Pondering the future of Lee

"Could you see this guy in pinstripes?" Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports.

Last night the Yankees’ bats were silenced by the Seattle Mariners’ ace, Cliff Lee. The general feeling around baseball is that Cliff Lee won’t be a Mariner once the trading deadline comes and passes on July 31st. And of course, whenever a big name player is the trading block the media feels the need to involve the Yankees. However, while you can never count the Yankees out on a possible big trade, I don’t the Yankees will (or should) acquire Cliff Lee this season. Lee would require too many valuable prospects to acquire and if he isn’t signed to an extension, he will be a free agent at the end of the year anyway. Which leads me to my main point. Should the Yankees pursue Cliff Lee this upcoming offseason? Well, let’s break it down.

Does he have past success to back him up? Cliff Lee began his major league career in 2002 with the Cleveland Indians and it wasn’t until  2008 when he won the CY Young Award that he became the elite class pitcher he is today. Since 2008 Lee has posted an ERA of 2.81 and an outstanding 1.3 BB/9. So far in 2010 Lee has pitched to an ERA 2.45 and a FIP of 2.34. With the Mariners Lee has maintained an other-worldly 0.47 BB/9. He has just 5 walks in 95.2 innings this year! 5 walks! Just for reference, Mariano Rivera who we all know rarely walks anyone has put up 2.1 BB/9 throughout his entire career. In conclusion, Lee seems to have enough success to back up a long term investment in him. Pinpoint control is an attribute that people like to award to everyone these days, but if anyone deserves the honor, it is Cliff Lee.

Can he handle the pressures of New York? Well I’ve always felt this is not an issue with 99% of major leaguers, but just because most people like to ask the question, I’ll discuss it. It’s hard to know what qualifies as a pressure situation, but I’m sure the World Series does so I’ll use that for Lee’s stats in pressure situations. Last year Cliff Lee faced the Yankees twice in the World Series and it is hard to forget how impressive he pitched. In 16 World Series last year Lee had an ERA of 2.81 and just 3 walks. Still, that doesn’t tell the whole story. You had to see him pitch to see how dominant he was. So I guess Lee can handle the on-field pressure cooker. But can he handle the off the field pressures of New York? Well there is no evidence that he cannot, and he also seems to like New York. Yesterday he took the train to Yankee Stadium, but the train passed the Yankee Stadium stop. However, that was no problem for Lee. He calmly got off at the next stop and took the D Train back to Yankee Stadium. When asked about the subway, Lee said:

“I’m not afraid to take the subway.”

When questioned about whether or not he likes New York and Yankee Stadium, Lee said:

“Yeah, I like pitching here, I’ve always enjoyed pitching here. You know there’s going to be a lot of fans. I’ve always enjoyed pitching here. They’re knowledgeable fans that understand the game, and they get into it. As a player, that’s what you like and respect. Obviously, I try to keep them as quiet as possible when I face them on this side.”

I don’t know about you, but I would think Lee would be very comfortable in New York.

The final question, of course Lee has been great these last few years, but can he keep it up? In 2011 Cliff Lee will be 32 years old, so it’s not like he would be considered an aging veteran yet. Still, Lee is on the wrong side of 30 so can we expect his body to hold up? Lee’s injury history consists just of a groin strain in 2007 and an abdominal strain earlier this year. He recovered quickly from both of these injuries so I wouldn’t worry about them. Lee is listed as 6’3″ and 190 lbs so he is not a small guy, but he is not overweight or out of condition by any matter. Obviously anything can happen, but I think Cliff Lee projects to stay healthy for most of his career and since he doesn’t rely on overpowering velocity he could end up lasting a very long time. So to answer the question on whether he can keep up his success, obviously we can’t know for sure but it looks like he is equipped to maintain his success

My take. With 60.85 million coming off the books this offseason in just Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Javier Vazquez the Yankees should have some budget room. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Yankees devote 40 million to re-upping Jeter and Rivera, and giving out any due arbitration raises. Although that number is probably higher than it would be realistically, they would still have 20 million to spend. Perfect for Cliff Lee. A starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, and anyone else would be very impressive. So, should the Yankees pursue Cliff Lee this offseason? I say, yes, yes, yes.

Yanks return home; Hughes vs. Lee

The Yankees return to New York tonight for the first time since June 20th when they played the Mets. I don’t know about you, but I feel like they haven’t been home in ages. Anyway, tonight Phil Hughes is set to make his first start since being skipped in the rotation recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes out a little too strong in the first few innings because of the extra rest, but hopefully he can settle in and have a good game. The Yankees will be opposed by Seattle’s Cliff Lee in what appears to be a fabulous pitching match-up. Phil Hughes, my favorite Yankee pitcher, versus Cliff Lee, one of the best starters in the game and also one of my favorite pitchers. I’m excited!

The Yankees are back home!

Game 75: Yankees at Dodgers

The Yankees have split the first two games in this series against the Dodgers (which has been way overblown by the media) and tonight they look for the series win against Clayton Kershaw. Here is the starting lineup via Chad Jennings

SS Derek Jeter

RF Nick Swisher

1B Mark Teixeira

3B Alex Rodriguez

2B Robinson Cano

C Jorge Posada

CF Curtis Granderson

LF Brett Gardner

LHP Andy Pettitte

"Joe Girardi and the Yankees will say farewell to Joe Torre and the Dodgers tonight." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports.

Interleague coming to an end…

Tonight the Yankees will play their final game against a National League team in 2010 except of course if they make it to the World Series. Since the Yankees will be returning to American League style baseball and rules, I’d have to imagine we will see a roster move coming up. The Yankees could of course stick with their current bench of Colin Curtis, Chad Huffman, Kevin Russo, Ramiro Pena, and Francisco Cervelli. However, it wouldn’t be out of proportion to think that a move may be made. In addition, I’d love to see Mark Melancon or Jonathan Albaladejo brought up to help out the bullpen.

Eiland returning…

Marc Carig reports that pitching coach Dave Eiland will return to the team on Tuesday after taking time away for personal reasons. It seems many people have liked blaming any recent pitching issues on Eiland’s absence so I guess that is finally over. Anyway, I hope all is well with Dave’s personal life and I am glad to have him back.

Brackman makes AA debut…

Just the other day I mentioned that the Yankees planned to promote Andrew Brackman to Double-A in the near future and it has happened. Brackman made his Trenton debut yesterday and pitched respectably, not that numbers mean much in the minors. Mike Ashmore has excellent coverage of Brackman’s start which includes over 1000 words worth of info, 5 exclusive photos, and 12 exclusive videos. You really should check it out.

Culver debuts

2010 draftee, Cito Culver, already has two games of professional baseball under his belt (and one hit). How’s that for signing extremely quickly? Anyway, the Daily News has a great article on Culver. It’s definitely worth the read.

"A-Rod will have to say goodbye tonight to Manny for the forseeable future." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports.

Off Day Musings (2nd Edition)

It’s been a while…

State of the Yankees

  • Since June 8th, the Yankees have gone 10-5 against the Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Mets, and Diamondbacks.
  • The Yankees are in first place in the AL East with Boston and Tampa Bay tied for second place at 2.5 games behind the Yankees.
  • The Yankees have the best record in baseball at 45-27. That’s a .625 winning percentage and at this rate the Yankees would win about 101 games.

Brackman Rules!

Andrew Brackman, one of the Yankees top prospects, is finally starting to meet expectations. The Yankees drafted Brackman knowing that he would need surgery and he pitched poorly in his first full professional season last year. This year, however, he seems to be improving. He’s been throwing a nasty slider at 87 mph, and has improved his BB/9 from 6.4 in 2009 to 1.4 in 2010. In addition, he has kept up an impressive 8.4 SO/9. According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees plan to promote Brackman from High-A Tampa to AA Trenton before the All-Star Break.

Hughes Rules?

In order to keep Phil Hughes’ innings under control, the Yankees are skipping his next start on June 29th. So far the Yankees have handled Hughes’ innings much better than they handled Joba’s innings. The general feeling is that Hughes is capped at 170-180 innings, so expect for him to be skipped a few more times around.

Albaladejo Reinvented…

You remember Jonathan Albaladejo, don’t you? Well he’s been reinventing and improving his game down in AAA this season and has really become a new and better pitcher. I truly hope the Yankees give him an opportunity to prove himself again at the big league level, it’s not like Chan Ho Park or Boone Logan are blowing the world away. Make sure you check out Mike Axisa of RAB’s post about Albaladejo.

Happy Birthday!

Phil Hughes turns 24 years old today, it’s hard to believe he is still so young.

What’s Next?

The Yankees should be enjoying this off day in Los Angeles and tomorrow they will take on Joe Torre and the Dodgers.  You can bet the media will blow this series way out of proportion. It should be fun!

Meet Chris Culver

Yesterday, the first round of the 2010 First-Year player draft took place. With the 32nd overall pick the Yankees selected Cito Culver as a shortstop. Immediately many people complained that the Yankees should have taken a bigger name, but let’s trust the Yankees brain trust because they are the ones who know the most about Culver. That doesn’t mean that we as fans can’t learn about him, so let’s try to get to know him.

Photo Credit: River Ave Blues

Background

Chris “Cito” Culver is a 17-year-old shortstop out of Irondequoit High School in Rochester, N.Y. Culver is also a switch hitter. According to Culver’s high school’s website, he is 6-feet tall and 172 pounds. Last summer Culver played on the Yankees “Area Code” team and got to work out at Yankee Stadium so the Yankees obviously know a lot about the kid. Now just for your own personal entertainment, here is some personal information also provided by Culver’s high school.

Favorite baseball team: New York Yankees
Favorite baseball player: Derek Jeter, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez
Favorite foods: pizza, wings, Reese’s
Favorite movies: Friday, Remember the Titans
Favorite TV shows: Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight
Favorite subject in school: Math
Other sports played: Basketball
Athletic achievements: 1st Team AGR Baseball 2009, 1st Team All County Baseball 2007-2009, 1st Team All County Basketball 2009-2010, MVP Baseball 2008-2009, Participant in Exceptional Seniors Basketball Game 2010
Most memorable athletic accomplishment: Playing baseball at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and the Metrodome
Person(s) who have influenced me the most: Mom, uncles, Miss B
Future plans: Playing in the MLB

Scouting Report

Baseball Beginnings has a quick little video of Culver. I can’t insert it into this post, so make sure you go check it out.

Here’s what Aaron Fitt of Baseball America had to said about Culver.

“The game comes easily to Culver, whose actions, instincts and range are all plus at times, though he has a long way to go to become a consistent defender, and some believe he profiles as a utility player down the road. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Culver is a solid-average runner and a switch-hitter with a loose, whippy swing from both sides of the plate.”

Most importantly, what do the Yankees, who know the most about Culver, think about the young shortstop? Here’s what scouting director Damon Oppenheimer had to say via The Lohud Yankees Blog.

Bat: “Switch hitter. We like him from both sides of the plate. An above average hitter. He has pop in his bat, even with wood. It’s high school, but he’s hitting the ball over the fence in center field with a heavier wood bat than most of these kids we see using. The kid only struck out twice. We saw him all summer against the better stuff, guys throwing hard, and he squared the ball up well during that time so we think he’s going to hit. We think there’s a chance for power too.”

Glove: “You always keep your mind open, but his tools and his ability were what attracted us as a shortstop. You never know how long it will take for a guy to get there, and what’s in front of him when he does get there, but I think the fact that he’s in the middle of the field right now, we project him to be a shortstop. Worst-case scenario, if somebody was there blocking his way, you’re talking about a switch hitter that can run and do some other things, it would allow him (to change positions) if you need to.”

Arm: “He has a great arm. He’s up to 95 on the mound, but the idea of being able to get a switch-hitting shortstop is more attractive right now than a thrower, which is really what he is as a pitcher.”

Makeup: “He’s a no-nonsense kid. He’s a yes sir, no sir kid. He’s very solid. He’s not going to come out and be real emotional one way or the other. He’s a very solid kid who’s really passionate toward baseball. He’s a good person. We feel he’s a high-character kid. We watched him play real hard, so we felt real good about his makeup.”

Signability: “He really wants to be a Yankee. I think that we’re going to get him. We should get him signed and get him out playing really soon. This guy really has a passion to make it through the minor leagues and play in New York.”

Culver’s Reaction

Via Democrat and Chronicle we have a quick little line Chris “Cito” Culver had to say after learning that he was drafted by his favorite team.

“I didn’t know what to do. My legs gave out, I just fell. I love the Yankees, I’ve watched pretty much every World Series (in my lifetime).”

My Take

Photo Credit: Jay Capers

I obviously don’t know much about Culver, I had not even heard of him until last night shortly before the draft began. However, the Yankees obviously have a boatload of information on Culver. I am extremely pleased with the pick because the Yankees ignored analysts and general opinions and went with the guy they truly felt was the best available. In addition, the Yankees weren’t the only team with Culver on their minds. When asked about the possibility of taking Culver in the second round instead of the first he said, “The thought crossed my mind and I’m glad I didn’t, because after we did pick him I got a call from one of our competitors who’s very successful, saying he would not have gotten to us.” Overall, I am very excited about Cito Culver and his potential. I understand he is a high risk, but he could also be a high reward and I’d rather see the Yankees take risks rather than go with more of a sure thing who may not be that great.

2010 First-Year Player Draft

Today is the first day of the First-Year Player Draft. MLB Network will have a preview of it at 6:00 pm and at 7:00 pm they will begin to broadcast the draft live. I’m going to try to cover the first round. Here is the draft order. I plan to update this post tomorrow when the first round is said and done. Remember you can watch the draft unfold on MLB Network and MLB.COM.

  1. Washington Nationals:
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates:
  3. Baltimore Orioles:
  4. Kansas City Royals:
  5. Cleveland Indians:
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks:
  7. New York Mets:
  8. Houston Astros:
  9. San Diego Padres:
  10. Oakland Athletics:
  11. Toronto Blue Jays:
  12. Cincinnati Reds:
  13. Chicago White Sox:
  14. Milwaukee Brewers:
  15. Texas Rangers:
  16. Chicago Cubs:
  17. Tampa Bay Rays:
  18. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
  19. Houston Astros:
  20. Boston Red Sox:
  21. Minnesota Twins:
  22. Texas Rangers:
  23. Florida Marlins:
  24. San Francisco Giants:
  25. Saint Louis Cardinals:
  26. Colorado Rockies:
  27. Philadelphia Phillies:
  28. Los Angeles Dodgers:
  29. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
  30. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
  31. Tampa Bay Rays:
  32. New York Yankees:

Armando Galarraga’s 28 out perfect game

"There are no hard feelings between Galarraga and Joyce."

As you know, Armando Galarraga of the Tigers was pitching a perfect game the other day and with two outs in the 9th, umpire Jim Joyce called Jason Donald safe on a ground ball to first base. After watching replays, Donald was obviously safe and should have been the 27th out of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. Immediately after the play, fans all over the nation began calling Jim Joyce names, complaining, arguing, and overreacting.

Sure, Jason Donald’s ground out would have been the last out of a perfect game. But, the fact is that Jim Joyce is human, and humans are known for their uncanny ability to make mistakes. Some people argue that Joyce should have just called Donald out even if he really wasn’t, but what makes Jim Joyce one of the better umpires in baseball, is what would have made that so hard to do. Joyce does not let situations affect his calls, he just goes with what he thinks is right. Unfortunately, his “human element” took over at the wrong time.

This incident obviously gained much attention. People all over were arguing about it, and still are. However, the funny thing is that the only two people who handled the situation correctly were Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce. Let’s see what they had to say.

Jim Joyce

“I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career.”

Armando Galarraga

“He feels so bad — really bad,” Galarraga said of Joyce, more than a half-hour after the game. “He hasn’t even changed out of his uniform.”

“I told him, ‘Nobody’s perfect.’ What am I going to say?”

“Everyone knows it’s so special for any pitcher, in any league, anywhere, to throw a perfect game. Tomorrow or maybe tonight, I’ll realize, ‘I got one.’”It’s not in the book.”

“I’m not the kind of guy who would tell him (Joyce), ‘I did my job. Why didn’t you do yours? Why didn’t you do better in that situation?’ I understand that nobody’s perfect, and it’s a hard job,” Galarraga said.”Hopefully it will happen again. But I’ll tell you something: I’m going to keep that CD (of the game), and I’ll tell my son, ‘I got one. It’s not in the book. It’s not official. But I got one.’ “

“And when this guy go talk to me, he can’t even talk, he was crying. And I understand nobody’s perfect. It’s part of the game.”

Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and Jim Joyce even got a great ovation from Tiger fans the day after the infamous call. The class of Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga must have spread to Tiger fans through osmosis.

"Jim Joyce tears up during the great ovation from the Tigers fans."

And, in reality we all know Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game, and no one knows that more than Galarraga himself..

Pondering the future of Posada

Tonight, Jorge Posada will be returning to the lineup after coming off a hairline fracture in his foot. For now he will start as the DH, and it appears that he may be the DH for the foreseeable future. According to Chad Jennings, Posada has been cleared to play, but has not been cleared to partake in catching drills. If he has not  even been cleared to begin catching drills, he certainly won’t be catching in a game soon. Before I say more, here are some quotes from Posada from today…

“I know that I can catch and I know that I can be out there,but a lot of circumstances have come. I’m going to have to be smart about it. If I’m in the lineup, I’m happy. I would like to catch here and there sometimes, but I understand what the future holds.”

“Knowing that the American League has a DH, yeah, it was on my mind. When you’re talking about guys that catch every day, you don’t see too many 38-year-olds catching every day. I understand what’s going on.”

“I’m not a DH yet.”

“Two or three weeks from now, I’m probably going to be 100 percent.”

"Pensive Jorge." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports.

It is hard to predict the future, but it is hard to see Posada catching too many games down the line. Sure, he’ll probably catch his share of games in what remains of the 2010 season. However, we should probably expect to see less and less of Jorge Posada behind the plate.

While the Yankees may be able to patch up the situation in 2010 with a mix or Cervelli and Posada catching, what will be in 2011? Will the Yankees go into next season with Posada slated as the everyday catcher? Will Francisco Cervelli shift into the role? Will Jesus Montero get a shot at it? Who knows?

In my opinion, we’ve probably seen the last of Posada’s days as an everyday catcher. I’m not saying he’ll never catch again. I think he might share the dish 50-50 with Francisco Cervelli in the rest of 2010. But, for now, the DH spot is pretty much vacant because of Nick Johnson’s absence so Jorge can fit right into it. However, down the line, I can’t say I know what will happen.