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Wednesday, April 28, 2004
 
HOORAY FOR ME Haven't posted in a while, but once again I am feeling the crunch of scholarships and upcoming Advanced Placement Examinations so have some patience with me. At least the Yankees have won two in a row now. The farm system is booming right now for those of you wondering and I will go more in-depth later. Oh yeah, if anyone else is going to the game on Friday, which I will be, let me know, maybe we can meet up. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Monday, April 19, 2004
 
ANGER Anger is the best description of what I am feeling right now. I am angry with my current school and administration, but even angrier with the New York Yankees, which is what you come here to read about. I understand that "it's early in the season" and that this was "just another series" against Boston, but I am still angry because the Yankees got knocked around. There is no other way to put it. While I am angry with the team as a whole; that is not quite how I feel about several individuals. Hideki Matsui. There were two things that I really wanted to see Matsui do this season, one was to improve his walk rate, and the other was to hit less ground balls. Thus far, Matsui has hit groundballs at about 75% the rate with which he hit them last year. This is a good thing. Unfortunately his power numbers have yet to go on the upward trend that I felt such a change in approach would generate. Until he begins hitting for more power, Matsui will merely be a serviceable corner OF, instead of the great asset to the team that he should have been. On the positive side, Matsui has made some strides to actually being overall more productive in regards to plate patience and discipline. He is seeing almost 1/3 of a pitch more per plate appearance, and has almost doubled his walk rate. I don't whether or not to be worried about Bernie Williams. On the one hand, he, like many other Yankees right now, is not collecting base hits. On the other hand, he, like many other Yankees is drawing his fair share of walks and getting on base. On the one hand, he is old, and has yet to show any power this season, which was a big problem last year. On the other hand he is a notoriously slow starter. I don't know, which way to lean in regards to Williams so for now I will just wait for him to break out...hopefully. Derek Jeter has thus far been ineffective at the plate (getting kind of repetitive isn't it?). From watching him, you get the feeling that he is anxious for some unknown reason and instead of being the normally mildly patient hitter he is, is instead swinging a lot. The stats seem to agree as he is only seeing about 3.5 pitches per plate appearance, which is especially harmful as he is now the leadoff hitter for the foreseeable future. That's probably one of the best things I can say about Jeter thus far, that he has made me happy only because Joe Torre has inserted him in the leadoff spot. Oh yeah, there is one other thing, in an incredibly small sample size, Derek Jeter has thus far been playing the best defense of his life. This will probably change, but I'll still keep an eye on it. Alex Rodriguez has thus far done a good-to-great job playing 3B. That's about all the positives I have for him. Right now A-Rod is not hitting, to put it simply, and it is obvious in the quality of his at bats that he is becoming anxious as he attempts to impress the New York fans. I'm not too worried though as A-Rod has always hit, and will continue to do so once he becomes more comfortable with himself. That being said, as a frequent visitor of message boards, I am sick of hearing that Alex Rodriguez being "the best player in baseball". There is only ONE best player in baseball. He plays left field for the San Francisco Giants, is serviceable defensively, and is the best hitter since Ted Williams. No one is close to Barry Bonds. Not Pujols, not A-Rod, not any other player playing baseball right now. Few in the history of the game have been. In addition to Rodriguez being "the best player in baseball", I have also often heard about how it is key for him to awaken from his offensive slumber because he is "the Yankees' best hitter". While it is key for Rodriguez to start hitting, he is not the best hitter on the team. He is the 3rd best hitter the Yankees have. Jason Giambi is the best hitter in the AL and the Yankees' best hitter. Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez for the second spot is debatable and I would go with Sheffield as he has put up comparable numbers to Rodriguez while playing in pitchers' parks and he is a better on base guy than Rodriguez. That being said, Alex Rodriguez IS the best player on the Yankees. Speaking of Sheffield, he has somehow managed not to draw too much of my anger this season. While he certainly has not hit like I expected him to, or like he eventually will, he has done a lot better than many other Yankee hitters so he falls somewhere in between the two extremes. I am thankful that he has performed serviceably while many of his teammates have sucked, but at the same time, I expect a lot more from him in the future, especially in the power and batting average departments. Jason Giambi has not hit for average thus far. That is the only negative I have to say about him. He's shown that he has his batting eye back, he's hit some monstrous shots so you know the power is still there, now, all he has to do is wait for some singles to start dropping in. The other pleasing Yankee offensive player has been Jorge Posada, who seems determined to prove that despite Piazza coming back, he is still the best offensive catcher in baseball. Here's hoping he does it. I will admit, I am biased, but I need to say it anyway. Enrique Wilson is perhaps the worst player I have ever seen with an everyday job. Here is a guy who at no point has EVER proven he can hit consistently well or even slightly below average, and he has an everyday job on the most talented team in the majors. You would think that he is a world-class defender, but in fact, Wilson has NEVER proven himself to be much more than an average defender. The man does nothing that contributes to consistently winning baseball games yet Joe Torre has faith in him. Perhaps his fluke spring, that anyone with a brain could have seen was just that, still has Clueless Joe fooled. I hope this isn't the case, but I see no other explanation especially when a CLEARLY BETTER PLAYER, is sitting on the Yankees bench waiting to be used. I can't really write anymore about this issue right now because I am about to break something, so let's move on to the pitching staff, which while not perfect, is still better than Enrique Wilson. Thus far, Kevin Brown has been the Yankees best pitcher, and that is including his statistically lackluster effort today. Then again, he has faced the Devil Rays 3 times and despite what Lou Piniella wants to think, they are awful and destined for last place. I am also still not sold on the idea of him excelling when his defense up the middle consists of Derek Jeter and Enrique Wilson. Despite my fears about the adventures Yankee infielders would have with Brown I was not overly worried about the starting staff going into the season, because "hey! We have Mike Mussina who is good every year, Jose Contreras who could be great, and Javier Vazquez, who is like Mussina but younger". After attempting to "play it cool", I will now say I am officially worried about Mike Mussina. I have seen 2 of his 3 starts in their entirety and have yet to see him throw harder than 90 miles per hour, and it's not as though he has been reaching 90 a lot either. Normally, with a control pitcher like Mussina, the loss in velocity would not worry me that much, but thus far his control has been awful and he is just not fooling anyone. I think Mussina will figure out some way to right himself, as I would like to hope that great pitchers don't just fall off a cliff like this performance-wise. However, if he does not, I don't see anyway the Yankees have a chance at a championship, much less the division. Many Yankee fans are worried about Jose Contreras so far, I would not really count myself amongst them. Thus far he has struggled with his usual demons, his control and the Red Sox. He will be fine soon enough, and hopefully at some point this year he can overcome his Red Sox related problems. Vazquez has had one great start and one poor start, so I don't really have anything to say about him. As for the fifth starter/bullpen swingman role, I have several thoughts. First, I hope that Jorge De Paula does not need TJ Surgery, as he is probably the Yankees best immediate option for the 5th starter spot. He pitched poorly against the White Sox, but was able to settle down and do well after the first couple innings and was done a good job when called upon in relief, until running into control problems against the Red Sox. Meanwhile, Donovan Osborne has done a great job out of the bullpen thus far, but I still do not want to see him in the rotation. Replacing De Paula in the rotation will be Alex Graman, who was recently called up from AAA Columbus. I will go on record to say that if Graman allows at least 2 home runs he will lose. This is because there will most likely be ample base runners as Graman gives up a decent amount of hits and walks a lot of guys, which is not a recipe for success. Perhaps he can be an effective short-term option for the 5th starter spot, but I doubt his long-term ability, and the Yankees would probably be best served if Ramon Ramirez can work through whatever it is that has gone wrong with him. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Friday, April 16, 2004
 
OH BOY Must...resist...urge...to...write...angry...post...look...for...rational...post...tomorrow. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
 
RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY...PLEASE Perhaps the one thing I hate about baseball is how easily it can be affected by weather. Case in point would be today. I expected it to be another great day of baseball box scores throughout the Yankee organization for me to peruse, but instead I get this. This would be the Yankees having their game against the Devil Rays rained out, the Columbus Clippers having their game rained out, and the Trenton Thunder having their double header rained out. That would be 4 games worth of valuable Yankee brand baseball lost in one day. Despite this, there was some reason for optimism today as the Tampa and Battle Creek Yankees were able to get their games in. The Battle Creek game was pretty much what you would expect from them at this point. Eric Duncan went 1 for 3 with a walk, which is the good part. On the other hand, he also made another error. So after 5 games, Duncan is now hitting .250/.429/.375/.287 (AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) with 5 errors. While my faith in his ability to stay at 3B has been quickly declining this season, my faith in his ability to hit enough to play at any corner position has been growing almost as quickly. Amongst the other everyday prospects on the Battle Creek team, Hector Made had the best night, going 2 for 4 with a walk. Melky Cabrera was decent, hitting a double in 5 at bats, and Estee Harris had a rough time at the plate as demonstrated by his 0 for 3, 3-strikeout performance, at least he walked once though and stole a base. The guy whose performance I thought would be of note tonight was Tyler Clippard. After dominating the Gulf Coast League in 2003, Clippard got off to a decent start in 2004. On the plus side, Clippard went 5.1 innings, struck out 4, walked 2, and allowed only 4 hits and 2 earned runs. On the other hand there were 5 runs allowed overall, pinning Clippard with the loss, and he gave up a home run. Like so many other Yankee pitching prospect performances this year it neither helped nor hurt his case too much. Tampa had a big offensive night as they put 9 runs on the board and Bronson Sardinha and Rudy Guillen continued their hot starts. Bronson, who found Tampa to be hitting hell last year, went 1 for 3 with a triple and 2 walks, and Guillen went 1 for 3 with a walk. Their lines now stand at .389/.435/.611/.349 and .421/.429/.474/.312 respectively. Oh yeah, Travesty Lee also went 2 for 4 with a walk. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Monday, April 12, 2004
 
MUSSINA FINALLY DOES IT Well, it took him about a billion attempts, but Mike Mussina finally got his 200th career win. The final line: 6.1 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts, does not look that impressive. However, watching the performance, it looked a lot better than his first two outings. What basically hurt Mussina's line for Sunday's game was a first inning where he was victimized by the defense (his own and his team's). He was able to recover though and give a solid outing. The most encouraging statistic for this start was the amount of strikeouts. Mussina had only struck out 3 men in his first 9 innings this season, and just in general he was missing more bats on Sunday. In between Vazquez and Mussina's ChiSox series bookend starts, Jose Contreras and Jorge DePaula managed to pitch poorly. Contreras was wild, as he tossed a wild pitch and walked 3 in 5.1 innings pitched while only throwing 58 of his 105 pitches for strikes. This start illustrated 2 of the fears generally associated with Contreras. The first is that his control can leave him and put him into poor situations against teams with a decent offensive attack. The second is that while we have seen Contreras absolutely destroy teams such as the Tigers, there has yet to be that same level of consistent quality pitching against the better opponents. As many before me have said, it seems as though Contreras almost does not trust his stuff against these better teams, though he does have some of the best stuff of any starting pitcher in the league. Hopefully, this will pass with time. De Paula, on the other hand, was victimized by one poor inning. Unfortunately, that inning was the first and Torre could not pull him before he further worsened his situation. Overall, I would not call De Paula's start as definitive one way or another in terms of his major league ability; he did what would be expected of him from his minor league numbers. He stayed around the strike zone, 64 of 95 pitches for strikes, which is good, but also showed what I believe will be his ultimate downfall as a starter. When he is hit, he is usually hit hard, as demonstrated by 5 of 8 hits against him going for extra bases. Hopefully, De Paula can just not have any more first inning type situations and be a solid contributor to the team until Lieber returns. While the Yankees' pitching has not been great, they may have been saved if the lineup hit as well as it could. I am placing great emphasis on the word hit in this situation. The Yankees have done a good job getting their walks and getting on base, but, as of right now, many of their hitters are cold and just are not collecting base hits. Like so many other things that happened for the Yankees this weekend this is a good side/bad side situation. The bad side of course being that they are not hitting and scoring much. The good side is that despite their not hitting, the patience and discipline of the lineup as a whole has allowed them to still be able to score the occasional run, which is the idea in putting together such an OBP heavy lineup. As for individual Yankee every day players, there are a few things I feel safe in saying at this point. Groundzilla has seemingly returned, but hopefully Matsui can rediscover whatever he was doing in Tokyo and get the ball in the air again because if he does not, Torre's decision to incessantly bat him ahead of Posada will only be more painful. Jason Giambi has also been the most impressive hitter thus far. It is almost as though he was not healthy last year and some of the talk about him being washed up was a bit premature. The guy has 9 walks to 1 strikeout thus far. 9 to 1. That is ridiculous. Clearly he won't keep that pace up, but if he walks more than he strikes out he will have a monstrous year, and if he doesn't, then he will just have one of the best years in the AL. Oh yeah. Don't worry, A-Rod won't keep hitting like this, unfortunately, neither will Bubba Crosby. *** Ramon Ramirez was shelled in his first start for AAA Columbus. His control, probably his greatest asset at this point, was seemingly off as he walked 3 men in just 4.2 innings of work while giving up 6 hits and a home run. On the positive side he did strike out 5 men and I will take a wait and see attitude with him for now. I don't think this type of start will occur too often though. Brad Halsey faced similar struggles in his first start for AAA Columbus. Like Ramirez, he worked 4.2 innings, but gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, no home runs, and struck out 3. Initially, I was surprised when I heard that Halsey would start the year at AAA, but apparently the Yankees realized that he was arguably a better pitcher in AA than he was in A+ last year, despite the urgings of ERA and playing in the best hitters park in the best hitters league in the minors. This is a great sign for the organization as a whole in terms of placing the performance of prospects in context. Sean Henn had a good outing in his first taste of AA ball for Trenton, continuing the trend he set in spring training. The fireballing lefty went 5 innings, gave up 5 hits, including one home run, 1 earned run, walked 1, and struck out 4; very encouraging numbers. Once again, if Henn is fully healthy, and close to the pitcher who was throwing low to mid 90s heat as a lefty in 2001, he will zoom up the prospect ladder and organizational depth chart. Amongst everyday prospects on the Trenton team, Navarro (.400/.500/.400/.325 AVG/OBP/SLG/GPA) is off to a hot start 3 games in, while Cano (.200/.200/.467/.207) has been solid, and Tejeda (.000/.000/.000/.000) not so much. If either Cano or Tejeda emerges this year it will be very beneficial for them as the Yankees currently employ Enrique Wilson as their 2B and he is not exactly a huge roadblock for a hot prospect to overcome. That is my hope for this season actually, I want Cano to have a huge first half and then have the Yankees promote him to the majors to take over for Enrique because the man is an awful major league baseball player. I think I'm being a bit generous by calling him that actually. On the pitching side of things, nothing too noteworthy has come out of A+ Tampa thus far, however Rudy Guillen (.538/.538/.615/.394) and Jon-Mark Sprowl (.333/.375/1.000/.419) have hit the ground running. These are two guys who almost could not be any different. Guillen is the 5-tool outfield prospect, Sprowl is the guy scouts hate, but statheads are intrigued by. In addition, Sprowl is blocked on the minor league level by Dioner Navarro, and on the major league level by Jorge Posada, therefore making it almost a certainty that he will never see regular playing time on the Yankees. Guillen on the other hand, is the number one minor league outfield prospect for the Yankees, and while the Yankees are currently stocked in the outfield, in about 3 years time there will be no more Sheffield, Matsui, Williams, or Lofton so he definitely has a shot. Deivi Mendez (.143/.143/.143/.100), one of the many former "next A-Rod" shortstop prospects hasn't done much of anything thus far, but it is still early in the season and he still has a couple years of prospect status left. There has been a mixed bag of performances at A- Battle Creek. Eric Duncan had not had great results at the plate (.111/.333/.222/.205) thus far, but managed to go 2 for 4 with a HBP and a double tonight. On the positive side, Duncan's approach has been very surprising to me thus far. Surprising because while scouts compared his hitting approach to Nick Johnson's following last season, I just did not see it as Duncan's walk rate seemed comparatively low. However, listening to the Battle Creek games it has become evident that while Duncan's plate appearances may not always result in walks, he does wait for the right pitch before he swings. Which is a roundabout way for me to say that he is a lot more patient than his numbers from last year indicate. Defensively, while I had high hopes for Duncan after hearing about how he improved his quickness and general athleticism during the offseason I now am not so sure. After 4 games he now has 4 errors and there are a few ways I could go on the subject of his defense. One is that the problem seems to be less one of range and defensive movement, and more of hands and throwing accuracy, which would be good because that is a more correctable flaw. Another lead to take on this issue is that Duncan's hands are so bad that they just won't get better, which would be the worst case scenario in terms of prospect value. I am hoping that the Battle Creek announcing team was correct in pointing out that Duncan's fielding trouble thus far may be attributable to the extremely cold weather they have been playing in. Estee Harris (.182/.182/.273/.150) has been similar to Duncan thus far in that he has featured a solid approach, OK results, and shaky defense, 2 errors in 3 games. Tonight he went 1 for 3 with a walk. Hector Made and Erold Andrus have yet to really get it going, but when they do, I will surely comment some more on them. Meanwhile, Abel Gomez, a big time sleeper lefty prospect for the Yankees, took the mound tonight. He was cruising until he ran into control problems in the 4th and in the end his final line in 4.2 innings of work consisted of 4 hits, 4 runs, all of them earned, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts. These control problems will be his greatest obstacle this season, but if he can overcome them and post a solid season he is another prospect to keep an eye on. Tomorrow night is the big start in my opinion though. It is the 2004 debut for Tyler Clippard, who had arguably the most dominant Rookie League season of any Yankee draftee from the 2003 class. I don't think he will perform as well, but he is definitely another one to keep an eye on. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Friday, April 09, 2004
 
READY...SET...GO! The Yankees have had two games since my last post. The common theme has been great starting pitching, not much offense. Give it some time. More encouraging was the success of Javier Vazquez yesterday afternoon and Kevin Brown the day before. Brown has pitched well thus far, but I am still cautious in my optimism for his season for two reasons. One is that despite what John Sterling and Charlie Steiner seem to think, he is in fact a huge injury risk, and two is that thus far he has had a much better groundball to flyball ratio than his career numbers indicate he would. By much better I mean his number of flyballs are closer to his number of groundballs than they can reasonably be expected to. This would be a case of small sample size fluctuation and I would expect Brown to start being victimized by the defense soon enough. Vazquez pitched well and the only thing I can really find fault with, and this is really being nit-picky, is Torre letting him throw 106 pitches on his first start of the season. This is a pitcher who has been abused heavily by the Expos and I would rather see him eased into the season a little more gently. The most encouraging thing from yesterday's game though was this: Jeter Williams Rodriguez Giambi Sheffield Posada Matsui Sierra Wilson Torre will probably switch back to the way he likes it (re: the wrong way) soon enough, but if just for one day it was great to see that the chance of Torre getting it, is there. Later this afternoon Jose Contreras faces the White Sox and hopefully, he'll have a nice game, more importantly, I hope the offense begins to show its' teeth. *** Yesterday was not only the Home Opener for the big club; it was the season opener for the minor league teams. Nothing noteworthy to report from Columbus, which will probably be the case most of this season, but the other teams showed signs of prospect life. The Trenton Thunder were under whelming for about 7 innings before exploding in the 8th. In the end the most important lines were from Robinson Cano who went 2 for 5 and had his first double of the season, and Dioner Navarro, who had 2 hits in 4 at bats. Neither struck out. The Tampa Yankees most encouraging line was courtesy of Rudy Guillen's bat as he went 2 for 4 with a double in his Florida State League debut. Deivi Mendez went 1 for 3, but on the other hand, committed 2 errors. John Mark Sprowl also went 1 for 3, his lone hit was a home run and he also walked, of course. The Battle Creek Yankees saw fringe left handed pitching prospect Chase Wright pitch 6 innings of 5 hit, 1 run ball, he also tallied 6 strikeouts. Erold Andrus had the most encouraging offensive night he went 1 for 3 with a walk; the rest of the hitters had a tough time. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
 
APOLOGIES AND NOTES I know I haven't posted in a while, but this is mainly due to being swamped with work and scholarship applications and to be truthful, college money comes before this. Anyway, I have some free time on my hands right now so I'd like to point out that: Joe Torre still has no idea how to construct a lineup properly. Why would you bat Jorge Posada 8th? There is no reason for this. His name should be engraved in the 6 slot in this lineup. Oh, and John Sterling and Charlie Steiner referring to Posada's spot in the lineup as "proof of the Yankees depth" is stupid. What it actually is is proof of Joe Torre's stupidity. I won't lie. Mussina has looked pretty bad thus far; he is not striking anyone out, his control and command have been off, and things just haven't gone well. However, I am willing to give him a pass on these first two starts because, for better or worse, Mussina is a creature of habit and his habit has been disrupted thus far this season. He did not want to go on the Japan trip, and Mussina on extra days' rest is a bad recipe. It's only 3 games, but I must say, and sorry if I am repeating myself, that Sheffield and Giambi look terrific. Between them they have 9 walks and 1 strikeout, that's the type of plate discipline/patience that you love to see out of your 4 or 5 hitters. A-Rod has gotten off to a relatively slow start, but he should be fine as well. The first inning was a great example of the type of best-case scenario damage this lineup can do. Walk, homer, walk, homer. I love it. Now for some minor league musing: The minor league season begins on Thursday and that is when I will truly be happy. Apparently the Trenton rotation will feature Mark Phillips and Sean Henn, so that should be exciting. Thinking about this and the other opening day rosters for the Yankee farm clubs made me realize that for the first time in a long time, many of the Yankee minor league teams will be exciting to watch. At AAA you will be able to observe the progress of Danny Borrel, Brad Halsey, and Ramon Ramirez. The AA team boasts the aforementioned Henn and Phillips, in addition to Navarro, Cano, and Tejeda. The Tampa Yankees will feature Rudy Guillen, Bronson Sardinha, and Jose Valdez. Finally, in Battle Creek you can follow the exploits of Eric Duncan, Estee Harris, Hector Made, Tyler Clippard, Abel Gomez, Chase Wright, Erold Andrus, and Melky Cabrera. This should be fun. *** Questions, comments, suggestions to mcnallyf@taftschool.org
 
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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