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After Alex Rodriguez belted three home runs in Saturday’s game against the Twins, he credited Joe Girardi with aiding his resurgence. How did the Yankees’ manager thank Arod for those kind words? By benching him the next day.

No irony or sarcasm was intended above. Although Arod’s praise was based on Girardi’s support during the winter, he could just as easily have been referring to the prudent way the Yankees’ manager has handled his workload during the season. Over the team’s first 98 games, Girardi has used scheduled off days, interleague play, and well-timed breaks to get his DH much needed rest. In total, Arod has sat out an entire game seven times and had one pinch hit appearance in five others, which, combined with days off built into the schedule, have helped keep the Yankees’ 40-year old slugger healthy and fresh.

Not only has Girardi’s management of Arod’s playing time kept his number-three hitter in the lineup, but it has also paid immediate dividends in terms of production. In games following a day off (either full or partial), Rodriguez has responded with a robust line of .333/.444/.628, which easily trumps his albeit still impressive season totals. Perhaps this immediate impact is a coincidence, but it’s hard to argue with the results.

Give It a Rest: Arod’s Performance After Rest
Arod Rest
Source: baseball-reference.com data and proprietary calculations

If the Yankees maintain their healthy lead in the A.L. East, it will be easy for Girardi to continue his regiment of rest for not only Arod, but other team veterans as well. But, even if the pennant race should tighten, Girardi’s discretion could be just as important as his players’ valor. Without health, the Yankees will have little chance of success, both down the stretch and in the postseason, so, the next time Arod, or any of the Yankees’ key veterans are not in the lineup, disappointment should be tempered and expectations raised for the next game.

With Johnny Cueto headed to Kansas City, and the Tigers reportedly reticent to trade David Price, contenders around the league figure to be lining up for Cole Hamels. And yet, as general managers from around the league kick the tires on Hamels, should they also be kicking themselves for not signing Max Scherzer? That could all depend on the package required to obtain the Phillies’ lefty, but, with demand high, and several teams interested, it sure seems as if the best time to add an ace was during the winter.

On the surface, Hamels seems like a much cheaper alternative to the $210 million/7-year contract Scherzer signed during the off season, but if you look a little closer, the relative costs narrow considerably. For starters, Scherzer’s contract is actually valued at “only” $191 million in terms of present value. As a result, on an annual go-forward basis, the residual value of Scherzer’s contract would be $164 million over six years. In comparison, Hamels is potentially owed $95 million over the next four years (assuming his 2019 option vests). At an additional $70 million for two more years, when Scherzer will be pitching in his age-35 and age-36 seasons, it once again seems like Hamels is the more palatable deal. However, there are more factors to consider.

In addition to looking ahead, comparing Hamels now to Scherzer in the offseason requires consideration of the past, specifically the first four months of the right hander’s fantastic season. According to fangraphs,com, Scherzer has already provided $38 million in value; if pro-rated over the rest of the year, that equates to a $36 million surplus over his $27 million average present value salary. Carrying the surplus forward, the financial gulf between the two pitchers drops to $34 million over two years, and that doesn’t include the financial benefits of having the ace right hander make 20 starts (i.e., higher attendance and a more assured path to the post season), nor the potential value of an effective Scherzer at the end of his deal.

Narrowing the Gap: Relative Cost of Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels
Max v Cole
Note: Scherzer’s annual salary is based on present value of contract. Scherzer’s 2015 surplus based on pro-rated frangraph’s valuation compared to annual present value salary. Hamels 2019 salary becomes guaranteed if he pitches at least 400 innings in 2017-2018, including 200 in 2018 and provided he does not have an arm injury in that season Otherwise, 2019 converts to a $20 million team option with a $6 million buyout.
Source: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com Continue Reading »

The Yankees approach the trade deadline in the paradoxical position of being comfortably in first place, but with two glaring holes to fill. Although the team has prospered despite an inconsistent rotation and lack of offense up the middle, shoring up at least one of these two deficiencies could go a long way toward solidifying the Yankees’ hold on the A.L. East and strengthening their chances of winning another championship.

Middle Infield Production: wRC+ and fWAR
MI Prod

Source: fangraphs.com

There aren’t many productive middle infielders on the trade market, and, those limited options have attracted a long line of suitors. Ben Zobrist would be an ideal candidate to fill the Yankees’ void, but the versatile switch hitter suits just about every other contender’s needs. With bats at a premium, the Oakland Athletics are sure to get a significant return for Zobrist, making it likely that he’ll be acquired by a team more desperate than the Yankees. It also means the Bronx Bombers are probably better off pursuing a pitcher. Continue Reading »

With two walk off wins, the Bronx Bombers provided plenty of fireworks this holiday weekend, but the team’s results off the field were not as impressive. On July 1, the Yankees released an unaudited statement of 2014 cash receipts that showed a decline in ticket sales and suite licenses. According to the report, the Bronx Bombers took in $16 million less from these two revenue streams, a 5% decline from the previous year.

Yankees’ Ticket Sales and Suite License Revenue
ticket revenueNote: Does not include post season refunds issued from 2009-2012.
Source: Unaudited statements from MRB filings pursuant to continuing disclosure requirements. Continue Reading »

The Bronx Bombers are back, but only at Yankee Stadium. Most teams hit better at home, but this year, the Yankees have taken their splits to the extreme. Not only do they have one of the largest home/road disparities in the league, in terms of both OPS and runs scored per game, but the current gap is easily the largest in franchise history. The Yankees have always been tailored to take advantage of the short porch at the Stadium, but never before has the offense performed so much better wearing pinstripes instead of road grays.

MLB Home vs. Road Splits: OPS and R/G, 2015
mlb 2015 splits
Note: Positive figures represent better performance at home. Data as of June 24, 2015.
Source: baseball-reference.com

Yankees Historical Home vs. Road Splits: OPS and R/G, 1914-2015
Yankees Split
Note: Positive figures represent better performance at home. Data for 2015 as of June 24, 2015.
Source: baseball-reference.com
Continue Reading »

The only thing more difficult than watching CC Sabathia pitch these days is seeing the pained expression on his face when he addresses the media after each game. Yankee fans have grown so accustomed to the big lefty being in command, both on the field and off, so the sight of Sabathia slumping on the mound, and then again by his locker, has been somewhat disconcerting.

For the most part, Sabathia’s struggles have been handled well by Yankee fans, at least those with a long memory. Sure, there was a smattering of boos when the lefty walked off the mound after last night’s clunker, but for the most part, the reaction has been polite applause. Sabathia’s earned that level of patience and respect from the fans. But, should the organization be as abiding?

You can’t exaggerate how poorly CC Sabathia has pitched this season. The left hander has posted an ERA+ of 70 in his 15 starts, which puts him on pace for one of worst seasons by a Yankees’ pitcher. And yet, the Yankees seemingly have no plans to remove him from the rotation. After last night’s game, Joe Girardi was peppered with questions about Sabathia’s status in the rotation. Ever loyal (or is it stubborn?), the Yankees’ manager never waivered. “He’s a starter for us. That’s what he is,” Girardi told the throng. But, for how much longer?

Worst ERA+ by a Yankees Pitcher, 1901-2015

Player Age ERA+ IP Year GS ERA
Bill Stafford 23 59 89.2 1963 14 6.02
Ray Fisher 24 62 90.1 1912 13 5.88
Jack Quinn 28 63 102.2 1912 11 5.79
Tim Leary 32 64 120.2 1991 18 6.49
Russ Van Atta 28 65 88 1934 9 6.34
Bill Monbouquette 31 65 89.1 1968 11 4.43
Wade Taylor 25 66 116.1 1991 22 6.27
Danny MacFayden 28 67 90.1 1933 6 5.88
Ambrose Puttmann 24 69 86.1 1905 9 4.27
Rollie Sheldon 25 69 118 1962 16 5.49
Dave LaPoint 29 69 113.2 1989 20 5.62
Jeff Johnson 24 70 127 1991 23 5.95
David Cone 37 70 155 2000 29 6.91
CC Sabathia 34 70 87.2 2015 15 5.65
Atley Donald 32 70 119.1 1943 15 4.60

Note: Minimum 85 innings.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Continue Reading »

Last year, the Yankees had one of the worst offenses in baseball. This year, the Bronx Bombers’ bats rank among the best. How has the team’s lineup improved so significantly without making a big offseason acquisition? There but for the grace of “bad contracts” go the Yankees.

The Yankees’ offense has been revived because Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have both resurrected their careers. The two sluggers currently have the second most home runs among any pair of teammates, and rank among the top-10 in the American League in terms of OPS+ (and within the top-12 in wRC+). As a result, the Yankees’ offense has improved by nearly three-quarters of a run per game compared to last year.

Dynamic Duos: Top Home Run Hitting Teammates
Dynamic Duos
Source: fangraphs.com

According to the recent narrative, Arod and Teixeira were supposed to be part of the problem with the Yankees offense, not the solution. Because of their onerous contracts and declining play, the two aged sluggers had supposedly become an insurmountable burden that the cost conscious Yankees couldn’t overcome. That’s why if many Yankee fans (and team executives) had gotten their way, Teixeira and Arod wouldn’t even be on the team this year, let alone at the forefront of an offensive resurgence. And yet, despite all the criticism, the two All Stars continue to pound the baseball…and earn their substantial salaries.

Over the previous two seasons, Arod and Teixeira played 182 games combined, so it’s easy to understand why most people had muted expectations for the duo. It’s also clear to see why so many view the pair as grossly overpaid. However, even before this year’s hot start, that characterization was unfair. Although the two sluggers had suffered an obvious decline with age and injury, their cumulative performance, combined with reasonable assumptions about post season contributions and economic impact, suggested that the Yankees had at least gotten their money’s worth from the two mega-dollar contracts, especially when considered in light of the financial structure of the game (click here for an analysis of Robinson Cano’s contract presented in this context). Continue Reading »

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