Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Yanks' offseason

Tomorrow started yesterday for the Yanks as they announced the next manager -- Joe Girardi. The Monk's been out of town for the past couple of days in trial, but I'd heard the Girardi rumors all weekend and I'm more than fine with that. Girardi should bring a combination of Showalter's attention to detail with some of Torre's personality -- a good merger of the contrasting styles. In addition, Girardi will add some intensity to a relatively laissez-faire clubhouse.

The questions plaguing the Yanks this offseason are: (1) who will be the thirdbaseman; (2) who will be in the rotation; (3) who will catch; (4) who will close; (5) will Girardi protect the young arms on the pitching staff? One good thing about Girardi, he was Andy Pettitte's personal catcher in the last two years Girardi was with the Yanks, after Posada had essentially taken over the position.

Girardi gets a lot of blame for burning out Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson during his year managing the Marlins in 2006. The Johnson allegation is flat wrong: Johnson threw about the same number of innings in 2006 as he had in 2005 (including minors). Sanchez legitimately wore out -- from 136 IP in 2005 to 200 in 2006 was too large of a jump and he had season-ending surgery in 2007. How much of this is attributable to Girardi remains somewhat doubtful because other young pitchers have had big workload increases without problems (Chien-Ming Wang); but many do have trouble if the increase is 35 IP or more.

The Yanks' conundrum is their forthcoming reliance on the kiddie corps. Most notably, Joba the Hutt. He threw 112 IP total this year; a starter's load is 175-190 and he looked a bit worn out in the ALDS. Hughes threw 146 in 2005, and a gradual progression would have been 165 this year and 185 next year. Another bit of coddling that may be necessary. Ian Kennedy is not as problematic -- he pitched 165 innings total this year.

Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver has various ideas for what the Yanks should do. Many are simply stupid. The Yanks should have nothing to do with Barry Bonds -- why get a selfish me-first, money-is-everything player who does not get along with his teammates right after his successor to the bestplayerinbaseball opted out of an extremely lucrative contract? The Yanks have an option on Bobby Abreu and they'll either exercise it or extend him, and they should.

Similarly asinine is Silver's suggestion to cut ties with Mariano and have Farnsworth or Edwar Ramirez (who, Silver noted, "struck out 15.4 batters per nine innings (!) between three professional levels this year") close. This is pure stat-head nonsense. Farnsworth is a billion-dollar arm in a 10-cent head. Ramirez has two pitches -- his circle change, which has solid movement and is a decent pitch; and a straight 90 mph fastball without plus control. There's a reason the kid got pounded for 24 H and 6 HR in 21 IP in the majors -- he lacks major league ability. If the Yanks wanted to replace Mo, they'd do it with Joba. They don't -- that's why Mo and his agent were invited to Tampa to discuss what parameters Mo wants in a new contract. Mo wants to stay, that's why he and his agent WENT to Tampa for the meeting.

The Monk's recommendations are simpler:

(1) Work with Pettitte to ensure he returns.
(2) Work with Mooooooose to ensure his level of sucking diminishes.
(3) Work on Shelley Duncan's infield defense so he can either take the 1B job or play the position frequently. The kid has 30 HR righty power. Andy Phillips can be the backup.
(4) Sign Mike Lowell, who's no sure thing to stay with the Redhos. If not, trade for a thirdbaseman. Eric Chavez should be available and the Yanks have minor league pitching to trade (not Kennedy, Hughes, Joba -- they're untouchable).
(5) Re-up Abreu -- he's a positive influence on Melky, who is the CF of the future.
(6) Re-sign Posada and Molina. This is obvious.
(7) Get another set-up man for the 'pen. Coco Cordero could be available and may be willing to apprentice under the master for awhile.

The Yanks have no need to replace A-Rod. The team scored 968 runs in 2007, the most in the Torre era. Result? First-round playoff loss. The team scored 807 runs in 2001, the fewest of the Torre era. Result? Lost game 7 of the World Series with one bad inning. In other words, the offense cannot carry the team to a title.

The Yanks need to concentrate on pitching and ensuring that the team has enough offense to win. With Posada, Jeter, Abreu, Cano, Damon, Duncan, Cabrera and Matsui, the team has decent firepower. With a healthy Giambi, the Yanks still have a top-end offense. Get the pitching right and mold the newbies and the Yanks can contend next year and definitely when they open up the new Yankee Stadium in '09.

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