Thursday, June 29, 2006

Yanks 4, Braves 3 - Being Clutch Is All In Your Head


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We need an outfielder; we need a starting pitcher; we need bullpen help. The preceding three statements are very true. However, we may have needed that A-Rod walk-off homer just as much. Yes, a game like this will leave me prone to hyperbole. But seriously, is there a soul out there who didn’t enact some stupidly spontaneous celebration? Because if you didn’t, I have to question your motives for Yankees fandom.

With another stellar outing by Wang, our rotation situation is beginning to unfold. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to doubt the long-term (i.e. the rest of the season) success of Mussina, Johnson and Wang, as they’ve done little (recently) to prove that they’re in it for the long-haul. But judging from how they’ve pitched lately, it looks as if we’ve got the base of a ::gasp:: top-notch starting rotation.

[MORE]However, we’re not quite there yet. Let’s take a look at the best three pitchers from the AL contenders. I’m using RA+ here, just because it’s easy to find I’m too tired to use anything else. Remember, the higher the better and 1.00 is average:

1. Verlander, 1.37
2. Bonderman, 1.33
3. Robertson, 1.33

1. Contreras, 1.54
2. Buehrle, 1.29
3. Garcia, 1.05

Red Sox
1. Schilling, 1.38
2. Wakefield, 1.13
3. Beckett, .095

1. Zito, 1.40
2. Haren, 1.34
3. Blanton, 1.00

1. Mussina, 1.34
2. Wang, 1.10
3. Johnson, 0.92

Detroit is way out in front, especially considering Kenny Rogers is fourth on their team at 1.32. If pitching wins championships, the Tigers are going a long way. They vastly outperform Chicago’s pitching staff, though the displayed numbers aren’t telling the whole story: Chicago’s next two guys, Javy Vazquez and Jon Garland, are both below 1.00.

The Yanks and the Red Sox look evenly matched to this point, but once again the numbers are playing some tricks here. Wang’s 1.10 doesn’t account for yesterday’s gem, and Randy’s 0.92 is horribly burdened by those six straight atrocious starts, which for now are looking like an aberration. The same can be said for Beckett, though, as he’s been the victim of two or three terrible losses. He’s winning otherwise, though, and is probably better than his RA+ indicates. After all, he did hold those Amazins in check last night. The Athletics have a similar situation in Joe Blanton, but he doesn’t have nearly the track record to convince me he won’t go stink it up in the second half.

The trade rumors have been a swirlin’, and everyone has been talking about the Yankees need for an outfielder. I don’t disagree necessarily, though pitching should be taking priority. I’m still confident that we’ll get one of Sheffield or Matsui back for September, so surrendering a coveted prospect for Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano shouldn’t even be a consideration. Rather, why not put together a competitive package for, say, Craig Wilson, a guy who can fill in for the injuries and transform into a threatening bat off the bench for the playoffs? That is, unless Cashman knows for sure that we’ve seen the last of Hideki and Gary for the season. But before he swings a trade based on that information, I would hope he’d share it with the public.

NoMaas had a couple of offensive-minded ideas yesterday, including a question about the return of Dioner Navarro. He was shipped by the new Dodgers GM (not as good as DePo) along with Jae Seo (MAN, I bet they wish they never traded Duaner Sanchez) to Tampa Bay for Mark “Luck Has Finally Done Me Well” Hendrickson and Toby Hall. DePo would have never made that trade, because it’s we-tall-did on the Dodgers part. They may prefer youngster Russ Martin to Navarro, but to let him go for next to nothing is a big mistakey. I’m wondering along with NoMaas: why couldn’t Cashman have come up with a plan to re-acquire Navarro? Not only is he young, but he possesses the potential to start for the Yanks one day, and certainly is a better backup catcher option than Kelly Stinnett.

Their other musing involves Erubiel Durazo heading to the Show, though I don’t see that happening. He’s immobile, relegated mainly to DH duties. Unfortunately, that spot – along with his “position,” first base – are occupied by two guys that aren’t going to be sitting any time soon. I realize that the offense is stalling a bit, but they’re getting plenty of production out of the position(s) that Durazo plays. Unless, of course, Andy Phillips could slide over to second, but as I’ve said, that’s way too out-of-the-box for Torre’s liking.

While options and rays of hope exist for the offense, the same can’t be said for the pitching. Thankfully, the return of Octavio Dotel will act as the figurative mid-season deal, and he will – in theory – upgrade our bullpen. The rotation, however, remains like an old Chevelle: has the potential to be great but needs some major work, and parts are hard to come by. After browsing the list of pitchers with an RA+ over 1.00, I’ve seen that there truly are slim pickins. John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Jake Westbrook, and Paul Byrd are the only ones that could even possibly become available, and beyond the likely-expensive Smoltz, I’m not too keen on any of them, especially for the price they’ll fetch. Since it makes no sense to trade for a dude with an RA+ below 1.00 (i.e. below league average), it’s either finding another diamond in the rough, or figuring out how to glue together Wright, Chacon, and Rasner to form two decent starters.

This is the point that I begin hating Carl Pavano even more, if that’s possible. To riff off Bill Simmons, I think I’ll go gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon.

I used to really dig trading season, but that novelty has worn off in years past. This is mainly due to writers and blog commenters thinking they can piece together “the deal” for the Yanks (or any other team) that will put them over the top. While I appreciate well thought out approaches to the available market, the majority of opinions contain trades so one-sided that it makes me wonder how other fans evaluate talent, if at all.

Have a trade idea? Toss it in the comments section. Beware, though; if it sucks I’m going to go Simon Cowell on you.