Saturday, November 29, 2003

Bench correction 

You can tell I'm getting rusty. I chose Erick Almonte over David Dellucci. Heh. And all along I'm thinking, "sure would be nice to have another lefty and a guy who could play center on the bench." So Almonte goes back to the minors (or becomes a chip in a trade) and Dellooch joins the to the BRB's Yankee Dream Team bench, where he should have been all along, to even up the righty-lefty split, pinch-run, and spell Matsui and Williams in center and left.

My bad.

posted by Cliff at 6:16 PM

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The BRB's Official 2004 Yankee Dream Team: The Starting Nine 

Other than declining the options on three pitchers, watching their various eligible players file for free agency, releasing Luis Sojo and revamping their coaching staff, there has been no significant player movement thus far in the Yankee offseason. There has, however, been a flood of rumors. With the Dec. 7 deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their eligible players, I figured this would be as good a time as any to assemble The BRB's Official 2004 Yankee Dream Team, which I will keep posted on the sidebar.

The Line-up:

Derek Jeter, 3B (R)
Nick Johnson, 1B (L)
Vlad Guerrero, RF (R)
Jason Giambi, DH (L)
Bernie Williams, LF (S)
Miguel Tejada, SS (R)
Jorge Posada, C (S)
Alfonso Soriano, 2B (R)
Hideki Matsui, CF (L)

Since this is a Dream Team, lets first address the one dreamy player who's not in this line-up: Carlos Beltran. The explanation is simple. Beltran is a free agent after the 2004 season. The Royals cannot afford to give him a contract extension and his agent, the evil Scott Boras, will not do a trade-and-sign, so his free agency is essentially guaranteed. It would thus be foolish to give up talent for him now. One year of Matsui in center is certainly tolerable.

Meanwhile, Derek Jeter is a natural lead-off hitter. But why Jeter at third base? Read this.

Nick Johnson playing first and batting second is a no-brainer. Sadly, he seems like the Yankee most likely to be traded right now. Any Yankee fans reading this in Tampa, please go picket and petition the Boss.

No one can deny that Vlad Guerrero is the best available option for right field, but the Yankees have thus far expressed a lack of interest in signing him. Some think they're just playing possum. In the meantime Gary Sheffield has looked like a near lock for right field in the Bronx. Some say that's not the case, as the Yankees (smartly) are unlikely to offer the 35-year old a contract for more than two years at money that the Braves can't match, or even top. Still, if Vlad goes elsewhere, Sheff is the obvious second choice. He would also hit third.

Giambi's locked into the three or four hole. Keeping Nick puts him at DH, especially following his knee surgery. Signing Vlad or Sheff puts him in the four spot, especially with the righty-lefty-righty-lefty setup.

A healthy Bernie is a middle-of-the-order hitter and will do just fine in left. His days in center, however, are clearly behind him, even if he were to be 100 percent all season (which he won't be). If he struggles, I'd swap him and Jorge in the order.

Moving Jeter to third and signing Tejada is the real pipe dream here. Jeter won't be moved, so really I should have Sori in the six hole and either Mike Lowell in the eight hole or Aaron Boone ninth. Even if they did move Jetes, Tejada's price tag may be too high in combination with Pettitte, a right fielder, and a second front-of-the-rotation starter. The Yankees seem to be hot on Kaz Matsui. He could play short and hit eighth or ninth, or even lead off. Of course they want him to play second, move Sori to center, Bernie to DH and trade Nick for someone like Javier Vazquez. I'll get to that in a moment.

I've arranged my line-up to stymie relief pitching. One could easily argue for Jorge to bat sixth because of his high OBP. One could also argue for Sori (career .284/.322/.502) to bat sixth with Tejada (career .270/.331/.460) batting eighth (grass is always greener, ain't it?). Also, as I've said, if Bernie struggles, I'd drop him down in a heartbeat. In fact, I wouldn't resist sitting a cold Bernie in favor of Karim Garcia against righties or Juan Rivera against lefties should both of those players return. When Bernie starts to ache he's a complete non-entity.

With all of that said, here are four line-ups for you to compare. The first is the line-up from the end of 2003. The second is my Dream Team for 2004. The third is the 2004 line-up that would result from the current crop of rumors. And the fourth is a real-world 2004 scenario that could work.

Soriano2BRJeter3BRK. Matsui2BSJeterSSR
Boone3BRSoriano2BRH. MatsuiLFLMatsuiLFL

Assuming Torre has the good sense to use the order I've chosen for the Rumor line-up (#3) it looks like a pretty good match for my ideal real-world line-up (#4). But notice the one key difference: #3 substitutes Kaz Matsui for Nick Johnson. Now, is it me, or is it a no-brainer not to let a guy like Nick Johnson go in favor of an unknown quantity like Kaz Matsui?

But the hidden advantage of my real-world scenario is what it means for 2005 and beyond. Now, which of these 2005 line-ups looks better to you:

Player (Age mid-2005)PosBatsPlayer (Age mid-2005)PosBats
Beltran (28)CFSK. Matsui (29)2BS
Jeter (31)SSRJeter (31)SSR
Sheffield (36)RFRGiambi (34)1BL
Giambi (34)DHLSheffield (36)RFR
Johnson (26)1BLPosada (33)CS
Posada (33)CSSoriano (27)CFR
Soriano (27)2BRH. Matsui (31)LFL
H. Matsui (31)LFLWilliams (36)DHS
Boone (32)3BRBoone (32)3BR

I'll help you out. The average age of the first line-up is 30.8 years. The average age of the second line-up, which blocks out Carlos Beltran, has an average age of 32.1 years, a number that would actually go up if the Yankees decided to trade Soriano to make room for Beltran. What's more, you've still got Jeter, now 31, playing shortstop. The problem with the Yankees' defense isn't so much the kid who's slightly below average at second, but the 30-year-old who's far below average at short. I wouldn't mind seeing Kaz Matsui come in to play shortstop, but bringing him in to play second, pushing Sori to center and Johnson off the team would be a drastically foolish move, especially with an aging Giambi at first.

As for the bench, let's give this a go:

Karim Garcia OF (L)
Juan Rivera OF (R)
Todd Pratt C (R)
Rey Sanchez IF (R)
Erick Almonte IF (R)

Sanchez is a veteran gloveman, which is what the Yankees need to back-up Jeter and (hopefully) Soriano. Pratt is Flaherty's age and price but has much more pop in his bat. Garcia and Rivera are effective enough against opposite-handed pitchers to be worth retaining, particularly over million-dollar alternatives. Almonte is a 25th man that could return to Columbus to allow for an extra pitcher, but also has an idea at the plate, which is valuable for a back-up middle-infielder.

I'll get to the pitching staff soon.

posted by Cliff at 11:39 AM

Falling behind 

When the World Series ended I said I'd probably write once or twice a week, but my momentum kept me going more regularly for a few weeks. Now it seems I've finally fallen off to that once-or-twice-a-week schedule, but I wish I hadn't.

In an attempt to catch up here's some of the stuff I've read over the past week or so that I've been meaning to link to here.

To begin with, Jay Jaffe had a great post over at the Futility Infielder on the disaster that is the Milwaukee Brewers. Many of his subsequent posts also deal with the Brewers and the fallacy of the savior stadium. On top off all of that, Jay's just undergone arthroscopic shoulder surgery, so after you read his wonderful pieces on the Brewers and Barry Bond's vs. the MLBPA Licensing Agreement, among other things, drop him an email wishing him a speedy recovery.

Equally ancient, but no less compelling, is Seth Stohs' Bang for the Buck - The Remix, a fantastic look at which every-day players deliver the most bang for their team's buck.

More recently, Aaron Gleeman has introduced a new OPS replacement called GPA (modestly: Gleeman Production Average). The formula is (OPS*1.8+SLG)/4 and the resulting number corresponds to batting average. Aaron explains the hows and whys.

An important addition to the links to the left is Christian Ruzich's The Transaction Guy, which is pretty self-explanatory, and very much worth a daily stop.

Last, but very far from least, the two most recent issues of Steven Goldman's Pinstriped Bible are absolutely essential reading for Yankee fans (not to mention for the Boss and his cronies). The first is an eloquent argument for my current cause-celeb, keeping Nick and Sori. The second, is an almost equally convincing argument for a subject I've been a bit too lilly-livered to discuss at length: moving Jeter to third now rather than later.

posted by Cliff at 10:32 AM

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