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Yankees 2011 Batting Orders

Depending on whether the Yankees are facing a right-handed or left-handed pitcher, you’ll see one of two batting orders this year.  If you watched a ton of spring training, you’ll already have a good feel for what they’re planning.  As for me, I didn’t watch much, but I checked their lineups a lot and I’m pretty sure that Brett Gardner will be the lead off hitter on opening day and on most days the Yankees face right-handed starters.  This will move Derek Jeter back down to second, where he has batted most of his career, although its worth pointing out that he’s had plenty of success in the lead off spot.

Given that Gardner was the on base percentage leader last year, it makes sense to lead him off against right handers.  His speed will also hopefully keep the Yankees out of double plays if Derek Jeter goes into another grounding to short stop spree like last season.

Here is what to expect on a regular day against Right Handed Pitchers:
Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C
Curtis Granderson, CF

Given that Granderson is dealing with an oblique injury but is expected to be available on opening day, you might see Andruw Jones in left field on Thursday , which would move Gardner to center.

Here is what to expect on a regular day against Left Handed Pitchers:
Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Jorge Posada, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF

I would expect Andruw Jones to get the occasional start against lefties, but I don’t think they’re going to straight up platoon Jones and Gardner – unless Jones gets super hot.  Granderson is a tough guy to place in the line up – if he is sluggish like he was for most of last year, he’ll stay down low, batting 7th, 8th or 9th – but if he gets hot like he did at the end of the year and in the playoffs, Joe Girardi is going to have a nice problem to have – expect him to trade spots with Nick Swisher – unless he’s also hitting well.  If that’s the case, then maybe it’ll be Jorge Posada who gets bumped down.  I could make up crazy scenarios all day…  so I’ll stop now.

It’s almost time for baseball!  Too bad opening day is during working hours!

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Yankees Starting Rotation Battle

Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova are still in a battle for a place in the Yankees starting rotation.  From the very little I’ve seen, I’d say that in terms of performance, I’d rank Colon and Nova fairly close (although Nova’s 6 IP of shutout ball was impressive) and rank Garcia last.  Still, I think the Yankees are best served to slot Garcia and Colon as the fourth and fifth starters.  I don’t think anybody knows what the number is, but Nova has an innings limit this year, and even if they skip him a few times, I don’t see a good way to manage that at the major league level.

I like Nova a lot, and I don’t want to see his development retarded in any way.  I don’t think his ceiling is much higher than a number 3 starter, but that’s nothing to sneeze at.  The Yankees will need a number five starter a lot more this April than they have in the last few seasons (or, at least that’s how I remember it), so they won’t really have the luxury of skipping anyone in April much.  Frankly, the Yankees may as well find out what Garcia and Colon have – if a guy can’t get it done, they’ll get released, and that will be that.  On the other hand, if you bring Nova north, you have to manage a developing starter with an innings limit while trying to win a pennant, something I don’t feel the Yankees have excelled at over the last few years.  If Nova does poorly and they have to send him back down, then they’ve just wasted an option on him.  They might as well send him to Scranton-Wilkes Barre (I hate typing that – why can’t they just be the Scranton Yankees?), limit his starts to five innings and not call him up until Colon or Garcia stink or get hurt, because one (or both) of those things will happen at some point this season – I guarantee it.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Is he going to mention Sergio Mitre or Manny Banuelos as a rotation candidate or not?”  The answer is not.  Mitre stinks; he’s a serviceable long man/mop up man/emergency starter, but that’s where it ends – and Banuelos is not of legal drinking age.  I know he’s great (I’ve seen him pitch), but he’s never thrown a pitch in AAA.  Banuelos is the real deal – he might be a number 2 or even a number 1 some day – let’s allow him develop and bring him up when he’s ready.  As for Andrew Brackman, I love all six feet eleven inches of that guy (yeah, update your score cards, he grew an inch over the winter), but he’s not ready yet either – he’s also never thrown a pitch in AAA.  I don’t think Brackman will ever be as good as Banuelos, but again, let’s wait till he’s ready before we bring him up – and if you look at his numbers and injury history, he doesn’t need any extra pressure of trying to make the big league roster…  oh sorry, he’s already been sent to minor league camp.  Never mind.

To the Readership:

I really appreciate that so many people have been dropping by the site and I’m sorry there hasn’t been much in the way of posts this month, but frankly, there hasn’t been much to write about.  The Yankees don’t have many question marks this year and the first half of spring training is, for lack of a better phrase, boring as hell.  The starters hardly play, the rotation pitchers only pitch a few innings… I think Mariano Rivera has made one appearance so far this spring… my point is, it’s early.  There’s still an entire season to go, and I don’t want to get burned out.  I also don’t want to write those filler posts that make up the bulk of March content on a lot of other Yankees blogs…  I can only read so many ‘how so-and-so might perform this year before I throw in the towel, you know?  A lot of people have been writing that Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson will have better seasons this year than they did last year…  brilliant writing!  Anyway, all I really wanted to say was thanks for dropping by and I promise that come April, the posts will be fast and furious!

What To Expect From Bartolo Colon’s First Spring Training Start

Tomorrow, the Yankees kick off their Spring Training season against the Philadelphia Phillies, a contest that will feature Bartolo Colon‘s Yankee debut. Colon is, of course, a contestant in the Yankees most hotly debated (or at least it should be) game of rotation roulette, along with Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova.

I remember Colon (despite other stops along his career, including 39 IP with the Boston Red Sox) as the Angels thick slab of ace – at six feet tall and two hundred and fifty pounds plus, Colon was a site to behold, and he brought the heat to back it up, maxing out around 96 MPH, as far as I can remember. Then there was that game he gave up three home runs to A-Rod… that was something! Colon just kept feeding A-Rod four seam fastballs, and A-Rod took him deep three times. It was insane.

Now, several years and 70 pounds later (Baseball Reference lists him at 185 lb!), you have to wonder what Colon’s pitching arsenal looks like these days. I read a report I didn’t think was especially reliable that Colon was hitting 94 MPH with his fastball in winter ball, but maybe it’s true – there must be some reason the Yankees signed him. (Besides a lack of viable alternatives!) If Colon is as thin as everyone says (I still haven’t seen him), I’m a little worried about a loss of velocity – I always assumed he generated a lot of his velocity from his tree trunk thighs – couple the loss of those girders that supported him back then with an increase in age, and I have to wonder exactly what he has left.

If you take a look at Colon’s pitch type data on Fangraphs, you’ll see that Colon has always thrown a high percentage of fastballs, followed by sliders (a pitch he obviously didn’t trust in 2009 as much as he did in previous years – see the percentages). Now, I think it’s fair to say that most starting pitchers prefer to get ahead with their fastball and then get the hitter out with a breaking or off speed pitch – you run across the occasional guy who works backwards, but that’s pretty much the norm – hence, a starting pitcher’s highest percentage pitch thrown should be his fastball. What worries me about Colon is, what if his fastball isn’t what it used to be? That’s what we need to find out, and I don’t expect that question will necessarily be answered tomorrow, but given that Colon threw in winter ball, he should be in decent shape. Ideally, Colon has a fastball, slider and change up to work with; maybe we won’t see much more than fastballs tomorrow, but velocity is what I’ll have my eye on.

Given that this is Colon’s first spring training start, I would expect him to throw 2 IP or maybe around 30 pitches, which ever comes first. If he’s in the low nineties, I won’t get too excited, but it’ll be a good sign. Who knows, maybe the Yankees can catch lighting in a bottle with Colon. Given the need for starting pitching on the Yankees 2011 club, they sure could use it!

Yankees First Spring Training Game is Saturday Feb 26

I drowsily drifted through yesterday’s NY Times article on Derek Jeter’s reaction (or lack there of) to Hank Steinbrenner’s comments about… I don’t know… Jeter’s new house?

The day after Steinbrenner, a Yankees co-chairman, seemed to take an indirect shot at Jeter, the team’s captain, by saying that some players were “too busy building mansions” and “not concentrating on winning” after their 2010 bid for a title repeat expired in the American League Championship Series, Jeter playfully deconstructed those remarks. He noted that Steinbrenner used the plural form of mansion and did not once explicitly mention him.

Anyway, Jeter didn’t seem to care about Hank’s comments, and I certainly don’t, so lets move on to the rest of the article… Oh wait, that’s pretty much all there is. Except at the very bottom, there’s this delicious nugget of info:

INSIDE PITCH

The chase for a rotation spot gets under way Saturday, when Bartolo Colon is scheduled to start the Grapefruit League opener against Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels. Joe Girardi said Ivan Nova, C. C. Sabathia, A. J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia would start the subsequent five games.

I don’t have any idea why the entire article wasn’t about this. Somebody explain it to me! This is easily the biggest storyline surrounding the Yankees this spring, and all it gets is two lousy sentences. Couldn’t somebody ask him any follow up questions about this? Like, uhm, I don’t know, maybe, “So does this mean that Bartolo Colon, Freddy Carcia and Ivan Nova are the only candidates for the four and five spots in the starting rotation in Yankee camp?” How about, “Is Sergio Mitre going to make a start this spring?” I’d like to know, wouldn’t you? I’m sure Ben Shpigel is a nice guy and all, but jeez – he really dropped the ball on that one. Who cares about the Steinbrenner comments and Jeter’s reaction? I want to know who’s contending for the starting rotation! And I didn’t find this article by digging through the bowels of the Times’ sports section – this link was on their HOMEPAGE! I spend a great deal of time running through the streets, heralding the exceptional work that the folks at the NY Times do, but this just abysmal. I want real news, not gossip! I could have read this same article anywhere – I’m sure it was the back page story on the NY Post and the NY Daily News, and I’m sure it’s on Yahoo! Sports home page right now.

I’m starting to get excited – we get to see at least a taste of what Bartolo Colon has on the YES network this Saturday at 1:05. I am pumped – pumped! If I’m counting right (and I’m probably not) we’ll get to see Freddy Garcia on Thursday, March 3rd, also at 1:05, and the battle of the non-roster invites will officially be under way! Between Garcia, Colon and Nova (assuming Mitre is already out of the running?), can at least one of these guys give us 200 innings and an ERA around 4.75? (6 IP per start and 3ER would be a 4.50 ERA, so I’m not exactly asking for greatness.) It’s a tall order, but if one of them did, he’d win 10 games easily.

It’s finally happening on Saturday! Let the games BEGIN!

Mariano Rivera Is A Role Model For All

I have spent a fair amount of time arguing that athletes (or any other entertainers) should NEVER be held up as a role model, EVER. These are human beings, trained professionals, but essentially, entertainers who do not (at least I think they don’t) go to bed every night and wake up every morning thinking about how they effect your life (OK, maybe Bono does), and they shouldn’t. Again, they’re entertainers.

Then you run across somebody like Mariano Rivera and you watch him and they way he’s done things his entire career and you can’t help but remark, “Wow. There goes a great man.” It’s not just that he’s been consistently excellent for his entire career, it’s that he never does anything crazy, and even more so, he always does and says the right thing. For example, Rivera was late to Spring Training this year because his family had the flu – it sounds like he never caught it – but Mo stayed home a few extra days to take care of business. Obviously, Rivera is fabulously wealthy can could of hired (not to say he didn’t, I have no idea) a full time doctor, nurse, nanny, butler, maid, etc to take care of his family, but he was there, making sure everything was cool, because that’s what a good dad or husband does. And the Yankees, of course, weren’t worried he wasn’t there. He’s Mo, not Carl Pavano. As he’s gotten older, he’s pitched less in spring training (I’m pretty sure he stopped throwing during the winter all together a few years ago) and of late, makes less than 10 appearances all spring and does not go on road trips. He’s Mariano Rivera – he’s certainly earned it. Not that it goes to his head. Check it:

“I know what it takes. I know what I have to accomplish. You earn that respect when you give everything you have, and that’s what I have done. It’s not right to talk about myself, but that’s what I have done all my career. If I needed time to do something, it’s not because I wanted to do it. It’s because I needed to do it. And now I’m here, and ready to work.”

He just states facts: he’s old enough to know his body, he’s earned the right to run his spring training anyway he wants, but he’s already shouting himself down for that tiny bit of self praise, and he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to be away from the team when it’s his job to be there, but sometimes, things that are more important than work crop up – we all know how that goes. Is that not the most perfect statement you’ve ever read from an athlete? But it’s Mo – he only does perfect.

Mariano Rivera at old yankee stadium ys2

So if your kids have to emulate a famous person (and I strongly encourage all parents to be such a factor and presence in their child’s life that they can’t help but look to you and only you for inspiration) as their role model, steer them toward Mariano Rivera. Not only does the man possess God like powers, he’s also a good man. And, as somebody once noted, a good man is hard to find.

(End proclamation of man crush on Mariano Rivera… for now.)

Is CC Sabathia Opting Out After The 2011 Season?

Our own Yankees ace CC Sabathia came to us in the fabled 08-09 off season and immediately helped propel the Yankees to a World Series Championship. Sure, he had been handsomely rewarded with a big contract, but his worth to the team is immeasurable as a true ace in every sense of the term: innings eater, high strike out totals, low ERA. CC Sabathia is a great pitcher.

Sabathia spent most of 2010 answering questions about the opt out clause in his contract, which can be exercised after this coming season. His answer had been a resounding no, he had no intention of opting out of his current contract with the Yankees. Then he was asked again and again. And again. Finally in 2011 Spring Training, he was asked again, and he said something that sounded like he’s keeping his options open.

You can look at this in a few different ways. I’ve heard some people say something to the effect that CC Sabathia lost a bunch of weight this off season because he intends to opt out and his latest statement confirms that. I thought he said he lost the weight (and he did lose some weight, but its not like he went on the biggest loser or anything… did he drop from 300 to 270 or something? That’s a step in the right direction, but he’s not exactly Mariano Rivera) because he had a minor knee surgery in the off season and he wanted to take some pressure of the joints by losing some weight. That makes sense to me.

I don’t really know what to think about all this, and I think it’s only getting so much play on talk radio because there is nothing else to talk about right now. Maybe Sabathia modified his answer to something about keeping his options open because he’s already said that he’s not opting out so many times and that didn’t stop the question, so now he’s trying another answer – maybe he’s having fun with this. I have no idea. Maybe CC is sympathetic to the baseball press and wanted to give them a story… I think this theory is as plausible as any other I’ve heard.

Let’s say Sabathia asks the Yankees for an extension on his contract to as far into his thirties (forties) as the deal there were going to give Cliff Lee. Should the Yankees do it? Yes, they probably should. If they were willing to give Lee that kind of money (who has a history of back problems and doesn’t have CC’s lifetime track record), why not Sabathia? On the other hand, the Yankees could easily say they want to allocate that money elsewhere and let CC opt out and leave the team. After all, the Yankees have made a serious commitment to their farm system, and one could argue they have nine serious rotation candidates at levels AA and higher, and the probably only need two or three to make it to the big leagues as starters, so maybe they feel that Sabathia, at an exuberant price and length of contract is prohibitive, and he suddenly becomes a luxury, not a necessity. Maybe the A-Rod opt out left a bad taste in the Yankees collective mouth… it’s impossible to know.

As for me, I love Sabathia and hope he doesn’t opt out and saves everybody the headache. But fortunately, we don’t have to deal with this until next fall.

2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

The last email I got late last night was my invitation back to the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball League I joined last year. I’ve been waiting for this moment for some time (well, the draft, actually – not getting the email) because this year, I have a drafting strategy.

That’s right, a drafting strategy. In 2010, my first fantasy baseball season, I had no drafting stategy, and this year, I’ve replaced it with a drafting strategy. That’s a pretty sweet upgrade, right? So, a full fantasy baseball season wiser than I was last year, here are my ideas on drafting for 2011.

The first thing you have to consider is how your league does scoring. For my league, the day to day starters are more important than the pitching staff (sure, the pitchers get you points, too, but I felt they were mostly just gravy – CC Sabathia would bring the points, but he’s a great pitchers on a great team, it’d be insane if he didn’t), and so after a year of trying (and kinda failing) of ringing some offense out of two key positions, I’m going to give them my first two picks this year: short stop and catcher.

Who’d I have at short stop last year? I can’t remember. The point is, if he’s available (and he should be because I should have a high pick after getting my ass handed to me for the entire second half), I’m drafting Troy Tulowitzki. I know he got hurt last year and played in less than 130 games – I don’t care. Tulowitzki is the man; he may not be the second coming of A-Rod, but he’s still pretty awesome. Now maybe it goes without saying that you should make one of the best young players in the game your first pick, but I just want to impress how difficult it is to get production out of a short stop – it’s really hard. Sure, you could pick Derek Jeter – he’s got something to prove next season, that’s for sure, but there’s no guarantee a guy his age doesn’t break – the same could be said for Jose Reyes. Bottom line: get yourself a good offensive shortstop.

Who’d I have at catcher last year? Jorge Posada, who was always hurt last year. The guy just didn’t make any plate appearances. He might be a good choice to carry this year because he’ll qualify as a catcher but probably won’t actually catch, but odds are, he isn’t going to DH every single game because he physically can’t and because other guys need time at DH. For me, I would go get Victor Martinez – the guy can flat out hit. Of course, you can’t necessarily go wrong with Joe Mauer,, who is obviously an amazing hitter and probably one of the better hitters in the game extent. But this is fantasy baseball; you’re not starting an actual team that has to play real games, so either guy will do.

If I was starting an actual team, it’s be all about the starting pitching, and depending on your league, starting pitching might be important for you, too. If getting the win earns a lot of points, you have to put CC Sabathia right at the top of your draft list, because you know he’s going to win a lot of games; between the Yankees offense and his own skills, you know he’s a good bet. Besides, he’s always healthy and even when he’s not, he still pitches, and on his bad days, he’s never really that bad. Who knows, maybe the weight loss will open a whole new door for him (which is hard to believe because he’s already so great), but you have to believe Sabathia will win 18 games next year. That’s a ton of points!

Saves are also worth a ton of points in my league, so drafting closers is the only way to go when it comes to picking relief pitchers – everybody else is just a waste of a roster spot. Even if they aren’t a top closer in the league, just grab ‘em.

Pick your outfielders last, and remember, their defense probably doesn’t matter, unless your league grades errors harshly. If offense is king your league, grab anybody with a bat. Don’t waste an early pick on an outfielder. Grab a high producer at second base – of course, Robbie Cano is a great pick, but you figure he will go early in the draft. You can always grab that D-bag that Boston runs out there…

While I don’t pretend to be a fantasy baseball expert, I would say that the brief strategies I’ve outlined above are better than no strategy at all. Ultimately, I still expect to get my butt kicked this season, but hopefully, I’m come out the other side wiser.

Alfredo Aceves Signs With Red Sox, Yankees Move To A New Team Store

To pour salt on a tepid off season, the Red Sox have signed one of my favorites, Alfredo Aceves. I won’t say that I’m not disappointed, but on the other hand, you have to figure that the Yankees have the inside dirt on last year’s injury(ies) and they didn’t offer him a deal, so tells me all I need to know on what the Yankees think about his odds of being effective in 2011. It’s too bad; I have a lot of found memories of Aceves: his starts at the end of 2008; his three inning save in 2009; putting out countless fires time and time again… oh well. Good luck, Ace!

And in the world of commerce, the Yankee team store is moving from 42nd St. between 7th and 8th Aves to the Paramount Building on Broadway. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Yankees signed a 15 year lease on 2000 square feet. I’m guessing they’re going to close that 42nd Street store, which was, frankly, a shoebox – its a pain in the butt to walk through there, and I won’t miss it.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for ya today… wake me when pitchers and catchers report and somebody gets a radar gun on Bartolo Colon and Joba Chamberlian.

Andy Pettitte Retires – The End Of An Era

andy pettitte

"Look into my eyes and dispare, for you are about to get K'd, bitch."

Everyone and their mother is writing that Andy Pettitte will announce his retirement yesterday, and I just got the official email from Yankees.com, so that’s that.

Andy Pettitte’s retirement marks the end of an era (much the way his contract with the Houston Astros did, but I digress) filled with poise, class and victories. I’m sure he’ll make his reasons clear tomorrow, but I suspect last year’s injury played a serious roll in Pettitte’s decision making process.

Pettitte was an extraordinary pitcher and gentleman, and for the record, I could care less about him taking HGH to recover faster from an injury (I think that should be allowed, assuming it’s safe, but now isn’t the time for that rant), but I doubt he ever gets voted into the hall of fame. I’m not going to go crazy about the irrelevancy of the hall, but we all know that a bunch of old men who think that only 300 victories qualifies a starting pitcher for the hall of fame, and Pettitte is over 50 victories shy of that mark. But whatever – Yankees fans will eventually get their Andy Pettitte Day (cough, Bernie Williams Day, cough!), and that’s all that matters.

Here’s to you, Andy – you rock!

Yankees Sign Freddy Garcia – Yawn

The Yankees signed Freddy Garcia to a minor league contract worth over a million dollars but up to less than four million if he reaches incentives. He can opt out at the end of March if he doesn’t make the Yankee’s big league roster.

I would say Garcia has a better chance to make the team then Bartolo Colon (Oh yeah, the Yankees signed Colon to a minor league deal, too – I read somewhere that he’s throwing 94 in the Winter League, but who knows how true that is – bottom line, Colon hasn’t thrown a full season’s worth of baseball in about 5 years, so I wouldn’t count on him for anything) – Garcia threw around 150 innings last year to the tune of a 4.64 ERA. Too bad he’s not left handed, but then, he had good numbers against lefties last year – which might have something to do with why the Yankees signed him in the first place, given the Red Sox lefty heavy line up. On the other hand, I heard Colon was throwing 94 MPH in winter ball, so who knows what he’ll bring to the table. I’d like to see Ivan Nova start the year at triple A and have Sergio Mitre as the long man and throw both these guys in there as the fourth and fifth starter and see what they can do. If they both stink, they didn’t really cost the Yankees anything and they can be cut or traded. Who knows, maybe the Yankees can catch lighting in a bottle.

But ultimately, yawn. This isn’t exactly the sexy sort of signing the Yankees have made a hallmark of in most off seasons, but then, the free agent market is pretty weak this year. As currently constructed, I see the Yankees winning 96 games in 2011.

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