Spring Training Games Start

What do these games mean?  How can you judge a player during spring training.  For the regulars I know they’re just trying to get going.  They start trying to get their legs under them and try to gain some command of the strike zone.  For some of the younger players are trying to show they can hit big league talent or get big leaguers out.  

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Today 24 year old Ivan Nova started and retired all 6 hitters he faced. He hit 96 mph on the gun and his back-door breaking ball to lefties looked great, locating corners well.  He struck out 2 but what really stuck out to me was the 4 ground outs.  It’s always great to see a pitcher locate low and on the corners causing hitters to hit some weak grounders for some easy outs.  Nova’s success in the rotation will be a major factor during the regular season.  Granderson surprised everyone when he went went the opposite way to right for a 2 run homerun.  During an in-game interview with Joe Girardi, Michael Kay asked him what he thought of Grandy’s 2 run homer, and Joe said that since last postseason he has seen great development in his hitting by both going opposite way and keeping both hands on the bat longer through the swing.  
Spring training is always a great time to see some young talent play.  In the second game of spring training we got to see top catching prospect Jesus Montero catch for the first time this spring and 6’7″ stud pitcher Dellin Betances pitched in relief (he is a starting pitcher).  Betances maxed out at 97 but was consistently around 94.  He also threw a 2-1 change up to Carlos Ruiz that had him lunging big time.  He finished his inning of work with 3 strikeouts and 1 walk, good to see from one of the Yankees top young pitchers.
What does all of this mean? Could be a great start for some players or it could mean absolutely nothing well see as spring progresses.

The Dreaded Opt Out Clause

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By now you’ve heard that the Yankees ace CC Sabathia was quoted as saying, “Anythings possible” when asked about the possibility of opting out of his current 7 year contract after the 3rd year.  Everyone knows the facts by now and I wanted to talk about a different angle on this story.  Focusing on the opt out clause itself.

When a big time player signs a blockbuster contract there is a lot of pressure to perform.  A player can live up to a big contract the way CC has so far and of course they may end up on the disabled list for the duration of their contract like Carl Pavano.  Do you think Carl Pavano would have opted out of his deal after the third season? HELL NO! He was being payed 10 million dollars a year for four years to sit out and rehab and then end up injured again.  If Carl Pavano had the option to opt out (he didn’t) it would be a horrible business decision to have done so.  The market for a pitcher who hasn’t pitched in 3 years due to injury is pretty slim and even if another team decided to take a risk, as the Indians/Twins did in 2009, its for 1.5 million dollars.
Now onto a player like CC.  He was the ace of a 3 man rotation that won the World Series with him starting 5 of the 15 games.  In the ALCS he won both games he started with a 1.13 ERA and was the MVP of the series.  When a player of CC’s caliber is given an opt out clause, like A Rod was, if they do perform the way they are capable the teams should expect them to opt out to guarantee themselves more years.  CC signed a 7 year 161 million dollar contract, giving him an opt out clause is a death wish.
An opt out clause will usually go bad in 1 of 2 ways. 
1.  The player doesn’t pitch well and knows they can’t get the money their current contract offers them so they stay with the team with a large contract with results that don’t match.
2.  The player performs exactly how you had expected when you invested over 100 million dollars into them so they now have the leverage to opt out and have another 3 or 4 years at the same rate added onto the end of their contract.  When the Yankees signed CC he was 28 so his contract was going to run until he was 35 years old, if he opts out at 31 he will be expecting another deal similar to the one he received after the 2008 season (7 years 161 million).  At 38 years old, do you truly believe a 6’7″ 290lb pitcher will still be giving results warranting that kind of money? He won’t.  The same way A Rod wont be worth anywhere near 30 million at the end of his contract that he had extended.
The Yankees can’t give these players opt out clauses in their contracts because down the road in 2015 they can be paying a 39 year old third baseman 30 million dollars and a 35 year old pitcher 23 million dollars.  Opt out clauses are costing the Yankees dearly.

We’re only a day away!!

Unless you’re a Green Bay Packers fan your football season ended sadly, without a championship.  Some of our teams were never in it (Cowboys fans), and some of us had our hearts ripped out (ME!) as Matt Dodge punted to Desean Jackson and helped the Eagles end the Giants chances at a division title.  Of course the next week the Giants didn’t show up in Green Bay and got blown out and our chances at the playoffs were over when the Packers were able to beat the Bears at home in week 17.  But, that doesn’t matter to me anymore, after weeks of playoff football and lots of b*tching that “It could’ve been us” hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy, ITS FINALLY TIME FOR PITCHERS AND CATCHERS TO REPORT!!

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This time is a big downtime in sports.  March Madness is around the corner but this college basketball season has been a little less entertaining without as many star freshman as last year.  The NBA has never been able to grab my attention until the playoffs, and the NHL has its moments but its hockey and I’m American (Sorry Rangers).  
Here in the New Jersey suburbs the temperature is hovering in the teens, ice and snow still cover the roads, and a winter jacket is necessary even when getting the mail, but in 1 short day pitchers and catchers will report to spring training with position players following shortly.  The first spring training game is less than 2 weeks away.  Who will win the fourth and fifth starter spots?  Will a young player step up and show some big league promise? Maybe it’ll be the 6’10″ Brackman or the 6’8″ Betances both with past injury problems but major stuff.  What about Manuel Banuelos the 19 year old being compared to Johan Santana because of his secondary pitches and command? How will Teixeira bounce back from his hamstring injury and will he be able to battle his usual slow start? How will some of our young catchers play in spring training (Montero, Sanchez, and Romine)? How will Posada play in the DH role and will Jeter bounce back from the worst year of his career or is he starting a quick decline due to his age?  Every baseball team has tons of questions and spring training is when we finally start getting some answers.  It’s finally here again.  Life has finally begun again.  It’s baseball season.  Can you feel it?

What an amazing home opener 4/13/10

The day was perfect for the Yankees home opener.  I’ll start by saying it was great to see Geno (long time trainer Gene Monahan) receive his ring, as some of you know he had gone through radiation for his throat cancer just this morning.  He didn’t want to show up at the ceremonies because he didn’t want to make a great day sad, however I think I speak for everyone when I say it was great to see him back with the team and we all wish you the best Geno, we hope you are back soon.  Seeing the ovation he recieved from the Yankees fans was great. 

We got to see Jerry Hairsten Jr. back at the stadium along with the World Series MVP Hideki Matsui.  Matsui got the loudest ovation from the Yankees fans, but it was strange to see him at the stadium in an Angels uniform.  It was also great to see Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford standing next to the trophy, greeting every player.  The team pulled a prank on both Swisher and Matsui by putting fake rings in both their wooden boxes.  Seeing Matsui’s face when Joe Girardi handed him his ring was hysterical (Torri Hunter thought so too).

After all the ceremonies were finished there was still a ballgame to play.  I was worried they might have their minds else where but Pettitte put that to rest by pitching 6 great innings of scoreless ball and Nick Johnson hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first.  The Captain hit a solo homer in the third and added another RBI on an infield single.  Posada went 3-4 and after Dave Robertson gave up a grand slam in the 9th Mariano came in and got the two out save with ease.  Rivera got Matsui to pop out to second to end the game which was very strange to see. 

As always the “Core 4″ had a big day for their team and helped do what they do best: Win.  The Yankees came away with the 7-5 victory although the game was not as close as the score indicates.  The Angels gave up 13 hits and walked 9 batters which never helps when facing a line up as potent as the Yankees. 

So the Yankees have started the season 5-2, looking great.  Tomorrow we get to see Vazquez pitch his second game.  I hope to see him pitch a better outing.  Thursday I will be at the game and I get to see Phil Hughes get his first start of the year which should be exciting.  So far so good and no complaints from Yankees fans. 

All in all it was a great day at the stadium for the Yankees. 

The Long Awaited Matt Wieters Debut 5/30/09

I can only imagine how Orioles fans felt last night.  It was the long awaited debut of the catching phenom Matt Wieters, the 5th overall pick of the 2007 draft out of Georgia Tech.  He is 6’5″ 230 pounds and a switch hitter.  Wieters dominated every level of the minor leagues.  His body build is identical to Joe Mauer’s (Mauer is also 6’5″ and weighs 225 pounds).  Is Baltimore putting too much pressure on this young kid?  The Orioles raised a rainbow flag outside of their stadium as a way of saying this is the start of a new era.  That’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of a 23 year old who has only 4 major league at bats.  Matt Wieters is only a piece of the rebuilding in Baltimore and the franchise is not resting on his shoulders.  Wieters is clearly a great player who will be a force in the middle of their lineup, however this team also depends on the many young pitchers in their farm system that we should see by next year.  Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are big parts of the solution.  Matt Wieters is going to be an outstanding player but this team needs more then Matt Wieters to make them contenders again.

Now on to his debut.  The first pitch tested Wieters defensively.  A dribbler right in front of home plate, Matt fielded and threw to first to get the first out.  In his first AB he looked extremely comfortable and showed good 2 strike hitting, taking a two strike pitch to right field but lined it right at the rightfielder for an out. He took a great slider that dove low and away for a ball.  He showed great patitence as a young hitter.  In his 2nd AB Wieters got ahead by watching a slider end up outside, then he swung and missed at a fastball.  On the 1-1 pitch Wieters bounced a fastball right back to the pitcher.  In his third AB Wieters got ahead in the count laying off a first pitch curveball and a second pitch slider.  Both pitches were good breaking balls that ended just under the knees to start with a 2-0 count.  2-0 Dontrelle Willis threw a low 91 MPH fastball that Wieters dribbled to third base.  In his 4th and final AB Wieters again got ahead in the count by taking a low slider from Nate Robertson.  The pitch was close but Wieters showed a great eye.  He ended up striking out looking on a high inside fastball.  If you look at his line you may be disappointed, however Wieters got ahead of the count often and took close pitches, showing a great eye. 

Wieters also called this game from the start, something he did not do in college.  There were many times Wieters called a great pitch to get the hitter out.  Against Miguel Cabrera there was a 2-1 count and Wieters called for the inside fastball.  Cabrera called timeout and took a glance back to see where Wieters was setting up.  Wieters noticed this and went with a fastball away.  Cabrera fouled it off but you could tell he was looking inside by the way he swung.  The next pitch Wieters came back inside and jammed Cabrera getting him to hit a soft pop up to the shortstop.

Wieters went 0-4 with a strikeout but he showed promise both on defense and offense in his major league debut.  I’m very excited to watch this young player mature and grow up.    

My favorite baseball player 5/27/09

My favorite major league player that doesn’t play for the Yankees is a young righty that many of you have probably never heard of, at least not yet.  He is currently the youngest player on a major league roster.  His name is Rick Porcello, starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.  Rick went to Seton Hall Prep and was drafted in the first round 27th overall in the 2007 draft.  He had been projected to go higher in the draft but his agent, Scott Boras, scared many small market teams away from him. I started following Rick during his senior season at Seton Hall Prep.  I happened to go to high school 20 minutes away from him and had the pleasure of watching him pitch a perfect game, which was by far the most impressive game I’ve ever seen pitched.  Sporting News ran an article during Rick’s senior year about how reaching 300 wins as a pitcher is even harder than it used to be.  In the article it said that Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson may be the last 2 pitchers to reach the milestone.  In a side box they had several pitchers they believe have a chance to reach 300 wins, Rick was one of them.  He is a promising young pitcher who has a great career ahead of him. He is currently 5-3 with a 3.55 ERA and in 8 starts has only walked 15 batters.  He is a very exciting pitcher who you should get used to hearing about because Rick is going to be a star.

The Joba Debate: Starter or Reliever? 5/27/09

This morning I was on my way home from my summer class listening to 1050 ESPN radio when this question came up.  I believe that there is no question as to what the Yankees should do about Joba Chamberlain.  I called ESPN radio hoping to get my opinions on the air.  Believe it or not I got through and I raised my points. After talking about how I believe that if Chien-Ming Wang is able to prove he can be an effective starting pitcher again, that it is a no brainer to move Joba to the bullpen ESPN still disagreed with me.  I want to see how other fans react to this debate.

My points:

1. Joba doesn’t eat up innings forcing the bullpen to get through too many innings and leaving the bullpen depleted the next day.  Joba has thrown only 45 1/3 innings through 9 starts, an average of 5 innings a start.  Joba throws too many pitches an inning to be an effective starter.

2.  Last year Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge were a huge reason the Phillies won the World Series.  Both pitchers were very dependable and did their job (Madson getting the ball to Lidge and Lidge ending the game).  With Brian Bruney injured who is the Yankees second dependable pitcher, Jonathon Albaladejo, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke?  Although all three are pitching well, none is a realiable set-up man who can dominate hitters like Ryan Madson.  Joba, as we have seen, is great out of the bullpen.  He could even pitch several innings of relief when needed.  Even if Bruney comes back he is better fit to pitch the 6th or 7th than the 8th.

3.  If Wang comes back to the rotation and is an effective starter, what pitcher is best fit for the bullpen?  Joba has proved to be a dominant reliever and would have the easiest adjustment to the bullpen.  With the way Phil Hughes has been pitching I don’t see how you could put him in the bullpen and none of the other starters would makes sense in the bullpen. 

I would love to get other fans opinions on this.  Don’t get me wrong I love Joba Chamberlain and I think he will make an outstanding starting pitcher some day, however for the Yankees right now I think he is most valueable in the bullpen.

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