Friday, February 27, 2009

Up and Comer: Alfredo Aceves

Alfredo had a remarkably successful stint in the majors last year. Moving from the Blue Jays to the Mexican league to the Yankees, Aceves quickly climbed the ranks of the organization when given the chance by New York.

In six games with four starts he had an ERA of 2.40 in the majors last year and looking impressive in his end of the year major league appearances with a WHIP of 1.17. He has four serviceable pitches including a fastball, curve, slider and a very good changeup, but the scouting reports say that he lacks the go to pitch to get strikeouts when needed.

The question is how will he be used this year. He strikes me as a solid 5th man in the rotation, a guy who can give you quality starts but won’t dominate hitters like someone higher up in the rotation. The Yankees have few spots available on the roster for young pitchers and right now he would fit in as a long reliever – available to throw multiple innings if necessary and ready to make a spot start if someone needs to miss their day in the rotation with a minor injury. Baseball prospectus compares him to Ramiro Mendoza, which seems like a fair comparison to me, but I think Aceves might actually have a little more starter potential than Mendoza. Baseball America calls him a  more talented version of Ian Kennedy, which I think is a little more accurate description. Never going to be an ace, but has potential as a solid back end of the rotation guy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Returning Pitchers: Wang, Pettitte, and Chamberlain

Chien-Ming Wang looked like the rotation’s ace last year until he was sidelined with an injury and the early-struggling Mussina rose up into the limelight. Thankfully the injury didn’t involve his arm or shoulder and he should return to form again this year. The published projections for Wang aren’t that hopeful. Both sources (the Bill James Handbook and Baseball Prospectus) are counting on Wang to make 30 appearances, but while Bill James predicts 200 innings, the Baseball Prospectus guesses 126, suggesting another setback might be on the way. BJ predicts an ERA of 3.70 while BP predicts 4.39. Obviously here one is looking for a solid season from Wang while the other is forecasting a big slide. Personally I think Wang will be back on his game and will produce numbers similar to his 2007 season. If he doesn’t, the injury prone and depleted rotation could be in big trouble.

Andy Pettitte was last season’s workhorse, the guy who would eat up innings and deliver stuff that was good enough to keep the team in the game. He had his off days and he had good days but in the end the innings went by and the team was still in a position to win. BP suggests a dropoff in Andy’s innings, games played and wins, but also a drop in ERA. BJ predicts a full workload of games and innings, a drop in wins and also an improvement in ERA. Pettitte’s deal with the Yankees took a while to iron out, but hopefully he stayed on top of his offseason conditioning. I’m looking for Andy to be Andy. Not the pitcher he once was, but still a reliable guy to go out there every five days. The media attention about his past PED use has all but disappeared and hopefully he can concentrate fully on the season ahead and deliver the goods.

Joba Chamberlain was impressive in everything he did last year. For the most part, people seem to be accepting the argument that  his talents are best used in the rotation rather than the bullpen. The big concern is his durability. The Yankees need to enforce a strict pitch count and innings limit for him from day one and need to be able to rest him every so often, skipping his start (by using him as the 5th man or having a 6th starter ready).  The only projections available are from Baseball Prospectus which seem to think his status is up in the air, making a bunch of starts but also getting some bullpen work while seeing 126 innings total. His ERA is predicted to be a mere 3.09, up from last year but still impressive. I personally don’t have a strong feeling about what’s going to happen with Joba. Starting him is the right thing to do, but he’s going to need rest, and he might not be able to hack it. If anything does happen, he’ll quickly be back in the bullpen where he’ll spend the rest of his career as a set up man and closer.

The Rest of the starters, well, there really aren’t any. I don’t have faith or hope for Kennedy or Hughes. The two of them need an entire year in the minors before I’d want them back. They will see time in the majors, however, because it’s inevitable that someone on this rotation is going to have at least a minor injury that will require a spot starter. Traditionally, a long reliever on the roster can fill in in these instances, but despite Girardi saying he wants a long reliever on the team, I don’t see it happening. I’d be willing to give Giese a shot and we should get a look at him in spring training.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

AJ Burnett

New arrival AJ Burnett landed himself a decent contract from a team that needs stability in the rotation and is going out on a limb hoping he stays healthy.

Burnett had a career year last year, getting 18 wins, a significant increase over the previous years mainly because it was one of the few years he was able to start  a decent number of games (34 to be precise).

There are two big knocks against AJ, the first is his injury history and the second is that his best performances come in those critical years right before his contract is up.

The Bill James Handbook and the Baseball Prospectus have AJ penciled in for 13-14 wins this season with an ERA between 3.62 and 3.82

Burnett still has the stuff, and if he can remain healthy should be able to match or even surpass last year’s success. The problem is: that’s a big “if”.  The Yankee’s don’t have the problem of unproven starters that they did last year with Hughes and Kennedy, but Chamberlain might not be ready for a full season of starts and the Yankees could be in big trouble if Burnett succumbs to injury. Remember last year, when Igawa, Ponson and Pavanno all got starts? Let’s hope we don’t sink to similar depths this year.

Maybe the injuries of the past were just flukes. Let’s hope so. If that’s the case and AJ makes all his starts, he should be a reliable arm for the Bombers.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Expectations for Sabathia

So the big man has a big contract. What can New York fans expect? If there is anything close to a crystal ball in this sport it’s a few choice publications, including the Bill James Handbook and the annual Baseball Prospectus guide. They provide predictions for a player’s overall statistical performance that is surprisingly accurate on a consistent basis.

Both of these peg CC as a 16 game winner with an ERA in the range of 3.40 – 3.5 which should please Yankees fans.

The one shortcoming of these predictions is they can’t predict big, season altering injuries and so we’re working on the assumption that Sabathia stays healthy.

They also neglect the idea that some people aren’t ready for the pressure of playing in New York. Milwaukee and Cleveland aren’t the same as the Big Apple. Although he’s played in smaller markets, he’s been in the spotlight for a while and after his trade last season, he know the pressure was on and he delivered.

I think the Yankees have a very good shot at making a strong post season run and CC will eat it up.

I’m going out on a limb to say that the projections are a tad on the conservative side and that CC will get 18 wins. The Yankees defense will be improved compared with last year, and their offense should be improved as well. These things make for a happy starting pitcher. I’m looking for Sabathia to live up to expectations and be the consistent top man that the Yankees paid for.

Spring is Here

Spring training is upon us and it’s time to get the Pinstripers blog back into action. The first thing to look at is the roster and what the projected rotation, bullpen and positions will look like. The current roster is workable, but in my opinion there is still a move or two to be made. Since things are in good enough shape, there is no pressure and Cashman is holding all the cards in his mind.

Coming up soon we’ll take a look at some of the new additions, and what the lineup, bullpen and rotation will look like.

Day one and two of training camp are in the books and Pete Abraham of the LoHud blog has a full wrap-up. A few key highlights were that Matsui was looking healthy behind the plate. The other news was Girardi’s proposed rotations.

  1. Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Pettitte, Chamberlain
  2. Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Pettitte, Chamberlain

That’s pretty much what we’d expect to see and personally I think the #2 rotation makes the most sense.

CMW and Andrew Brackman both threw on day one and the early reports sound promising on both fronts.

Lastly, Girardi said he wants a long reliever this year, and I don’t believe him. Maybe by the end of the season he learned his lesson, but when Girardi needed a long reliever the most, he refused to keep one on the roster.

More to come.