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Posts Tagged ‘Brian Cashman’

Now that CC Sabathia has opted against opting out, the starting pitchers available in the 2011 free agent class pale in comparison to the offensive players testing the market. However, there are viable options to consider, including C.J. Wilson, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, and the soon to be posted Japanese standout Yu Darvish.

Should the Yankees be pumped up about a potential free agent like Yu Darvish, or focus on the trade market instead?

Although Brian Cashman will undoubtedly give careful thought to every prominent free agent starter, more and more, it seems as if the Yankees’ primary focus will be acquiring one in a trade. This strategy makes sense for several reasons. For starters (pun intended), there are heightened risks associated with many of the more attractive free agents (age for Buerhle and Oswalt; lack of a track record for Wilson and Darvish). Because these free agents would likely require a lucrative long-term contract (or in Darvish’s case, a hefty posting fee), a cost-risk analysis might not justify the pitcher’s expected contribution. Besides, in free agency, a team is often forced to pay more for past performance than future value, which especially seems likely among this group.

Another reason why it makes sense for Brian Cashman to explore a trade is because the Yankees have depth in their minor league system, particularly at pitcher and catcher. To some, that might be all the more reason to not make a move, but the recent release of Andrew Brackman is a cautionary tale. Less than eight months ago, Brackman was being touted as one of the Yankees’ three “killer-B’s”, but now he is looking for a job. Part of the reason for that decision was the Yankees’ prospect depth made Brackman’s 40-man roster spot a valuable commodity, but the tall right hander’s rapid fall from grace says more about the unpredictability of pitching prospects.  Although the organization should not be adverse to allowing its own prospects to develop, each and every one should be on the table in the right deal.

With the rationale out of the way, the next step is to determine potential trade targets. Brian Cashman and his Yankees’ brain trust have likely already begun assembling such a list, but just in case they need some help, the Captain’s Blog will be spending the next week highlighting the top pitching trade targets whose acquisition would be worthy of a concerted effort. So, where to start?

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Brian Cashman has decided to pull up his chair to the Yankees’ table for three more years by agreeing to a new contract extension, which, if fulfilled, will make him the organization’s longest tenured general manager since Ed Barrow constructed the first dynasty teams from 1921 to 1944.

After decades of having the general manager position be a revolving door, it’s almost hard to fathom the idea of a Yankees’ executive ranking as one of the most senior members of his fraternity, but only the Giants’ Brian Sabean (who was a member of the Yankees’ scouting department when the core four first joined the team) has been on the job longer. During that time, Cashman has had his share of hits and misses, but, for the most part, his stewardship has been a key component of the team’s considerable success.

MLB Team Records During Cashman’s Tenure as Yankees’ GM, 1998-2011

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Sometimes, familiarity can breed contempt, which is why it’s not surprising that a vocal segment of the Yankees’ fan base has soured on Cashman despite the team’s impressive accomplishments. Those critics will often argue that Cashman’s teams should be successful, considering the payroll at his disposal. However, as teams like the Mets have shown, spending money doesn’t always equate to winning. So, even though some of his accomplishments have been predicated upon having a hefty budget, that doesn’t diminish the unprecedented level of success enjoyed by the Yankees under Cashman’s reign.

For a dated evaluation of Brian Cashman’s tenure written before the 2008 season (ironically at a blog that recently announced it would close it doors as a protest to Cashman’s new contract), click here.

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Albert Einstein is widely believed to have said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He must have had the Yankees’ handling of A.J. Burnett in mind when he made that observation.

Even Burnett has found it hard to look when he takes the mound (Photo: AP).

For two seasons, A.J. Burnett has been a terrible pitcher. Unless he can whittle his ERA below 5.00 before the end of the season, he will go down as the only Yankees pitcher in franchise history to have an ERA above that mark in two seasons of more than 110 innings. What’s more, among all pinstriped hurlers with at least 160 innings pitched, Burnett’s 2010 and 2011 each rank among the top-three worst seasons in terms of ERA. The anecdotes that illustrate Burnett’s futility are almost as limitless as the frustration he has inspired over the last two seasons, so it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the time has come to remove him from the rotation.

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have instead preferred to remain willfully ignorant. Not only have the Yankees’ brain trust shoe horned the struggling right hander into a six-man rotation, but they have taken every opportunity to defend his performance. If the Yankees had no other viable options, perhaps the decision to keep running Burnett out to the mound would make some sense, but the Yankees actually have too many starters, not to mention several minor league/bullpen options that would also provide a superior alternative.

Yankee Pitchers with an ERA of 5.00 or Higher (minimum 160 innings), Since 1901

Player Year ERA IP W L ERA+
A.J. Burnett 2011 5.31 161 9 11 ~79
Bump Hadley 1937 5.30 178.1 11 8 85
A.J. Burnett 2010 5.26 186.2 10 15 81
Roy Sherid 1930 5.23 184 12 13 83
Melido Perez 1993 5.19 163 6 14 80
Snake Wiltse 1902 5.10 164 7 11 74
Dwight Gooden 1996 5.01 170.2 11 7 100
Randy Johnson 2006 5.00 205 17 11 90
Richard Dotson 1988 5.00 171 12 9 80

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Joe Girardi’s personality exudes loyalty. In his three-plus years as manager, it’s hard to think of one instance in which he publicly criticized a player. In many ways, that’s an admirable trait, one that his players must surely appreciate. However, there is a difference between throwing a player under the bus and acknowledging his deficiencies. Unfortunately, at least with A.J. Burnett, Girardi has been unable to make that distinction.

AJ Burnett watches from the dugout after being pulled in the second inning (Photo: AP).

After surrendering four runs and loading the bases in the second inning, AJ Burnett received another early hook from Girardi. As he departed the mound, the right hander seemed to mouth something in his manager’s direction. Then, the YES cameras caught Girardi following Burnett into the clubhouse. Had there been a confrontation? With the score lopsided, the remaining innings became a formality leading up to the post game.

After the game, Girardi was livid. However, his anger wasn’t directed toward Burnett’s rampant ineffectiveness, nor was it inspired by the way in which the right hander expressed himself while leaving the mound. According to the Yankees’ manager, those events were much ado about nothing. Instead, what sparked Girardi’s post game tirade was the unfair way he believes the media has been treating Burnett.

I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A.J. Me and A.J. have mutual respect for each other. I cheer for this guy. He cheers for me, and we cheer for this team. I want the guy to do well.” – Joe Girardi, quoted by AP, August 20, 2011

Instead of taking the opportunity to hold his erratic right hander accountable for his actions and performance, Girardi choose to make him the victim. In some ways, that has become the organization’s party line. Just last week, Brian Cashman launched into a similarly impassioned defense of Burnett. According to the GM, Burnett’s struggles were as much a media creation as a reflection of reality. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t support the claim.

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

Some of Brian Cashman's best decisions have involved trades he didn't make.

The trade deadline has resulted in some of the most lopsided deals in history, but that doesn’t mean evey swap made under the gun has to have a winner and loser.  Each year, there are just as many deadline deals that are prudent as ones that are impetuous, but what about the trades that don’t get made? Sometimes, by not pulling an itchy trigger, a general manager can make his team a deadline winner even without making a single transaction.

During his Yankee tenure, Brian Cashman has not been very active during the trade deadline. In fact, when he has made a major in-season deal, it has often come earlier in the year when the pressure of the deadline was off in the distance. What Cashman has been very good at, however, is avoiding impetuous deals that would have a negative impact on the future more than help in the present.

In his first year as GM, Cashman inherited a strong team and built it into a powerhouse with additions like Chuck Knoblauch and Orlando Hernandez. However, despite compiling a record setting winning percentage over the first four months, the Yankees were still front and center amid several rumors at the deadline. In particular, it was reported that the team was close to securing Randy Johnson for a package including Hideki Irabu and a combination of prospects like Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Lowell, Ricky Ledee and Homer Bush.

Although it’s hard to imagine that Johnson would have had a negative impact on the Yankees, an improvement would have been impossible.  Granted, if the deal had been made, the Yankees may not have had to face Johnson in the 2001 World Series, but it’s also possible they wouldn’t have gotten there without the likes of Roger Clemens and David Justice, two players later acquired using players rumored to be in the mix for Johnson.

In 1999, the Yankees reportedly considered trading Andy Pettitte for Roberto Hernandez.

In 1999, Andy Pettitte was having one of his most difficult seasons in the big leagues. During the first half, the normally reliable lefty compiled a 5-7 record with a 5.59 ERA, leading to speculation that the Yankees might trade him before the deadline. One of the more prominent reports involved the Yankees trading Pettitte to the Phillies for two prospects who would then be flipped to Tampa for Roberto Hernandez. Had that trade been made, there not only wouldn’t have been a core four, but it’s also possible the Yankees wouldn’t have had four championships to celebrate. Because of Cashman’s ability to resist the pressure from above to trade Pettitte, the Yankees were able to enjoy 85 more wins, including nine in the post season, from the homegrown left hander.

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As the trade deadline nears, the Yankees will probably be linked to every impact player available on the market. If the team gets shutout, have no fear, Carlos Beltran is on the way. Or, if Bartolo Colon stumbles again, there’s still no reason to fret. Ubaldo Jimenez is being measured for pinstripes. Whatever the Yankees’ need, the next two weeks will provide a rumor to fill it. Of course, much of the rampant speculation will likely be news to even Brian Cashman.

Although it’s fun to identify acquisition candidates based on marquee value, it’s sometimes more constructive to examine the relationships between general managers. For example, if the Red Sox need reinforcements, there’s a good chance Theo Epstein will turn to the San Diego Padres. Not only is Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer a former Red Sox’ executive, but the two teams have made 11 trades since Epstein took the reins in Boston.

Brian Cashman’s Most Common Trade Partners (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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During the offseason, the primary concern about the 2011 Yankees was a lack of pitching depth. Entering spring training, the blueprint was to hang around the pennant race until the summer, at which point Brian Cashman would trade for an established starting pitcher. Well, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.

As they approach the halfway mark of the season, the Yankees have done more than just hang around. Entering July, the team has compiled the best record in the American League and built a solid three game lead over the favored Red Sox. In some circles, the Yankees’ first half success has been considered a big surprise, especially in light of the many injuries they’ve endured. Although there may be some truth to that assessment, it’s still hard to look at the Yankees as underdogs.

Yankees R/G Versus the A.L. Average, 1901-2011 (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

With all the talent the Yankees have on offense, no one should be too surprised by their current position in the standings. Despite a few periods of inconsistency, the Bronx Bombers have mostly lived up to the name. In addition to leading the majors in runs per game, the 2011 Yankees have also posted one of the franchise’s highest totals relative to the American League. To date, the Yankees’ 5.33 runs per game is 25.1% greater than the league average of 4.26. The last time the Yankees outperformed the league by that much was 1931, when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig powered the offense to a per game total of 6.88 runs, the second highest output in team history. In fact, only three other Yankees’ teams have outscored the league by a higher percentage, and each one featured the potent duo of Ruth and Gehrig.

Yankees R/G Allowed Versus the A.L. Average, 1901-2011 (click to enlarge)

Note: Y-axis has been inverted so better results appear above the x-axis.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Even though the Yankees’ offense has been a major part of its success, it really hasn’t carried the team. In fact, at various times throughout the year, pitching has been the Yankees’ strong suit. The team’s current ERA of 3.51 not only ranks fourth in the American League, but would also be the franchise’s lowest annual rate since 1981. Of course, the depressed run environment has contributed to lower ERAs across the board, but even when compared to the league, the Yankees’ runs allowed per game is impressive. As illustrated in the chart above, the team’s current runs allowed rate of 91.7% would rank right at the median on a historical basis. Although not as impressive as the offense, that’s still not bad for what was supposed to be a major weakness.

Because the Yankees have enjoyed both great offense and great pitching, the team has a run differential of 115, or 1.46 runs per game. If that doesn’t sound impressive, consider this: it would be the fifteenth highest total in franchise history. Although it might be asking too much to expect that level of proficiency to continue, if the Yankees can maintain a differential of at least 1.20, they’ll still be in elite company from a historical standpoint. Among the 27 Yankee teams (excluding the strike shortened 1994 season) to maintain a differential at or above 1.20, the average win total was 100, all but six finished in first place and 16 won the World Series.

Yankees Run Differential Per Game, 1901-2011 (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Ironically, the 2011 Yankees have been more underachievers than underdogs, at least based on their expected Pythagorean record. The big question, however, is whether the team can continue its success throughout the dog days of summer? Or, will Brian Cashman still need to work the phones in search of reinforcements? Even though the halfway mark is always a good barometer, in baseball, the climate surrounding a team can quickly change. If there are storms gathering on the horizon, it’ll be up to Cashman to be a good weatherman. The Yankees’ chances in October could very well depend on his forecast.

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