Due to the overwhelming demand flooding my inbox (two people actually), I hereby unretire this blog to forecast the coming 162 game World Series Championship defense by the New York Yankees. First, let's look at how I did with my 2009 predictions.
2009 Prediction in Review
Rotation - "So, the Yankees bought reliability in the rotation and now the only real question mark is Joba Chamberlain... There will be no more Sidney Ponson sightings, except for perhaps the visitor's dugout. "
That was true in the spring, but then the Wanger never was able to return from his leg injury. Having been held together with duct tape and bailing wire from two minor league surgeries, it's not that surprising I guess he couldn't stay healthy. Yankees did get 130 starts from CC-AJ-Andy-Joba and really Wanger falling apart was the only thing that went wrong last year. No Ponson, but we did get a nice dose of Mitre and Gaudin. Didn't hurt the team. Champions!
Bullpen - "I predict a bit of a shuttle from Scranton to the Bronx and there will be some turnover. But bullpen management really is a strength for Girardi, so I feel confident that the Yanks will find some combination of arms that works for them by crunch time in late summer. "
I was mostly right about this. LOTS of turnover and frankly, there was no stability to be found for most of the year. Bruney and Marte were hurt, Coke regressed, Melancon sucked and only Robertson (lots of ability - 13+Ks per nine)and Aceves were contributors, but were inconsistent. It wasn't until Phil Hughes was moved to the pen that things settled down. And boy did they. Hughes was nothing less than an elite setup man. Still, in the postseason, Girardi had to lean on the ageless Mo Rivera heavily, bringing back the multi inning save that made Mo better than any other closer in baseball. So, a workable combination was found but it was Hughes and Mo with Marte coming from nowhere to strike out Ryan Howard. More depth would be nice.
Lineup - "Teixeira is better than Giambi in every single possible way. I think the amount of an upgrade will be staggering and his defense will make our infield much better. Swisher is the bench bat that the Yankees didn't have last year, causing them to use guys like Morgan Ensberg, Justin Christian, Richie Sexson to fill-in in the outfield and at first. He'll have that covered and also presents a good piece of trade bait if a trade is needed to shore up the pen. Gardner replaces Melky and should be a slight upgrade defensively."
I was 2 out of 3 here. Teix was a ridiculous upgrade over Giambi and carried the team for a solid stretch last year. Swish was a huge bench upgrade who lost out to Xavier Nady only to get to play because Nady blew out his elbow (I'll bet half the Yankee fans forget that considering what a fan favorite Swish became so quickly). Gardner didn't replace Melky. Melky hung on to his gig and had a solid season while Gardner mostly was a defensive replacement and pinch runner. Good season for the lineup as they led baseball in runs scored.
The Conclusion: "The Yankees led MLB in spring training record. They're in the toughest division in baseball. The Rays went to the WS and the Sox almost did. Still, I look at the teams on paper and the Yankees look better this year. The Rays look worse. The Sox look about the same. That tells me that I think the Rays and Yankees will swap positions in the standings. The Yankees will win 97 games, the Sox will win 95 and the Rays will be left watching in October. The Yankee rotation is far better. The lineup is better. The defense will be better. Should be good times for Yankee fans."
Damn I'm good. The Fridge is just like Wu-Tang Clan... nuthin ta fuck with.
Who left? Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Why did the Yankees get rid of two players who a) contributed heavily to the return of the Yankees as Champions and b) fit perfectly in the lineup as #2 and #5 hitters? Age. It's that simple. Cashman has been very clear in one area since he assumed complete control of the team. When relative value is close he will go with the younger player. It would have been the easiest thing to do to bring Matsui and Damon back right at the end of the parade down the canyon of heroes. No one would question it. No one would blame him if it didn't work out. But he let those two popular players go. He traded for Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson.
Granderson vs. Damon - This is a tale of home and away splits. Until this year, Granderson played in a part that is a tough park to hit in. Damon played in a park that was taylor made for his swing. A large part of Damon's value is from the .915 OPS he put up at home. If he matched that on the road he'd rank in the top 20 in baseball in that stat, ahead of Chase Utley, Evan Longoria and other MVP level hitters. But Damon is simply a different hitter away from Yankee Stadium with a .795 OPS which ranks roughly 85th. Good, but not exceptional. Damon is exceptional on defense. Exceptionally bad. He can't throw and despite having decent speed plays left field like a drunken beer-league softball player.
Granderson is the reverse. He's a very poor hitter at his home park (Comerica field, one of the largest in MLB) putting up a pathetic .695 OPS. On the road however, he is a .860 OPS player, which is top fifty. His swing is taylor made for Yankee stadium. He's a dead pull hitter with power. Damon increased his power output by becoming a dead pull hitter with power. Don't believe me? Read this article (ESPN subs req'd). Granderson is gonna hit for power for the yankees. He hit 13 more homers than Damon on the road and his swing is suited for Yankee Stadium's short porch just like Damon's is. He'll hit 30 homers this year if he plays 150 games. And while he's doing that, he's an asset in CF, which Johnny Damon hasn't been since he played in Kansas City. Granderson during the regular season at least, is an upgrade - more on this in a bit***. On the whole I support this move.
Matsui vs. Johnson - Matsui signed with the Los Angeles Anaheim Angeles of Greater Los Angeles county for slightly more than the Yanks signed Johnson. Certainly Cash could have kept the very reliable producer instead of bringing back the injury prone former Yankee Nick Johnson. Matsui has an air of reliability while Johnson appears to always be injured. In fact, over the last 3 years, they've both been pretty unreliable. Matsui doesn't seem so, because he was a former iron man, holding the "Cal Ripken record" in Japan and keeping his streak here in the US until he broke his wrist trying to make a diving catch. Johnson's reputation is well earned. He was injury prone in the minors and will be again this year for the Yanks. He's only played 140 games once in his entire 9 year career. Only played more than 100 3 times. There's simply no way we can expect him to play 100 for the yanks, so be ready for Randy Winn at DH some games or if Johnson is out for an extended time a call up from Jesus Montero. When he's healthy, Johnson has elite OBP skills and that's really it. He can at least provide a backup to Teixeira. There's no way to look at this as anything but a downgrade and honestly, I don't like it. I'm already tired of tracking Johnson's injury status and it's only spring training. If he plays, he'll be as good as Matsui but he almost certainly will be hurt for 50 games or so. No, really. Almost certainly. Cashman gave 5 million to a guy who almost certainly will miss 1/3 of the season. I don't really get it. It may work out, but as far as I'm concerned the house has all the odds on this bet. When the season's over, Matsui will likely have limped his way to more RBI than Nick Johnson has games played.
*** What the hell was I talking about when I said more in a bit? Here's what I don't like about those moves. I don't buy into clutch hitting. I do however buy into a theory that some hitters have the ability to hit great pitching while some do not. And that statistics gathered during lackluster games in June may mask this deficiency. I think this has to do with the ability of a hitter to adjust during an at bat and hit while in a defensive mentality. Some guys are just better at this than others. Damon and Matsui were very good at this. Jeter is very good at this. Chase Utley is good at this. Ryan Howard is not good at this. Kevin Youklis is very good at this. A-Rod is not. Over the course of 162 games, this ability has minimal effect on the teams ability to make the playoffs. However, in the playoffs where the importance of each at bat is magnified and the overall pitching quality is better, it's more important. I don't know how Granderson and Johnson will perform in these situations and if they aren't as good as Matsui and Damon they may seriously damage the Yankees chances of repeating. This is my theory and it is mine.
Adios Melky, Bienvenidos Javy -In Toast's least favorite offseason move, the Yanks traded Melky Cabrera and two prospects to the Braves for Javy Vazquez. Javy Vazquez was a Yankee before and it didn't end well. (Yankee fans don't click on that...) But Javy played in the all star game that year and was reportedly hurt later in the year and tried to pitch through it and not tell the team. I expect him to pitch well and so do many others. But this continues the theme of last year where Cashman went out and acquired a big pitcher who will eat innings. There were 50 pitchers who pitched more than 195 innings last year and the Yankees have 4 of them now. Cashman didn't want to have to deal with Mitre or Aceves and another rotating 5th starter spot if one of the big guys goes down and now they won't have to. The Yankees won't need to go with a 3 man rotation in the playoffs. The difference between the innings that Javy pitched last year and Joba is 62 innings, or roughly an extra reliever. That reliability and ability to pitch deep into games is a premium. And all the Yanks had to do to get it was send Toast's favorite player and a couple prospects. If Vazquez is a bust then the Yanks can let him go next year and get a first round draft pick for their troubles. Or, if he pitches well as I expect him to, they can resign him. All in all, I think this will be regarded as the best move of the offseason.
Joba vs. Phil -Two young starting pitching prospects. Neither one has shown much as a starter. Both have shown exceptional ability as relievers. Why the controversy? Other teams have battles for their fifth starter spots and people don't flip out over the outcome. Why the excitement? Dunno, but here's my take on it. There's little statistical evidence to make a good case that either guy would be better than the other in either role. However. my armchair scouting says that Phil is right now better suited to start than Joba. I say this is for two reasons. 1) Pitching arsenal - Hughes has 3.5 pitches now. 4 seamer, cutter, curve and a half a changeup. Eiland has been emphasizing the change all spring and it was apparently the development of this pitch that won him the gig. Here's Phil's PitchFX stats where you can see how he dropped the change last year for the cutter. Here's Joba's PitchFX. You can see his pitches are all over the place. 4 seamer, Slider AND Curve and some changeups - even a few that charted as 2 seamers. After watching Joba make thirty starts on TV you can say this about Joba's change and curve. He can't throw them for strikes and no one swings that them. So, he tried to work them in and in large part that led to his consistently being behind hitters and his high pitch count. When he was dominant out of the pen, he was pounding the strike zone with big fastballs and a bugs bunny slider. Frankly, the rest of what he throws is garbage right now (it could improve at some point). And two pitch pitchers are bullpen pitchers (unless they're one pitch pitchers like Mo). You can blow through the minors with two pitches but it's hard to do it in the majors (Verlander comes to mind but his two pitches are better than Joba's). 2) Personality - this is totally unscientific, but it's my impression that some personalities do better in the pen and some do better as starters. Dudes that get amped up and freak out are better suited as short relievers - think Papelboner. Dudes that are seriously even keel and controlled do better as starters - think Mussina. Joba is more like Papelboner than Mussina and Hughes is more like Mussina than Papelboner. It's that simple.
The rest of the team - Essentially the same. Cervelli will be playing good defense at catcher and not hitting instead of Molina. Chan Ho Park will be in the pen with a blossoming David Robertson (crazy K numbers!). Hopefully Marte will be the weapon he was in the playoffs all year long. Ramiro Pena, Randy Winn man the bench. Melancon will get another chance. The bench/pen is pretty solid. A Rod is healthy going into the season. Jeter's in a contract year drive. Brett Gardner will be providing exceptional defense in left and crazy speed on the basepaths.
How will they do? Good question. The sox went out and spent a lot of money on pitching and defense, the Rays are looking really good with young starters, a healthy lineup and a new closer and the Champs cut payroll by 10 million. Despite the cut in payroll, I think the pitching will be better this year than last as will the defense. It offsets a possible loss in offense from losing Damon and Matsui. I honestly think that the three teams are very close in talent. The finishing order can be very fluid. I do think the Champs are slightly ahead of the Sox, who are slightly ahead of the Rays. So, I'll say Yankees 96 wins, Sox 95, Rays 93. But I don't feel quite as optimistic as last year. In the end, the team who remains the healthiest will win. Did I mention we have Nick Johnson?
No alarms and no surprises, please.
Saturday, April 03, 2010
Due to the overwhelming demand flooding my inbox (two people actually), I hereby unretire this blog to forecast the coming 162 game World Series Championship defense by the New York Yankees. First, let's look at how I did with my 2009 predictions.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Ok, here's the 2009 Fridge Yankee Preview.
First, let's recap the 2008 Yankees. By all accounts, it was a disaster. 89 wins and missing the playoffs for the first time in somewhere around a gajillion years. Utter disaster! Fire Cashman, Fire Joe Girardi!
Here are the numbers.
89-73 (tied for 4th in AL)
Team ERA 4.28 (15th MLB, 8th AL)
789 Runs (7th AL, 10th MLB)
83 Errors (3rd MLB, 1st AL)
Those are the results. But, numbers only really have a meaning in context. When you begin a season you have a set of expectations. Usually veterans meet those expectations, especially expensive ones like the Yankees stockpile. You hope your young guys give you a reasonable performance and wish that one or two of them break out and reach their perceived potential. So, how does a $210 million team fail to make the playoffs? Well, in short, what you need to have happen is have lots of guys do far worse than anyone expected and have only one player exceed expectations. Just one. And he's old as fuck.
The Yankees didn't have a single batter exceed their expected output for a year. This would normally be fine as the Yankees have expensive veterans at many positions and all they need to do is perform to par. But A-Rod, Matsui, Posada missed over 200 games last year. Melky Cabrera, Cano, Jeter regressed. The bench was terrible, massing about 500 ABs of sub-600 OPS.
The starting pitching was a mess. The Yankees went into the season with the risky position of planning to start Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes 60 times. They got 17 starts and no wins. Darrel Rasner (sold to Japan in the offseason) started 20 games to place third in the rotation in that stat. The Wanger hurt his hammy and started a Hank Steinbrenner bitchfest about the lack of the DH in the NL. Usually penciled in for 30+ starts and 17 wins he only managed half that before getting hurt. The aforementioned Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Alfredo Aceves, Carl Pavano, Dan Giese, Kei Igawa started 58 games last year. 58, or greater than 1/3 of the entire season. They managed 15 wins. The Joba rules and shoulder stiffness limited Joba to 100 solid innings. Pettitte gutted out the season and ate innings admirably, but faltered down the stretch. Mike Mussina was the one Yankee who had a career year. The bullpen was sketchy all season except for the resplendent Mo Rivera who is ridiculous.
In short, an absurd number of things went wrong and the Yankees still managed to have the 4th best record in the AL. If you were to pick any 2 of the disasters above and have that player perform to expectation, the Yankees probably make the playoffs. So, the Yankees could reasonably expect to be better while doing basically nothing.
But, nothing wasn't really an option because they had 80 million to spend and 4 big holes to fill.
Here's what they did.
Last year's rotation leaving spring training was : Wang, Moose, Pettitte, Hughes, Kennedy. We saw how that ended up. Moose retired and Joba was in the rotation, so they had three rotation spots to fill. They signed the best two pitchers on the market, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Sabathia has been extremely durable over his career and Burnett has averaged 26.6 starts over the last 4 years. With those signings, they can reasonably erase the 58 starts by the cannon fodder mentioned above. Additionally, they are high strikeout pitchers, who will help to limit any Yankee defensive shortcomings. Then, the Yankees brought back Pettitte on a one year deal and you can reasonably pencil in him for 30 starts. So, the Yankees bought reliability in the rotation and now the only real question mark is Joba Chamberlain. And that's pretty fucking good because he had a sub 3.00 ERA as a starter. And if any of these guys falter, we have Hughes and Kennedy waiting in AAA with superlative minor league numbers. This alone will make the Yankees far better depth. There will be no more Sidney Ponson sightings, except for perhaps the visitor's dugout.
Mo Rivera had offseason surgery and looks as good as ever in Spring Training. At some point you can expect a decline, but Mo is exceptional and who knows when that will be. He may be like Eckersley and pitch into his early 40s. The bridge to Mo is looking a lot better than it was in the middle of the season. The Yankees re-signed Damaso Marte and he's been an above average reliever in his career and is solid from the left side. Brian Bruney was a bit of a revelation before he got hurt and I think he's the 8th inning guy which is a bit role for an unproven guy. But he looks great in spring training. Jose Veras quietly had a very strong season. I think he's gonna be pretty good this year, too. Phil Coke was fantastic down the stretch, but is still a bit new to the bullpen and the majors. Edwar Ramirez is what he is, which is replacement level. Jonathan Albaladejo is a wild card, full of unproven potential. The pipeline is very full of big arms in the minors: Robertson, Melancon, S. Jackson and others could all contribute later (especially Melancon). So this year will be a bit of a roller coaster ride. I predict a bit of a shuttle from Scranton to the Bronx and there will be some turnover. But bullpen management really is a strength for Girardi, so I feel confident that the Yanks will find some combination of arms that works for them by crunch time in late summer.
The big additions here are Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. Teixeira is better than Giambi in every single possible way. I think the amount of an upgrade will be staggering and his defense will make our infield much better. Swisher is the bench bat that the Yankees didn't have last year, causing them to use guys like Morgan Ensberg, Justin Christian, Richie Sexson to fill-in in the outfield and at first. He'll have that covered and also presents a good piece of trade bait if a trade is needed to shore up the pen. Gardner replaces Melky and should be a slight upgrade defensively. Offensively, he was even worse than Melky last year, but flashes potential for speed that Melky doesn't. He'll bat 9th and have a long leash assuming he catches the ball out in center. Posada and Matsui are back and looking healthy. I think it's clear that the Yankees would love to move the slow, rapidly aging Matsui, but they can't because of his salary. He won't be back this year and I could see him moved at the deadline to someone looking for offense and Swisher taking his place. Nady is here for the full year and Damon is in a contract year. Cano had a terrible first half but played to expectation in the second half. He should be much better this year. The big questions are A-Rod and Jeter. There's a lot of talk about Jeter's decline and while it's true that defensively he's declining, I'm not ready to bury the Captain offensively. Why? He was hurt all last year (rumor of broken bones in the hand, sapping power) but gutting it out because of the other injuries on the team and when he finally got healthy at the end of the year, he hit .345. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him decline, but I think there's reason to think he might be better this year at the plate.
And A-Rod? I expect him to return in early May, cause a bunch of controversy and still end up with 30+ homers and 100 RBI on the year. And until then Cody Ransom will play a great 3rd and barely hit his weight.
Melky, Molina, Swisher, Ransom and the much-hyped Ramiro Pena. All these guys are very solid defensively, but only Swisher is a threat at the plate. Pena will probably be sent down for at bats in AAA when A-Rod returns unless he does something amazing the first month. Melky will probably be traded. But this is a better bench than the Yankees have had in a while. Which should tell you how bad the Yankee benches have been.
The Yankees led MLB in spring training record. They're in the toughest division in baseball. The Rays went to the WS and the Sox almost did. Still, I look at the teams on paper and the Yankees look better this year. The Rays look worse. The Sox look about the same. That tells me that I think the Rays and Yankees will swap positions in the standings. The Yankees will win 97 games, the Sox will win 95 and the Rays will be left watching in October. The Yankee rotation is far better. The lineup is better. The defense will be better. Should be good times for Yankee fans.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Ok, I've obsessively cyber-stalked this movie for over a year. I love the book and wanted to love the movie. I wanted to come home in a post-coital-nerd-movie-glow like I did from the first Spiderman flicks, Iron Man, The Matrix, etc...
It didn't happen.
For me, the movie was a roller-coaster. There were moments where I was riding high in love with what I was seeing and moments that just didn't work at all and I wanted to hit fast-forward. Some of the problems stem simply from the nature of doing an adaptation. When it's done well, it works. Otherwise, not so much. Some of them are the known casting problems. And some of the problems are, frankly, bits brought to the material by Zack Snyder.
When it works, it's wonderful. There were times I was sitting in the theater with a smile on my face thinking, "Holy Crap, it's Watchmen!" There were also times when I thought, "Ugh, what the fuck was that?"
In the end, it was a bit of a disappointment for me. And much of my frustration is from mistakes that were completely avoidable. My prediction is that some internet geek will do some of the fixing with a macbook re-edit, as the Star Wars geeks did when they removed Jar Jar Binks. But that won't erase the missteps that are burned in my brain. And that makes me a bit bummed. I had bought into the hype and it didn't live up to it.
Specifics and spoilers below. Stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled.
Here, specifically is what worked for me.
* Rorschach - Easily the best thing in the movie is Jackie Earl Haley. Fantastic. The movie was always good when he was on the screen.
* The uber violence of the scene where Rorshach and the psychiatrist and also in the prison in general. It's meaningful to Rorshach as a character, because that's what separates himself from his partners. He's crazy. I was riveted in that scene.
* Dr. Manhattan - glowing blue schlong aside, that's about as good as Manhattan could have been done, I think. And I expected a bit of a spacey voice, but Crudup's voice was very low key and very human. I ended up really liking it that way.
* The sequence with Dr. Manhattan's origin and the photo on mars. That was cool.
* The opening sequence was cool.
* The opening voice over. I was geeking out over the dialog.
Here's what didn't
* Malin Ackerman - What the fuck! Seriously, what the fuck! Argh! She even kinda looked weird naked.
* The uber violence everywhere else - This, apparently, is a Snyder signature. It didn't bother me in 300, because that's what that movie is about. That is not what the Watchmen is about. It was gratuitous. I wasn't horrified by it, but it just doesn't fit, so it's like dissonant notes in a song. You're cruising along and then all of a sudden Malin "I can't Act"erman is breaking some dude's elbow in slowmo with a bloody crunch and sticking a knife in his neck. Or Dr Manhattan is killing some dudes and spraying blood all over people's faces. And piled up over the entire film and it just became annoying. The exception is the Rorshach violence mentioned above. It was necessary there, just not anywhere else.
* The fire splooge in the sky scene - Tart was all over this, as well as the violence, and she's right. I'm all for humping but, this was weird. In the book, it was more classic Hollywood style love making, silhouettes, etc., and the owlship spewing mist plus fire fits that. With this, I almost was expecting a money shot.
* The sound track is fucked up - Again, Tart is all over that. This is a trick that should have ended with Forrest Gump - using songs to put the viewer in the frame of mind for a period. Thing is, that's absolutely the wrong choice for this movie. This is an alternate reality. Trying to use music place us in a time where Richard Nixon is in the middle of his 5th term as president is messed up. It didn't work at all. I seriously hope some nerd is gonna edit that shit out or there's a bad music soundtrack-free audio track on the DVD. That shit was jarring at times. It just needed a score. The 300 score was great. WTF, Snyder?
* I seriously don't remember Nixon and Kissinger having that much of a role in the book. If they did, I forgot it. But, those performances in the movie were weird and I hated it.
* I ended up missing the squid. I had long ago read about the change of the ending and had talked myself into the fact that it would be ok. I understood that by changing the end, they'd be able to skip a bunch of exposition regarding the origin of the squid. But, as the ending arrived I realized I was wrong. I did not like the change of the end and frankly the earth uniting against fake aliens makes more sense than uniting against Dr. Manhattan's possible return. Here's an idea, cut out the pelvic thrusts and blood spatters to free up time for the squid. And the floaty huggy crap? Ugh.
* The epilogue - That shit was terrible. The "I love you Mom" scene? And then including a random appearance of the New Frontiersman that was not set up at all. On the cutting room floor, I guess. Maybe a 4 hr director's cut will fix that?
* Ozymanidas - I probably didn't hate this casting choice as much as some, but Matthew goode was believable in the fight scenes and ably delivered the lines. There was just a lack of command emanating from his Ozy. Ozy has to be a big authoritarian figure. He wasn't. It hurt the movie.
It may seem like I hated the movie because I have more gripes than raves. That's not true. However it is far closer to the truth than I had hoped. And that will be hard to get over.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
One that I'm not aware of, maybe? Because last night we went to pick up some chinese food and the proprietor of New Great Wall started barking out orders to the cooks. My five year old son made a disapproving face and said:
What the heck? Why are those guys talking spanish? This isn't Japan! They should talk like Connecticut!
This showed about as nuanced a grasp of immigration as Mr. Dobbs himself.