Posts Tagged ‘bullpen’

Way Too Early National League West Predictions

January 16th, 2010
With the news that the Arizona Diamondbacks have signed veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche, the opening day rosters for each team in the NL West look to be set. Well, for the most part. A couple teams are still looking for back-end of the rotation help as well as another arm to aid the bullpen. Furthermore, we all know come Spring Training that each team will have a surprise or two make the roster as a bench player or in the bullpen but the main contributors look set for each club. Of all the clubs, the Diamondbacks (albeit under the radar) have made the most offseason acquisitions. Along with LaRoche, the Diamondbacks have picked up veteran relievers Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman as well as trading for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson who finished last season with the Detroit Tigers. Arizona also signed former Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson. The San Francisco Giants have signed (name almost any position) Mark DeRosa and first base-man Aubrey Huff to "bolster" their offense. And as for the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres? Not a lot of offseason moves other than losing key players. The Rockies picked up catcher Miguel Olivo to backup Chris Iannetta, but other than that, nothing significantly has changed via offseason signings. Garrett Atkins was let go after a disappointing season but Colorado most likely won't miss a beat with the impressive Ian Stewart taking over full time at third base. The Dodgers' biggest offseason signing? Get ready for it, Jamey Carroll! Granted LA has a pretty stacked lineup once again in 2010, it is surprising they didn't bring back Randy Wolf, there most consistent starting pitcher from last season. While the Dodgers could still sign a Joel Pineiro to help solidify the back-end of their rotation, there will still be question marks with the way Chad Billingsley finished his 2009 campaign. As for the San Diego Padres, let's just say that the biggest name on their offseason list is veteran outfielder Brian Giles who is still out on the free-agent market. Simply said, nobody significant on the Padres roster from last season has found a new home and nobody significant has made a new home in San Diego. At this point in time, any new free-agent pickups in the NL West won't be enough to change anybody's opinion on where each club will finish in the division. Therefore, without further ado, here are my way too early NL West predictions.

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Jose Valverde Signing Terrific, But What Will He Close?

January 16th, 2010

There must be some more moves coming.

There must be some offense headed to Tigertown. Tell me it’s so.

If not, the Tigers have just signed the Maytag Repairman.

Do today’s whippersnappers remember the Maytag Repairman? The guy who stood by, waiting for the phone to ring, so that he may fix a washer, or dryer, or dishwasher, or fridge? But the call never came, Maytag proudly said, because their products never broke down.

The Tigers may have a Maytag situation, in a skewed, twisted way, developing.

The team has signed closer Jose Valverde, another JV pitcher, to go with starter Justin Verlander. Valverde has been trained in the art of slamming the door shut on opposing rallies. They called them “firemen” in my day. Then they became “stoppers.” Now they’re “closers.”

Call them what you like. But maybe add Maytag Repairman to Valverde’s title.

Valverde is a terrific closer, one of the best in the game. Now, if only the Tigers can get him something to close.

The lineup is still a bunch of limp noodles. The Tigers offense is still Miguel Cabrera and the Eight Stooges. The batting order is crawling with .230 hitters who strike out too much. You could intentionally walk Cabrera every time he comes up to the plate and not do too badly.

So what is Valverde going to close besides his wallet every time he leaves the bank?

Not that the bullpen didn’t need some work after the fleeing of 2009 closer, Fernando Rodney, and his sidekick, Brandon Lyon. Not that Valverde’s signing shouldn’t be met with some enthusiasm.

But after that dies down, and you really look at the Tigers roster, how many save opportunities is the new JV likely to get?

Let’s hope the reports that the Tigers are interested in free agent left-fielder, Johnny Damon, are true. Through a spokesman, GM Dave Dombrowski says there has been no interest shown by the Tigers in the 36-year-old, lefty-swinging Damon.

So where are all the runs going to come from?

The Tigers lost their No. 1 and No. 2 hitters, Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco respectively, through trades and free agency. Those two regulars will supposedly be replaced by two rookies: CF Austin Jackson and 2B Scott Sizemore. Good luck with that.

3B Brandon Inge is the most beloved .230 hitter the Tigers have had—ever. He’s the Ben Wallace of the Tigers: gutsy, tough, and offensively challenged.

Carlos Guillen, whose body is held together with zip ties and bailing wire, is set to be the starting left fielder. Magglio Ordonez will play right—not very well, but he’ll play it. But at least Maggs might have some pop left in his stick. We’ll see.

Cabrera is Gulliver, and his teammates are the Lilliputians. Spring training hasn’t even begun, and I already have a milk carton ready for the Tigers’ offense to reside.

But they have a closer.

This can’t be the end of the Tigers’ Hot Stove activity. It just can’t.

 

Fantasy Baseball AL Bullpen Report: Looking at the Closers & Closers in Wait

January 15th, 2010

Last week we took a look at the NL closer situations (click here to view), so this week let’s take a look at what’s going on in the AL, which certainly has seen some major changes since the end of 2009.  Three teams have new closers, including Detroit, who signed Jose Valverde yesterday.  Let’s look at that move and all the other situations in the league:

 

Baltimore Orioles
Closer: Mike Gonzalez

Coming from the Braves where he shared closing duties with Rafael Soriano, Gonzalez will get the opportunity to be “the man” in Baltimore.  While some may question why the Orioles needed a player like Gonzalez, as long as he stays healthy he should be a solid late-round source of saves for fantasy owners.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that he can stay healthy, meaning Jason Johnson and Koji Uehara could see opportunities.

 

Boston Red Sox
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon

He’s emerged as a Top-Five closer with a career ERA of 1.84 and WHIP of 0.98.  The Red Sox have plenty of options, should something happen to Papelbon, with Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, and Michael Bowden all slated to be in the bullpen in ‘10.  My money would be on Bard, he of the high-90s fastball and 16.31 K/9 at Triple-A last season.

 

Chicago White Sox
Closer: Bobby Jenks

People want to believe that Jenks is going to be replaced at some point.  Some didn’t believe he would enter 2010 as the closer, with rumors of being non-tendered flying around.  At this point he’s still there and he should remain the closer in Chicago.  His struggles were tied to his HR/9, going from 0.44 to 1.52.  I wouldn’t expect him to repeat a 17.0 percent HR/FB, meaning he should return to being a solid option in all formats.  If he were to struggle, newly signed J.J. Putz, if healthy, would appear to be the logical choice though Matt Thornton (four saves in ‘09) and Scott Linebrink could also get a few chances as well.

 

Cleveland Indians
Closer: Kerry Wood

Wood struggled last season, with his control going up in smoke (2.44 BB/9 in ‘08 jumping to 4.58 last season).  His career BB/9 is 4.27 and while part of that was as a starting pitcher, it still is a big concern.  If the team removes him before the year is out, Jess Todd (who had 24 saves at Triple-A for the Cardinals) is the man to watch.

 

Detroit Tigers
Closer: Jose Valverde

Yesterday’s news brings stability to the back end of the Tigers bullpen.  Without Valverde, it would have been Joel Zumaya closing games, but the chances of him staying healthy are pretty nonexistent.  He may be the second option, though newly acquired Daniel Schlereth is also potentially in line, if he can keep his control in order.  The only way one of the other two gets a look, however, is if Valverde misses time due to injury.

 

Kansas City Royals
Closer: Joakim Soria

Over the past two years he’s shown that he is one of the elite closers in the game, with 72 saves, 135 Ks, and ERAs of 1.60 and 2.21 over 120.1 innings.  As long as he’s on the diamond, he’s a must-own option in all formats and no other relief pitchers matter on this team.

 

Los Angeles Angels
Closer: Brian Fuentes

There were certainly questions, at times, if the Angels made a major mistake letting Francisco Rodriguez walk, replacing him with Fuentes.  While he had 48 saves, it just goes to show you that the Angels play more close games than any other team.  It certainly doesn’t show his true talent.  With Fernando Rodney joining the fold, he’s clearly the guy who would step in if there is a need.

 

Minnesota Twins
Closer: Joe Nathan

Since 2004, his season low is 36 saves.  He’s never blown more than six in a season and he’s only done that once.  He has career marks of 9.43 (K/9), 2.75 (ERA), and 1.11 (WHIP).  He’s a stud closer, and there’s nothing else to say.

 

New York Yankees
Closer: Mariano Rivera

He’s the best at what he does.  We all know that, but sooner or later his time has got to come to an end.  It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, because whichever one is in the bullpen will be the likely heir apparent.  Either could end up being a source of vulture saves if the Yankees choose to test them or give Rivera a rest (which is certainly possible if they have multiple save chances in a row), so keep a close eye on this if you are desperate for any save possible.

 

Oakland Athletics
Closer: Andrew Bailey

Bailey was fantastic last season, there’s no way around that, but I urge you to temper your expectations.  It was just a year ago that it was Brad Ziegler, coming off an amazing rookie campaign, who was expected to take the closer's role and run with it.  Instead he had a horrible May, leading to Bailey taking the job and never looking back.  Ziegler did get straightened out and, if Bailey struggles at all, could once again get a look at closing games.

 

Seattle Mariners
Closer: David Aardsma

Mediocre relief pitcher turned stud closer?  I’m not buying it and I wouldn’t put much into him having another stellar season.  The Mariners don’t have an obvious option to replace him, though Mark Lowe and Sean White may be the leaders.

 

Tampa Bay Rays
Closer: Rafael Soriano

He may have to compete for the job, with J.P. Howell as his main competition, but I find it hard to believe the Rays would acquire a pitcher making $7.5 million just to use him in a setup role.  Soriano has been a solid relief pitcher his entire career and is coming off a career high 12.13 K/9.  With ample opportunities, he could be a real sleeper for saves.

 

Texas Rangers
Closer: Frank Francisco

The Rangers are 100 percent committed to him as the closer and they displayed that every step in 2009.  He was on the DL three separate times, yet every time, no matter what C.J. Wilson did, he was given back the closer's role before long.  Even after allowing six earned runs in just 0.2 innings against the Red Sox on 8/14, they kept him in the job and were rewarded for it.  While Wilson may get a few vulture save opportunities, especially with Francisco’s questionable health, Francisco is a solid option in all formats.

 

Toronto Blue Jays
Closer: Jason Frasor

The Blue Jays have several people who could step in and get chances, including Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, and Jeremy Accardo.  That’s not even to mention Brandon Morrow or David Purcey, both of which could end up in the bullpen before long.  Yeah, Frasor may get the first shot, but he’s far from a lock to hold the job all year long.

 

What are your thoughts on the AL closing situations?  Who is most at risk?  Who could surprisingly emerge?

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Detroit Tigers: Fake Pearls, Saves and Jose Valverde

January 15th, 2010

The signing of closer Jose Valverde by the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon is the current talk of the town, as well as the subject of much grumbling and scrutiny. So, The Hammer Toss is here with in-depth analysis of the signing and what it means for the 2010 Tigers. 

 

Length of contract and expense

Valverde is now scheduled to make $14 million over the next two years. His contract also includes a club option for a third year at a base salary of $9 million.

Tiger fans will and are undoubtedly grumbling about how the budget space given over to signing Valverde could have been used to resign Placido Polanco. 

While these critics are in no way wrong, it has to be said that letting Polanco walk made a tremendous amount of baseball sense. While his career numbers speak for themselves, it cannot be escaped that Polanco is 35 years old and looking at his career prime in the rear view mirror. 

An article that I read very succinctly makes this point for me. We thank Polanco for his years of dedication in Detroit and wish him luck in Philadelphia.

The main point here is that Valverde's contract is really only a bind for the 2010 season but was dictated by necessity. The Tigers had a gaping hole in the bullpen and lack of a shutdown arm, but no longer.

Instead of complaining about Valverde and his contract, I will direct everyone's attention to Magglio Ordonez, Dontrelle Willis, Carlos Guillen, and Nate Robertson. Truthfully speaking, the Tigers will actually get something out of Valverde, which is probably more than can be said of Willis. 

Valverde might be expensive, whereas Willis has proven to be costly, if you understand the distinction I am making. 

After 2010 his contract amount becomes much easier on the budget. It might be said that a salary expense, such as Polanco, was sacrificed for 2010 in preparation to build a better team for 2011 and beyond. 

 

Saves are fake pearls

In private, this has been one of my favorite arguments to make for the past two-plus years, but one I am just now introducing to the B/R community.

The nature of how closers are used makes me scratch my head. By their very nature, the closer is supposed to be the best pitcher in the bullpen, the most shutdown reliever.

Anymore, though, closers are merely sent into games to "collect saves" or when they have had too much downtime due to blowout wins or losses. 

It is almost comical to see how saves have evolved over time, and the psychological effects they have on managers and general managers. 

Without spending $7 million or more for a closer, a baseball team is still going to win most of the games it leads after eight innings. However, the quantification of a close game into a "save opportunity" has led to it being over-valued in the salary department.

Also consider this; in the current economic climate, $7 million can buy a team a pitcher who has a track record of a .500 win percentage and nearly 200 innings pitched every year. 

The salary return on a more expensive closer, such as Francisco Rodriguez ($11.5MM) or Francisco Cordero ($12MM) could net a team an upper tier starting pitcher or a hitter the quality of Michael Young of the Texas Rangers. 

Realistically, there are many game situations that are more critical than the save situation in the ninth inning. Consider a tie game in the seventh or eighth inning or a one run game, in either direction, in the seventh or eighth inning. 

These critical game situations are extremely worthy of seeing a closer come out of the bullpen. After all, he is supposed to be the best pitcher in the bullpen. However, the closer entering is a somewhat rare event in these situations because he is being held back to possibly collect a save later in the game.

What I am trying to say is that the quantification of the save into a counting stat has lead to its value being grossly overinflated. General managers and others have been falling prey to this for years now. 

Consider, Rodriguez would not have had 62 saves in 2008 for the Angels had his teammates not done eight innings worth of work to leave him in that position. In the same light it can be said that, had they scored more runs, he would have had less save opportunities. 

However, his large contract from the Mets directly follows from the enormous counting stats he put up, despite what little value they actually hold. The same can be said of the contract just lavished upon Valverde. 

 

The urgency of 2010 for the Tigers

This is the segment where I undo some of the previous work by pointing out that the dynamics of the 2010 Tigers are different. The American League Central is still a weak division, and the Tigers but a marginal team in that circus. 

To remain competitive in 2010 the Tigers can ill afford to lose games in which they hold the lead toward the end.

This is where Valverde's value increases because he is such a dominant stopper. He would doubtless be able to hold down more close game situations than any of the previous in-house candidates, such as Ryan Perry or Joel Zumaya. 

Conversely, if the Tigers fall on their collective faces in the first half of the season, he could be trade bait in July.

 

Draft compensation

Most of the detractors of the Valverde signing will cite that his status as a Type A free agent, meaning the Tigers now cede their first round draft pick (19th overall) to the Houston Astros. 

While this does add to his cost, it is impossible to determine how much.

I would responsibly point out that prospects are just that, prospects. There is the prospect of future big-league talent and greatness, but more first round picks flop than those who do not. 

At the same time it is impossible to deny the success of teams that scout and draft well, building good teams internally. Such has been the staple of the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels for years. 

 

2010 outlook

For me, the jury is still out on the idea of Valverde as a Tiger. While he has the potential to greatly contribute to some wins, I think the only way the Tigers get contributions from him approaching his $7 million income is if he makes 80 appearances and pitches at least that many innings. 

As in all great offseason additions and speculations, only time will tell.

Bombers Banter: New York Yankees Hot Stove

January 14th, 2010

Welcome to the latest edition of Bombers Banter, a round table discussion for New York Yankees writers.  In this issue, Greg Fertel , Robert Maccariello , Lenny Neslin and I chat about the acquisition of Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez, the departure of prospects and key pieces of the 2009 team, and this season's American League East race.

Robert Maccariello has an interesting idea of creating his own mailbag articles in which he would answer Yankees-related queries submitted to his e-mail.  Let's get this started by sending him questions at [email protected]

 

1. The Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson but didn't appear interested in signing free agents Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, so it appears as if the team will enter spring training with an outfield that includes Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher.  Have the Yanks done enough to improve their outfield or is there another move they should make?

Greg Fertel : The Yankees outfield is just fine. Obviously adding a complementary player like Reed Johnson or Rocco Baldelli wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not a season-changing necessity. The Yankees outfield will be very good defensively, and as we’ve seen with the Red Sox and Mariners, that’s a trend in baseball for good reason. I’ve written that I think Brett Gardner will be more valuable in 2010 than Johnny Damon if they have the same amount of playing time, and I stick by that. Because of this, I think the Yankees outfield is quite a bit stronger overall than it was in 2009.

Robert Maccariello : The Yankees outfield has not significantly improved or regressed.  If anything, it only improved from a defensive standpoint.  Granderson is an upgrade in CF over Melky.  Even with several scouts saying that Granderson took some less-than-perfect routes to balls in the outfield last year, his speed gives him the ability to get to balls at the upper limits of Melky's range.  People began to respect Melky's arm last year so he had less assists, and his good plays were accompanied with some head-scratchers.  Swisher will be the starting right fielder again, and despite some interesting moments, he had a surprisingly solid year with the glove.  Damon had one of his worst years in the field, struggling with some higher fly balls all year.  His range has diminished with the health of his legs and knees, so Gardner will breathe some life into Death Valley.  Damon's HRs and veteran leadership will be missed, but Gardner's speed can be a game-changer and a distraction to any opposition's pitching if he gets on base.  Despite his improvements at the dish, Melky still disappoints overall on offense.  He has shown little improvement in being selective with his swings, has only recently become an average bunter, and is a poor baserunner.  Granderson can easily hit 30-40 homers at Yankee Stadium and steal 30-40 bases.  Swisher is an OPS machine and is good for 20-30 homers.

Lenny Neslin : All year long I expected the Yankees to retain Damon and let go of Matsui. When the Yankees traded for Granderson, I saw no need to sign Damon too—unless he was going to be a part-time DH. But that idea was quickly erased when Brian Cashman picked up Nick Johnson for that role. I love Swisher out there in right and for his off-the-field intangibles. Not many people have confidence in Gardner, but I think he deserves a chance at a full season in left. No question Melky was loved by the fans, but he doesn't have as much potential as Gardner. Despite a small sample size, a .345 OBP for Gardner last year is a big deal. With his speed, he turns walks and singles into doubles with ease. He becomes a major threat if he can get on base as much as he did in the minors.

Jordan Schwartz : While Granderson is an upgrade over Cabrera in center, I didn't think it was enough of an improvement to warrant trading away top prospect Austin Jackson.  Granderson (.249 avg) has power, Gardner (.270) has speed, and Swisher (.249) draws a bunch of walks, but none of them hit for average.  The outfield is once again the weakest part of the team, and the Yankees would help their cause by re-signing Johnny Damon and possibly even taking a chance on Xavier Nady, who could add some depth.

 

2. The addition of Javier Vazquez to the starting rotation means Phil Hughes will probably remain in the 8th inning role in 2010.  Is this where he should be or should the Yankees eventually give him another shot at starting?

Greg Fertel : The Yankees definitely should not give up on Hughes as a starter. Joba should probably start the year in the rotation because he doesn’t have the innings limit that Hughes does, but I do wonder what another year as a setup guy will do for his development. I don’t think the Yankees see either player as a reliever, long-term, so I think Hughes will get a chance to start. I just hope they use him in a way where he’ll be available to step into the rotation when one of the top five starters inevitably goes down with an injury. That would best serve the team and Hughes himself.

Robert Maccariello : Phil Hughes has succeeded in the eighth inning role.  His excellent control enables him to throw strikes out of the bullpen, and an excellent breaking pitch makes him a guy who can strike batters out—both fantastic assets late in the game with runners on base.  However, he has also succeeded in the starting pitching role when healthy.  I think he should get a shot to start should one of the current starters go down with an injury, or he could even fill the No. 5 spot from April onwards.  He has shown that he can do well in either role.  Additionally, his poise and attitude even as a young player is beyond his years.  What surprises me is why Joba Chamberlain has not been moved to the bullpen either in Hughes' place or in a seventh or eighth inning role.  Joba has not shown the ability to pitch well as a starter to the level he has been able to in the bullpen.  Why is Hughes being limited despite showing talent as a starter while Joba is being pushed despite showing far less progress and major control issues?  This continues to bother me most about the Yankees in 2010.  The discrepancies are glaring and confusing.

Lenny Neslin : I hope the Yankees choose Hughes to be the fifth starter and send Chamberlain back to the bullpen. Last year, I wanted to see what Chamberlain could do as a starter, but his dreadful control and his fastball's loss in velocity make me believe he is best suited for the bullpen. Hughes, on the other hand, has a great repertoire of pitches and has the mental toughness to be a starter. If the Yankees choose to have Hughes start the year as the setup guy, I'd expect him to be the first guy to replace an injured starter and be stretched out over a few starts like Chamberlain was last year. In the long run, I see Hughes as a solid starter in a competitive rotation and Chamberlain as an elite closer or back of the rotation starter.

Jordan Schwartz : I would've rather given Hughes, who is coming off an outstanding year as a reliever, another shot at starting, but it appears the Yankees have no intention of doing that after the acquisition of Vazquez.  While Chamberlain clearly has better career stats as a starter (12-7, 4.18 ERA vs. 8-9, 5.22 ERA), Hughes should also get another chance to start and hopefully will once Andy Pettitte retires, which could come as soon as after this season.

 

3. How do you feel about New York trading away three of its best prospects this offseason in Austin Jackson, Mike Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino?

Greg Fertel : It hurts a bit, as I follow prospects very closely. However, there are big question marks with these three. Jackson has shown no power and strikes out way too much. I have seen people say that Jackson’s best case scenario is Granderson, but I see very few similarities between the two as players. Dunn has a live arm and is somewhat new to pitching, but the guy walked more than five batters per nine innings in the Minors in 2009. That won’t get it done in the Majors. I really liked Arodys, and he was the prize of the Vazquez trade for the Braves, but he is just so far away and has a lot to overcome to make it to the Majors. There's also Ian Kennedy, who is as big a loss as any of these guys. He was very impressive in the AFL and should be a solid contributor for years to come as long as he stays healthy.

Robert Maccariello : Losing Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino for established pro pitchers is not really the point of emphasis that naysayers for these deals have used.  It's all been about Austin Jackson, and I, for one, have never been high on him.  In five minor league seasons, he only hit 30 home runs, including only four in 2009.  Last season, he had 123 strikeouts and only 40 walks.  He did hit .300, but 67 RBIs is low for somebody who's considered the centerfielder of the future.  I have no problem giving up the relative unknown 23-year-old who still has shown some holes in his game despite playing against Double-A and Triple-A talent, especially when the Yankees gain a proven, professional All-Star in Granderson.  The chances of Jackson becoming the greatest outfielder in the majors—or even reaching Granderson's level—are not as good as Granderson continuing to play at a very high level.  The deal is even more palatable because Granderson is young and in his own prime.  It wasn't like the Yankees got rid of Jackson to get a player on the decline for only a year or two.

Lenny Neslin : It hurt to see A-Jax leave the club. If you believe his max potential was any less than Granderson's skill level today, then it was a good trade. And I believe that. But more importantly, Cashman filled all the Yankees' needs this offseason without trading Chamberlain, Hughes, or Jesus Montero—the Yankees best prospect. Vizcaino was still a lottery prospect in that he was just 19-years-old. Dunn was definitely on the verge of joining the bullpen full-time in 2010, but at least the Yankees received a replacement lefty reliever in return, Boone Logan.

Jordan Schwartz : It's disappointing to see the Yankees trade away three top prospects in one offseason, especially a guy like Jackson, who the organization has been touting as the next big thing for the past couple years. New York reportedly wasn't willing to part with Dunn in the Granderson deal but then included him in the Vazquez trade.  The lefty went 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 relief appearances at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2009. Vizcaino was recently named the club's third-best prospect by Baseball America.  He had a 2.13 ERA in 10 starts for Class A Staten Island this year, and Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman has said the right-hander throws 96 mph with "a hammer of a curveball" and "really good stuff."

 

4. The Bombers had great chemistry in 2009, which helped them win the World Series.  How do you believe the departure of Melky Cabrera, Hideki Matsui, and possibly Johnny Damon will affect that aspect of the team?

Greg Fertel : I don’t think it will affect the team too much. While the Yankees lost those players, it’s not like they replaced them with clubhouse cancers. Granderson is widely renowned as one of the best guys in baseball. I think that winning breeds team chemistry and that it’s not the other way around. This aspect shouldn’t change enough to affect the 2010 Yanks.

Robert Maccariello : Losing mainstays Matsui and Damon will certainly remove a strong veteran presence from the clubhouse, but not to the point where there should be any cause for concern.  Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada are the consummate professionals and lead by example.  Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are also great veteran leaders and help to teach and manage younger members of the pitching staff.  Nick Swisher will still wiggle and dance in the outfield, and A.J. Burnett will still slap people in the face with shaving cream pies.  The Yankees are also gaining Granderson, who is well-regarded as a bright guy and a great player to have in the clubhouse and the community.  The one downside I see to this is the loss of Cabrera and its effect on Robinson Cano.  We already saw both players struggle at times in 2009 without their "uncles" Larry Bowa and Bobby Abreu on the team.  Don't underestimate how much the loss of Melky will impact his best friend Cano, who remains with the Yankees and of whom much is expected.

Lenny Neslin : I am a believer that team chemistry affects a team's ability to win championships. However, I think the Yankees got guys with great character in return for those whom they lost - Granderson especially. I think Joe Girardi can help the new players meld with the champions of 2009. They still will have A.J. Burnett's pies and Swisher's wacky postgame interviews. The 2010 Yankees should be just as fun as the '09 club and still have a great chance of repeating as champions.

Jordan Schwartz : When Cabrera was demoted to Triple-A between Aug. 15 and Sept. 10, 2008, his good friend Cano went into a minor slump, hitting just .255 with one walk and 23 strikeouts in 25 games—below his .271 season average.  I don't think you can overlook the importance of chemistry, and it'll be interesting to see how Cano responds to playing without one of his best friends on the team.

 

5. The Red Sox have been very busy this offseason, acquiring John Lackey, Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, and Marco Scutaro.  Are the Yankees still the favorites to win the AL East?

Greg Fertel : Yeah, I think the Yankees still are favorites, but not by much. Because it’s so small, any injury or weak performance can change this and allow the Red Sox to win the division. Don’t forget about the Rays either; they’ve been pretty quiet but will still be very competitive. There are two playoff spots for these three teams, and some bad luck is all it could take to knock the Yankees out of the playoff picture. The same goes for the Sox and Rays.

Robert Maccariello : The Yankees are the defending champions, and as such, should still be the favorites to win the AL East.  The additions of Beltre and Cameron do not really scare me much.  Mike Lowell, bad hip, hand, and all, was a solid player for them in the field and at the dish, and he's now gone.  The organization continues to push Jacoby Ellsbury who has less power than an office building in Rwanda.  Marco Scutaro had a very good year in Toronto, but he's more useful for his glove than his bat on a day-to-day level.  I do think Boston's move to make Victor Martinez their everyday catcher over Varitek is a great improvement for them.  What does continue to scare me in Boston is their pitching staff.  I expect Beckett and Papelbon each to have a better year.  Adding Lackey to Buckholz, Lester, Matsuzaka (a year removed from some hidden injuries) bolsters the starting rotation even more.  I think the Yankees continue to hold an advantage in middle to long relief pitching as well as on offense, edges that should see them repeat as AL East champs.

Lenny Neslin : Theo Epstein and the Red Sox have done a fine job making changes to their club this offseason. I believe the addition of Lackey, the return of a healthy Dice-K, and the growth of Clay Buchholz will give the Red Sox a slight edge in rotations. But I think the Yankees' bullpen and lineup outweighs that difference and makes them favorites to win the East.

Jordan Schwartz :The best move the Red Sox made this offseason was acquiring John Lackey, whose ERA hasn't been higher than 3.83 since 2004.  The addition adds depth to Boston's already strong rotation, but I still believe CC Sabathia gives the Yankees' staff a slight edge, and New York's lineup is still better, so they should be the favorites to win the division.

 

Follow me on Twitter at JordanHarrison .

Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book "Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man" is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.

Jordan can be reached at [email protected]




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