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Monday, January 26, 2004
 
WOW It turns out Aaron Boone is a liability on and off the field. However, I have a radical idea about what the Yankees should do, unfortunately I am days behind on my homework, but I'll provide that update as soon as possible.
 
Friday, January 23, 2004
 
I got the e-mail and comments sections up and working thanks to Clifford from Clifford's Big Red Blog.
 
 
STATS SCOUTING REPORTS I originally planned to write about journalism that I felt was incredibly poor, however, in the course of verifying information for that topic I ran into the new STATS scouting reports on ESPN.com's baseball player profiles. These are always a favorite of mine and I felt particularly inclined to comment on them: On Hideki Matsui's profile they call him "very patient, especially early in the count", now, I do not know where to find the information that verifies a player's patience at specific points in the count, however, my subjective memory tells me that Matsui was definitely not "very patient". So of course I researched it. Last year, Matsui saw 3.75 pitches per plate appearance, off the bat (no pun intended), that does not strike me as the proper amount for a "very patient" player. Matsui actually ranked 83rd amongst the 164 major leaguers who qualified for the batting title in terms of pitches per plate appearances. Once again, this does not strike me as "very patient". Instead he was about middle of the pack in the best (admittedly very raw) way I can find to easily measure patience. If you can disprove this, I invite you to do so. The other aspect of Matsui's profile that caught my eye was this little gem; "he turned out to be a very capable outfielder, covering a lot of ground in New York's expansive left field". A very quick way to find out how much ground a player covered is to check their zone rating as it tells what percentage of balls in play in their zone they recovered. Of the 19 players qualified to be ranked by their left field zone rating, Matsui is 18th, I somehow fail to see how he could have been covering much ground if he was not getting to that many balls in his zone. They had this to say about Jeter, "his ability to wait on the ball helps make him an excellent two-strike hitter". Now admittedly, I love players who show plate patience, making the pitcher throw tons of pitches. However, perhaps more so than this I love players who have plate discipline. By plate discipline I mean that a player does not necessarily have to see a ton of pitches, but he has to be able to swing at good strikes and let junk go by. Though I admittedly have no statistical evidence to back this up, Jeter has annoyed me for some time now with his lack of what I refer to as discipline. This stems from Jeter having two glaring weak spots in his hitting zone, in my opinion. If pitchers throw Jeter low and away or way inside he often lets these pitches go, almost without fail. The result is that they are often strikes, especially the inside ones, which only seem inside to Jeter because he crowds the plate. Anyway, I just find this an incredibly annoying aspect of Jeter's otherwise sound offensive game, if he was more aggressive with those two specific pitch types it would improve his overall hitting I believe. This is a small quibble with what was said about Posada, but I still feel that it should be made because insinuating that Posada last year was "equally effective from either side" is just wrong. Grossly wrong? No, but wrong nonetheless. Last year his GPA from the right side was .317, his GPA from the left hand side was .310. So yes, there is a noticeable difference. However, due to the right hand sample size being so much smaller than the left handed one, IT is possible that STATS is correct, in addition to this there are no park factors or any other random variable factored in so it is still even more debatable. Despite this, I will stick to my opinion that they cannot honestly comment that Posada was as good a hitter left handed as he was right handed. "Although last year was the first time Posada attracted any MVP consideration, he has been performing at more or less the same level since 2000", I just cannot see how this statement holds water. In 2000, Posada posted a .319 GPA, he followed that with GPAs of .282 and .284, and then last year he exploded once more with a .312 GPA. In that 4 year stretch, two seasons clearly stand above the rest so it is clear that Posada has not been performing "at more or less the same level since 2000". Even when put into league context, those years are still inconsistent as his OPS+s over the same stretch are respectively 134, 119, 123, and 146. Once again, the evidence that he has been performing at the same level just is not there (I would also like to now officially apologize to all those persons whom I ignorantly told that 2000 was still Posada's season, his numbers were in fact boosted by an offensive explosion at the time). "He didn't quite play up to expectations for them, but Boone was solid overall", this is what STATS had to say about Aaron Boone. Now this, I have a very serious problem with. Solid to me means average or slightly above average. Just to make sure I was not completely off base I checked dictionary.com and their definitions that related to this context included "of good quality" and "substantial", Aaron Boone was neither of these things. In what world is a player who posts a .240 GPA after being traded for a team's number one pitching prospect a "solid" player. Of course, they said all around so as to include his defense, however, I hate to have to break the news to everyone, but for Boone's defense to make up for his incredible offensive shortcomings it would have to be incredibly good, to put it simply, it is not. Of the 21 major league (and I use that term loosely with Boone) 3B who qualified for fielding rankings, Boone was 17th in fielding percentage, a surprising 3rd in range factor, and 10th in zone rating, combining all this information I would say Boone is about an average defensive 3B, so no, it does not make up for his horrific hitting. And no, he was not "solid". In general, the pitchers did not have anything nearly as interesting said about them, so that's all for now. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Sunday, January 18, 2004
 
ROGER "I WANT TO GO TO THE HOF AS A YANKEE" CLEMENS With the recent events surrounding the departure of Roger Clemens, many Yankee fans have found themselves incensed at his behavior during the process. They find it repulsive that he did his whole farewell tour thing and constantly when asked about the Hall of Fame, would say that he wanted to go as a Yankee. Many Yankee fans cite this as evidence that Clemens is nothing, but a traitorous liar, however I do not feel this is enough to condemn him. Quite frankly, for all we as fans know, Clemens could have in fact wanted to go the HOF as a Yankee, his farewell tour could have been "real". However, like so many other athletes Clemens realized that retirement was not the thing for him, and when a viable option, which allowed him to have family time and continue to pitch dropped in front of him, it made sense that he should take it. There are two more main schools of thought when it comes to the anger surrounding Roger's departure from the Yankees, they are that by leaving the organization that Clemens did not give the Yankees a true chance to pursue him and possibly have him back in the rotation because the organization was "certain that he would retire" and that also because the organization was "certain that he would retire" they did not offer him arbitration, thus he screwed the Yankees on the way out. Let's address these issues. During my time "studying" baseball, something that I have been told and over time learned to be true is that there is not much a pitcher can control for certain. And the things that he can CERTAINLY control are walks, strikeouts, and home runs. Significant changes in these 3 categories for the negative signify a pitcher on the decline; changes for the positive usually signify a pitcher getting better. Here is a look at Clemens' HR rate over the past 3 seasons: HR/9IP: .78 .90 1.0 So, over the past 3 seasons from 2001 to 2003, Roger Clemens has seen his home run rate steadily increase. However, an increase in that single category is not enough to make an overall assertion yet, so let's see how his K rate has been: K/9IP: 8.7 9.6 8.1 So following his ballyhooed by the mainstream media, 2001 Cy Young season, Roger Clemens saw a significant increase in his K rate at the age of 39, which is in itself incredible. However, in his age 40 season, his K rate underwent an even larger change, however, this time it was in the negative direction. Thus far, we have seen that Clemens has allowed more home runs and struck out less batters, now finally, let's see how his walk rates have been: BB/9IP: 2.9 3.2 2.5 His walk rates follow a similar path to his K rates, in that they go up after the 2001 season, only to see a significant decline following the 2002 season. Since this change is in conjunction with the change in strikeout quantity, let us analyze them together: K/BB: 3 3.1 3.3 So, over the past 3 years despite the changes in Clemens' strikeout and walk numbers going up and down from year to year, his K to BB ratio has been on a consistent incline, which I would conclude is a positive thing. Overall what we have thus far, is a 41 year old pitcher who has seen his home run rate steadily increase, while his K and BB rates have fluctuated over the past few years, though he has managed to consistently increase his K to BB numbers, I do not feel that there is a definitive statement to be made, YET. Here is Clemens' walk rate before and then after the All Star Break in 2003: BB/9IP: 2.5 2.4 That is pretty steady, here is his HR rate in the same situation: HR/9IP: 1.0 1.0 Once again, that is pretty steady, here are his K rates under the same conditions: K/9IP: 9.2 6.4 Wow, that cannot be called steady, in fact, that could be called a significant decline. On top of that, even though hit rates can be deceiving due to how efficient of a defense a pitcher plays with, when that pitcher has one defense for an entire season there is an established level of performance, that I would not think would see too much variance over the course of the season. With that being said, here are Clemens' hit rates before the All Star Break and after: H/9IP: 8.0 9.1 Once again there is a significant increase that holds negative ramifications for Roger Clemens. As expected with the worsening of much of his peripherals during this period, Clemens ERA rose, from 3.68 before the All Star Game, to 4.24 after the game. Despite this newer evidence pointing to Roger Clemens being on the decline, it could all be a fluke if he has just consistently performed worse after the ASB during the course of his career, let's see what his splits from 2001 to 2003 can tell us. Here are Clemens' ratios before and after All Star Game 2001: BB/9IP: 2.8 to 3.2 HR/9IP: .80 to .75 K/9IP: 8.8 to 8.5 H/9IP: 8.3 to 8.4 From this set of numbers it becomes apparent that overall, Clemens saw a slight decrease in his peripheral performance following the 2001 All Star Game, though he saw NOTHING like the precipitous drop in K's that he would see in 2003. What about in 2002: BB/9IP: 3.2 to 3.0 HR/9IP: .80 to 1.1 K/9IP: 9.7 to 9.5 H/9IP: 8.2 to 9.4 Once again, there is a Clemens decline in the peripherals following the ASB, however the change in K rate (the most significant indicator of a pitcher's future) is nowhere what it was in 2003. What I would conclude from all the numbers is that judging by Clemens undergoing a change in K rate that he has not encountered in the last 3 years following the ASB (in fact his K rate over the last "half" of 2003 would be his lowest K rate of any of his seasons in the major leagues) and consistently beginning to allow more and more home runs, I would say that Roger Clemens is definitely on the downside of his career. However, Clemens was still a very good pitcher last year and he will be playing in front of a better defense in Houston, which should help mask some of the decline, though definitely not all of it. Considering all these factors I think it is actually BENEFICIAL to the Yankees performance as a team that Clemens did not truly give them a chance to re-sign him, because knowing Steinbrenner he probably would have tried to and with the Yankee's inefficient defense and more "offensive" league I think Clemens would have had at best a league average season, which is not worth it considering the paycheck he would have commanded from them. Finally, in regards to the draft pick compensation issue, this is the one area where I was angry when I found out the news. However, unlike many Yankee fans, I was not angered by Clemens not alerting the Yankees, because I honestly do not feel he had the intention to do this all along, what I am angered by is the Yankees handling of the situation. They should have offered him arbitration because as Larry Mahnken had the foresight to say on December 8th, "Why the heck not? I mean, he's retiring, but he might change his mind next spring. Might as well take the pick". Simply put, the front office messed that one up. *** Questions, Comments, Suggestions: mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Thursday, January 15, 2004
 
CALM BEFORE THE STORM As you may or may not have realized at this point, there has been a lack of consistency in updates in the past couple weeks. The explanation for this is that I put baseball and my blog ahead of almost everything, but when it comes to schoolwork, I have to put them second. So for now you must be content with this excuse. However, this coming weekend I will have plenty of free time and am planning on some massive, extensive, extraordinarily incredible updates. I will do a final wrap-up of the minor league prospects, and discuss some changes that have taken place since I last talked about the big leagues and the big club. Until then here are some musings, which I will most probably expand on in the near future: *** The Guerrero signing makes the Angels better, yes, but I still do not know about their chances of grabbing the AL West, it will probably be a good battle between them and the A's, with the Mariners and Rangers bringing up the rear. *** The AL Central also looks like it will be a battle, though somewhat more mediocre, between the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals *** Phil Rogers wrote a new article that I simply must get to, hopefully no one else has done so yet. *** Speaking of ESPN and poor journalism, no matter how terrible of an "analyst" Joe Morgan is, it cannot take away from the fact that he was truly one of the most incredible players to ever play the game. *** Yankee fans in general need to calm down about the Roger Clemens "situation". The only thing about the situation that angered me was the terrible handling of it by the Yankee front office. *** Well, that's all for now, be back with a REAL entry either Friday night or Saturday. As always, questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org.
 
Friday, January 09, 2004
 
FINAL FOUR When I first started reviewing some of the prospects in the Yankees system I did not realize that I had basically come up with a mental image of what the Yankees top 10 prospect list should look like. Knowing this, and having already covered Drew Henson, Rudy Guillen, Sean Henn, Dioner Navarro, Joaquin Arias, Ramon Ramirez, and Eric Duncan, it is time to look at the final four prospects in my version of the Yankees top 10 prospects. The New York Penn League's Staten Island Yankees squad is usually reserved for the Yankees top college draftees, however, as luck would have it, in 2003 their center fielder was a toolsy 18 year old by the name of Melky Cabrera, here is how he performed over the course of 311 plate appearances: .283/.345/.355(AVG/OBP/SLG) .244 GPA On the surface, no, Melky Cabrera did not perform exceptionally well. However, as there almost always are with prospects, there were underlying factors. Perhaps the most important is the age versus level of competition issue as he was a teenager playing against many college grads, that he held his own is very encouraging. Perhaps even more encouraging, is the way in which he held his own. Many times when younger position prospects are placed against older pitchers they react by letting their plate discipline go to hell as they hack away at the better pitching. Cabrera did not do this. His 1.6 K:BB ratio and his walk rate of once every 12 at bats were very encouraging give the environment he was placed in. Cabrera did not hit for much statistically projectable power as only 18% of his hits went for extra bases, though this may be partially explained by his playing against such advanced competition. Cabrera has been said to have at least solid tools across the board and even if he does not gain much in terms of power production (and he should be able to since he has room to fill out on his 5'11'' 168 pound frame), his advanced knowledge of the strike zone, apparent in his contextual statistics, should at least make him a viable center fielder, a position many feel he has the defensive capabilities to play. The next member of the final four is Estee Harris. He is a somewhat obvious addition to any Yankee top 10 prospect list because of his performance in the Gulf Coast League after being drafted: .277/.368/.545(AVG/OBP/SLG) .302 GPA Excuse me while I drool over those numbers from an 18 year old CF in his first taste of pro ball. Needless to say, Harris' performance, taking place over the course of 117 plate appearances, was statistically jaw dropping. He hit for a decent average (.277), displayed patience by walking in 14% of at bats, and hit for power by sending 50% of his hits for extra bases. Now, it is historically bad judgment to get too excited over a player's performance in rookie ball so before we can anoint Harris the next great Yankee OF, he must perform in a full season league. Encouragingly, Harris' performance was not too out of character as he was a good HS player and the main concerns about him come draft day were whether or not his numbers were inflated by playing against inferior competition. Meanwhile, scouts felt he had the power of a prototypical RF, range/speed of a CF, but arm of a LF. Judging by that profile I would say that Harris ends up in LF. If he progresses at the normal pace the Yankees like to bring along their prospects he should be in the Bronx around the end of Matsui's reign of mediocrity. My final two picks as members of the Yankees top 10 prospects are probably the most "controversial", the first of those is Brad Halsey: H/9IP:10.3 BB/9IP:1.5 K/9IP:6 HR/9IP:.32 K/BB:4 Those were the 22 year old's numbers at A+ Tampa, over the course of 84 innings, he was giving up more hits than you would like and striking out less batters than you would like given his age and competition level. However, he had excellent control and command numbers as evidenced by his ability to not give out free passes and keep the ball in the park. After this start, the Yankees sent him to AA Trenton for 91.1 innings, this is what happened there: H/9IP:12 BB/9IP:2.2 K/9IP:7.7 HR/9IP:.39 K/BB:3.5 On the clearly negative side, his HR rate went from excellent to slightly less than excellent. His BB rate also went up slightly, but not enough to be alarming given the fact that he is facing more advanced competition. After that, things get muddled, because within the rest of the numbers there is a statistical anomaly. Halsey saw a huge improvement in his K rate as he jumped a level, which is atypical, and on top of that there was also a large increase in his hit rate. Usually, if you begin to strike out more guys it would be an indication that you are fooling more batters, and as such you would not give up as many hits. However, I feel that Halsey's numbers are actually skewed instead of containing an anomaly. I think the improvement in his K rate is real, but the hit rate is somewhat inflated. There are two main causes for the inflation in Halsey's hit rate, the first is that when he was first promoted to AA he was absolutely destroyed in his initial exposure to the level, and secondly, the Eastern League was one of the better hitters leagues in the minors in 2003. Though these factors are most likely not enough to explain ALL of the hits allowed by Halsey, they should definitely be taken into account and once they are, his hit rate does not seem as alarming. Right now Halsey looks like a decent prospect with the ability to be a back of the rotation innings eater. The second of the "controversial" selections is Tyler Clippard. The Yankees drafted Clippard, a 6'4'' 170 pound 18 year old right hander, in the 9th round this past year, and sent him to the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League: H/9IP:6.8 BB/9IP:1.0 K/9IP:11.5 HR/9IP:.62 K/BB:11.5 The reaction to this 43.2 innings of work is much like my reaction to Harris' numbers: WOW. Once again, all rookie ball numbers must be taken with a tank, not grain, of salt, that being said, wow. Clippard did everything you want a pitching prospect to do, he kept the ball in the park, struck out batters left and right, and did not give up free passes or hits. The reason for his dominance according to most scouting sources is that he has a very advanced feel for his breaking pitch and was able to eat up the GCL hitters with it. Clippard's fastball currently clocks in at the high 80's with a max of about 90. However, it should get some added juice in the future as he has plenty of room to add weight to his frame. Right now Clippard looks like a potential stud, but to truly get an idea of his ability we will have to see how he holds up in full season ball, which should be 2004. It is hard not to get excited about this guy. Ok, now that all that information is out there, here is my Top 10 Yankee Prospect list: 1. Dioner Navarro 2. Rudy Guillen 3. Eric Duncan 4. Joaquin Arias 5. Ramon Ramirez 6. Estee Harris 7.Tyler Clippard 8. Melky Cabrera 9. Brad Halsey 10. Sean Henn 10. Drew Henson And no, I did not miscount, I am putting Henn and Henson on and giving them their last shots as prospects. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
 
THE RETURN OF THE ME Sorry to be absent for so long, I will try and pick up right where I left off though. In the beginning of this past baseball season the Yankees won the rights to negotiate with pitcher Ramon Ramirez, formerly of the Hiroshima Carp. Here was the scouting report on him at the time, as provided by Jim Callis of Ask Baseball America fame, "Though the 21-year-old Ramirez is just 5-foot-10 and 178 pounds, he has been clocked as high as 94 mph. He usually works in the low 90s, and also throws a slider, curveball, shuuto (a reverse slider that sinks and breaks in on righthanders) and a changeup. Ramirez uses a three-quarters arm slot. " Not too much of a ripple was caused by the signing of Ramirez in the prospect community and he was sent to the A+ Florida State League to begin his Yankee career, here is what he did: H/9IP:10.7 BB/9IP:2.4 K/9IP:8.5 HR/9IP:.85 K/BB:3.5 Of the above numbers, the walks and K's were good, a little more hits allowed than you would like, home run rate not as strong as you would like, but not that bad of a line for a 21 year old pitcher in High A. Of course, missing from all this was his ERA: 5.21 in 74.1 innings pitched. Because the peripherals and ERA do not add up to me in this case, I am not going to hold it against him, and this is an example of exactly why when analyzing pitching prospects I stray away from using their ERA. Anyway, the Yankees also apparently felt that Ramirez was pitching better than his record and sent him to the AA Eastern League, here is what he did there: H/9IP:7.6 BB/9IP:3.4 K/9IP:8.9 HR/9IP:1.3 K/BB:2.6 So after being promoted what did Ramirez do? Well, his hit rate took a significant dive, while his walks were up by about one every nine innings and his K's went on a slight incline. His home run rate also rose by about one extra home run every eighteen innings. Overall, with all the increases and decreases I would say his performance in the Eastern League, a hitters league this past season, was equivalent or thereabouts to his performance in the FSL. You what his ERA was in his 21 and a third innings of AA ball? 1.69. So this time his ERA was better than his peripherals would have you believe, further strengthening my distrust of ERA as a method of evaluating pitchers, especially prospects. Well, after his short, but impressive stint in the Eastern League, the Yankees decided to promote Ramirez to the AAA International League here is what he did there: H/9IP:7.5 BB/9IP:1.5 K/9IP:7.5 HR/9IP:1.5 K/BB:5 Once again, there was a drop in the hit rate and increase in home run rate. However, the K rate went down as did the walk rate. This time his ERA was 4.5, compiled in a GRAND total of 6 innings. Therefore, I don't really consider this to be much evidence in either a positive or negative direction for Ramirez as there are HUGE small sample size issues associated with his AAA performance, as opposed to the somewhat lesser small sample size issues associated with his AA performance. Well, by the end of the regular season the Yankees felt they wanted to give Ramirez another test, making sure they got their money's worth I guess, and sent him to the Arizona Fall League, which is usually a hitters league. Here is what he did there: H/9IP:7.6 BB/9IP:.72 K/9IP:9 HR/9IP:.36 K/BB:12.5 Those stats are phenomenal as he showed improvement in his hit rate, walk rate, K rate, and HR rate despite playing in an offensive league as he posted a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings of work. Performance-wise he was one of, if not the, best pitcher(s) in the AFL, but somehow managed to get no recognition in Baseball America, but that is a story for another day. To evaluate Ramirez's year on a whole, let's put his line from A+, AA, AAA, and the AFL (considered to be about AA quality) together: H/9IP:9.4 BB/9IP:2.2 K/9IP:8.6 HR/9IP:.86 K/BB:3.9 So in 126 innings, about 40% of which were in the upper minors, Ramirez demonstrated that he has excellent control (demonstrated by his walks), the ability to shut offenses down (demonstrated by his K's and to a lesser extent hits allowed) and decent command (demonstrated by his home run rate). All of his peripherals combined with his age, 21 for the entire regular season, are encouraging signs for Ramirez as a prospect. The last question would be about his "stuff" and whether they seem good enough for a starter (3 quality pitches) or a reliever (1 or 2 great pitches). Well, judging by his earlier mentioned pitch selection (scroll up if you forgot it) I would say he has the stuff to be a starter. The only thing Ramirez has to do now is continue at his current rate and disprove the stigma of the short starting pitcher. If he can do this I see him as a good 4 or 5 starting pitcher on a championship ballclub. In fact, I think Ramirez is definitely a dark horse candidate for the number 5 spot in the Yankees rotation this year. *** Sorry for the delay in updates, but I'm back in school and have been swamped by a combination of work and sport commitments. Once again, any questions, comments, or suggestions send them to mcnallyf@taftschool.org. And just a general reminder, Friday Baseball America will be having a chat session at 2 PM Eastern Standard Time to discuss the Yankees Top 10 Prospect list, make sure to go and ask some questions, their chats are a great resource.
 
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
 
Nothing for today, I have college scholarships to look about. But, I should DEFINITELY have an update tomorrow, over the course of the next week I am going to complete my look at the top Yankees prospect, and if I don't finish it by Friday, I will post this weekend so stay strong. Send the hate mail to mcnallyf@taftschool.org.
 
Monday, January 05, 2004
 
Couple things, one is that no, the e-mail thing to the right does not work, if someone could tell me how to do it properly I would appreciate it. So for now I'll just let everyone know that my e-mail is still mcnallyf@taftschool.org. Also, because I posted Monday's update on Saturday night accidentally, and due to the blogger software, I most likely will not be posting an update tonight, but I'm not sure. That's all for now.
 
Saturday, January 03, 2004
 
LEFT HANDED GOODNESS...MAYBE Before I get to the point of my newest article, there is something I need to get off my chest. I have recently realized that when I mention a name on this blog, this blog can them become eligible for being a search result for that word. With that being said I would like to thank the New York Yankees for being a wonderful baseball team, George Steinbrenner for spending money, Joe Torre for being a horrible manager and allowing us to be closer to the pack, Derek Jeter for being so "clutch" and being the "Lord of the Rings", thereby making him a better shortstop than Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra put together. I would also like to thank Rob Neyer, the folks at Baseball Prospectus, Larry Mahnken, Alex Belth, Aaron Gleeman, NYYFans.com, and everyone else involved in making me a more intelligent observer of America's past time. I would also like to thank Barry Bonds for his greatness, Babe Ruth for making baseball popular back in the day, and Baseball America for making prospects exciting to me. That is all. I shall now continue with the regularly scheduled entry. Now, back in the summer of 2001 when I first started following prospects closely, one in particular who interested me was Sean Henn. There were three main reasons for this. One was that he played for the Staten Island Yankees who are actually a pretty big thing in New York in the summer and as a result of my proximity to them I had access to their television and radio broadcasts. The other reason was that I knew Sean Henn was a left-hander who at the time consistently threw 91 to 95 mph fastballs and topped out at 99. You'll have to excuse me, but wow! That is absolutely spectacular velocity for a lefty. On top of that Henn stood 6'5'' and 205 pounds meaning there was some room for projectability and he had a dominant mound presence. Just knowing this I was sold. Then as a 20 year old playing the NY-Penn League, which usually features recent college draftees, Henn began putting together a very nice season as his pitching line can attest to: H/9IP:5.6 BB/9IP:3.2 K/9IP:10.5 HR/9IP:.6 K/BB:3.3 Once again, pardon me, but wow! So let's summarize what we have here, he was a physical wow as a pitching prospect in addition to being a statistical wow. So, what went wrong, why isn't Henn knocking on the Yankee Stadium door waiting to blow away hitters? Three words, Tommy John surgery. At the beginning of this season when I learned Henn would in fact be finally making his way back to the mound, my initial thought was that he took ridiculously long to recover from the procedure. In reality the prognosis for recovery is supposedly 12 to 18 months so Henn was not out for as long as I thought (I probably just felt this way, because I couldn't wait for him to get back, and Brandon Claussen came back ridiculously fast so I was spoiled). Anyway, what happened when Henn came back? This is what he did this past year in 8 innings in the GCL and 72.1 innings in the A+ Florida State League: H/9IP:8.3 BB/9IP:4.5 K/9IP:7.0 HR/9IP:.45 K/BB:1.6 There are a couple of ways you could go on these sets of numbers. One is that you could look at it from the perspective that Henn was somewhat old for his leagues as he was 22 and the ideal prospect age for the FSL at least, would be 19/20 I think. In addition to being somewhat old league, Henn's K rate fell, he walked more batters, allowed home runs at a higher rate, and allowed more hits. Looking at it from this angle it was a disappointing season. However, the other perspective is that this was Henn's first season back from Tommy John and he worked with less than his best stuff. That being said, reports out of Tampa are that his fastball velocity was improving as the season went on, and he was able to throw it in the low 90's consistently. All things considered, I would call this past season a wash for Henn, he did nothing to really enhance his prospect, but nothing to really hurt it either in my opinion. I still feel he has a huge ceiling and this year could go a long way to deciding his future. He can either go out and dominate the AA Eastern League and be ready for the majors by the end of the year now that he is fully healthy, or not. If he doesn't dominate, and that is what I am expecting, I think his prospect shine is gone, this might be a bit dramatic, but his surgery has really set him back and he needs to get back on track as soon as possible. ****** Once again, questions, comments, concerns to mcnallyf@taftschool.org Also, I am now heading back to school and my goal is to update this site once every weekday, whether I meet that goal depends on how much time I will have and the length of my posts might also be affected.
 
Friday, January 02, 2004
 
WHIPPING BOY One of the great things about being a person addicted to the study of baseball and the Yankees is that I get to take constant Litmus tests on how fellow fans feel about the team's personnel. Acknowledging this, a popular cause of discontent with Yankee fans of late has been Alfonso Soriano. There are a few main criticisms laid against him, one is that "he has no plate discipline and isn't focusing enough on this", two is that "he was a horrible 2B in 2001 and hasn't gotten better", and three is that "he doesn't hit in the clutch". Let's tackle the issue and see if Soriano deserves the criticism he has been getting. Ahhh, Soriano's lack of plate discipline. This is probably the most infamous aspect of Soriano's game as it has led some misguided analysts to compare him to Vladimir Guerrero and Nomar Garciaparra who in reality are very different hitters than Soriano, but those two are stories for another day. While many Yankee fans don't necessarily care about things such as OBP and walking, they do, somewhat oddly to me, love to point that Soriano does not walk much and strikes out a lot. This theory is true to an extent. Yes, Soriano does in fact not walk much; here are his unintentional walk rates for each of his full major league seasons: AB/BB 19.7 31.6 22.0 So yes, Soriano has been rather impatient thus far in his major league career, even more so after his rookie season, which ironically was his least productive year in the bigs. In fact, just looking at those 3 years, the less at bats it has taken for Soriano to walk, the more productive he has been, I have no explanation why that has happened with him and I won't try to explain it now. Anyway, we have now established that just as Yankee fans think, Soriano does not walk much and he has not really made strides in that aspect of his game. Now, here are Soriano's K rates thus far: AB/K 4.6 4.4 5.2 So, the first question that must be answered is: Does Soriano strike out a lot or is that perception skewed because he walks so little and has so many at bats? Let's look at the K rates for the top 20 players in Ks this past season outside of Soriano: AB/K Jim Thome 3.2 Jose Hernandez 2.9 Brad Wilkerson 3.3 Richie Sexon 4.0 Sammy Sosa 3.6 Pat Burrell 3.7 Jason Giambi 3.8 Preston Wilson 4.3 Carlos Delgado 4.2 Mike Cameron 3.9 Derrek Lee 4.1 Wes Helms 3.6 Dmitri Young 4.3 Rocco Baldelli 5.0 Jim Edmonds 3.5 Alex Rodriguez 4.8 Bobby Abreu 4.6 Adam Dunn 3.0 Bret Boone 5.0 So after looking at the list of the top 20 K guys in MLB we see that of that 20, Soriano struck out at a higher rate than...none of them. This disproves a large part of the Soriano K theory, which is that he is always amongst the top K guys making him detrimental to the team, when in actuality his place on this list is more a function of his position in the batting lineup than anything else. On top of that, Soriano has indeed improved greatly in this aspect of his game. So if a Yankee fan, you know, one of the ones that say they "watch all the games" tries to say, "Soriano has no plate discipline and isn't focusing enough on this" it is only partially true. Yes, Soriano lacks plate discipline, but since he has become much better at making contact it would seem that he has been working/focusing on this. Soriano's defense is perhaps the aspect of his game most attacked by Yankee fans, ESPECIALLY the aforementioned ones who "watch all the games". The general feeling amongst this crowd is that Soriano is horrible defensively, and if they choose to use statistical evidence, they point towards his somewhat consistent error totals. This is very faulty logic. What is ignored in this generalization of Soriano's defense is his range...factor: FP RF ZR Year .973 4.45 .796 2001 .968 4.55 .813 2002 .975 4.82 .811 2003 So yes, Soriano his rookie year was pretty horrible, he made a lot of errors and did not get to many balls. Then his second year, Soriano made more errors, but his zone rating and range factor both went up. In his third year he had his best fielding percentage, along with his highest range factor by a wide margin and his second best zone factor. I think it is safe to conclude from these numbers that Soriano has made strides defensively each year. Therefore the theory about Soriano's defense does not hold water. Another weakness of Soriano's according to those naysayers is that he does not hit in the clutch. With this in mind they point to the most recent postseason and his numbers with RISP this past season. In regards to these in general, I am of the belief that clutch hitting does not actually exist and if you give any player enough time, over the course of that time his "clutch" stats will resemble his normal stats very closely. However, let us take for example that RISP for Soriano does represent that he is "unclutch". If that is the case, what was the case in 2002 when Soriano hit .329/.357/.564 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with RISP? Was he clutch then? If he was not clutch then, what is clutch? If he was clutch then, how come he was not clutch this year? It is simple. Clutch does not truly exist, but is more a function of small sample size variations. After reading this, you may think I am a huge Soriano fan, in actuality, while I appreciate his talent I am somewhat wary of him because of how unique a player he is, making it more difficult than normal to know exactly how he will develop. In fact, I would have much rather had the Yankees trade him to get Vazquez than Nick Johnson. That being said, Soriano is still hugely talented and probably the second best 2B in baseball, and I appreciate him for that. He also does not deserve the negativity the average Yankee fan may throw at him, so I had to defend him. ***** It's been a little while since I discussed a prospect now, but I will be getting back to that soon. Questions, comments, suggestions, mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
 
Update coming sometime tonight.
 
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    Alfonso Soriano

    Batting Average:.279
    On-Base Percentage:.322
    Slugging Percentage:.464
    Gross Production Avg:.261

    Alex Rodriguez

    Batting Average:.284
    On-Base Percentage:.372
    Slugging Percentage:.536
    Gross Production Avg:.301

    Nick Johnson

    Batting Average:.258
    On-Base Percentage:.365
    Slugging Percentage:.404
    Gross Production Avg:.265

    Javier Vazquez

    Earned Run Average:4.16
    Strikeouts:111
    Walks:37
    Home Runs:23

    Brandon Claussen

    Earned Run Average:4.02
    Strikeouts:9
    Walks:7
    Home Runs:2