Link 4-20-2011: Who’s afraid of the Yankees?

Yeah, they’re on top of the division, but looking at the New York Yankees, they’ve got some issues to deal with. Beyond the Box Score sums it up rather well, but here are three bullet points:

The rotating rotation

Even with the solid performance of Ivan Nova, they were already down a rotation spot. Now with Phil Hughes not able to repeat his early success, the Yankees are stuck with some combination of Kevin Millwood, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Andrew Brackman to fill 1.25 slots. Oh, and A.J. Burnett is the other starter. Forgive me for being underwhelmed. I don’t see any of these guys being able to produce a Hughes-like season, apart from Hughes. They need quality innings, and it’s not clear how many they can get out of this group.

Unsustainable offense

The Yankees have been on an offensive tear, thanks to a Major League-leading 29 home runs in 15 games, or a clip of two taters per contest. I know they’ve got firepower, but that’s a lot, even for them. Consider that last year, Toronto hit only 257, or 1.58 per game to lead all of baseball in that category.┬áThe Yankees are hitting .256 as a team, but have suffered from some poor BABIP (.256 as a team) so they will stand to get some more hits. But they will experience a power outage at some point, and it’s gonna hurt.

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4-8-2011: Yankees series predictions, Aceves called up

If there was any inkling of overconfidence by these Red Sox coming into the 2011 season, it’s gone now. The defensive and baserunning miscues we saw this week showed a general lack of focus and preparedness, and those need to be dealt with, NOW. Our boys limp into Boston 0-6 on the year, having been swept in embarrassing fashion by the Rangers, and now even the rebuilding Indians at the Jake. I don’t think any less of this team talent-wise, but I do think that there’s a comfort level which has to be reached, and it will only happen after we win our first game.

Game 1: Phil Hughes vs. John Lackey

Normally, I’d say that Hughes is a better pitcher, but you have to take into account the beating that he took in his first start against Detroit. Don’t discount the fact that his fastball was clocking in at only 89 mph, whereas it’s normally about 3-4 mph faster. I think Lackey surprises us with a pretty solid outing (say 2-3 runs over 6 innings) and we finally win our first game here.

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2-3-2011: Handicapping the AL East

It’s February, and we’re all itching for things to get started. I went ahead and did a little exercise based on my projections. Consider these a back of the envelope prediction for the division.

For offense, I plugged in OBP and SLG into Baseball Musings’ lineup analysis tool, multiplied by 162 games, and took away 8% of those runs based on the play of substitutes and injuries, etc. Historically, it’s worked out that way for the Sox the past few years.

Team Offense R/G Runs
NYY 5.57 830
BOS 5.50 820
BAL 5.35 797
TB 5.06 754
TOR 4.77 711

The Yankees still have the most thump, but not by a large margin. Adding Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford is nice, but it’s full seasons of Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury that will really narrow that gap. Baltimore has added a lot of pop this offseason, and they could be dangerous to pitchers’ ERAs this season. The Rays’ offense may be a bit better than this, but my projections don’t really like Ben Zobrist or Reid Brignac all that much. The Blue Jays have some potential, but they remain punchless as usual.

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12-28-2010: The AL East arms race

The Red Sox entered into this offseason with six proven Major League starters, and so were never really in the running for Cliff Lee. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz had stellar seasons in 2010, while new signing John Lackey failed miserably and Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka spent significant time on the DL. How does this rotation stack up against the rest of the teams in the division?

I am nearing completion on my first draft of projections of 2011, and here’s what I see in 2011 based on both Major and minor league performances:

1 3.49 3.83 3.48 4.25 4.32
2 4.08 4.09 4.33 4.26 4.56
3 4.15 4.15 4.40 4.28 4.58
4 4.23 4.20 4.57 4.50 4.92
5 4.28 4.44 4.87 4.54 5.12
6 4.70 4.45 5.00 4.65
Wt Avg 4.13 4.18 4.40 4.40 4.73

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Twins’ Santana looks to be too pricey

It’s been a while, but as we gear up for the Winter Meetings next week, the Twins have named their asking price for two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana. After Santana declined their extension offer of 4 years and $80M, the Twins are trying to maximize their return on him before he walks. Santana does, however, hold a partial to full no-trade clause (conflicting reports on what it says exactly), so he likely has to approve of any trade. Imagine a rotation spearheaded by Santana, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. That top three could be legendary for a long time. There’s no question you would want to add a guy of his caliber, but the main question has been, how much would Santana cost to acquire?

John Heyman reports that Minnesota would want Jacoby Ellsbury AND either Clay Buchholz or Jon Lester in return for the prize lefty. From the Yankees, they are asking for Melky Cabrera and one of three pitching prospects: Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Ian Kennedy. In my mind, Ellsbury holds an edge over Cabrera because of his speed, better defense and (most importantly) less service time.

From our perspective, that is definitely asking too much for only one guaranteed year of Santana. He is signed for 2008 at about $13M, but is expected to require at least 5 years at $20+ million after that in order to re-sign. If I were Theo, I’d have to consider trading one of these three players, but not two of them. If I had to choose one, I’d say that Lester is the most expendable. Since the Twins are trying to acquire a centerfielder to replace Torii Hunter, no doubt the Sox will try to offer them a package including Coco Crisp. I could maybe see a deal with Lester, Crisp and another prospect happening. Failing that, trading Ellsbury and a lesser pitching prospect would not be a bad option.

The good thing for us is that we are not desperate for pitching. Our league-best rotation from 2007 is still intact, so we are not under any pressure to make a move. But with the Yankees in the bidding, we have to at least have a seat at the table. Heyman also mentions that the Mets, Dodgers, Angels and Mariners have shown interest in trading for Santana.