Monday, March 19, 2007

Preview of Yankees/Red Sox 2007 games Part 2: Outfield/DH

Since I'm at work for a few hours (computer lab in the morning, kinda easy work) and Easter break/Opening Day are both coming up very soon, I'll speed up my predictions up to Tuesday, so I can write an Opening Day post and the like...


Part 2 will have four parts: Left field, center field, right field, and DH

Left field: Hideki Matsui vs. Manny Ramirez

Yankees: I'm sure your reaction about Matsui's wrist break was like mine: your face was contorted in a kind of pain your neighborhood buddy couldn't inflict. Seeing Matsui's wrist break (a few days after I attended my first Boston game) was a worst case scenario, once Sheffield messed up his wrist. With the rookie play of Melky Cabrera, the trade for underrated Bobby Abreu, and the sheer power of the line-up, the Yankees survived 2006.

Bouncing back this year shouldn't be that big of an issue. With his wrist break having on his left wrist, he doesn't lose that much snap in his swing as much as Sheffield could have in his left wrist injury. As a left-handed hitter, the main wrist that provides the snap in your swing is your right (and for a right-handed hitter, is the left wrist). ZiPS projects that he hits .293/.367/.474, which is pretty Matsui-like, along with the 100 RBIs and 19 HRs (projecting his power will fall a bit by age and the injury).

Matsui's main strength is his bat, and when you hold Matsui and Melky in the same light, Melky has the upside on defense when it comes to covering ground and arm strength. Will that bite the Yankees in the butt? Only the season can tell us the answer.

Red Sox: Gosh, what is there to say about Manny Ramirez? If the only option the Yankees have against Manny is to walk him almost every time he got up in the Boston Massacre, I think that says it all. I mean, career-wise, the man averages a 1.011 OPS. 470 HRs. Do I need to explain his Hall of Fame credentials?

The only thing you can say against Manny is his apparent laziness in left field. And of course, let's not forget the "Manny-being-Manny" crap that has him as my least-liked player in the game today. However, I can't argue against that he almost makes me wet my pants every time I see him against the Yankees. Manny's just that good.

Advantage: Boston -- Clearly. Got Manny? Clearly, the Yankees don't.

Center Field: Johnny Damon vs. Coco Crisp

Yankees: At this point, in the strict professionalism and business-like atmosphere of the clubhouse, Damon is the straw that stirs the Yankees' drink. Besides the fact that he betrayed the Red Sox, I personally love Damon for his personality and the fact that he can team up with Jason Giambi and Brian Bruney to loosen up some of the players. The way that he has fun every time he's out there on the field shows that he loves the game. To Damon, baseball's a game, not his next paycheck, which I suspect many Yankee players have forgotten over the years. Damon's greatest asset to the Yankees is the chemistry factor. Personally, if I had a chance to hang out with one player on the Yankees, though Mariano's my favorite player, I'd have to go with Damon because there is no doubt that, like the Yankee team, he'll make me feel comfortable and welcomed.

But let's not forget: Damon's a pretty good center-fielder in his own right. He was able to reach his career high in home runs (20), while taking advantage of the short porch in right field. Even with a nagging injury in his right foot, he was still able to leg out 25 stolen bases (most since 2003), while scoring 115 runs and hitting 80 RBIs. Though he may act like Judas, look like Jesus, and throw like Mary, he can still cover all the ground that departed Bernie Williams couldn't cover in his last few years on the Yankees. Also, he cut down his errors from 6 in 2005 to 3 in 2006. Johnny Damon made us Yankee fans love him. However, I loved him ever since the signing, and though other Yankee fans either wanted someone else (a Juan Pierre, maybe?) or keep quadruple-A player Bubba Crosby as our CF, I take great pride in predicting that Damon would be a great asset for the Yankees. I project that Damon will continue to prove me right this year.

Red Sox: For all the talk Red Sox fans made about Coco Crisp and how he will be better than Damon, he didn't prove Red Sox fans right last year. In 40 less games last season (he only played 105 games), he cut his HR total from 16 to 8 and his RBI total from 69 to 36. His splits also decreased: 36 points in AVG/28 points in OBP/80 points in SLG. Though he's still young and hasn't hit the typical prime age yet (28), the Red Sox expect some rapid improvement from him. There is a possibility that, with all the tools working for him and if all the planets align at just the right angle, Crisp can get 20+ HRs, 90+ RBIs, and 30+ stolen bases.

One thing we can't deny: Crisp can play the field. Committing only one error last year, his defense was on full display when he robbed David Wright of a sure double. Though there is no doubt Crisp's defense is... well... crisp and will continue to improve, it doesn't seem that his glove and speed can't make up for his lack of hitting. Adding the clubhouse/chemistry factor I put in there for Damon, if the trade rumors were any sign, Boston may be admitting a mistake.

Advantage: Yankees -- For now. Damon still has speed, he can hit, and plus, he loosens up the clubhouse. An asset in every sense of the word.

Right Field: Bobby Abreu vs. J.D. Drew

Yankees: In my rounds around the standard MySpace Yankee/Baseball groups, and in reading Dante's post, there is one conclusion I can draw from what I have read: Bobby Abreu is the most under-rated player on the Yankees. Reading that Abreu is equal to Drew and that we should drop Abreu to 7th in our line-up absolutely drove me crazy.

What has Abreu done? Let's see: He has hit for over 100+ RBIs five out of the last six years, he has drew more than 100 walks for eight straight years, he gets on base more than 41% of the time (career-wise), he has gotten more than 10 assists playing right field five times, and he has stolen more than 21 bases for eight straight years. This guy is consistent. He hits consistently. He gets on base consistently. He has great speed consistently. He has a great arm and awareness in right field consistently. Abreu's skills are perfect for the Yankees, period.

What has he done that Drew hasn't? He won a Silver Slugger (2004), while Drew has none. He won a Gold Glove (2005), while Drew has none. Lastly, he is a two-time All-Star (2004/2005), while Drew has never appeared in an All-Star game. To even think that Drew is equal to Abreu is a ridiculous notion. But let me try to "equalize" them.

Red Sox: So Drew finally got to 100 RBIs for the first time in his career last year. Much has been made about his injury streak, but I won't get into that. The thing is that I believe he won't get injured seriously, and to try and think that he would get seriously injured would be bad karma. He drew over 100 walks once, in 2004 as a Brave. His consistency can be called out here. He either strikes out more than 100 times a year (2002/2004/2006) or he strikes out less than 50 times (2003/2005). Either he can be a 20+ HR man (2001/2004) or not (all the other years).

Defensive-wise, if you want to assess errors, Drew has the very slight edge in having less errors (overall), but Abreu has less errors from last (5 for Drew, 3 for Abreu). Drew is also two years young, so we can assess that into the equation. However, when it comes to Bobby Abreu, there is more consistency and more value in a player of Bobby Abreu's skills. Plus, when Drew gets speed like Abreu, let me know. =)

Advantage: Yankees -- Abreu > Drew, period.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz vs. Jason Giambi

Yankees: What's so easy about assessing the DHs is that you only need to assess the hitting. After dealing with wrist injuries all throughout last year and also playing atrocious defense at 1st base, Jason Giambi has been designated to being... the designated hitter. It has been well documented that Giambi hits significantly worse when he's a DH, hitting at a .224/.373/.531 split in his 70 games there last year.

Giambi's main assets to the line-up is his ability to get on-base (getting on base more than 41% of the time last year, drawing 110 walks) and his power (37 HRs/113 RBIs last year). However, Giambi must rebound from his injuries last year as well as getting over not playing 1st base every day. I have no idea why Giambi hits significantly worse when he's a DH, but I do hope he works that stuff out because the Yankees need him.

Red Sox: It would be easy for me to say "it's David 'Freakin' Ortiz! Why do I have to assess his hitting?" But of course, that wouldn't be fair. What is fair to say is that David Ortiz is a ridiculous hitter. 54 HRs (Red Sox record). 137 RBIs. Mr. Clutch. Same on-base percentage as Giambi (41%+). Top 5 MVP-candidate the last 4 years. No signs of slowing down.

David Ortiz is one of those hitters that makes a rivalry great. He loves the game. He kills the ball. He hits you where it hurts: in the "clutch". Though I don't believe in the myth of clutchness, I do have to say: David Ortiz is a fantastic hitter.

Advantage: Boston -- Just like with A-Rod, it's David Ortiz. How can I pick against him?

That's all for Part 2!

If you're keeping track at home, it's Yankees 6, Red Sox 2.

Happy reading!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

A little break from the A-Rod talk of the Yankee bloggers, beat writers and sportswriters...

One of my friends, Dante, wrote an extremely long post with a preview of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry this year...

He did an incredible job on detailing the rivalry and assessing both teams based on position, strengths and weaknesses...

I'm going to take my own spin on assessing the rivalry with a four-part series: Infield, Outfield, Pitching, and Intangibles (which would include the bench, managing, and the Manny/A-Rod impacts).. I have no idea how the spacing of the four-parts will be time-wise, but I'll do my best!


When we're talking about the infield, we're talking about 5 positions: 1st base, 2nd base, shortstop, 3rd base, and the catching position...

1st base: Doug Mientkiewicz/Josh Phelps/Andy Phillips vs. Kevin Youkilis

Yankees: Because of Jason Giambi's inability to defend 1st base, make the pivot throw to 2nd base, and stay injury-free while playing 1st, Mientkiewicz was signed to bring his defensive skills and glove to the team, and comparing the Zone Ratings of Giambi and Mientkiewicz, the differences are huge: .838 to Doug's .881. When it comes to errors, Giambi has 73 in 1040 games played at 1st, compared to Doug's 28 in 848 games.

The defensive upgrade is apparent, but offense? Meh. In the last three years, Doug has hit a weak .253 with an equally weak .721 OPS. Hitting 9th in the potent Yankee line-up won't hurt him quite as much, but his bat isn't something you can really get excited about. Depending on who the Yankees pick to platoon with Doug, the decision should not greatly bother the team.

Heck, career-wise, Doug actually hits left-handers a little better: .271 AVG/.759 OPS against right-handers, as opposed to .269/.780 against left-handers.

Red Sox: In addition to having one of the coolest last names in baseball and being a Jew (as Denis Leary proclaimed in a now-banned YouTube video), Kevin Youkilis isn't a bad baseball player himself. Career-wise, his Zone Rating is actually lower than Giambi's: .828, but let's keep in mind that he platooned in 2nd base (2 games), 3rd base (105 games) and left field (18 games) in his career. Yes, Youk isn't a Godsend at 1st base. However, he has the flexibility to play other positions in the infield and in the outfield. He committed 5 errors last year, compared to Doug's 3 and Giambi's 7. Stats or not, Youk plays better defense than Giambi, but Doug has the advantage over Youk.

Besides platooning at different positions, he has a pretty decent bat. In his three-year split (which is his entire career in the majors), he has hit .275 AVG/.802 OPS, and he has slowly improved in the last three years. Being at the supposed prime age (28), he should improve a little bit more for a good .280 AVG/.810+ OPS, which projects to be better than Doug's projection, even if Doug hits above his head.

Advantage: Boston -- With pop in his bat and the decent defense, Boston looks to have a bigger advantage over what many consider to be a defensive "specialist".

2nd base: Robinson Cano vs. Dustin Pedroia

Yankees: There's a lot I can say for Cano, but I'll start with an amazing projection and summary from SG of Replacement Level Yankees Weblog. In the link, SG lists the players who have had a season where the person hit for an average of .330 or higher at an age of 25 or younger in a full season since World War II. If you look at the list, there is not one bad player in that list. Must I say anything more about Cano's bat? I think not.

Cano decreased the amount of errors at 2nd base from 17 to 9 last year, while increasing his Zone Rating by .009. Guys, Cano is only 24. If not the best 2nd baseman in the league, he is easily in the top 3. Is it safe to say that it's more than likely that his defense will continue to improve? Cano is likely to improve his defense and build on his 2006 success at the plate. If he doesn't, I'll eat my hat. =)

Red Sox: Meet Dustin Pedroia. Many similarities will point to him being a lot like Marcus Giles. Pedroia's not a guy you can sleep on. He has the ability to be pretty good down the line, and as state, "Overall, Pedroia may not be an all-star, but is likely to be a dependable second baseman at the major league level, which is a great asset for any team, especially on a cost-controlled basis."

He should make a splash into the majors this year with full-time playing at 2nd base, but at this point, he's still a rookie with lots of potential that has not been tapped yet. In 2007, we should see some of that potential either come out of his pores or stay hidden in his bowels.

Advantage: Yankees -- It's Cano... CA-no! Pedroia will be good for the Red Sox in the future, but it's Cano!

Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Julio Lugo

Yankees: Derek Jeter, what is there to say about him? MVP-candidate last year, and somehow, he was able to get his third straight Gold Glove. I don't think I need to explain Jeter's successes hitting last year, so let's go into defense.

Though there has been lots of talk about Jeter's defensive woes, Jeter has actually rated better than an average shortstop for the 2nd year in a row. For a player past his prime age of 28 to keep improving offensively and defensively is remarkable and shows the dedication a player has to the game.

Yes, statistically, he may be below-average, and yes, through the eyes of many Yankee fans, he's an amazing defensive shortstop. I take the middle road. He may not be the greatest thing at shortstop since sliced bread, but he can still make the plays. Heck, where will ESPN be without Jeter's jumping 360 throws to 1st base?

Red Sox: Statistically, Julio Lugo is a better defensive shortstop than Jeter. If you wanna go by Zone Rating, Lugo's .848 to Jeter's .821. If you wanna go by Rate, Lugo's 102 to Jeter's 93, career-wise. His defense is actually an improvement to Alex Gonzalez's Rate of 95 career-wise and .843 Zone Rating.

With the bat, Lugo's 3-year split: .284 AVG/.753 OPS, and an improvement of Gonzalez's .249/.691. Though the contract for Lugo may seem a bit pricey (4 year/36 million), at least, he's a pretty big improvement over Alex Gonzalez, eh?

Advantage: Yankees -- When you have a MVP candidate (and arguably, the AL MVP) and the team captain as your shortstop, he most likely trumps the competition, and that includes Julio Lugo.

3rd base: Alex Rodriguez vs. Mike Lowell

Yankees: Let's be brief on A-Rod. His split of .290 AVG/.915 OPS last year was considered inferior and non A-Rod like. Considering, in his MVP season of 2005, his OPS was a ridiculous 1.031, anything less would seem a letdown. Much has been made about A-Rod's playoff struggles, but since we're talking about the 19 games the Yankees/Red Sox will play in the regular season, the playoff talk will have to wait.

Putting on weight last year definitely took a toll on A-Rod's body when it came to offense and defense. A-Rod is considered a 5-tool player, considered to be (including me) the most valuable type of player. However, the extra weight he had last year took away from three of those tools: base-running ability, throwing ability and fielding ability.

A-Rod's stolen base totals has decreased from 28 in 2004 to 15 in 2006. If ESPN hasn't hammered the images of A-Rod's mis-aligned throws yet, trust me, at times, A-Rod's throws have been off-line. When it comes to defense, A-Rod increased his Zone Rating by .005, but his errors: 12 to 24 last year.

Now, reporting to camp this year, he cut out about 13 pounds of weight off his body. That should give him a small boost in his speed. He can also get to balls quicker and throws across the body should be easier to make. The jump in errors should be proved as a fluke above anything else. If A-Rod is seriously thinking about opting out, a monster season will get him even more money from a willing team. If A-Rod isn't going to opt out, the Yankees should reap the rewards of a great season, which is what I'm predicting.

Red Sox: Ah, the former Yankee farm prospect, Mike Lowell. After a terrible 2005 season and the last season he experienced in Florida, he came to the Red Sox and put up good numbers: .284 AVG/.814 OPS, a .48 jump in AVG. Also, he made good use of the Green Monster, resulting in a jump of 11 doubles and 12 home runs from last year.

His defense, as Borat would say, was "very nice". A .811 Zone Rating destroys A-Rod's .741 Zone Rating, and of course, if you make 18 less errors than the reigning MVP, your defense is going to shine in comparison. As Red Sox fans remind me quite a number of times, the Red Sox last year committed the least amount of errors as a team: 66 errors. There is no doubt in my mind that acquiring Mike Lowell in the Florida trade helped improve that defense, even though there have been talk and evidence (through the Defensive Efficiency rating) that the Red Sox did not have the best defense last year.

Advantage: Yankees -- It's a future first-ballot Hall of Famer with a couple of great years left in him vs. a pretty good 3rd baseman. Hall of Famer wins.

Catcher: Jorge Posada vs. Jason Varitek

Yankees: Let me remind you of one thing: Jorge Posada is 35 years old. 35 years old is a pretty old age for a catcher. Let me also remind you of this: Posada may possibly be the most underrated part of the Yankee dynasty in the late 90s to early 2000s.

Last year, comparing all the catchers, who had the most HRs between them? Posada and Ramon Hernandez were tied with 23. RBIs? Posada and Victor Martinez were tied for first with 93. Forgetting Joe Mauer for a second, who came in 2nd when it came to and Slugging Percentage and OPS? Posada with a .492 SLG and .867 OPS. Last but not least, who does Posada's stats compare to the best at the age of 34? Hall-of-Famer Carlton Fisk.

Posada has a great bat for a catcher, and he has increased in the number of runners he catches stealing (37%). Tony Pena has worked with Posada last year, and the results are easy to see. With more work with Pena, Posada's hitting numbers may decrease due to age, but his defense? Barring major injury, Posada's defense numbers should range the same.

Red Sox: Jason Varitek means an incredible amount to the pitching staff of the Red Sox. Many have pointed to the fact that the collapse of the Red Sox was triggered by Varitek's torn cartilage in his left knee. When it came to the games Varitek actually played and hit in, the numbers were mediocre at best. I have made numerous jokes about ".243 Varitek" and "I only fight with a catcher's mask on" Varitek, but his numbers were even worse than a .243. Varitek hit .238 AVG/.725 OPS. Meh at best.

Though we can put some blame on his injury, Varitek was never great at throwing runners out stealing, throwing runners out at a 22% success rate last year, and 25.7% career-wise (compared to Posada's 30.3% career-rate). However, Varitek has made a lesser amount of errors (52 errors in 1017 games, 0.051 errors per game) than Posada (69 errors in 1222 games, 0.056 errors per game) and he also has less passed balls (89 to Posada's 111). Varitek is a slightly better defensive catcher, while Posada has a better throwing arm.

Advantage: Yankees (slightly) -- The injury factor is huge. When you're a catcher, your knees are all you got. If you look at Posada's injuries last year, he was out of games later in the year because of non-knee injuries. Recovering from a bruised left elbow, a bruised finger, or even a strained left knee tendon is definitely easier than recovering from surgery to repair torn cartilage in your lifeblood as a catcher. With also the better bat, Posada takes it.


Next post, we'll look at the outfield!

Happy reading! =)


Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Steve-esque post...

Now that midterms have come and gone, and since I have a couple of weeks to ease back into blog writing, I'll go into a post that will reek of Steve's type of posts =P...

Before I do, let me plug in the articles I have written for my school's newspaper... yes, I'm serious... =P

1. So my third Fordham article (about baseball, yay!) was in print last week... while I was looking through the website, I saw the listings of the most popular articles throughout the newspaper and...

Well, my article (the 2nd most popular sports article in the newspaper) is more popular than a feature article dealing with personal cooking...

We are... FORDHAM... yea...


Since already talked about a ridiculous article about A-Rod, why should I do the same thing? Let's go with the headline story in my local hometown paper, The Bergen Record...

From Bob Klapisch:

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Can you imagine Alex Rodriguez in a Mets uniform in 2008? It's not just impossible, you say, it's heresy. Or is it? The idea of A-Rod crossing enemy lines has strong support from none other than David Wright – who says he'd give up his position to make room for the Yankee third baseman.

"Are you kidding me? As great a hitter as Alex is, I'd definitely do it," Wright said. "Tell him to come over, tell him to do it."

In a quiet, early morning clubhouse at Tradition Field, Wright was smiling, but apparently not kidding about his crosstown rival. That's how convinced he is that A-Rod's arrival would be the final, missing piece in ensuring the Mets' domination for the rest of the decade...

Point-blank, Wright was asked, who's the more dangerous hitter, Manny or A-Rod?

Wright thought long and hard, and finally said, "I'd have to say A-Rod. I mean, that guy has sick power. I saw him hit a home run against us [July 2 at Yankee Stadium] that he was out in front of, off his front foot and he went the opposite way – and he still hit into the black [seats in the bleachers]."

Wright shook his head and said, "What other player hits 30-something home runs, drives in 100, hits .280 and calls that an off year?"

"Case closed," he said.

What is so newsworthy of this that would warrant a front page headline in the Sports section?

David Wright is showing absolute respect to the abilities of A-Rod, and he (like most other players) would like a possible 800 HR hitter and future Hall-of-Famer on their team... so what?

A-Rod was a Met fan growing up, and the whole "coming back to your hometown team" would be awesome for him, but who's to say that A-Rod won't deal with the same stuff he's dealing on the Yankees right now?

Let's not forget how Met fans rode Carlos Beltran up to last year, and putting the highest-paid baseball player on another New York team? Eh...

It's a nice sentiment and I'm sure A-Rod's greatly flattered... but I highly doubt that comments from a Met will highly change his mind on whether he wants to stay after next year...

In other news, Carl Pavano actually pitched in a game... and he did pretty decent too! 33 pitches and one run in 2 innings... good start, good start...

More to come in the next few weeks...

Happy reading! =)