In yesterday’s double header against the Cubs, the Yankees allowed no runs and nine hits while recording 17 strikeouts in 18 innings. It was the first time since 1987 that the Yankees swept a doubleheader without allowing a run, but the most impressive statistic wasn’t listed in the box score. It was the age of the Yankees’ two starting pitchers.

Yankees’ Recent Double Header Shutouts
DH Shutouts
Source: New York Times archive (pre 1917) and Baseball-reference.com (post 1917)

Twenty-five year old Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda were responsible for 14 shutout innings in yesterday’s twin bill, an effort that lowered their respective ERAs to 2.05 and 1.00. Although it would be foolish to predict similar success over the rest of the season based on only three starts, the Yankees nonetheless have every reason to be optimistic. And, those positive feelings could extend well beyond the 2014 season.

The Yankees have always been an older team, but last year, they were particularly long in the tooth, especially in the starting rotation, which had a weighted average age of 32.5 years. Entering the off season, the team’s starting staff was a major concern, especially because the league-wide trend of locking up young players to long-term deals had left the free agent market devoid of aces. However, thanks to the addition of Tanaka, recovery of Pineda, and continued progress of Ivan Nova, the long-term outlook for the Yankees’ starting staff is now much brighter. With a trio of twenty-somethings in their midst, the Yankees are now looking at a starting rotation that is not only capable of helping the team win now, but, if health abides, could become part of a new long-term core. Continue Reading »

For the second straight season, there will be a lot of turnover in the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup. With the departure of Robinson Cano, who had started eight straight openers at second base, only two holdovers remain. Brett Gardner is making his sixth consecutive start in the outfield, but will shift back to left fielder after spending all of last year in center. CC Sabathia is also making his sixth straight Opening Day start, which ties Lefty Gomez’ club record and brings him within one of the seven total pitched by Mel StottlemyreRon Guidry and Whitey Ford. However, in spite of Sabathia’s long tenure, the big lefty is still without a victory on Opening Day.

od_white_2014Although he wasn’t in last year’s Opening Day lineup, Derek Jeter‘s face will be the most familiar one on the field. The Yankees’ short stop will be making his 17th and final start for the Bronx Bombers, meaning the Captain will fall one short of tying Mickey Mantle‘s franchise record. Jeter will also fall one short of tying Omar Vizquel and Luis Aparicio for most Opening Day starts at short stop, but he will own the distinction of having played the most Opening Days at any one position for the Yankees. Should he play the entire game, Jeter will also set the franchise record for most plate appearances on Opening Day, and with four hits, he would join Mantle atop the leader board in that category as well.

Listed below is an assortment of team and player Opening Day facts and figures. Continue Reading »

Are additions like Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury , and Carlos Beltran enough to return the Yankees to the top of the AL East? (Photo: AP)

Are additions like Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran enough to return the Yankees to the top of the AL East? (Photo: AP)

The Yankees have a much better team this year. There’s no question about it. What isn’t as clear, however, is the degree to which they needed to improve the team and whether they’ve done enough to return to the postseason.

It’s hard to predict how good the Yankees can be in 2014 without revisiting just how bad they were last year. Although the injury riddled Bronx Bombers won 85 games, a more careful inspection reveals a paper tiger. Based on run differential, the Yankees were really a 79-win team, representing the franchise’s lowest Pythagorean record since 1992. The team’s offense also ranked as one of the worst in franchise history, while two starters, CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, had similarly awful seasons. A few cosmetic changes weren’t going to fix the Yankees this offseason. In order to restore the pinstripes to among the A.L.’s elite, Brian Cashman needed to perform an overhaul. Now, the question remains, did he do enough?

Yankees’ Historical Run Differential/Game, 1901-2013

Source: baseball-reference.com

Although the Yankees made several significant additions, the subtractions were just as noteworthy. The combined losses of Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte meant about 13 wins were siphoned off the team, according to Baseball-Reference’s calculation of WAR. So, the real starting point for rebuilding the 2014 Yankees was the approximately 66 win team that was left behind. Continue Reading »

2014 Predictions


Playoff Scenarios

Brewers beat Braves in Wild Card game.
Red Sox beat Royals in Wild Card game.

Nationals beat Dodgers in NLDS.
Cardinals beat Brewers in NLDS.
Tigers beat Red Sox in ALDS
Yankees beat Angels in ALDS

Nationals beat Cardinals in NLCS.
Tigers beat Yankees in ALCS.

Nationals beat Tigers in World Series

Regular Season Awards

NL Cy Young: José Fernández
NL MVP:  Carlos Gomez
NL ROY: Travis d’Arnaud

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL MVP:  Mike Trout
AL ROY: Masahiro Tanaka

Not satisfied with my picks? Check out the latest odds to see how they stack up.

Three Bold Predictions

1. The Phillies will hold a fire sale at the trade deadline. Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley will be among the players traded to contending teams.

2.  Before the end of the first half, Yasiel Puig will be demoted to the minor leagues, and, after a failed trade attempt, return to the majors to help lead the Dodgers to the NL West title.

3. Masahiro Tanaka will strikeout 18 batters in one game, tying the Yankees’ single season strikeout mark held by Ron Guidry.

Forbes’ annual look at the business of baseball has become like a broken record…one that is music to the ears of the game’s 30 owners.

According to Forbes’ 2014 survey, which is based on estimates for 2013, baseball franchises cumulatively increased in value by over $2 billion dollars, or nearly 9%. Compared to last year’s 23% rise, and in light of both slowing revenue1 growth and an operating income2 decline, a single digit increase might seem like cause for concern. However, the real picture of baseball’s financial health is best seen beamed by satellite or streamed over the internet. With a new national media rights deal in place and exponential growth on the local level, where teams have both signed exorbitant, long-term rights deals or established equity in regional sports networks, the revenue trajectory continues to point upward, and the trend has lifted the enterprise value of every franchise (even teams experiencing a pullback in 2013 are up considerably over a longer-term period).

MLB Financial Snapshot, 2003-2013

Note: Revenue for each team is net of stadium debt and revenue sharing.
Source: Forbes.com

Top-5 and Bottom-5 Teams By Valuation, Growth, Debt and EBITDA

Source: Forbes.com

Continue Reading »

Major League Baseball is a meritocracy, except when it comes to blue chip prospects. Instead of promoting the most talented young players when they are ready for the big leagues, many teams conveniently wait a few extra months. These clubs usually attribute the delay to “seasoning”, but in such cases, their patience isn’t a virtue. It’s blatant manipulation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Service time is the backbone of baseball’s current salary structure. For the first three years of a player’s major league career, his team holds the hammer. Regardless of performance, clubs can simply renew a player’s salary at the minimum amount required by the CBA (as Manny Machado found out this winter). All that changes, however, after three years and six years, when players earn the respective rights of salary arbitration and free agency.

As soon as a player is promoted to the big leagues, the clock starts ticking toward a big pay day. However, some teams do their best to slow down the advance. In a not so subtle way, these teams keep major league ready prospects in the minor leagues for an extended period. This ensures that a player will not accrue the needed service time to obtain arbitration eligibility and free agency in the standard three and six seasons (172 days of service time constitutes one year). Players who are manipulated in this manner are effectively denied arbitration until after four years and free agency until after seven (players who do not remain in the majors uninterrupted after their initial promotion often have to wait longer).

Estimated Super Two Cutoffs, 2009 to 2013
Service Time

#Calculation based on assumption that player spent full 182 days in the major leagues in two subsequent seasons.
*Based on September 30 season end date; cutoff would apply to the player’s first season, or two years before the year listed.
Note: Estimate based on players who are promoted in year one and remain uninterrupted in the majors thereafter. A full year of service time is equivalent to 172 days; a full major league season is approximately 182 days.
Source: mlbtraderumors.com and.sbnation.com Continue Reading »

Does the answer to the Yankees' bullpen lie in their starting rotation depth? (Photos: Getty Images)

Does the answer to the Yankees’ bullpen lie in their starting rotation depth? (Photos of David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno: Getty Images)

Joe Girardi’s decision won’t be easy when it comes time to select the Yankees’ fifth starter, but not because the team is lacking in qualified candidates.

The Yankees entered camp with four pitchers in the mix for the final slot in the rotation, and each one has performed well enough to win the competition. However, although David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno have all pitched well, Michael Pineda has established himself as the front runner. With 14 strikeouts in nine scoreless innings over his first three appearances, Pineda has impressed scouts and opposing hitters alike, reviving some of the expectations the Yankees had for the big righty when they acquired him from Seattle two years ago.

Yankees’ Fifth Starter Competition

Dave Phelps 2.63 13 2/3 15 4 2 11
Michael Pineda 0.00 9 8 0 1 14
Adam Warren 2.08 8 2/3 8 2 2 9
Vidal Nuno 1.50 6 3 1 1 6
Combined 1.69 37 1/3 34 7 6 40

Source: mlb.com

Girardi really can’t go wrong filling out his rotation, but if Pineda wins the role, it could present the Yankees’ manager with some interesting options for the bullpen. In the recent past, the team’s blueprint has been to establish one or two late inning relievers as a bridge to the great Mariano Rivera, but with Robertson abandoning that role and ascending to closer, the Yankees do not have an overwhelming candidate for regular duty in the eighth inning (Shawn Kelly is the only pitcher who fits the profile, and his track record is less than convincing).

Instead of trying to shoe horn relievers into late-inning roles, Girardi might be better off building his bullpen around a rotation of long-men, especially if Warren, Phelps and Nuno all go north with the team. With three relievers capable of providing quality length, the Yankees’ manager could eschew his penchant for mixing and matching, opting instead to hand the ball off to a different member of the aforementioned trio on a scheduled basis. Although it wouldn’t be the same bridge every night, Girardi still might be able to create a reliable link between his rotation and closer. Continue Reading »

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