New York Yankees: Yankees Daily Briefing

Yankees Briefing 12/2/11

December, 2, 2011
Now that the (somewhat controversial) new CBA has been agreed to, the hot stove is starting to heat up in earnest. Next week, the winter meetings will be held in Dallas, and they are often a highlight of the offseason.

Discussion of the Day: Do you think the Yankees should trade Nick Swisher? Even if it means getting significant pitching help?

Behind Enemy Lines: Gordon Edes writes that Bobby Valentine will shake things up for the Red Sox.

1) Wallace Matthews considers the relationship between Valentine and Brian Cashman.

Yankees' fans might remember Valentine from his days as Mets' manager and there will certainly be a lot of pressure on him to succeed with the Red Sox. Whether he will be as successful as Terry Francona was when facing the Yankees remains to be seen, but to some degree it will be a much different Red Sox team that the Yankees face in 2012.

2) Joe Pawlikowski at River Ave Blues writes that Mark Teixeira could be a big offensive addition for the Yankees in 2012.

As Pawlikowski notes, Teixeira has been a good hitter for the Yankees, but not a great one -- certainly not the hitter one would expect with his contract. Teixeira will be 32 in 2012; while it might not be reasonable to expect Teixeira to have a monster season like 2007 Alex Rodriguez, even just a more consistent season could be tremendously helpful. The Yankees' biggest offseason need remains their pitching rotation; a more consistent season from Teixeira could provide the help that the Yankees' offense might need without the cost a big name free agent would incur.

3) Eric Schultz at The Yankee Analysts argues that Hector Noesi could be an important factor in the Yankees' 2012 rotation.

Noesi, one of the Yankees' notable pitching prospects (if not quite on a Manny Banuelos level of hype) was hurt last season by pitching largely out of the bullpen in low leverage spots -- 56 innings, with under 30 more in the minors, is not nearly enough for a 24 year-old pitcher. If his development hasn't been hurt by the lack of work in 2011, then he could certainly help bolster the 2012 rotation, but if the Yankees are assuming that Noesi can be an integral part of the 2012 rotation, they might be asking for too much.

Yankees Briefing 11/20/11

November, 20, 2011
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the GM meetings is the Astros’ sale and impeding move to the AL West, which will even the number of teams in both the American and National Leagues, and also increase the number of interleague games to be played. Although baseball purists may not necessarily be a fan of such a development, the Yankees have traditionally played well in interleague baseball, so the move may not be entirely unwelcome.

Discussion of the Day: Outside of the pitching rotation, what area of the Yankees’ roster do you believe needs the most improvement?

Behind Enemy Lines: Joe McDonald wonders if the door is open for John Farrell to return to Boston. Dale Sveum, who many thought the favorite to take the Red Sox managing job, opted instead to join the Cubs’ organization, meaning the Red Sox are still without a manager.

1) Andrew Marchand writes that the Yankees will need more from Phil Hughes in 2012.

Hughes disappointed in 2011, posting an ERA over 5.00 and pitching himself out of the postseason rotation. The one-time top pitching prospect has yet to fully realize his potential as a starter, but entering his age-26 season, it’s hard to argue that the Yankees should expect that much more development from Hughes. That said, with a thin free agent pitching market, the Yankees’ best chance at shoring up their rotation will come from within the system, and Hughes has at least shown flashes in the past that he can be the starter the Yankees need.

2) Wallace Matthews considers whether Yu Darvish will be worth the risk the Yankees would have to take to bring him to the U.S.

The Yankees have had bad luck with bringing pitchers over from Japan in the past. Darvish’s resume is impressive, but no matter how good any other baseball league might be, nothing can substitute for actual major league experience. Given the amount of money the Yankees would have to commit to a Darvish signing, the risk involved might ultimately not be worth the possible benefit.

3) Joe Pawlikowski at River Ave Blues wonders if the Yankees will make an effort to sign Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes.

Cespedes has been making the internet rounds and may, in fact, become the most vaunted international signing of the 2011-2012 offseason. The Yankees will have a hole to fill in the outfield within the next few seasons; although no one knows for sure if Cespedes is good enough to make an immediate impact in the majors, the potential seems to be unquestioned and the Yankees have been known to go hard after international free agents.

Yankees Briefing 11/13/11

November, 13, 2011
Thus far, the baseball offseason has been mostly quiet – with CC Sabathia’s re-signing and Jonathan Papelbon coming to terms with the Phillies probably the biggest on-field stories (the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos is of course another matter entirely).

Discussion of the Day: Do you think the Yankees should sign Mark Buehrle? Why or why not?

Behind Enemy Lines: Gordon Edes writes that Papelbon will be missed in Boston, but not that badly. Relief pitching is arguably the most volatile position in baseball, and the price Papelbon commanded from the Phillies means that signing him may not have ultimately been financially worth it for Boston.

1) Hannah Ehrlich at River Ave Blues considers what the 2012 Yankees bullpen will look like.

Bullpens are the most volatile part of the team, and it’s unlikely that whatever bullpen a team starts with in April is the bullpen they will end up with in November. Still, if there has been a hallmark of Joe Girardi’s tenure as Yankees’ manager, it is probably his ability to meld the team’s bullpen, regardless of the pitchers in it, into one of the better ones in the league. As far as 2012 is concerned, so long as Mariano Rivera remains healthy, he should remain the closer and the same might be said of David Robertson and the eighth-inning role. Outside of that, the Yankees’ bullpen is harder to predict, but already being able to slot a closer and set-up man is a bigger head start than a number of other teams currently have.

2) Eric Schultz at The Yankee Analysts considers that Jorge Posada might not be done.

Posada won’t return as a Yankee, and retirement would seem looming, but Posada, as Schultz argues, could still provide some value with his bat. Posada is an arguable Hall of Fame candidate, and teams looking for a DH could find some use for him, but Posada struggled against lefties and whether or not a team is willing to use a platoon at DH may be another matter altogether.

3) Steven Goldman at Pinstriped Bible argues that Buerhle would not be a good fit in pinstripes.

Goldman argues that though Buerhle has been successful over the course of his career, the success is atypical given the way he gets it – ie, not with strikeouts – and that there’s reason to believe it may not continue. The Yankees need pitching help and the free agent market, pitching-wise is thin, so finding an available pitcher more talented than Buerhle may not be possible. Still, the Yankees were able to make a significant run in 2011 with an unlikely rotation including Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, so just because there is no ace on the market doesn’t mean that the Yankees are necessarily in trouble.

Yankees Briefing 11/5/11

November, 5, 2011
With their biggest offseason hurdles out of the way – the re-signings of Brian Cashman and CC Sabathia -- the Yankees can now focus on some of the other needs for their team, most importantly help for the starting rotation.

Discussion of the Day: Since it’s now just past two years to the day that the Yankees won the World Series, what is your favorite memory of the 2009 season?

Behind Enemy Lines: Jackie MacMullen chronicles Ben Cherington's rise to GM of the Red Sox. The Yankees haven't had a new GM in over a decade, and Cherington will face unique challenges with the Boston team.

1) Wallace Matthews writes that Brian Cashman doesn’t have a clear vision for the Yankees.

The Yankees’ GM is returning to the Yankees for three more years, but the current offseason posits a quandary in that the best free agents available don’t suit the Yankees’ current needs and that the team’s most highly touted prospects outside of Jesus Montero might not yet be ready to take on a full season at the major league level. Still, the Yankees have already re-signed CC Sabathia, which was arguably their biggest offseason task, and Cashman’s ultimate goal for the Yankees – to win the World Series – remains.

2) Ian O’Connor praises Sabathia’s new deal with the Yankees.

In three years as a Yankee, Sabathia has averaged just under 20 wins a season, with an ERA that’s gotten better each year as a Yankee, and about 200 strikeouts a year. Further, Sabathia has remained health, even despite concerns about his weight. Sabathia has been worth every penny for the Yankees; had he reached free agency he would have easily become the most-sought after free agent pitcher on the market. The Yankees got to retain their ace, for less of a price than he would have commanded on the free agent market, and while rotation concerns remain, they need not be as serious as they might otherwise have been.

3) Eric Schultz at The Yankee Analysts takes a look at the Yankees in-house pitching depth.

Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are the biggest names, as concern pitchers, in the Yankees’ system, but Hector Noesi, Adam Warren and David Phelps could all make significant inroads in 2012. The biggest issue with depth is that it only lasts as long as one doesn’t need to use it, and if Warren or Phelps or Noesi struggle at the major league level, the Yankees will need to have a fall-back plan. Banuelos and Betances might offer the highest ceilings, but the Yankees will not push their star prospects too far too fast. It’s more than likely at least one of the pitchers will be involved in a trade, though for who remains yet to be known.

4) The writers at River Ave Blues took a look at what went right, what went wrong and what went as expected for the 2011 season.

While it’s easy to say that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia had better-than-expected seasons for the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez did not, the review of the team as a whole is a reminder that in any baseball season, nothing will go entirely to plan, and that despite the problems the Yankees had, they still had enough go right to make the playoffs and take the Tigers to a fifth game in the ALDS.

Yankees Briefing 10/29/2011

October, 29, 2011
Major League Baseball has officially moved the start of free agency to 12:01 AM Sunday, and while the biggest names -- Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder -- might not suit the Yankees' current needs, free agency can provide surprises that are almost just as entertaining as the season itself.

Discussion of the Day: Are you happy with the expectation that Brian Cashman will return to the Yankees?

Behind Enemy Lines: Gordon Edes profiles Ben Cherington, the new GM of the Red Sox. Cherington was considered the favored candidate after Theo Epstein resigned to go to the Cubs.

1) Andrew Marchand takes a look at some free agent signings that have had less than stellar results.

With the possibility of CC Sabathia opting out of his contract, Yankees fans might find themselves worried that the Yankees will end up overpaying for Sabathia’s decline. However, unlike some of the other names on Marchand’s list, Sabathia has stayed healthy throughout his career, and while there will be worries about Sabathia’s workload, he has yet to show they are warranted. It is possible, if not likely, that the Yankees will pay too much for Sabathia, but given his All-Star and playoff credentials, he might be the one free agent the Yankees can get away with paying too much.

2) Mike Jaggers-Radolf writes that Robinson Cano is overrated.

Jaggers-Radolf’s opinion will no doubt be considered controversial, as Cano is undoubtedly one of the Yankees’ best offensive players, and in 2010 was an MVP candidate. Jaggers-Radolf postulates that saying Cano is overrated doesn’t mean the second baseman isn’t good, just that he’s simply not as great as some are advertising. Cano may be in line for a substantial raise, so whether or not he is as valued as advertised is certainly topical, but the term “overrated” itself has connotations that may lead readers to think that Jaggers-Radolf is stating that Cano is not a good second baseman.

3) Mike Axisa considers the success of the Yankees’ bullpen underbelly in Hector Noesi, Cory Wade and Luis Ayala in the 2011 season.

Heading into the 2011 season, the Yankees’ bullpen was supposed to be excellent, behind Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain. When Chamberlain and Soriano got hurt, everyone else in the bullpen needed to step up – and for the most part they did. David Robertson’s season rightfully received the most notice, but the Yankees relied heavily on the work of Ayala and Wade, especially. Ayala and Wade were cheap pickups while Noesi remains a prospect as a starter, indicative of how an effective bullpen need not be an expensive one.

Yankees Briefing 10/24/11

October, 24, 2011
The World Series remains in full swing, as the Rangers have now drawn even with the Cardinals, effectively reducing the series to a best-of-three finale. The Yankees' main interest in the series might very well come in the form of a certain left-handed pitcher who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Discussion of the Day: What do you think is a reasonable offer, if any, the Yankees should make for C.J. Wilson?

Behind Enemy Lines: Adam Rubin writes that payroll restrictions will hurt the Mets. The Mets’ financial woes are well known; the team hasn’t been to the postseason since 2006, and it looks like it might be a while before they return there again.

1) Wallace Matthews writes that the Yankees are expected to make a play for Wilson.

Wilson, who is not having a great postseason, is arguably the best free agent pitcher available this offseason (CC Sabathia excepted). The Yankees, who got lucky with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in 2011, could certainly use the pitching help, but Wilson won’t come cheap and is on the wrong side of 30. Should Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances live up to the hype, a Wilson signing would perhaps be superfluous, but, as with Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, hype and actual results are two separate things. Whether or not Wilson wants to sign with the Yankees might be another story entirely, but there’s every reason to expect that the Yankees will make a push for the Texas pitcher.

2) Steve S. considers the dilemma of Phil Hughes.

Hughes, as Steve notes, will be entering his age 26 season in 2012 (and, more importantly, his fifth in the majors). Thus, excuses of Hughes being a young and inexperienced pitcher no longer have the weight they might have had a year or two ago (if they still have any weight at all), and Hughes’ constant injuries have to be considered a concern. The inconsistency in which Hughes has been used for the Yankees, both as a starter and out of the bullpen, has very possibly hurt his effectiveness, and, as Steve writes, the pitcher who was once a top-ranked pitching prospect in all of baseball will again have to earn a starting job in the spring.

3) Bill Madden compares general manager Brian Cashman’s tenure with the Yankees to that of Theo Epstein with the Red Sox.

Madden writes that Cashman has remained loyal to the Yankees, but this shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise: the Yankees have been consistently good, missing the postseason just once, and there’s no bigger market than New York in professional baseball (if not professional sports). On the other hand, had the Red Sox not collapsed in September (perhaps the worst collapse in major league history), it’s not a given that Epstein would have left the Red Sox. Should a similar collapse happen in New York, calls for Cashman’s job would likely grow very loud indeed.

4) The winter leagues remain in full swing.

Hector Noesi has made just one start in the Dominican league, and will certainly benefit from more innings after spending so much of the 2011 season in the bullpen for the Yankees. The Puerto Rican winter league starts in the first week of November; rosters for that league have yet to be released.

Yankees Briefing 10/19/11

October, 19, 2011
While the World Series is set to start on Wednesday, the Yankees' offseason is getting into full swing, as decisions loom about which players' options to pick up, which players to let walk, and which up-and-coming prospects playing in winter ball deserve the most notice.

Discussion of the Day: If it was your choice, would you have the Yankees pick up the option of Nick Swisher?

Behind Enemy Lines: The fallout from the Boston Red Sox collapse continues to grow, as now reports have surfaced that pitchers were drinking beer in the dugout during games. Pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey, along with ex-manager Terry Francona have since issued statements denying the allegations.

1) Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews argue over whether or not the Yankees should sign Albert Pujols, once he becomes a free agent at the end of the World Series.

Pujols is a historically great baseball player; despite breaking his wrist, he still managed to hit 37 home runs in 2011. The question thus isn’t whether or not Pujols could help the Yankees, but whether the Yankees would have a spot for him, especially concerning the likely cost of the contract. Pujols, in his age 31 season is not young, and the Yankees already have a first baseman signed through 2016. Even though the AL has the designated hitter option, the Yankees will likely need that spot to spell Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter; furthermore if Jesus Montero does not stick at catcher, it could make more sense for the Yankees to keep the cheaper Montero than go after the expensive and older Pujols.

2) Mike Jaggers-Radolf at The Yankee Analysts compares the salaries of Yankees’ pitchers to their actual worth to the team in 2011.

It’s probably not a surprise to find Bartolo Colon -- whom the Yankees signed in the offseason to a minor league deal -- and David Robertson, who ranked fourth in WAR among all qualified relievers. On the other end of the spectrum, Rafael Soriano and A.J. Burnett aren’t surprises, either; Soriano missing significant time due to injury, and Burnett being generally ineffective for a second season. What probably will surprise readers is Mariano Rivera’s name so close to the bottom – although this has less to do with Rivera pitching poorly (since he didn’t), and more to do with that it’s usually hard to justify $15 million for 60.1 innings of work.

3) Joe Pawlikowski considers the Yankees’ options should they choose to decline Nick Swisher's option, or otherwise pick it up and trade their right fielder.

When the Yankees originally signed Swisher, the thought was that he could back up Xavier Nady in right field, or else be a fall-back option for first base should they have failed to sign Mark Teixeira. Swisher has since turned into an All Star, and the Yankees’ starting right fielder. Although Swisher’s postseason slump might be frustrating to sum, it would be hubris to make a decision based on such a small sample size.

4) Montero will not play in winter ball this year, although teammates Eduardo Nunez and Hector Noesi will (the latter exclusively as a starter). Montero played in 127 games combined this season, catching most of them, so there seems little need to give him extra reps when rest might be more beneficial at this point.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/12/11

October, 12, 2011
While the biggest offseason story right now might surround Theo Epstein's possible departure as Red Sox GM, the Yankees certainly have offseason concerns of their own -- not the least of which is more pitching.

Discussion of the Day: Do you think the Yankees should re-sign Freddy Garcia? Why or why not?

1) Wallace Matthews argues that Alex Rodriguez is an albatross for the Yankees.

Indeed, an immovable contract coupled with declining age and production was probably going to become a problem eventually; the fact that he was injured for most of 2011 has thrown into sharp relief the perils the Yankees risk when he plays without being totally healthy (from July 9th to September 2nd, a period in which Rodriguez appeared in only four games for the Yankees, the Yankees went 32-18 ( .640 winning percentage) while hitting .285/.361/.462/.823 as a team. That time period includes games against both the Red Sox and Rays, so it’s hard to argue that the Yankees had the benefit of an easy schedule). Rodriguez, when healthy, is still a productive ballplayer at what is becoming a premium position, but if 2011 is a foreshadowing of the next six years, the Yankees may be in for a bumpy road indeed.

2) Mike Axisa considers whether the Yankees should bring back Garcia.

Garcia, signed last offseason to a one-year deal, was consistent, putting up respectable numbers, even if he wasn’t necessarily ace-caliber. As a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, Garcia has been consistent for a few seasons now, and, having shown that he doesn’t have trouble pitching in the AL East, it seems hard to argue for the Yankees not to bring him back, especially in a season where the free agent market for pitchers is notably thin.

3) Joe Pawlikowski argues that the Yankees> should not trade Jesus Montero .

Montero is easily the best prospect the Yankees have, putting up quality numbers in his September call up, and while the adage says that one should never judge a player based on a September performance, Montero certainly has shown the potential to be one of the best homegrown pure hitters the Yankees have had in a long time. There are needs the Yankees have, but unless they were to trade Montero for a pitcher such as Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw (neither of which is likely without significant other concessions), it’s unlikely the Yankees would be happy with their return.

4) Jay Jaffe considers the options on various Yankees' contracts.

Notably, CC Sabathia and Rafael Soriano can opt out, while the team holds a player option on Nick Swisher. If Sabathia were to opt out of his contract, he'd command interest from around the league, but it's unlikely any team would offer him more than the Yankees. On the other hand, Soriano's year was such that it seems unlikely he would get a better contract on the open market. As for Swisher, there doesn't seem to be a decent reason not to exercise the team option-- Swisher is an above-average hitter, and the Yankees don't have to spend a fortune to keep him.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/08/11

October, 8, 2011
After losing the fifth game of the ALDS, Yankees fans will have to wait a few months to see the next non-exhibition Yankees game. In the mean time, the MLB postseason continues with the Brewers and Cardinals in the NLCS and Tigers and Rangers in the ALCS. Niether the Rangers nor the Brewers have ever won a World Series, and the last time the Tigers did so -- in the 1980s -- many current major leaguers hadn't even been born.

Discussion of the Day: What do you think are the Yankees' biggest needs to address in the offseason? Share your thoughts in the comments.

1) Wallace Matthews writes that Joe Girardi should not be blamed for the Yankees' postseason failure.

Although Girardi may have made a couple of questionable moves (such as pinch-hitting Eric Chavez for Brett Gardner), the Yankees' failure in the postseason should fall mostly on the offense. By and large the starting pitching did their job -- Freddy Garcia and CC Sabathia did not pitch poorly, just not as well as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. It could be argued that a team that scored 867 runs in the regular season shouldn't have such a problem in the postseason, but the Tigers, whom many believed matched up evenly with the Yankees, had the added edge of the 2011 Justin Verlander on their pitching staff.

2) Katie Sharp takes stock of statistical oddities and notable occurrences in the season's final Yankeemetrics column. Of note: Robinson Cano becoming the fourth Yankees second baseman to hit a grand slam in the playoffs, Ivan Nova's Game One relief appearance, becoming the fifth Yankee to win his postseason debut in his team's first postseason game, and Jorge Posada's impressive series, become just the second player over 40 (behind Joe Morgan) to hit a triple in the postseason.

3) Life Magazine has a slideshow of previously unreleased photos of Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Larsen was an unlikely candidate to pitch a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game, perhaps something that illustrates how flukey baseball, especially the postseason can be. Still, it's an event rightfully included on most highlight reels of the Yankees' postseason accomplishments, and a feat no one has duplicated -- only Roy Halladay, who threw a no-hitter in the first game of last season's Phillies-Reds NLDS, has come close.

4) Marc Carig writes that Brian Cashman is unlikely to make major changes to the Yankees in the offseason.

Indeed, outside of CC Sabathia and possibly C.J. Wilson the free agent class is less than stellar for pitching (and one can argue that the rotation is the Yankees' biggest area of concern), and of the biggest name free agent hitters, the Yankees don't have room for Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. The Yankees will make moves, of course, either with signings off the scrap heap as in 2011 or trades, but the Yankees' biggest solutions may very well come from within -- Jesus Montero should be with the Yankees from the start of the season next year, and Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos may not be too far off.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/06/11

October, 6, 2011
After a day off, the Yankees and Tigers will play the winner-takes-all Game 5 of the ALDS on Thursday evening, where Ivan Nova and Doug Fister will square off in a Game 1 rematch (only, this time, will actually get credit for starting the game). Nova, Steve Politi writes, has been more than just a rookie for the Yankees in 2011, and there isn't the alarm that having a rookie start Game 5 in the LDS might otherwise invite.

Discussion of the Day: Which teams do you expect to win the LDS Game 5s? Besides Yankees-Tigers, consider the Phillies-Cardinals and Brewers-Diamondbacks series. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Behind Enemy Lines: Ted Leclair wonders if the Tigers were too good for Justin Verlander to win the MVP. Verlander is a shoo-in for the AL Cy Young, but whether or not a pitcher can win the MVP is a topic that will continue to be hotly debated, regardless of the outcome of the race.

1) Rob Parker writes that for the Yankees, Game 5 is there for the taking.

The Yankees’ are, perhaps, in their ideal position given the circumstances affecting game one: Nova pitched well in his previous postseason start, the Yankees are home, and Jim Leyland has indicated that Verlander will not be available for the Tigers. On the other hand, as with Game 4 and A.J. Burnett’s impressive start, nothing is guaranteed until the game itself is played. The Tigers are certainly a good baseball team, and any team who can make it to the final game of a series obviously has the potential to win that game.

2) Steven Goldman writes about Burnett’s redemption in Game 4.

Burnett pitched in Game 4 only because of Game 1’s suspension due to rain; had Friday’s game gone as scheduled, CC Sabathia would have pitched Game 4, and Nova still been in line for the Game 5 start. While the 5.2 innings Burnett pitched falls short of the the quality start definition (six innings, three earned runs or less), when one measures it against Burnett's other starts earlier this summer, it becomes a best-case scenario for the Yankees. Should the Yankees win on Thursday, Burnett would be in line to start Game 4 in the ALCS, and, ALDS success now behind him, the Yankees and their fans would have to be that much more confident in their pitcher.

3) Daniel Barbarisi considers the other guys in the Yankees' bullpen.

Mariano Rivera, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano get much of the attention when the bullpen is mentioned, and indeed, given Rivera's historical records, Robertson's strikeouts and Soriano's contract, it would seem that the attention is deserved, but as Barbarisi notes, the bullpen has gotten huge contributions throughout the season from Luis Ayala, Boone Logan and Cory Wade. Logan came to the Yankees in the second ill-fated trade for Javier Vazquez, and has been more effective against righties, while Wade and Ayala both had ERAs just over 2.00. Although the latter two didn't usually see high leverage innings, it's unlikely the Yankees' bullpen would have been nearly as effective without their contributions.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/05/11

October, 5, 2011
After A.J. Burnett and, to a large extent, Curtis Granderson saved the Yankees' season for at least one more day, the Yankees and Tigers will go back to New York, where the two teams will square off in a winner-take-all Game 5. The pitchers will be a rematch of Game 1's "relievers", Ivan Nova and Doug Fister; the Yankees were able to hit Fister on Saturday, and they will hope to repeat their performance.

Discussion of the Day: Which performance on Tuesday impressed you the most -- Burnett's pitching, Granderson's defense, the bottom of the order's production, or something else?

Behind Enemy Lines: Malcolm Maddox writes that the Tigers' success has been a boon to local businesses. At a time when many local businesses are struggling, any little thing can help -- even the local sports team making it to the postseason.

1) George Vecsey compares Tuesday's Game 4 in Detroit with the one in 2006.

The Yankees, one might argue, in 2011 are a different team than the one in 2006. Indeed, only Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano remain from that team (and, of course, Scott Proctor, who made mop-up appearances for the Yankees in late 2011, 1, though he didn't make the playoff roster), but the situation was the same: after winning the first game of the series, the Yankees found themselves on the brink of elimination. Unlike 2006, however, one can argue that the 2011 Yankees are simply an all-around better team, and that a fifth game has been forced should not come as a surprise.

2) Eric Schultz at The Yankee Analysts takes a different approach to the leverage argument.

In sabermetric circles, the leverage argument refers to using a team's best relievers in the highest leverage situation (that is, using Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning of a one run game if the batters due up are Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez); Schultz argues that a high-leverage situation can develop so quickly that there simply isn't time to go to the bullpen, as a starting pitcher can only stall for so long. Though one can argue that a good manager will already have a plan in place for such a contingency, Schultz's argument has merit.

3) Bill Madden writes that CC Sabathia could command a hefty price tag if he chooses to opt out.

Sabathia was signed to a seven year contract with the Yankees before the 2009 season, and has an opt-out clause after this season. While Sabathia's success while a Yankee has been ample, opting out of his contract does not necessarily indicate he will leave the team (one might remember a similar situation with Alex Rodriguez in 2007). Whatever he decides to do, Sabathia will remain among the highest paid pitchers in baseball, and as long as he can stay healthy and effective, it's hard to argue he should be otherwise.

4) The Arizona Fall League has started play.

Representing the Yankees on the Phoenix Desert Dogs are Corban Joseph, Ronnie Mustelier, Rob Segedin, David Phelps, Preston Claiborne, Dan Burawa and Chase Whitley. All played at various levels in the Yankees' system in 2011; Joseph, Segedin and Phelps may be the names most familiar to those who follow the minors.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/04/11

October, 4, 2011
After falling behind in the ALDS, two games to one, the Yankees' season rests firmly in the pitching arm of ... A.J. Burnett. A pitcher who came perilously close to losing his job in the rotation during the regular season is now the Yankees' last hope against an early October exit (on this date last season the playoffs had yet to begin), but the Tigers, who will have Rick Porcello on the mound, may have their own problems.

Discussion of the Day: Would you rather the Yankees be starting Burnett, Phil Hughes or Bartolo Colon in Tuesday's elimination game?

Behind Enemy Lines: Brian Costa writes that Tigers' closer Jose Valverde is everything that Mariano Rivera is not. Valverde is flamboyant in his celebrations and maddeningly wild in his pitching, but with a perfect record in save opportunities, is hardly ineffective.

1) Ian O'Connor writes that Yankees fans should be scared of Burnett while Michael Salfino notes that the Burnett/Porcello matchup is an historically bad one for a postseason series.

Burnett's season was not a good one, but in what is perhaps described as bitter irony, he is now the Yankees' last hope to extend their postseason. Still, Burnett has had postseason success with the Yankees before, and although the Yankees can't expect from him what they might from CC Sabathia, Burnett isn't facing Justin Verlander, either. He doesn't have to be an ace for the Yankees on Tuesday; he simply has to be better than Porcello.

2) Filip Bondy writes that the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium aren't ready to panic.

The fans who inhabit a portion of the right field bleachers all season long are well known among Yankees fans; they are especially well known for their Roll Call tradition. Of course, many Yankees fans are not as die-hard as the Bleacher Creatures, but for those who do invest a significant amount of one's time and emotion in a sports team and a season, the prospect of facing an elimination game is often the worst part of the year. Still, the Yankees have come back from worse, and their 2011 season will remain alive for at least another day,

3) Daniel Barabarisi writes that Alex Rodriguez's bat no longer strikes fear.

Indeed, while having Robinson Cano hit third in the order might seem like an obvious move to make, having a struggling Rodriguez hitting cleanup might very well ensure that Cano doesn't see a pitch to hit. Rodriguez's postseason hasn't been all bad; he did have an RBI in Monday's loss, but the Yankees need more from their cleanup hitter, especially as neither Mark Teixeira nor Nick Swisher are having excellent postseasons, either. Of course, Max Scherzer and Verlander are decent pitchers (Verlander a potential unanimous Cy Young winner), and three games is still a small sample size, but unfortunately in the playoffs, small sample sizes matter.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/03/11

October, 3, 2011
After Detroit evened the ALDS at one game each on Sunday, the Yankees and Tigers will travel to Detroit for Game 3 on Monday, a rematch (of sorts) between CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, who were rained out of their Game 1 duel.

Discussion of the Day: Do you believe Joe Girardi was right on Sunday to pinch hit Eric Chavez for Brett Gardner? Why or why not?

Behind Enemy Lines: Jerry Crasnick writes that Miguel Cabrera is finally receiving attention for the right reasons. Cabrera's personal issues have received significant attention over the last few years, but he still remains one of the best hitters in baseball today.

1) Wallace Matthews writes that the playoff monkey is back for Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who came to the Yankees before the 2004 season, was often considered a playoff goat prior to being the out-and-out hero for the Yankees in the 2009 postseason (with key home runs in the second and third game of the ALDS, Game 2 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the World Series). Rodriguez, however, is off to a poor start in the 2011 ALDS, and while two games is hardly a significant sample size, large sample sizes in the postseason are hard to come by. Rodriguez was far from the Yankees' best hitter in 2011, and one can argue whether he should be hitting cleanup or lower in the order, but calling Rodriguez the playoff goat when the Yankees don't (as of Monday morning) trail in the ALDS seems a bit premature.

2) John Harper writes about the value of Robinson Cano.

Indeed, as Cano came to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning on Sunday, one would have been hard pressed to find a Yankee fan who wanted another batter at the plate in that scenario. Certainly, Saturday's grand slam has a lot to do with the perception of Cano, but the second baseman was by far the most valuable Yankees hitter in 2010, and while 2011 wasn't quite as great, it was certainly good enough to cement Cano's standing as one of baseball's best second baseman. As Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada enter the final phase of their careers, the idea that the Yankees are becoming Cano's team is not without merit.

3) Joel Sherman writes that Manny Banuelos wasn't ready to help the Yankees in the 2011 postseason.

Banuelos, who ended the season pitching at Triple-A Scranton, is just 20 years, so saying that he was not yet ready to help the Yankees is far from an indictment. Still, his season was much less consistent than his breakout effort in 2010, and the Yankees never appeared to be in such significant trouble pitching-wise that promoting Banuelos would have been a necessity. Banuelos is young enough that the Yankees need not rush to get him to the majors, and if not having him for the 2011 postseason makes him more effective in seasons to come, most Yankee fans would probably take that trade off.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/02/11

October, 2, 2011
After taking the first game of the ALDS behind Ivan Nova's stellar technically-a-relief-appearance, the Yankees will attempt to push the Tigers to the brink on Sunday afternoon. Detroit will have Max Scherzer on the mound, as they will try to even the series and neutralize home field advantage.

Discussion of the Day: What do you think is the most impressive postseason performance from a rookie Yankee pitcher? Andy Pettitte? Ivan Nova? Someone else come to mind?

Behind Enemy Lines: Vincent C. Mercogliano writes that the future looks bright for Scherzer.

1) Wallace Matthews and John Harper reflect on the likelihood of A.J. Burnett starting a postseason game for the Yankees (Matthews; Harper).

Burnett, of course, had anything but a solid season for the Yankees, but the other options for a fourth starter are not without their own drawbacks. Phil Hughes missed part of September with back spasms, and Bartolo Colon was noticeably less effective in the second half, likely a result of fatigue from pitching more innings than he has since 2005. In the best case scenario, the Yankees sweep the Tigers and the fourth starter is a moot point (at least, until the ALCS), but as long as Joe Girardi has a quick hook with Burnett, the Yankees should be in decent shape.

2) Rob Parker writes that the Yankees are making the right decision sending Garcia to pitch in Game 2 of the ALDS, and not CC Sabathia on short rest.

The decision might be more debatable had the Yankees lost Game 1, but ahead in the series there seems to be no reason not to give Sabathia an extra day of rest. Garcia's season numbers might not pop, but he's certainly been effective for the Yankees this season, posting an ERA and WHIP favorably comparable to another former Yankee.

3) Brendan Prunty reflects on the discussion about whether to build a roof while constructing the new Yankee Stadium.

New York weather in April and late October can be unpleasant, rainy and cold (and snow is not out of the picture, either). Still, the Yankees have played in the Bronx since the 1920s, and they've done for so long without a roof that unless there's more to climate change than anyone realizes, it would seem perhaps an over-indulgence for a roof in New York. More importantly, however, is the cost -- even without a roof, building a stadium isn't exactly cheap, and adding a roof would have been an unnecessary addition. Weather at the start of the season and towards the end of the playoffs, and being able to play in the cold weather can be turned into an advantage -- as the Angels might recall.

4) Tim Bontemps writes that it was a mixed bag for Yankees' prospects in the minors this season.

The Yankees' farm system didn't necessarily have a bad season; Hector Noesi, Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, Austin Romine and others all made their major league debuts with the team that had drafted and/or signed them, and some prospects, such as Mason Williams, did have big years. Compared to the resounding success of last season, however, 2011 for the Yankees' system looks far more ordinary. Andrew Brackman took a step back, while J.R. Murphy, Slade Heathcott and Gary Sanchez had their seasons hampered by injuries. Even so, the Yankees system still remains in better shape than it was in the middle of last decade, and there's every reason to believe it will continue to produce.

Yankees Daily Briefing 10/01/11

October, 1, 2011
After the first game of the ALDS was suspended due to rain, the Yankees and Tigers will try again tomorrow, with Ivan Nova and Doug Fister replacing CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander. Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast again, and it's looking like a possibility that the Yankees and Tigers will have to play the ALDS with no off days, not even for travel.

Discussion of the Day: If Saturday’s game is rained out, would you prefer the Yankees and Tigers play a doubleheader on Sunday, or use the current plan to play straight through with no off days?

Behind Enemy Lines: Steve Politi writes about Jim Leyland’s Old-School tendencies while Brendan Prunty catches up with former Yankee Phil Coke.

1) Wallace Matthews considers five keys that the Yankees need to consider for the ALDS.

The Tigers and Yankees are, on the face of it, pretty evenly matched: both rely heavily on one ace (and have gotten surprisingly effective help from their number two starters), have a dangerous middle-of-the order, and a vaunted bullpen. One could argue that the Yankees’ lineup and bullpen are better than Detroit’s, but that the Tigers have the edge in the rotation; either way Friday’s suspension neutralizes both team’s aces, and the Yankees might very well be forced to find out if having A.J. Burnett on the playoff roster over Bartolo Colon was the right move to make.

2) Kevin Kernan notes that the three team trade involving Curtis Granderson has paid dividends for everyone involved.

Indeed, all three teams involved – the Yankees with Granderson, the Tigers with Phil Coke, Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer, and the Diamondbacks with Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson -- have made the 2011 playoffs, and furthermore, all made it as division winners. Granderson was considered an MVP candidate for much of the season and will probably still make most ballots; Kennedy will probably garner a few Cy Young votes in the National League, and Detroit got some much needed depth for their rotation.

3) John Harper writes that the Yankees need Sabathia to pitch like an ace.

This is, of course, not a new sentiment. The Yankees needed every pitch of Sabathia’s in the 2009 playoffs and again needed his help in 2010; without Andy Pettitte this season one can argue that the Yankees’ rotation is significantly weaker, although Nova has perhaps been better than anyone has expected. The Yankees have a lineup that's good enough to overcome a shallow rotation, but the postseason is different than the regular season -- every other team to reach the postseason has decent pitching and hitting (or decent enough, at any rate), and the Yankees will need their ace to match their opponent's.

4) Danny Wild reports that Triple-A Scranton will play their home games in a variety of locations. The team’s home field is undergoing renovations that will take the entire season, and the Mets shot down a proposal which would have had the Scranton team playing in Newark.



Jacoby Ellsbury
.271 16 70 71
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146