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Scrappy is BACK – Ramiro Pena to get called up to replace A-Rod

I know the little infielder that is known as Scrappy around my house isn’t the greatest player in the world, but we love us some Ramiro Pena, and now that A-Rod’s hand is broken, he’s on his way to join the team. It sure has been a busy couple of weeks in Yankee Land.

Just to recap:

  • Brett Gardner had another setback and now is having what sounds like season ending elbow surgery
  • Nick Swisher is day to day with a hip flexor (or whatever the hell that’s called), making the outfield that much thinner, at least temporarily
  • then KABOOM! Ichiro Suzuki is suddenly a Yankee, patrolling right field, at least temporarily, and then moving to left field when Swisher returns… or so I heard on the radio
  • A-Rod gets hit in the hand by King Felix, breaking that shiz, and now Scrappy becomes the back up infielder, surely giving Jason Nix and Eric Chavez a lot more work at 3rd base

Whew!

Not to be too indelicate, but what the FUCK is going to happen next? Hopefully, something good – Joba Chamberlain may only be days away from rejoining the team, and that sure would be a boost to the bullpen. I was just about ready to close the book on Freddy Garcia, but last night’s start was a bit above average what with his 7.1 IP and 9 Ks, but 3 ER is nothing to get too excited about. Still, not a bad start, but I’d rather see what David Phelps can do at this point. (Also, it’s fair to point out that the Mariners suck at hitting – their team average is under .200 in their home park.)

Today’s day rubber game is one the Yankees really need to win for two reasons:

  1. the Mariners totally blow
  2. they got swept in a four game series by Oakland, who is not bad at all, but sheesh – four loses in a row to the same team… that’s assy

Hisashi Iwakuma is barely even a starter – he’s bee a reliever for most of the year, as far as I know, and when Ivan Nova starts, the Yankees generally win, so… let’s go Scrappy!

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Release or Trade Garcia, Keep Eppley

After two sweeps in a row, the Yankees get a much deserved off day (especially for their bullpen) before they start a series in Washington DC against the Nationals. And speaking of the bullpen, David Robertson is going to make his return to the 25 man roster on Friday, which means somebody has to go. I nominate Freddy Garcia.

If you watched last night’s game, you saw Cody Eppley dig down deep in a tough situation, get ground balls and never give in with a fastball over the middle of the plate. His numbers aren’t gaudy, but he got the job done. Nevertheless, Eppley is perceived as the lowest man on the Yankees bullpen totem pole, but I don’t agree – Garcia isn’t nearly as valuable than Eppley, who has proven he can come into games and get big outs. Garcia is nothing more than a garbage time long man who soaks up innings when the Yankees are either so far ahead the don’t think he can screw it up or so far behind that they don’t care what happens. A pitcher like that doesn’t provide much value.

My hope is that before Robertson is activated, Garcia is either traded or given his release so Eppley can hang around. It’d be nice to have a long man, but I don’t see a point in keeping someone around who’s only job is to mop up a big mess.

Another Hughes Start, Another Loss

Phil Hughes has pitched better in 2012 than Freddy Garcia, but that’s not saying much. Watching Hughes pitch is an exercise in frustration.

While Hughes has decent strike out numbers, he let’s up way too many home runs (I think he’s averaging something like over two homers per nine innings), and when you couple that with 28 hits in 21.2 innings… whew. The 23 strike outs are encouraging, but that just makes me think maybe Hughes really does belong in the bullpen. 7 walks in 5 games isn’t terrible, but it sure would be nice if he could limit those if he’s going to give up billion hits. He gave up 3 runs to Baltimore in less than 6 innings… and a fourth runner was allowed to score by the bullpen… that’s pretty crappy. But, I guess Hughes pitched well enough to get another start, even if he can’t handle an offense as lackluster as the Orioles, featuring the hitless Nick Johnson. Oh right, Nick Johnson! We’ll get back to that..

OTHER PROBLEMS:
The middle of the order

Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are like the nightly version of Phil Hughes. We’re into the second month of the season and these guys just aren’t hitting. Maybe they should start following Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson around – both of those guys are absolutely destroying the baseball. Joe Girardi has already tried the jiggle the lineup trick, and that didn’t do diddly, so at this point… I don’t know, I guess we wait around another week or two and if nothing happens, he’ll have to do it again. I guess they could bat Granderson fourth… yeah, maybe Jeter, Cano, A-Rod, Granderson, Teixeira, Swisher… but that still leaves us with Cano and A-Rod and their 2012 woes right in a row. I usually say things like "These guys are too good to struggle for too long," but Mark Teixeira, despite the homers last year, has changed my thinking a bit on that stance. A-Rod is older and Cano can be extremely streaky. Still, I can cling to the idea that they’ll warm up with the weather.

The outfield
While Phil Hughes didn’t let up any hits to Nick Johnson, Eduardo "Scissorhands" Nunez did. Yeah, when a position player misjudges a routine fly ball but doesn’t get called for an error (he didn’t, right?), I can’t fault the pitcher, which was Rafael Soriano in this case. I guess I can’t blame him too much, because he’s not an outfielder, but I’ve watched him play the infield a bunch, and he doesn’t look like an infielder, either. If you can’t play left field… well, I don’t know what to tell you.

Coming up…
When Andy Pettitte’s busy schedule of training to pitch and testifying in Roger Clemen’s case reaches it’s conclusion, we’ll get the lefty back. Maybe that’ll take another 2 or 3 turns through the Yankees rotation, and if Hughes continues to do those 5+ IP, 3 run starts, I bet he keeps his job – unless David Phelps is lighting the world on fire, which seems unlikely. The Yankees schedule is pretty lean from now until about the All Star break, so it shouldn’t be too tall an order for Hughes. If he’s bad… that will really tell you something.

Hughes or Garcia

The fate of the Yankees starting rotation has been in flux since… I don’t know, since last season. Who will stay in and who will get pushed aside for better talent has become the question of the day. Now that both guys that are on the hot seat (Freddy Garica and Phil Hughes) have gone through the rotation twice, we can take a look at this tiny sample size and guess what the Yankees will do when the time comes about a month from now.

When I look at a sample size this small, I go right to WHIP, which doesn’t help us here because they’re both tied there. They’ve both given up 13 hits and their walks are only separated by 1 in favor of Garcia. When we look at hits vs innings pitched, Garcia is again the better pitcher, but he got to face the basement dwelling Orioles and Twins while Hughes got the Rays (who aren’t exactly barn stormers with the bat) and the Angels (who have the talent to hit a lot), so that’s tough. When it comes to numbers, the best thing I can say about Hughes is he’s got more strike outs per innings, which makes sense when you think about how great his bullpen results are. The best thing I can say about Garcia is he only walked 3 guys in the game against Baltimore and his splitter was bouncing 2 feet in front of the plate. They’re both giving up way too many homers in the early going.

Now we go to the eye test. Although Hughes is striking guys out, I feel as though he gets in too many deep counts and still struggles to finish batters off. His fastball and curve ball look much better than last year, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. He hasn’t made much in the way of progress when it comes to developing his change up, so maybe he needs to concentrate on his cutter… or something… or a slider. I don’t know… maybe a sinker? He needs something else. Garcia had much better command of his splitter against the Twins, but the Twins are so awful, it’s hard to accept when your starter can’t give you 6 IP and 3 ER.

At this point, I think the Yankees are still committed to Hughes and when Andy Pettitte is ready to come up to the big leagues, they’ll demote David Phelps (who’s been great, by the way) and send Garcia to the bullpen as the mop up/long man. As long as Hughes is healthy, I think they’ll keep him in the rotation, unless he’s unbearable for too long. They’ll give Hughes, who is still young, every opportunity to regain his 2010 form, which I still don’t think was that great, but good enough for the back of the rotation and sacrifice Garcia to do it. Garcia is fine for organizational depth, but at his age, he could decline rapidly or just decide to retire at any time.

I think Garcia is probably the better ‘win now’ solution, but Hughes is probably the better ‘long term’ pick, and I think that’s the way the Yankees are going – staying with younger, cheaper players so they don’t have to go out on the open market to flesh out the back end of their rotation.

Andy Pettitte Comes Out of Retirement, Red Sox Fans Put Gun In Collective Mouth

The 5th Starter competition in Yankee land just got a lot more complicated with today’s announcement of Andy Pettitte’s return to pinstripes.

I would guess that Freddy Garcia is now trapped in the bullpen until injury or someone’s performance dictates he leaves it, or unless the Yankees outright trade him. Who in the hell knows what this means for Phil Hughes, but I can’t see him being traded – the Yankees have invested too much in him to give up now. If things keep going the way they are now, maybe Ivan Nova and his erratic fastball command start the season in triple A and Garcia moves to the bullpen whenever Pettitte is ready.

But yeah, suck it, Red Sox fans – the Yankees deep rotation just got even deeper. I don’t mean to kick you guys while you’re down, but the string of profanity that must be spewing forth from Red Sox Nation at this moment will hang out in the air over Fenway for some weeks to come.

Yankees 5th Starter/Long Man Battle

As I’m sure you’re already aware, the Yankees 2012 spring training isn’t exactly one that will be filled with drama. The 5th Starter is one of the few unsettled questions on the team and the two guys battling for the spot (Phil Hughes and “Sweaty” Freddy Garcia) aren’t exactly getting kicked off the team if they lose the competition; the long man spot in the bullpen is the consolation prize.

From a Yankee management perspective (folks who are looking at the team from both a win now and long term basis), I would think that the 5th starter spot is Phil Hughes’ to lose. Hughes is inching toward what will presumably be his prime years while Garcia’s career could end after this season. Although Garcia had a fine 2011 campaign (3.62 ERA), he missed time with a bizarre finger injury I still don’t understand how he incurred (kitchen accident?) and I don’t think anyone expects Garcia to turn in a sub 4 ERA in 2012. Of course, there is plenty of reason to doubt the often injured Phil Hughes, who’s 2011 was a total disaster. We’ve seen the potential, but the results have often not been there. Nevertheless, the Yankees have hung on to him for years, resisting trades and giving him every opportunity, so I don’t see why that would stop now.

From the Yankees perspective, I would think that maximizing Hughes value long term is the way to go, but if you’re a “win now” fan and you prefer Garcia to get the ball every fifth day, I see your point. You know you’re what going to get from Garcia (6 IP of 2 or 3 run ball), and I agree that such a performance gives the Yankees a good chance to win any time The Sweaty One takes the ball. Still, unless Hughes has an utterly horrible spring, look for him to be the fifth starter – and if it doesn’t work out, Garcia will be waiting in the pen to take over.

A.J. Burnett traded to Pirates, but who gets 5th Starter job?

"My hair looks like this on purpose."

"See ya!"

By now, you’re aware that A.J. Burnett has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates due to his extreme suckiness for marginal prospects and salary relief.    But what does that mean for the Yankees?

The first and most obvious result of ditching Burnett is the change this makes to the 5th starter competition.  At this point, I think it’s clear that the rotation shapes up as follows:

  1. C.C. Sabathia
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. Hiroki Kuroda
  4. Ivan Nova

So we’re left with a battle between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes for the final rotation spot.

In my view, this is a tough decision.  If you choose Garcia, you know about what you’re going to get; 150 innings of average pitching.  With Hughes… well, I he’s kinda got that whole A.J. Burnett thing going for him in terms of being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  In 2010, Hughes had a great first half but then fell off in the 2nd half.  He’s either completely healthy or injured beyond the point of pitching through pain.  When he’s in the bullpen, he’s great – when he’s a starter, it might be OK and it might be a huge embarrassing failure.

From a win now standpoint, I think you go with Garcia; he’s a known quantity and you know you can put Hughes in the pen (although it’s fairly crowded out there), he’s likely to succeed.  In terms of the Yankees long term success, you probably want to give Phil Hughes the chance to blossom as the starter you always hoped he’d become.  You’ve seen flashes of it, and Garcia is only under contract for 2012 whereas Hughes could be a member of the team for years to come.  This is a tough decision and if I’m the Yankees, I go with Hughes and… I don’t know, have Garcia serve as the long man and emergency starter until someone gets hurt or sucks.  If Nova, Hughes and Pineda are in the rotation, that’s a lot of youth, unknowns and possible injury concerns, so you’re probably going to need another starter at some point for two weeks or so.

The other thing that changes with Burnett leaving the Yankees is the salary relief it provides, which will help the Yankees fill out their bench this year and who knows next year.  At this point, we’re all waiting to see who the Yankees grab as their left handed DH; I still think they’re going with Johnny Damon.

But the point is, the A.J. Burnett saga is finally over, and I love it.  He seems like a good man, but beyond a few glorious moments, I don’t think I’ll miss Burnett’s stay in pinstripes all that much.

Who Will Be The Yankees 4th and 5th Starters?

new-york-yankees-2012-pitching-rotation-battle

At this point, I think it’s pretty clear that the Yankees intend to front their rotation with C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda.  But who will they slot in as their fourth and fifth starters, and in what order?  There is a case to be made for all the candidates.

Freddy Garcia

Garcia gave the Yankees 25 starts, 146.2 IP of 3.62 ERA ball – not exactly setting the world on fire, but more than serviceable.  He’s a veteran, he’s been this guy for two seasons in a row, and, like any pitcher, you know what he’s going to get unless he breaks.

A.J. Burnett

At this point, the only positive thing I can say about Burnett‘s tenure with the Yankees is he always takes the ball when it’s his turn and he soaks up innings.  If the Yankees are willing to eat say…  75% of his salary, they can probably trade him, but that’s a spicy meatball.

Ivan Nova

Nova’s rookie campaign have the Yankees 165.1 IP of 3.70 ERA ball in 27 starts while going 16-4.  That’s impressive.  Now I think it’s fair that no one expects him to repeat that performance in 2012, but Nova looks like the real deal, and I don’t see any reason why the Yankees would want to disrupt his progress (Hughes style…  Chamberlain style… sigh.), so it stands to reason they’ll find a spot for him.

Phil Hughes

Hughes has been the Yankees pet project for years, but I think it’s finally over.  Hughes has repeatedly shown success in the bullpen while the injuries just keep piling up.  Sure, he had that one strong year in 2010, but his health is a concern.

So what’s a team with four arms for two spots to do?

Nothing.  Having too many starting pitchers is the sort of problem that could work itself out before opening day as someone could get injured.  Phil Hughes’ fastball velocity could be in the toilet again…  Burnett might get punched in the face again…  Garcia might have another kitchen accident… who knows?

Make a trade.  The bullpen is already pretty crowded, so maybe the Yankees try to move Hughes.  On the other hand, his value is low now, so the Yankees would be selling low, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.  They have been reportedly shopping Burnett for months now, and, because they are sick of his act, may be willing to eat a ton of money just to get rid of him – especially now, with this influx of too many arms and a need for a part time DH.  (Of course, they can keep Burnett and pick up Johnny Damon or Carlos Pena for straight cash.

But what will they do?  What do I think they’ll do?  I think they’ll force Burnett out the door for a bag of balls…  but we’ll see.

Bringing Freddy Back To The Fold Indicates Yankees Rotation Plans

Now that the Yankees have agreed to a one year deal with Freddy Garcia, I think Brian Cashman’s plan for rebuilding the rotation (his top off season priority) has become evidently clear.

The current roster currently has five starters under contract: indisputable ace C.C. Sabathia, rookie sensation Ivan Nova, "Look out, I don’t know where it’s going," aka A.J. Burnett, "He came into Spring Training a little out of shape last year," and former 19 game winner Phil Hughes and the aforementioned Garcia. So there’s your rotation right there…

Or, maybe not. Hughes and Garcia aren’t exactly a guaranteed picture of health and you never know when Burnett’s tendency to pitch like Charlie Sheen in Major League before he gets the glasses is going to get so out of hand that he can’t pitch anymore, so there are going to be chances for the kids down on the farm to make their case.

But what this early off season move by Cashman truly indicates is that the Yankees are not interested in dumping piles of money on C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish, and I tend to agree with that logic. Wilson’s short career as a starter doesn’t warrant the dollars he wants and Darvish has never pitched in the majors, and I think Kei Igawa has left a bad taste in the Yankees months. Now that’s not to say that they won’t snatch either (or both) of these guys up if they are able to be had at a below market price, but otherwise, I wouldn’t start stitching their names onto the back of Yankee jerseys.

It’s trade or bust for adding another starter to the Yankees rotation.

If the Yankees can work out a reasonable deal for someone like John Danks, Gio Gonzalez or Jair Jurrjens, then they’ll do it. Maybe they’re willing to part with some of their many catching or pitching prospects that their minor league system is currently awash with to make a deal for one of these guys, but otherwise, the Yankees are going 2008 style and waiting on the better 2009 free agent class – or, in this case, the 2012-13 free agent class.

This is a tentative list, but there are some attractive names here – proven commodities that are better risk/value for the dollar than Darvish or Wilson. Besides, do the Yankees really need a third starting pitcher with initials for a first name?

Free Agent Starting Pitchers in 2012-2013 Off Season

Scott Baker
Joe Blanton
Matt Cain
Fausto Carmona
Kevin Correia
John Danks
Jorge De La Rosa
R.A. Dickey
Scott Feldman
Gavin Floyd
Zack Greinke
Jeremy Guthrie
Cole Hamels
Dan Haren
Tim Hudson
Colby Lewis
Francisco Liriano
Kyle Lohse
Derek Lowe
Shaun Marcum
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Brandon McCarthy
Brett Myers
Carl Pavano
Jake Peavy
Anibal Sanchez
Jonathan Sanchez
Ervin Santana
Joe Saunders
James Shields
Jake Westbrook
Randy Wolf
Carlos Zambrano

Can I Get A Quality Start

I believe it was Al Leiter who said he was not impressed with the notion of a quality start. At some point, some wahoo made the term ‘quality start’ popular, which was meant to say that if a starting pitcher was able to stay in the game long enough to complete six (6) innings and allow only three (3) earned runs, then this was a starting pitching performance of quality. Mr. Leiter was quick to point out at the advent of his broadcasting career that if a pitcher produced a quality start, he’d have a 4.50 ERA, which is not so good – not to mention the fact that getting three innings out of your bullpen in the modern era of baseball is no simple accomplishment and is going to tax the arms down there as well. I tend to agree, and I do want to quickly mention that Mr. Leiter has quickly become one of my favorite broadcasters of all time.

However, as much as I reject the notion of a quality start as the standard to strive toward, the Yankees sure could use one right about now.

If you flip through your memory (which is hopefully more reliable than mine) and the Yankees 2011 calendar (without delving into the box scores), it looks like the Yankees have produced maybe one (that’s 1) quality start against the Red Sox this year in eight (8) tries. That, my friends, is a damn shame – or perhaps it would be better to say it’s shameful.

We all know the Yankees are short on pitching this year – that’s why it was easy to consider jumping into the Harlem River when the Yankees were not able to sign Cliff Lee. Since the Yankees were able to get Bartolo Colon and he’s pitched so beautifully, it seems as though we can count on both BC and staff ace CC Sabathia to deliver better than quality starts and get out backs in any pie eating contests. After that…

Whoooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

The drop off in predictability is like going over that first big hill on a roller coaster. If Freddy Garcia doesn’t locate, he’s going to get hit hard by anybody, never mind a team with great hitting like the Red Sox, so nobody was really counting on him anyway – but, that being said, the Yankees would be wise to keep him from facing the Red Sox again this year if possible. AJ Burnett, who I didn’t want the Yankees to sign because of my concerns with his inability to stay healthy, has been healthy through his entire contract but as widely unpredictable as just about any other pitcher I can think of this side of Jose Contreras. Phil Hughes also sorta falls into that category, but is seemingly always hurt and Ivan Nova just doesn’t have enough experience to be thoroughly relied upon for anything. The trade market for starters is thin at best, so I don’t think there is any real help coming that will be a serious upgrade.

Looks like we’re stuck with these guys, but is that any different than 2009? Two good starters and AJ Burnett. It could be worse. (See Yankees 2008 season!)

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