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Left-Handed Relief Series: Darren Oliver

As the offseason began, we heard something that is oh so familiar for Yankee fans. Brian Cashman is looking for rotation help and left-handed relief pitchers. With Boone Logan as the only lefty in the bullpen, Cashman is at least expected to explore the market, both through free-agency and trades, in search of a second lefty. Considering it will be a miracle if Pedro Feliciano pitches for the Yankees at all next season, the Yankees could use some outside help.

Over the next week or two, I’ll be looking at the free agent market for lefty relief pitchers...

Positives:

•   Oliver, a seasoned veteran at the age of 41, has played 18 seasons in the MLB. Because of his age, a one year contract is just about as close to a guarantee as it gets. Considering the Yankees past history with multi-year contracts for relief pitchers, a one year deal might be a nice change of pace. Plus, he’s maintained some pretty nice numbers of late, including 4 straight seasons with an ERA in the 2s.
•   He does a very good job versus lefties. In 51 IP in 2011, Oliver held lefties to .227/.269/.318, with a 5.75 K/BB ratio, which is quite good. He’s showed that skill against lefties in other recent years as well.
•   Oliver, with a 7.76 K/9 in 2011 doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, but with a stellar 1.94 BB/9 to go along with that, he manages pretty well.
•   He’s always been good at getting ground-balls (career 44.7 GB%), except for in 2011 where he had only a 37.9 GB%. More importantly, his GB% against lefties specifically, was much better at 42.9%.

Negatives:

•   At 41 years of age, Darren Oliver is very far from a sure thing. At his age, he is much more prone to injury, and he is probably one significant injury away from retirement. You also have to figure his numbers will decline from 2011 to 2012, so don’t be expecting another 2.29 ERA / 2.77 FIP / 3.24 xFIP season.
•   In fact, Oliver showed decline from 2010 to 2011. There was a significant drop-off in both his strike-outs, ground-ball, and swing-and-miss rates. Not a good sign if you’re holding out that Oliver will have another great season next year.

Overall, I wouldn’t mind if the Yankees signed Darren Oliver to a one year deal. It’s a relatively low-risk signing, but you simply can’t expect a whole lot out of him. He showed significant decline in 3 very important stats from 2010 to 2011, so there would be no surprises if this trend of decline continues. If Oliver, can stay healthy, and (close to) maintain his 2011 numbers, he would be helpful to the Yankees in 2012. Could he be that extremely dominant, Randy Choate-like, lefty specialist next year? Odds are, no – but he could be of use.

Left-Handed Relief Series: Mike Gonzalez

As the offseason began, we heard something that is oh so familiar for Yankee fans. Brian Cashman is looking for rotation help and left-handed relief pitchers. With Boone Logan as the only lefty in the bullpen, Cashman is at least expected to explore the market, both through free-agency and trades, in search of a second lefty. Considering it will be a miracle if Pedro Feliciano pitches for the Yankees at all next season, the Yankees could use some outside help.

Over the next week or two, I’ll be looking at the free agent market for lefty relief pitchers...

Positives

•   Gonzalez has been very strong against left-handed batters (.214/.265/.311 in 2011). For whatever reason, he had pretty horrible numbers against lefties in 2010, but with a .440 BABIP and a slew of singles, it was most likely a case of extraordinarily bad luck.
•   The bad luck of 2010 is exemplified by a 3.55 xFIP, compared to a 4.01 ERA. The past two years, Gonzalez’ ERA has been in the 4s, but his xFIP and FIP were both much lower (2.79 FIP / 3.55 xFIP in 2010; 4.11 FIP / 3.73 xFIP in 2011).
•   He gets quite a lot of strikeouts, averaging a 10.65 K/9 since his 2008 season.
•   Gonzalez gets a pretty fair number of swings and misses, with a 24.4 contact percentage last year. To give a little context, Boone Logan achieved 24.9%, while CC Sabathia managed 23.5%

Negatives

•   Must not use him against righties! In 2011, Gonzalez did not fare well against right-handers at all. He allowed a .287 BA / .375 OBP / .525 SLG. Yikes. Although I will say, his career SLG versus righties is much, much lower at .335, so make what you want of it.
•   Gonzalez does not give up many ground-balls. You could say this is less of an issue because of all the strikeouts he gets, but add in a career 4.12 BB/9, and it gets a bit doubtful. However, the ground-ball issue could be solved as easily as pitching him only against lefties. In 2011, Gonzalez allowed a 51.4% GB rate and a mere 24.3% FB rate against lefties. Those two numbers basically reversed with each other, versus righties.
•   His breaking pitch/slider is good, but really nothing overly special. In 2011, Gonzalez’ wSL was at 4.0 (4 above average). Comparatively, CC’s wSL was at 14.6  above average. However, it does surpass Boone Logan’s measly 0.4 wSL. No real need to read too much into this, as a 0.4 wSL can strikeout lefties, just as a 4.0 wSL can strikeout lefties.
•   His control is by no means anything to rave about. Gonzalez holds a 4.12 career BB/9, but the Yankees aren’t unfamiliar with relief-pitchers who strike out and walk a lot of batters. David Robertson for one strikes out and walks more hitters. However, no one has any particular fondness for that scenario where a lefty specialist is brought in…only to walk the lefty.

Mike Gonzalez would be a nice pickup for the Yankees, as a lefty-specialist type. However the adjective “nice” would disappear if they signed him for more than a one year deal. The Yanks have seen enough failed multiyear contracts for relief pitchers in the past ten years to not risk another, with Mike Gonzalez. Considering Gonzalez is 33 years old, and had a good year last year, I’m sure he’s up for a multiyear contract. In addition- earlier in the offseason, Javier Lopez, another solid lefty reliever, signed with the Giants for 2 years at $8.5MM. Therefore, I highly doubt the Yankees could sign Gonzalez for less than 2 years. Because of that, I’d be more than happy to watch some non-Yankees team give him a 2 year deal.

Morning Bits: Mariano, Staten Island Yankees, Feliciano, A-Rod

Yankees were off yesterday but they move a game closer to making the playoffs since Boston lost.  The Yankees open up a new series tonight at Toronto.

The Yankee Magic Number is now at 10.

Enjoy the weekend everyone and here are your morning links…

* Where does Mariano rank in Yankee history?

* Staten Island Yankees not going anywhere Team president says.

* Yankees Feliciano likely out next season as well.

* A-Rod’s thumb is likely on ongoing issue.

 

AL EAST STANDINGS

EAST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10 POFF
NY Yankees 90 58 .608 46-27 44-31 798 592 +206 Lost 1 5-5 99.7
Boston 86 63 .577 4.5 43-31 43-32 807 658 +149 Lost 2 2-8 88.7
Tampa Bay 83 66 .557 7.5 42-33 41-33 643 560 +83 Won 1 7-3 8.2
Toronto 75 74 .503 15.5 38-36 37-38 698 708 -10 Won 1 6-4 0.0
Baltimore 60 88 .405 30 35-40 25-48 626 774 -148 Won 2 5-5 0.0

Game 148 | Yankees @ Mariners

Ivan Nova takes the mound tonight against the Mariners' tough lineup.

Lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jesus Montero DH
Andruw Jones LF
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez 3B

Pitchers:

Ivan Nova (15-4, 3.94) vs. Jason Vargas (8-13, 4.49)

Pregame Notes:

— Pedro Feliciano has undergone rotator cuff surgery, and will now obviously not pitch for the Yanks this year. Steve Garrison who was designated for assignment has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Trenton.

— The 2012 schedule has been released. Here it is.

Enjoy the game.

Afternoon Bits: A-Rod, Montero, Feliciano, Marte

Hello everyone.  If your sick of watching the weather channel Espn has the little league world series on.  Also at 4pm on Fox it’s the Saturday prime time game.   The game shown depends on where you live.

Stay safe and here are some links.

* A-Rod hit his first home run since June last night.  Hopefully more are to come.

* Montero’s bat remains scalding hot.   I can’t wait to see him called up and get a chance at the Big Show.

* Feliciano and Marte on verge of progress.

2011 Trade Deadline: Left-Handed Relief

It has been made clear that among the types of players the Yankees are searching for are left-handed relief-pitchers. Although Boone Logan has done a fairly solid job of late, they really could use another good lefty in the bullpen. And Steve Garrison is not the solution. There isn’t a clear date in which Pedro Feliciano or Damaso Marte are expected to return, so the Yankees definitely need to make a move for a lefty specialist. Here are some favorable options:

  1. Craig Breslow, OAK: Breslow has been a model of consistency in 2011, 2010, 2009. He has averaged a 2.98 ERA over those past 3 years. This year so far has been the weakest year of those 3 seasons, as his H/9 has spiked up from 6.4 to 10.8, but he seems to be able to limit the damage quite well, as his ERA is still only 3.34 despite that H/9.  He hasn’t had a real platoon split throughout his career, with lefties batting .223 and righties batting .217. Although, this year lefties are getting more hits off of Breslow. However, this could be a simple case of bad luck, as his career stats do not reflect this year’s platoon split. Because he can get righties out as well, Breslow doesn’t just have to be a lefty specialist as Logan is. His fastball tops out a 92-mph. In addition to that, Breslow throws a cutter, a 12-6 curveball, an above-average change-up, and a slider. CONTRACT: Signed through 2011, 1 yr/1.4 MM, Arb. Eligible in 2012, Free Agent in 2014
  2. Aaron Laffey, SEA: Although Laffey is no big-name reliever, he is quietly having himself a very strong season with the Mariners. This year, lefties are hitting a mere .190 against him, compared to righties hitting .322. Therefore, Laffey is your typical lefty specialist. Laffey primarily throws an 88 mph sinker, and is a ground-ball pitcher, with a 1.10 Ground Ball/Fly Ball ratio. His secondary pitches include an above average slider and change-up. Considering how well Laffey has done this year versus lefties, he would be very helpful indeed to the Yankees. CONTRACT: Signed through 2011, 1 yr/432K, Arb. Eligible in 2012, Free Agent in 2015
  3. Randy Choate, FLA: Choate is pitching extremely well this year. He is someone the Yankees should have pursued in this past offseason. In 20.1 innings of work this year, Choate has a 1.33 ERA, 26 SO and only 10 BB. This year, lefties have only hit .123 off of him, while righties still only hit .214. So Choate doesn’t just have to be used for lefties, but he’d do a fantastic job against them. Against left-handed batters, he has a terrific 11.50 SO/BB ratio. The Marlins are in last place, and Choate is the pitcher I want to see the Yankees make a trade for. CONTRACT: Signed through 2012, 2 yr/2.5MM, Free Agent in 2013
  4. Trio of Lefties on the Cubs: The Cubs have 3 lefties in their bullpen: Sean Marshall, John Grabow, and James Russell. Marshall is an elite set-up man, who the Cubs have adamently said is not available to be traded. If that changes, then he would be a very solid option, although I’d be hesistant to trade for Marshall because of the potential price tag in prospects. Grabow and Russell are good against lefties, but still lean more on the side of mediocre lefty specialists. If you’re going to trade for a lefty, trade for someone who you know is going to be very effective.
  5. Sergio Escalona, HOU: Escalona has only been in the majors for 2 years, but his numbers against lefties have been fantastic. They hit only .170 against him, and get this: he’s only given up 1 lefty extra-base hit in 2 years. As a result, lefties only have a .226 SLG against Escalona. He had a 4’s ERA last year, but its done to 2.43 this year. I doubt many people have heard of Sergio Escalona, but he looks like a viable option to get lefties out, and I can’t imagine the price tag of a trade being very high. CONTRACT: Pre-Arb Eligible, Arb Eligible in 2013, Free Agent in 2016

Well this is what I narrowed all the lefties in the majors down to. If there are any others that stand out that I missed, let us know in the comments section.

Yanks Officially Sign J.C. Romero

YANKS OFFICIALLY SIGN J.C. ROMERO

The Yanks have signed Romero to a minor-league deal. He was just released by the Nationals earlier today. Romero began his season with the Philadelphia Phillies, but was released in June. He then signed with the Nationals…who then released him this morning.

Romero is very good if they use him solely to get lefties out. Over his career, lefties have hit only .215 AVG, and they have a very meager .290 SLG% against Romero.

This should provide some left-handed relief depth that the Yanks so dearly need with Feliciano and Marte out.

Injury Updates

INJURY UPDATES

Here are some injury updates from word that we’ve received this morning:

  • Pedro Feliciano has been shut down from doing bullpen work. The Yankees say that there is a big chance that he will not pitch this year and are looking into surgery as an option
  • The abdominal discomfort that Eric Chavez experienced was nothing more than a kidney stone. Yankees doctors said that it had passed and Chavez should be fine.
  • Rafael Soriano will throw live batting practice today to work on his elbow. Soriano injured his elbow in April and was put on the 60 day DL after Jeter was placed on the 15 day DL last month.
  • Mariano Rivera says he feels much better today and is hoping that he can pitch for the Yankees. Rivera was shut down for three days are complaining of soreness in the elbow.
  • It was reported that Damaso Marte had been doing bullpen sessions with the Yankees and is feeling good. He is currently aiming for a comeback in late August if there are no more setbacks.

Off Day Open Thread

Here are some notes on this off day for the Yankees.

Derek Jeter jogged Monday for the first time since landing on the disabled list with a calf strain.

Jeter told reporters after the light workout that he feels like he is finally taking “steps in the right direction.” The veteran shortstop should progress to sprints by the end of this week and remains on track to return to the Yankees’ starting lineup sometime in early July. He’s been on the 15-day disabled list since June 14.

Bartolo Colon (hamstring) threw a four-inning simulated game Monday without any issues.

Colon allowed only two hits and struck out three, tossing 60 pitches in all. The Yankees have not announced whether he is going to make a minor league rehab start. If they decide he’s ready right now, Colon will return to the Bombers’ rotation this weekend to face the Mets.

Eric Chavez (foot) took batting practice again on Monday and reported feeling fine.

Chavez began a running program last week and could be nearing the start of a minor league rehab assignment. The veteran corner infielder is aiming to return to the Yankees’ bench right around the All-Star break.

Pedro Feliciano (shoulder) made 15 soft throws off a bullpen mound Monday in Tampa, Florida.

It wasn’t technically a bullpen session, but it represents a big step in the right direction for the veteran left-hander. He has been on the disabled list since the start of the season with a torn shoulder capsule and is hoping to join the Yankees’ bullpen in late July.

Mark Prior (groin) is scheduled to throw off a mound again on Tuesday in Tampa, Florida.

Prior tossed a successful bullpen session on Saturday, reporting no pain or discomfort in his groin. The 30-year-old is hoping to reach the majors at some point this season but must first do some serious proving in a minor league setting. He’ll report back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre once fully healthy.