August 18, 2014

Upgraded defense could be the difference for Yankees

Yankees fans love Billy Crystal just as Mets fans love Jerry Seinfeld. In this case, I love Seinfeld more than Crystal, but both are pure baseball guys at heart. Anyway, there's a great Q&A with Seinfeld on ESPN that I implore you to read, simply talking baseball. He touches on a variety of topics.
I've been doing this joke lately, because I turned 60 this year, and people around that age make a bucket list. I made a bucket list, turned the "b" to an "f" and was done with it. If you want to kite surf down the Amazon, go ahead. I'm going to crack open a beer and watch a ballgame. 
When I think of retirement, all I would think of is going to a baseball game every day.
Perfection. Couldn't agree more.

Later in the interview, he's asked about the evolution of statistics in baseball, to which he responds, "I love it. ... There's no such thing as too many stats."

Again, couldn't agree more. One area of statistics that I'm especially interested in as defensive metrics. For starters, it relates directly to my job (I help manage the Wilson Ball Glove social media accounts). 

But more important, the defensive stats currently being used (UZR/150, DRS, etc.) are hurting the game because they're so far off. Yes, hurting, because WAR, a metric that is now widely regarded as the best overall metric to rate a player, can be so heavily swayed by defensive metrics.

Eventually, I hope there will be statistics for each portion of defense (range, throwing power, throwing accuracy) that can then be used to form the most accurate overall metric by averaging those three stats properly weighted for each position.

Until that day comes, it's best to just ignore what's out there and stick with the eyeball test. And let me just say this: anybody with an eyeball can see that the Yankees' infield has taken a turn for the better since Brian Cashman brought in Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and Martin Prado to play third, short and second.

If you only caught the highlights of Sunday's game, you probably saw that Brett Gardner had the key two-run single to give the Yankees a lead. But it was really a win for the defense today. Headley and Prado each had at least a few hit-saving plays and Drew flashed the leather as well. These three are major, major upgrades to Yangervis Solarte, Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts.

They've always had great outfield defense with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury supplying tremendous range, and we all know what Mark Teixeira can do at first, but now with an infield defense to match the Yankees are starting to win games with their defense.

The Yankees are seven games out of first place but just 3.5 games behind in the wild card race. It may be too early to place bets – if you're into that sort of thing you can do so at william hill online betting – but a few defensive victories could be the difference in playing in October or playing golf. 

July 20, 2014

LAST CALL! Spend Game Day with Derek Jeter

You have until midnight to enter for a chance to have one of your dreams come true.

All you have to do is support Derek Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation with at least a $10 donation, and there's a chance you'll be selected to spend a day with Jeter on game day. The full deets are below, and then try watching the video below and not donating.

It's impossible. #RE2PECT 
The Turn 2 Foundation wants to invite you and three of your friends to come to New York City and go to a private pre-game lunch for four with Derek Jeter at one of his favorite Manhattan restaurants. You will then travel from lunch to Yankee Stadium with Derek and get a behind-the-scenes VIP tour of the Stadium courtesy of the New York Yankees.

State of the Yankees: Midseason Review

The Yankees just finished off a sweep of the Reds to start the second half and sit three games out of first with a 50-47 record. Despite how poorly they've played, the AL East is still, somehow, wide open for the taking.

Last time I checked in, Yangervis Solarte was leading the team in just about all offensive categories and CC Sabathia had just hit the DL for his knee, which, at the time, I thought was a cover for his poor performance. Today, Solarte is back on the active roster after a massive cold streak sent him down to the minors, and we just found out CC is getting season-ending knee surgery.

Injury Bug
While CC's injury is certainly a concern for his career, it doesn't compare to the impact Masahiro Tanaka's elbow surgery will have on the Yankees season outlook. Tanaka was an AL Cy Young candidate, and now he's likely out for the year. Now, the only member of the Opening Day rotation who hasn't spent time on the DL this season is Hiroki Kuroda.

May 12, 2014

State of the Yankees: Quarterly Review

The Yankees (19-17) are 1.5 games behind the Orioles for the division lead and just a half game ahead of the Red Sox. Before the Yankees start this week's Subway Series, there's the good, the bad, and plenty of first quarter surprises to review. Let's get right down to what really matters, shall we?

Opening Day Rotation
1. CC Sabathia – 15-day DL (knee), 5.28 ERA
2. Hiroki Kuroda – 4.43 ERA, had 5.00+ ERA in August, September & April
3. Ivan Nova – underwent Tommy John Surgery, out for season
4. Masahiro Tanaka – 5-0, 2.57 ERA, 58 K's, what else is there to say?
5. Michael Pineda – 15-day DL (muscle strain) out until June, 1.83 ERA possibly spiked with pine tar

Current Rotation
1. Masahiro Tanaka – proven quickly he's the true ace of the staff
2. Hiroki Kuroda – two strong starts in a row is encouraging for 39-year-old
3. Vidal Nuno – coming off very promising start vs. Angels (W, 6.1 IP, ER, 82 pitches)
4. David Phelps – two decent starts as Pineda's replacement, 4.09 ERA
5. Alfredo Aceves – the only real candidate to replace Sabathia, hasn't made a start yet

March 30, 2014

2014 MLB Predictions: Tanaka, Jeter, Trout & Harper

The Yankees haven't missed the postseason two years in a row since the Buck Showalter era. This year, they've got stiff competition yet again in the AL East and I've gotta say, it doesn't look too good for the Bronx Bombers.

One thing's for sure: the Yankees' farm system isn't going to dazzle this year. That means it will be up to this year's 25-man roster to bring the Yankees back to the postseason. As you'll see below, I believe these 25 can do it. But I've chosen my words carefully, and health – as it always is with the Yankees – will be the X-factor. These 25 can do it.

Sure, there are plenty of questions about this year's team, starting with Masahiro Tanaka. And what about CC Sabathia's velocity? Mark Teixeira's wrist? Derek Jeter's ankle? Thinking about all of that makes your nervous, and let's not forget about David Robertson's attempt to fill in for the great Mariano Rivera. Well, my sixth annual preseason predictions are below!

Results for my 2013 MLB predictions

There was no way I was going to match the success I had last year, when I hit .327 (16-for-49). Starting from the top, I practically picked the AL East in perfect reverse order. That's not an easy feat.

Anyway, this year I was 12-for-50. However, 3-for-8 for the awards section isn't too shabby!

February 8, 2014

A nice primer for Yankees spring training

Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand for the New York Daily News put together a good preview for spring training. Go give it a read.

As Feinsand writes, the Yankees' chances success in 2014 really boils down to five key questions. See my takes below:

January 11, 2014

A-Rod suspended for 2014 season

Five years ago last night I started this blog.

Last night, reports surfaced of an "imminent" ruling from arbitrator Fredric Horowitz on the A-Rod case.

This morning, the ruling came. All 162 games of 2014, plus the postseason. Alex, your thoughts (with my emphasis):

December 10, 2013

Numbers Never Lie: Mariners overpaid for Robinson Cano [Video]

Of course, we won't know for sure if the Mariners overpaid for Robinson Cano until 2023, but ESPN's Tim Kurkjian reminds us that big contracts for older players don't usually pan out.

Seeing Cano wearing an M's cap so soon was tough to take, but this video should help fans deal with the pain.

December 7, 2013

Back to blogging with a bang

With my last post before today coming about 12 weeks ago, pumping out five blog posts and 2,000 words felt pretty good. It reminded me how much fun I had doing this on a daily basis for three years.

I guess I owe thanks to Brian Cashman for getting me excited enough to write about the Yankees again. The last few months were pretty dismal. Thanks, Cash.

Anyway, my fingers are getting pretty tired, so I hope you’ll give these fresh posts a read. There’s a lot to talk about if you’re a Yankees fan!


Enjoy!

My 2014 Hall of Fame ballot submitted to Deadspin

For those unaware, Deadspin claims to have bought a Hall of Fame vote from an unnamed BBWAA voter to “make a mockery and farce of the increasingly solemn and absurd election process, and to take some power from the duly appointed custodians of the game's history and turn it over to the public.

“The voter will announce his/her name and motivations once his/her vote has been officially cast.”

Of course, there’s no proof that a voter actually sold his or her vote to Deadspin. And, if it is true, why would this voter reveal himself and open himself up to discipline from the BBWAA?

Regardless, Deadspin’s ballot is now open and I’ve already submitted my picks. Unlike the current voting process, fans are allowed to vote for as many players as they’d like. So, here’s my ballot.

What’s next for the Yankees this winter?

Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann will help replace Robinson Cano’s production. That’s great. Now what about the rotation?

With yesterday’s re-signing of Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees have three quality starters with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.

2014 Projected Yankees lineup

With all of these moves, where does that leave the Yankees’ lineup? I don’t think the Yankees are done dealing, but I expect any remaining moves to affect the rotation or bullpen more than the lineup. So, here’s where they stand.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Carlos Beltran RF
4. Brian McCann C
5. Alfonso Soriano DH*
6. Mark Teixeira 1B
7. Kevin Youkilis 3B**
8. Brett Gardner LF
9. Kelly Johnson 2B

Yankees rightly part ways with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson

Two of the most lovable and productive Yankees from the last four years departed one after the other this afternoon. Just after the shock of Robinson Cano’s impending move to Seattle sunk in, Curtis Granderson was gone too. 

Grading the Yankees Friday deals

I don’t think there will be a better time for me to return to writing than right now. 

Maybe you already know all of the moves the Yankees made – and the moves they didn’t make. Maybe you’re asking yourself, What moves? Or, maybe you just want to hear me blab (thanks). 

So, on Friday…

September 18, 2013

Why Mariano Rivera is my new favorite Yankee

In all honesty, you can just read this story here and you'll know why Mo is my new favorite Yankee. Below is just my personal spin on it.


I was 6 years old when I first saw Derek Jeter slash a hard grounder up the middle for a single, a Jeterian single, if you will. It was his rookie year, and there was just something about him that I loved as a kid.

There's a lot to love about Jeter, and that's why he's an icon to so many kids. He's the captain of the Yankees. He always seemed to come up with a clutch hit or make the jump throw play deep in the hole.

It was no coincidence I chose shortstop as my first position recreationally (and yes, I attempted the jump throw many times to no avail). But as I got older, playing baseball more competitively, I took after control pitchers like Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. I'd try to paint the corners and spot big, looping curveballs for strikes. I knew if I had control like them I could still be effective even if I wasn't the fastest pitcher. In my best playing days, I was a reliever and whipped out my imitation of Mo's cutter.

It worked! I didn't break any aluminum bats, but I threw the cutter as naturally as my fastball, like Mo.

Anyway, my development into a reliever from an infielder is just one reason why Mariano Rivera has ousted Jeter as my new favorite player. Another reason is that he truly is the most respected player in the game.

Mo's farewell tour this year opened my eyes. I had heard small stories about it during Yankees broadcasts and seen pictures of him speaking to longtime ballpark workers. But I hadn't heard the full story.

His generosity and compassion is reminiscent of the late, great Stan Musial. Read this if you're not sure what I mean.

I can't recommend this piece by Ian O'Connor enough. Even if you just read one anecdote you'll have a good idea why it triggered me to write this blog and share it with you. 
These sessions were supposed to last 30 minutes before pregame stretching, but as the tour rolled on they grew to 40 and then 50, sometimes even clearing an hour. The coaching staff would occasionally get concerned with the spillover, and so be it. Mariano Rivera didn't think a half-hour was cutting it for what he had to say and, more importantly, for what they had to say.
S/O to John Sterling for directing me to this story during last night's broadcast.

If you enjoy reading about Mo as much as I do, check out my "10 things I'll tell my kids about Mariano Rivera" listicle from earlier this year.

September 13, 2013

Talking points: Gardner's injury, Jeter's career, A-Rod's resurgence, Soriano's spark and the wild card

There's so much to talk about in Yankeeland right now I just want to jump right in.

Bye Bye, Brett
This just in: The Yankees leadoff hitter Brett Gardner has a Grade 1 left oblique strain and is likely out for the year. Putting the Yankees' 2013 injury epidemic in perspective, the Yankees have used 54 players this season. The most players used in a season by any team ever? 59.

Honestly, he hasn't had as good a season as I'd hoped for (.273 AVG, .344 OBP, 24/32 SB/CS), but it's still a crushing loss because the Yankees don't have a good replacement for him. Ichiro is the next closest thing to Gardner, but Joe Girardi has selected Curtis Granderson to hit leadoff—at least for tonight. 

Knowing When To Quit
Mike Mussina left the game on top with his first 20-win season. Was it too soon? Probably. Rickey Henderson swiped 11 bases in his final two seasons combined, adding to his comfortable all-time lead. Was 1,406 his lucky number growing up or something?

After Derek Jeter was recently declared out for the season, Brian Cashman said that no one has seen his last game. The Captain is 39 years old, and, following a season in which he led the league in hits and plate appearances, he'll end 2013 with just 17 games played.

July 26, 2013

Welcome home, Alfonso Soriano

He was up there with Jete and Mo as my favorite Yankees way back when, and today he soared past the no-names and has-beens that currently make up the lineup (I refer to them as #theseyankees on Twitter) in my book of most likeable Yankees.

Alfonso Soriano is back with the team that believed in him way back in the '90s, and he's got me pretty psyched to watch the Yankees again. I almost bought one ticket for the game tonight to enjoy it with me, myself and I.

It's been 10 years since he's dawned the pinstripes. The then second baseman slugged 38 homers and stole 35 bases that year and helped them reach the World Series, in which he struck out nine times in six games and homered once.

July 3, 2013

10 things I'll tell my kids about Mariano Rivera

Today a co-worker asked me if I was still blogging and I told him the last thing I remember writing about was Mariano Rivera.

I was wrong. After touching on Mo's farewell season in April, I wrote about Craig Carton's book (which was fantastic) and the Yankees' corner infield conundrum (which no longer matters with Youk and Teix back on the DL).

With Mo receiving by far the coolest farewell gift from an opposing team and getting the last out in tonight's win – and with the blog on my mind – I decided to write some more about Mo, one of the few stars still suiting up these days for the Yankees.

I read listicles every day, as do many others. It's probably because most people don't like to read more than 140 characters at a time anymore and listicles are easy to skim. So, go ahead, if you even bothered to read my rambling intro, and check out the 10 things I'll tell my children about the greatest closer who ever lived.

June 1, 2013

Craig Carton's 'Loudmouth' is uncensored, inappropriate and incredibly entertaining

As a blogger, publicity managers send me a lot of books to review. Instead, they usually end up sitting on my desk for a few weeks before they make their way to my bookshelf, where they collect dust and only move when I make room for more books.

But not "Loudmouth," Craig Carton's first book. Without breaking for food or the bathroom, I pumped out the last 200 pages this morning, my first Saturday alone with his hilarious account of his first 40-plus years in this world.

Honestly, I'm not even a religious listener of his show, but when I have time to tune in I absolutely love it. Just as described in his final chapter, Boomer and Carton hit it off right from the start, and they never even rehearsed to win their coveted gig on WFAN. It goes without being said that I will make more of an effort to listen after enjoying his book so much.

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