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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Note to Yankeeland: Stop the spin already

Maybe it's just me, but I still don't understand why Brian Cashman and many others in Yankeeland are still trying to act like the Cliff Lee rejection is no big deal. It's also amazing how the No. 1 player in the free agent market has become a bum, according to some of the fanbase, now that he's not going to be a Yankee.

It's one thing to have been concerned over the number of years he wanted, or the money he was going to cost. I get that. But when I hear some fans, like Squawker reader Uncle Mike, say stuff like "I fail to see how not getting Cliff Lee is a minus for the Yankees" and "Cliff Lee going to the Phillies is a plus for the Yankees: They don't waste a lot of money on a guy who would be their 3rd-best starter," I just have to laugh over these shameless attempts at revisionist history. Cliff Lee would be the Yankees' 3rd-best starter? C'mon now. Put your Yankee pom-poms down already.

Cashman said yesterday that "I don’t think we have a lot of holes." Really? The current Yankee starting rotation is CC Sabathia (great, but coming off surgery), A.J. Burnett (terrible 2010; needs to turn it around), Phil Hughes (wore down during the stretch last year), Sergio Mitre (horrible pitcher), and Ivan Nova (untested rookie.) Andy Pettitte may retire. Is that a great rotation? Other than CC, absolutely not. And I'm not going to put on Yankee blinders and say it is.

Other than Mariano Rivera, the Yankee bullpen is a mess, too, with Joba Chamberlain flailing, David Robertson being inconsistent, and Kerry Wood likely going elsewhere.

Granted, the Yankees still have a very good team, but to pretend like they don't have issues is simply denying reality.

Anyhow, the Daily News' Bill Madden features more spin from the Yankee camp:
[A]s one Yankee operative, no doubt in reference to Lee signing with the Phillies and the Red Sox bagging Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, noted Tuesday with a trace of sobering resignation: "The team that wins the winter doesn't usually win the next season. In recent years, we've come to know that better than anyone."
In 2008, the Yankees paid $423.5 million on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeiria. And guess what? In 2009, all three had great years and helped the Yankees win their first ring since 2000. To act so blase about what free agent signings can do pretty much flies in the face of what really happened in recent years. Looks like Derek Jeter isn't the only one who needs a nice healthy dose of reality potion.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

14 comments:

Uncle Mike said...

CC Sabathia, 2010: 21-7, 23-7 counting the postseason, 134 ERA+ (Earned Run Average in comparison to the average), 1.191 WHIP (Walks & Hits, divided by Innings Pitched).

Andy Pettitte, 2010: 11-3, 12-4 counting the postseason, 130 ERA+, 1.271 WHIP.

Phil Hughes, 2010: 18-8, 19-10 counting the postseason, 102 ERA+, 1.248 WHIP.

Cliff Lee, 2010: 12-9, 15-11 counting the postseason, 130 ERA+, 1.003 WHIP.

That's not "Yankee pom-poms," that's cold hard numbers, and they show that Cliff Lee, had he done the exact same thing for the Yankees in 2010, MIGHT have been the Yankees' 3rd-best starter, if you take Hughes' comparatively low ERA+ into account. And would, if Pettitte retires (which is a toss-up at the moment), move up to 2nd-best, maybe.

Granted, Lee beats them all in WHIP, but as Nolan Ryan (who was also vastly overrated but was right this time) said when he broke the all-time record for most walks (6 years before he did so in strikeouts), "It's not how many you walk, it's how many you let score." Lee's amazing WHIP didn't translate to an appreciably better run prevention.

What next, Lisa? I know you love "Peanuts," as do I, so am I going to hear Charlie Brown's old line, "Tell your statistics to shut up"?

Lisa Swan said...

I guess I missed when Andy Pettitte had signed for 2011. Do you have the scoop, Mike?

By the way, you said that Lee "would be their 3rd-best starter," as in the present tense. Then you're comparing him to 2010. That's not what you originally said.

At any rate, according to Baseball reference, CC's 2010 WAR value was 5.4. Andy Pettitte's was 3.1. Phil Hughes was 2.7. Cliff Lee's was 4.3. So, yes, Lee would be No. 2 in 2010, and No. 2 in 2011 in the Yankee rotation.

Lisa Swan said...

You also said "I fail to see how not getting Cliff Lee is a minus for the Yankees." Care to justify that one?

Uncle Mike said...

Because he didn't go to a potential Playoff rival (unless you count the Phillies), now they can use that money on scouting and development. Why spend all that money on one player you don't already have when you can spend it on ten... and three you already do?

And I'm with broadcaster Jon Miller: VORP, or in the case of the stat you cite WAR, is not only too unfamiliar to most fans, but is far from definitive. Most fans have difficulty wrapping their minds around OPS, OPS+, WHIP and ERA+ -- even though these stats are very (though not exclusively) indicative of a hitter's ability to get on base and drive in runs, and a pitcher's ability to prevent runs from scoring. VORP and WAR are, essentially, guesses.

I looked it up: Most of the single-season leaders in WAR were in the 1880s, including all-time leader Charlie "Old Hoss Radbourne" with 20.3 in his 59- (or 60-)win season with the 1884 World Champion Providence Grays.

Of the top 20 such seasons since 1900 -- well, top 22, since 20th place was a 3-way tie -- how many of those were for Pennant winners? 13. This includes 5 seasons by Babe Ruth (including his 20th Century record of 14.7 in 1923), and one in which the Yankees didn't win the Pennant. Two of these seasons were by Walter Johnson -- not his 2 Pennant seasons. Three were by Barry Bonds, all in his steroid period (including his 2002 Pennant). The NL record is by Rogers Hornsby (13.0, 5th all-time, in 1924, not a Pennant year). The highest by an NL pitcher was Dwight Gooden in 1985, not quite enough to get the Mets into the postseason. Lou Gehrig is also in the top 20 -- but Joe DiMaggio is not.

WAR, a measure of greatness? Ty Cobb's best season comes in 20th; Ted Williams', 23rd; Honus Wagner's, 29th; Stan Musial's, 31st; Willie Mays' and Alex Rodriguez's, tied for 44th and neither in a Pennant season (though Mays was 2 games back in his, 1965, and A-Rod's was in 2000 when he did reach the Playoffs). And where is Derek Jeter? Wherever he is, I'll bet his salary for this past season that this particular stat didn't come up in his contract negotiations.

Jerome Rose said...

The Cliff Lee debacle is just the tip of the Cashman iceberg. After sitting at the Winter Meetings and accomplishing nothing, we are left with the same pitching staff as last year, perhaps without Andy.The day where Yankee pinstripes and$$$ as motivation to come to New York appear to be in the rear view mirror.Stand up Brian and take a bow!

J-Boogie said...

Let's face it. Cliff Lee was never coming to the Yankees. I think Lee's camp themselves said there was nothing that the Yankees could have done differently. Cashman never stood a chance. At least he didn't trade Montero plus others for him in July only to have him bolt for Philly in December.

Missing out Lee is like a push on a bet. It would have been more than awesome had they won and signed him, but they didn't lose by him signing with Philly. At least not yet.

If Andy Pettitte returns, which I think he will, the Yankees, for all intents and purposes, have the same rotation that won them 95 games last season. And that was with a crappy Burnett, and a 5th spot that was largely made up of Vazquez, Mitre, Moseley, and Nova. There was no Cliff Lee in that rotation and they won 95 games.

Lee was not the key to a successful Yankee offseason. The key is Andy Pettitte. If he comes back you're looking at pretty much the same team as last year, which again was a 95 game winner. Signing Lee would have been a pretty awesome insurance policy if Pettitte retires. If Andy comes back, they're still good and they'd be better than Boston.

So imagine the same team as last year, but now with what could be an improved Burnett, a mediocre 5th SP, and better production from Jeter, A-Rod, & Teixeira, all of whom performed significantly below what's on the back of their baseball cards. You'd expect a similar outcome to last year, if not better.

Does missing out on Cliff Lee suck? Hell yeah. Is it the end of the world? Hell no. Right now, it all hinges on Andy. He's the key to a successful offseason. If he retires, Cashman will really need to prove his worth by making up for that loss.

Great stuff as always.

Sully said...

Uncle Mike... you can not possibly be serious that you would put Cliff Lee and Phil Hughes in the same category.

Hughes is a question mark at this point.

So is Burnett... Nova... Mitre and even if Pettitte comes back, he's no spring chicken anymore.

The Yankees put ALL their eggs in the Cliff Lee basket and now have to fish for a replacement.

I'm sorry but an off season for the Yankees where they bring back Jeter, Rivera and Pettittte can't be considered a success.

That's not addition. That's avoiding subtraction.

They have a grand total of 2 pitchers they can rely on.

Lisa Swan said...

"Because he didn't go to a potential Playoff rival (unless you count the Phillies), now they can use that money on scouting and development. Why spend all that money on one player you don't already have when you can spend it on ten... and three you already do?"

There must be a pony in there somewhere!

Lisa Swan said...

J-Boogie, thanks. It concerns me, though, that Cashman, at least publicly, doesn't seem all that interested in pushing Pettitte to come back.

Sully, I agree, as usual!

urinalfresh23 said...

No ponies to be found anywhere, just a big old horse's ass, and his name is Uncle M***.

Losing out on Cliff Lee is a PR nightmare for the Yankers, which is just about as devastating to them as what happens on the field. Without positive PR, you don't sell tickets. Get the hint? Why do you think everyone in the front office is doing damage control?

Uncle Mike said...

“Uncle Mike... you can not possibly be serious that you would put Cliff Lee and Phil Hughes in the same category.” True, Sully. Phil Hughes has been a key cog in a team that won a World Series. Cliff Lee has not. Hughes has been deemed worthy of being kept by his current team. Lee, 4 times in the last 17 months, has not. Yes, sure, Lee, I am serious.

“Hughes is a question mark at this point.” What’s the question? How about, “Does anybody still think we should have included him in a trade for Johan Santana?” If you do, I’d like to sell you the Zakim Bridge. ”So is Burnett... Nova... Mitre and even if Pettitte comes back, he's no spring chicken anymore.” Sort of like John Lackey. And Daisuke Matsuzaka. And even Josh Beckett. Face it, the Red Sox needed Lee a lot more than the Yankees did.

“Losing out on Cliff Lee is a PR nightmare for the Yankers… Why do you think everyone in the front office is doing damage control?” Everyone? I’ve heard from Brian Cashman, but haven’t heard from Hal Steinbrenner, or Hank, or Randy Levine, or Lonn Trost.

“A PR nightmare” is what happened with Joe Torre after the 2007 season. “A PR nightmare” is what happened with the Mitchell Report – which was effectively rendered meaningless when the revelations about David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez came out. “A PR nightmare” is what happened with Alex Rodriguez after the 2007 season, and again at the dawn of the 2009 season. “A PR nightmare” is what the Yankees avoided by keeping Jeter and Rivera. The only remaining potential “PR nightmare,” and it’s not nearly the equal of the preceding, is if Andy Pettitte doesn’t come back, as J-Boogie points out in a post that makes more sense than all the rest (mine included) combined. And you know what? When those “PR nightmares” happened, the Yankees took the heat, moved on, and played Yankee baseball. You know, the kind your favorite team would play if their front office had brains and the players they got had brains, talent and health.

Lisa Swan said...

" True, Sully. Phil Hughes has been a key cog in a team that won a World Series. Cliff Lee has not. Hughes has been deemed worthy of being kept by his current team. Lee, 4 times in the last 17 months, has not. Yes, sure, Lee, I am serious."

Mike, no offense, but you're really starting to embarrass yourself here by claiming Phil Hughes > Cliff Lee.

You bring up the postseason. Let's review: Cliff Lee led two teams to the World Series two year in a row. And he shut down the Yankees both years.

Phil Hughes was indeed an important part of the 2009 regular season team. But he was terrible in the postseason -- he nearly cost the Yankees a 2009 ALDS game against Minnesota (the one A-Rod and Tex had to bail him out on). He blew Game 5 of the ALCS, and his 2009 World Series ERA was 16.20. He lost two games against Texas this year, with an 11.42 ERA.

To claim that Hughes is better than Lee simply because he was a member of the 2009 World Series is just laughable. And again, you NEVER said a word denigrating Lee's pitching abilities until he rejected the Yankees. Stop with the sour grapes already.

Uncle Mike said...

Again, Lisa, I said on Sunday, BEFORE it was announced that he was rejecting the Yankees' offer, that they shouldn't sign him.

This is no longer a shameless plug, since you've challenged my credibility. Question the opinion if you must, question the reasoning for it if you must, but the truth is, you're wrong about when I started saying not signing him would be good: http://unclemikesmusings.blogspot.com/2010/12/cliff-lee-is-stupid-and-yankees.html

Lisa Swan said...

Okay, Mike, I stand corrected. You are right -- what I should have said was that you never denigrated Lee's pitching abilities until it was clear the Yankees weren't going to get him.