate as a slight meniscus tear, or did one develop after three weeks of playing with an injury that could have been alleviated with a few days of rest? 

This isn’t the first time the Yankees might have paid a heavy price for allowing a star to play through an injury. Back in late May, Joba Chamberlain complained of general soreness, but he was allowed to continue pitching through the pain. In fact, on June 5, he threw an almost career-high number of pitches in a relief outing against the Angels. Shortly thereafter, Chamberlain was sent for an MRI, which discovered a ligament tear that resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery.

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Jorge Posada’s sixth inning home run in the first game of today’s day/night doubleheader was his seventh of the season, but first since April 24. The two-run blast, which gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead, also ended the longest homerless streak in Posada’s career. The 38-game drought was one day longer than a previous power outage that lasted between the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Power Outages Among Yankees’ Regulars

Player Tm Strk Start End G AB BA OBP SLG
Brett Gardner NYY 7/5/2010 4/19/2011 84 273 0.212 0.337 0.297
Derek Jeter NYY 5/10/1997 8/6/1997 75 311 0.289 0.359 0.357
Russell Martin LAD 9/27/2008 6/19/2009 62 222 0.239 0.350 0.279
Robinson Cano NYY 5/9/2008 6/24/2008 41 153 0.288 0.319 0.366
Jorge Posada NYY 4/24/2011 6/19/2011 38 124 0.250 0.329 0.323
Nick Swisher OAK 4/15/2005 6/15/2005 33 117 0.222 0.300 0.274
Alex Rodriguez SEA 7/8/1994 6/11/1995 32 101 0.228 0.248 0.257
Curtis Granderson DET 6/24/2006 7/28/2006 27 105 0.276 0.333 0.324
Mark Teixeira NYY 6/13/2009 7/8/2009 23 92 0.261 0.370 0.326

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Posada’s career-high homerless streaks ranks in the middle of the pack when compared to similar stretches endured by the other regulars in the Yankees’ lineup. Not surprisingly, the longest streak without a homer belongs to Brett Gardner, while the shortest span between home runs is enjoyed by Mark Teixeira. However, it is interesting to note that regardless of each hitter’s profile, their home run drought was also accompanied by a more pervasive slump.

Although Posada has already shown signs that his season-long doldrums are in the past (he was hitting .432/.450/.514 in his previous 40 plate appearances entering today’s action), perhaps this afternoon’s homerun is the final confirmation? The Yankees could definitely use more power from the DH slot, and if he is anywhere near his old self, Posada is more than capable of supplying it.

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