A-Rod’s Decline

a-rod

ESPN has an interesting sport science video outlining the decline of Alex Rodriguez since he won his last MVP award in 2007. It points at how generating the power of a baseball swing begins with hip rotation, and A-Rod has hip impingement which restricts hip joint movement. Up to 60% of his body mass can lag behind during his swing as a result. This forces A-Rod to generate most the power of his swing through the upper body, and to start his swing earlier. Over time his stance has become 75% wider, and he no longer strides forward but does a small legkick. These adjustments have slowed Alex’s bat speed by approximately 2.5 mph.  Continue reading

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The Horrors of the 2008 and 2009 1st Round of the MLB Draft

Hindsight being 20/20 makes it easy to say that these two 1st rounds of the MLB draft were the worst in recent memory. In them, two of the games current young superstars were just barely out of the Yankees grasp. Their names are Gerrit Cole and Mike Trout. Looking back at those two 1st rounds, it is easy to look in disbelief at the great things that could have been.

In 2008, the Yankees selected high school pitcher Gerrit Cole with the 28th pick of the draft. With the exception of Buster Posey, Gerrit Cole was the best player selected in the 1st round. Now back then there was no restriction on how big of a signing bonus a player could get. The Yankees failed to sign him, and he went to college instead. He was then drafted with the 1st pick of the 2011 draft and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gerrit Cole is now just 24 years old, and has a career ERA of 3.45. Imagine how less us Yankees fans would have to worry about the health of the rotation if Gerrit Cole was in it. Injuries were a big killer last year, would having Gerrit Cole helped us get to the Wild Card game? Wouldn’t the 2013 Yankees have done better if instead of Phil Hughes starting every 5 games, we had Gerrit Cole in his spot? Hard to say for sure, but given the devastating state of the rotation he definitely would have been a big help for the team. Plus he would have gotten more minor league experience at a younger age, so maybe he could have gotten called up to the big leagues sooner.

Who would you have rather had, Mark Texeira or Mike Trout? While right now it seems like a no brainer, at the time it was the right move. In the 2009 draft, the Angels used the 25th pick to draft Mike Trout. That pick was originally the Yankees, but they lost it by signing Mark Texeira. The Angels did have the 24th pick as well, thanks to the Mets signing K-Rod, but they drafted Randal Grichuk with that pick. Trout was awfully close to being a Yankee under these circumstances, but maybe the Yankees don’t win the World Series in 2009 without Texeira. Either way, Texeira’s years are best behind him and Mike Trout has finished in the top 2 in the MVP voting in all 3 of his major league seasons. Mike Trout is just 23, and might very well have a HOF career ahead of him. The Yankees hadn’t drafted a college player in the first round since 2001, and Trout being as High School player would have likely been selected by the team.

Now the Yankees might not have had postseason runs from 2009-2012 without Texeira. Trout could have produced for the Yankees from 2012-present, and we wouldn’t have had to sign Ellsbury. If 1B was still an issue we could have signed Prince Fielder for Ellsbury money. If Fielder plays here, maybe he doesn’t get injured and is still an elite 1B. This is all speculation of course, but their was nothing stopping the Yankees from signing Gerrit Cole. Either way, for better or for worse, the Yankees have neither of those two players.

Yoan Moncada to the Yankees?

Today was the 3rd workout that 19 year old Cuban player Yoan Moncada have with the New York Yankees. You can tell the Yankees want him, they have him working out every day like he is part of the spring training roster already. In this workout though, there was a special visitor watching. That would be Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner. Now Hal is a really important piece if the Yankees do aggressively pursue Moncada. Yoan Moncada is expected to get a signing bonus north of $30M, and since the Yankees went over their international bonus they would have to pay a 100% tax. In addition, being over means they can’t sign any international player for over 300,000 in the next 2 years. If the Yankees are going to miss out on other top Cuban players over the next 2 seasons, it is best to sign as many talented international players as they can.

Moncada will be a very pricey move for just about every organization interested in him. Similar to how Tanaka was for the Yankees last year. Last year the Yankees paid a $25M posting fee to Tanaka’s former team and then signed Tanaka to a 7 year $175M deal. With Yoan Moncada though, he will likely begin his career in Single-A or Double-A. If he was eligible for the draft it is said that he would easily go number 1 overall. Moncada might be expensive, but the opportunity for the Yankees to sign a good international is dwindling. The franchise is famous for going after the big time names available, why not add a young promising 19 year old to the list.

Projected 2015 Yankees Lineup

Now that the offseason is over and spring training is here, it is time to look at what the Opening Day lineup should look like. Last year Girardi had over 140 lineup combinations, but it would be ideal to have one lineup throughout most of the season. There were not many changes to the lineup this year, Didi Gregorius replaces Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez will play DH. It seems this year that Stephen Drew will be the starting 2nd baseman, at least until Refsnyder or Pirela takes over the position.

Here is how the Opening Day lineup should look:

1) Brett Gardner LF

Gardner is your prototypical leadoff hitter. He has good speed, and has great plate discipline. Last year he even developed some power.  If he can raise his batting average a bit without it hurting his other numbers than that would be great. The only other person who can leadoff if Gardner is out of the lineup is Jacoby Ellsbury. I also like Gardner in CF, but Granderson and Ellsbury have kept him from getting much playing time at the position over the past few years.

2) Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Jacoby Ellsbury helps provide the Yankees with a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup.  Last year Ellsbury struck out less than Gardner and also stole more bases. Not that Jeter has retired, Ellsbury can finally be in the spot in the batting order that best suits him. Jacoby has decent power and I think he might be able to hit around 20 home runs this year. His batting average is higher than Gardner’s and he drives in more runs. Will be interesting to see if the Yankees call many double steals throughout the season, to help get the offense going.

3) Chase Headley 3B

This was actually tough, as the Yankees don’t have many guys that drove in a lot of runs last year. Originally I would have put Prado but he was traded to the Marlins. Headley played well in his stint with the Yankees last season. Chase Headley has solid plate discipline and gets on base often. I expect his power to increase from 13 to about 18-20 now that he is not playing in Petco Park for 81 games a season. The way the offense struggled last year, I think Headley will be one of our more reliable hitters in 2015.

4) Mark Texeira 1B

I was originally going to put Brian McCann in this spot, but decided Texeira was a better fit.  I am hoping that being furthered removed from his wrist surgery will allow him to generate more power this year. Expect to see his XBH go up from last year, and even his batting average should improve slightly.  He has solid plate discipline, and if he can hit the ball away from the shift more frequently that would definitely improve his stats.

5) Brian McCann C

I was originally going to put Alex Rodriguez in this spot, so he could have better protection in the lineup. I decided against it however, as we don’t know how much production to expect from A-Rod. McCann did struggle a bit at the plate last year, but did have a power surge towards the end of the season. Whether he was working to hard to live up to his contract or was adjusting to life in a new city that is definitely a lot different than Atlanta, I fell Brian McCann will rebound. He had a higher slugging than Texeira last year, so it can be argued that he should be in the #4 spot. Still I don’t think McCann should have to have the pressure of being the biggest power hitter and leading an injury prone rotation. Besides maybe Texeira can recover some power that could have been lost with the wrist surgery

6) Alex Rodriguez 3B

Right not the production the Yankees receive from Alex is a mystery. Will be play at his 2012 level, or compete with Stephen Drew for who could be the worst player on the 25 man roster. Alex is 39 and hasn’t played in 100 games since 2012. He has been struggling to catch up to high velocity fastballs for years, especially up in the zone. I expect his plate discipline will be fairly good, but that won’t be enough to justify having the 6th spot in the lineup.

7) Carlos Beltran RF

The lineup just keeps getting worse from here. Beltran struggled with injuries last year, and was not nearly as effective as the $15M  a year the Yankees paid him. Maybe a healthy Beltran can produce similar to how he did with the Cardinals. If not then I think Chris Young deserves the playing time in RF. Chris Young had the highest slugging last year of anyone who is still on the team, aside from Jose Pirela. 55% of his hits were XBH in his stint with the Yankees, and impressive clip regardless the number of ABs he had. Plus he is a better defender than Beltran.

8) Didi Gregorius SS

I was originally going to put Stephen Drew here, so when the lineup rolled around they wouldn’t have an automatic out awaiting them. However being that he hits like a pitcher, and the #9 spot receives the fewest PAs I felt it was only fair to put Drew their instead. This spot is where Derek Jeter should have been hitting last year. Regardless I think Didi hits about the same or better than the 2014 Jeter.

9) Stephen Drew 2B

Like I said above, he is probably more of an automatic out than some pitchers in the National League. Not much hope for him. You can be optimistic and say he can’t hit any worse than last year, and hopefully that would be correct. The Yankees signed him as a placeholder pretty much until they have confidence that Refsnyder can handle 2nd base at the big league level. Only bright side for him is that when the lineup gets this far down he will have Brett Gardner hitting after him, probably won’t affect Drew’s performance though.

Evaluating the Yankees Hitting Coaches

Early in the offseason, Kevin Long was fired by the New York Yankees. He found employment quickly, and now is the hitting coach of the New York Mets. Meanwhile the Yankees decided that not one but two hitting coaches would be a suitable replacement, Jeff Pentland and Alan Cockrell. The Yankee offense has struggled the past two years, hitting .242 in 2013, and .245 in 2014. The offensive struggles will give these two men a heavy workload this season. Are these two men the right people for the job?

This is the question that many Yankee fans will be pondering, myself included. We will wonder how much the offense can improve, and that answer lies in these men’s hands. Little has been talked about their coaching experience, so I had to search like Scooby-Doo to uncover it.

Jeff Pentland has been coaching since 1975, making this his 40th year of coaching. He began coaching from 1975-1982 at the University of California, Riverside. Pentland then coached at Arizona State from 1983-1992. While a college coach, he worked with future MLB players Barry Bonds, Fernando Vina, Mike Deveraux, and Kevin Landreaux. Jeff Pentland then left to become a minor league hitting coach for the Florid Marlins in 1993. During the 2nd half of the 1996 season he became the Florida Marlins hitting coach. Pentland later worked as the hitting coach of the Chicago Cubs from 1997-2002, Kansas City Royals from 2003-2005, and Seattle Mariners from 2005-2008. He was hired by the Dodgers in 2008 as an assistant hitting instructor, before getting promoted to hitting coach in 2010. Pentland was then fired midway through the 2011 season. Jeff Pentland was a minor league pitcher, catcher, 1st baseman, and outfielder in the Padres organization from (1969-1971).

Alan Cockrell was drafted by the San Francisco Giants with the 9th pick of the 1984 First Year Player Draft. He played 9 seasons in the minors, including 5 with the Colorado Spring Sky Sox. Cockrell is a member of the Sky Sox Hall of Fame. Allan made his Major League debut on September 7, 1996, and struck out against Billy Wagner. He got his first major league hit off Tom Seaver, on a pinch hit double. Allan Cockrell only played 9 games in the majors.

After his playing career, he worked in several roles in the Colorado Rockies organization. He was a minor league manager from 1999 through 2000. He was a minor league hitting instructor from 2001 through 2002, and was the major league hitting coach for several months in 2002 after Clint Hurdle became manager. Alan Cockrell then became the hitting coach of Triple-A Colorado Springs, from 2003-2006. Alan returned as a Major League hitting coach from 2007-2008. In 2007 the Rockies led the NL in batting average, hits, and on base percentage. After getting fired after the Rockies 74 win season in 2008, Cockrell became the hitting coach of the Seattle Mariners in 2009. He was fired in May of 2010.

So what do you think of our new hitting coach and assistant hitting coach? Are they good teachers of the game, I am not so sure. Both have bounced around from place to place quite a bit, and neither have had a job in the majors for several years. They are important figures in the Yankees improving from the offensive struggles they have experienced the past two years. Hopely they make the most out of their latest job opportunity.

Who is the Yankees leader?

There has been a lot of discussion swirling around about who will be the leader of the Yankees.  Derek Jeter was the captain of the New York Yankees but retired after the season ended.  The next longest tenured player would be Alex Rodriguez, but given his bad public image and his use of PEDs he is ruled out as a leader of the team.  Aside from Alex Rodriguez, the second longest tenured player on the Yankees is Brett Gardner.  Gardner definitely has the passion and fire to be a leader, and will likely be the only homegrown player on the 25 man roster.  At the same time however, many of his peers are older than him and he does not seem like a very vocal person. We keep on looking for a player to step up and fill that leadership role, but is that really what we should be looking for?

BYB has a great article about the affects a mentor has on athletes: http://bleedingyankeeblue.blogspot.com/2015/02/mentoring-athletes-is-key-to-success.html?m=1 In the article it talks about how confidence, spirit, and the refusing to give up attitude are intangibles that help far more than talent itself.  Here is another thing the article said: “Good mentoring can help instill or restore confidence which is a key ingredient to success. Often people struggle because their belief in themselves has faded. A good mentor is often someone who has attained some wisdom and or expertise in a particular field and is now willing to share it and give back so that others can reap the benefit of their experience. A good mentor however might not have all the degrees, credentials or accolades, but still has the ability to listen and convey wisdom and truth in a way that the mentee needs to hear in a particular moment.”

Now you might be wondering why I highlighted those two sentence, even though the message on a whole was important.  Reading those two sentences made me realize that the manager has the best qualifications for this role.  This may not be shocking news, however everyone is pinpointing players to step up.  In reality isn’t it the manager’s job to get the most out of his players? Isn’t it his job to share the knowledge he acquired as a player and as a manager, to benefit the entire team?  This makes Joe Girardi the perfect candidate for the leadership role.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi fighting for his team.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi fighting for his team.

Are you not buying that Joe Girardi should be the leader of team?  Just think of the affect that managers/coaches like Terry Francona and Pete Carroll have on a team.  The manager can’t just let his players be the only leaders on the team while he sits idly off to the side.  If the manager does not lead the team, then he has no role on the club.  A lineup card would be better filled out by the hitting coach who spends hours working with each player, and knows about their strengths, weaknesses, and cold/hot streaks.  The pitching coach could easily call on a phone to have a reliever warm up, he works on their delivery and mechanics more than a manager ever will.  The manger’s job is to ameliorate the team and make them better capable of enjoying success.

Joe Girardi is the leader of the Yankees, and there are a lot of other players who are good clubhouse guys and set an example for their teammates to follow.  Brian McCann is is a fiery and passionate guy who has no fear of backing up his teammates, just think about the Carlos Gomez incident.  Texeira, A-Rod, Sabathia, Headley, Gardner and Ellsbury are all good clubhouse guys.  Girardi is still the leader though.  It is he who welcomed A-Rod back to the team in the midst of his suspension appeal during the 2013 season.  It was he who had veins popping out of his head when Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch, although maybe Dempster’s veins should have been popping for missing his intended target 3 consecutive times. “Joe’s reaction was amazing,” Rodriguez said. “Every single one of my teammates came up to me and said, ‘Hit a bomb and walk it off.'” “What is wrong with people?” Girardi said. “You cheer when someone gets hit? I’m going to say it again: What if that were your son? What if your son got hit? Breaks an arm, gets hit in the head, has a concussion. I would be embarrassed. You’d have to be really unaware or not paying attention to not know that he threw at him on purpose.” Girardi is also the vocal leader who complained about getting the Mutombo from umpire Laz Diaz.  It was Girardi who in 2008 benched Robinson Cano for not hustling, which may have helped as Cano never had a season worse than 2008.  Girardi is the one who protects the team and deflects the blame, and led a wounded team to win 85 one year and 84 games the next.   Joe is the leader, and that is what he gets paid to do.  The leadership void is nonexistent.