Daily Archives: August 2, 2013
It’s a brand new series and this game is a chance for CC to start the game on the right foot. Here’s the lineup!
When people talk about the best pitchers in baseball Hiroki Kuroda’s name does not come up often and it probably should.
Somehow, Kuroda did not make the All-Star team this season, yet he could end up winning the Cy Young Award as a consolation. Obviously, with two months remaining in the season, it is to early to determine Kuroda’s Cy Young chances. However, what we do know is that Kuroda just pitched one of the best months of baseball in Yankees history and he has kept the Yankees in playoff contention.
Kuroda ended his stellar month of July by going head to head with the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. He matched Kershaw by putting up zeroes for seven straight innings before the Yankees scored three runs in the ninth to secure the victory. It was the eighth time Kuroda held the opposition scoreless this season, which is the most of any pitcher in baseball. He had similar type performances in July against top pitchers John Lackey and Derek Holland when the Yankees had trouble scoring as usual.
Kuroda was 3-0 in July with a minuscule .55 ERA, and the Yankees needed every ounce of that to stay in contention. The Yankees were 4-1 in games started by Kuroda in July and were only 10-11 in all other games in the month. Six of those wins came on the first six days of the month. Kuroda pitched huge games in Boston, Texas and Los Angeles towards the end of the month when the Yankees were really struggling. All three teams have very powerful lineups, and Kuroda allowed only two runs over 21 innings against them with 15 strikeouts and only three walks.
Not only is Kuroda easily the best starter on the Yankees now, he might be the best starter in the AL this season. Kuroda is 2nd in the AL in ERA (2.38) behind Felix Hernandez and leads the AL in ERA + (169). His low win total (10) might hold him back in the eyes of some old-school Cy Young voters who still believe that starting pitcher wins are a meaningful stat. What Kuroda has done with this pathetic offense has been even more impressive than if he was racking up a ton of wins. He has had to be almost perfect every time out to win games and he has almost lived up to that. He has not let the Yankees’ awful offense discourage him at all. Pitching under that kind of pressure makes it so much harder with so much riding on every pitch. One mistake could mean the ballgame. This makes Kuroda’s numbers seem even more insane.
Besides not having a ton of wins, another reason that Kuroda has flown under the radar is that he does not have the power stuff or the strikeout numbers (6.38 K/9) that some other top pitchers have. With Kuroda’s 2.55 BABIP you might say that he is getting a little bit lucky, but if you watch Kuroda pitch batters have a very tough time of squaring the ball up against him, and he does not allow a lot of hard contact (8.9% HR/FB%).
Keeping the ball on the ground has always been a key for Kuroda throughout his career and this year is no different (46.6% GB%). Batters have a tough time differentiating Kuroda’s sinker, splitter and slider. They have been unable to tell what pitch is coming out of Kuroda’s hand, thus all the weak contact. Combine that with Kuroda’s excellent control and you get the kind of season that he is having. Batters have only hit .171 this season against Kuroda’s slider and .153 against his splitter with a 9.51% Whiff %.He is not blowing his fastball by everybody like some pitchers can, but he is just as effective with his style of trying to generate weak contact on the ground with the majority of his pitches moving downward.
Kuroda has been one of the few positives for the Yankees this season. If the Yankees do make the playoffs, it would most likely be as a wild card and Kuroda would be the pitcher that they would turn to in the one game playoff. The Yankees would have to feel pretty good about their chances in that game. For a pitcher who was not supposed to be able to handle the AL East, Kuroda has become one of the best free agent signings in Yankees history. That is a pretty select group.
The Yankees had better hope that they can convince Kuroda to come back for another season next year, as he has always talked about going back to Japan for his last season. Losing Kuroda would be a void that they would be unlikely able to fill. Maybe, he will be appreciated more if he leaves.
In 2012 the Boston RedSox were a last place team with a mountain of problems and a slew of bad contracts on their ledger that left them with few options to improve the talent of the team. Miraculously, the Los Angeles Dodgers foolishly took 3 of the worst bad contracts off Boston’s hands and sent some talented young players back. In one fell swoop, the Red Sox cleared over $250 Million which changed the entire outlook of the organization and allowed them to go out and sign 8-9 Free Agents and later trade for 2 high-priced pitchers who have led the team to the best record in the American Lg this yr after losing 90+ games a year ago.
This year’s Yankees team has a lot of parallels to the 2012 Red Sox – namely an old roster that is short on talent and a payroll with several bad long-term commitments that limit the club’s ability to improve moving forward. Unfortunately, there is no delusional team that is going to come along and trade the Yankees a group of talented young players in exchange for the contracts of ARod, Teixeira and CC. However, the impending PED suspension that is about to be levied on ARod could have a similar effect on the Yankees future and their ability to spend money and bring in much-needed fresh talent.
Best case scenario would be a lifetime ban that would net the Yankees around $100 Million in contract savings and even more in potential Luxury Tax savings. But I believe a lifetime ban is unlikely, however a suspension for this season and the 2014 is a very real possibility and would be enough to help the franchise in a big way. They would save nearly $34 Million in salary but more important is WHEN that savings would take place. A suspension for all of 2014 would allow the Yankees to reach their stated goal of getting under the $189M Luxury Tax threshold and still leave enough for them to add a handful of sizable contracts to the team similar to how Boston quickly rebuilt their lineup. ARod’s suspension would result in a $27.5 Million savings against the Tax in 2014 which could allow the team to sign 2 players in the $12-15 Million range.
Some quick math shows the team has roughly $140 Million in commitments next year when you add in salaries for the 40-man roster and benefit payments. However remove ARod’s $27.5M AAV and the team has roughly $76.5 Million under the Tax to spend. That doesn’t include re-signing Robinson Cano so if you allocate $22-25M per yr on him you are still left with some $51-55M to spend on the following 6 key positions: C, 3B, OF, SP, SP, RP. Looking at what is available at those slots, here are some of the potential Free Agent options for the team to use that $ on:
C – Brian McCann, AJ Pierzynski, Jarrod Saltamalachia, Carlos Ruiz
3B – Michael Young, Eric Chavez, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, Johnny Peralta
OF/DH – Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Granderson, Corey Hart, Mike Morse, Nate McLouth, Hunter Pence, DH – Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli, Morneau, Konerko
2 SPs – Kuroda, Aroyyo, Garza, Feldman, Hammel, Hudson, Maholm, Lincecum, Nolasco, Vargas, Volquez
CL/RP – Balfour, Rodney, Gregg, Uehera, Mujica, Benoit
First priority is to re-sign Cano and for the sake of this exercise, I’m assuming it happens. After that, the net most important move is to re-sign Kuroda. He has not only overtaken CC as the team’s best pitcher, he has become one of MLB’s best starters andwith CC having his worst season ever, the team can’t afford to lose Kuroda. If he comes back for $15-16M the Yanks will be estatic because there aren’t many pitchers on the market near his level. Someone like Matt Garza could be an option but would require a massive 4-5 year commitment. Yanks have to hope Hiro wants to return. If he does, he and CC will lead a rotation that would have Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno fighting for spots. They would likely need to bring in another mid-priced veteran on a 1-yr deal like Scott Feldman, Jason Vargas or Tim Hudson to play the Andy Pettite role, assuming Andy elects to retire.
In the bullpen, they’ll have a massive hole left by Mariano. They could promote Robertson to the closer role but would then need to fill his tremendous the inning performance. It may be easier for the Yanks to sign a closer among the Rodney, Balfour, Gregg, Mujica class. They have enough in the system to fill the rest of the pen with the possible exception of a lefty specilist. Boone Logan is a FA and may or may not be brought back….I’d say let him walk.
Then the attention turns to the lineup with C, 3B and 1 OF or DH spot open depending what is gettable. Brian McCann is a perfect target for the Yankees. An excellent leader and left-handed hitting Catcher who will still have lot left turning 30 next February. McCann will command $13-14M per yr for about 4 yrs. Saltalamachia is a poor-man’s version of McCann who is still improving at 28 but is not great defensively which the Yankee brass won’t like. If they miss on McCann a 1-yr deal for veteran Pierzynski or Ruiz would make sense to pair with and mentor JR Murphy or Romine.
In the OF, Ellsbury or Choo would be the top options as players still in their prime who hit LH and would be good fits at Yankee Stadium. They’d command deals similar to what Swisher received last yr, at minimum a 4-yr deal at $13M plus. Bringing back Granderson is also an option although I think the Yanks will only make the 1-yr qualifying offer of about $13-14M to ensure they receive a 1st round pick if he walks and Curtis will refuse to seek a multi-yr deal elsewhere. They already have Gardner in CF, Ichiro in one corner and Soriano at DH or the other corner. Wells will be the 4th OF. Carlos Beltran would be a great fit as a switch-hitter who could split time between DH and LF with Soriano to keep both players fresh. They could also go with a 1B who could be the everyday DH and also provide insurance in case Tex doesn’t fully return from his wrist surgery. Kendry Morales, Morneau or Napoli could fill that role. Morales would be one of my top choices if they don’t sign a big OF like Choo, Ellsbury or Beltran. I think Morales will get better with another year of health and I love that he is a switch-hitter. He may also be reasonably priced for the production he’d supply although signing an everyday DH isn’t the best move considering Jeter, Soriano and possibly McCann would need time there.
The last big hole is at 3B and the pickings are very slim. Michael Young, Johnny Peralta and Eric Chavez are about all the FA market has to offer. This is the position the team should be focusing its trade chips on. Chase Headley’s name is always mentioned and SD may finally look to pull the trigger though I’d like to see Cashman get creative and find a young 3B….easier said than done. I’d also like to see David Adams get to play everyday this yr as soon as the Yanks are out of contention. Most players struggle in their first taste of the Majors and I think Adams has some talent and was just getting comfortable when foolishly replaced with Luis Cruz. I’d like to give him a long look to see what we have,
Hypothetically, if all went perfect the Yanks could sign McCann (14M), Choo (14M) & Kuroda (15M) and use the remaining $9-12 Million to bring in a #4-type starter, a 8th or 9th inning RP and a 3B. Ideally they’d have another $5-10 Million to spend on those spots so they could get say Vargas, Rodney or Benoit and M.Young. But the team tied up $14.5 Million by giving Ichiro 2 yrs (6.5), and trading for Wells (2.4) and Soriano (5.5). What they are paying them would cover McCann or Choo although this would all be posible only if ARod is suspended for all of 2014. His $27.5M savings would basically cover the cost of McCann and Choo alone. The hypothetical lineup below with a rotation of Kuroda, CC, Nova, Vargas, Pineda/Phelps would have the team in contention again and pump some hope and excitement back into the fanbase……..but it’s all contingent on MLB liting the albatross off their books in 2014……stay tuned. How would you spend the potential $50-55M the Yanks may have?
CF – Gardner
2B – Cano
LF – Choo
1B – Teixeira
C – McCann
DH – Soriano
3B – Nix/Adams/M.Young?