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December 10, 2007

Yanks 2008 Pig Pen

I'm figuring that the Yankees will go with a 7-man bullpen to start the 2008 season. And, I expect them to have one "long man" in the pen - since Girardi has said that he likes to have a long man...and it makes sense for the Yanks to have one with ol' man Mussina and two kids in the rotation. This all said, I'm predicting, as of now, for the Yankees 2008 bullpen to be as follows (on Opening Day):

Mariano Rivera
Kyle Farnsworth
LaTroy Hawkins
Jonathan Albaladejo
Ross Ohlendorf
Jose Veras
Jeff Karstens or Darrell Rasner

Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney, Sean Henn and Chris Britton would be back-ups if Albaladejo, Ohlendorf or Veras bomb in Spring Training.

Steven Jackson, Mark Melancon, J.B. Cox, Humberto Sanchez, Jeff Marquez or Steven White could be possible replacements/upgrades to the pen later in the season.

Let's be honest here. Outside of Rivera, is there any name above that you know, for a fact, can be trusted to pitch in a big spot?

Farnsworth? Hawkins?
Albaladejo? Ohlendorf? Veras?
Karstens? Rasner?
Ramirez? Bruney? Henn? Britton?
Jackson? Melancon? Cox? Sanchez? Marquez? White?

Oh, yeah, there's Kei Igawa too. How about him?

I see some guys with shaky big league experience (like Farnsworth, Hawkins and Bruney) and a bunch of guys with limited major league experience (like Albaladejo, Ohlendorf, and Veras) and other guys with no experience higher than Triple-A or less (like Melancon, Cox, and Sanchez).

I dunno 'bout you, but, to me, the Yankees 2008 bullpen, at this junction, has all the markings of one helluva "Arson Squad" to me.

In 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007, the Yankees had bad overall bullpens. (With Scott Proctor pitching out of his mind in 2006, the overall pen that year was better than what we've seen in the last five years.) The bullpen in 2008, as it's shaped now, appears to be just as bad - if not worse, than what we've seen lately in Yankeeland.

You can probably say that the Yankees have not had a deep and effective bullpen since Steve Karsay was healthy and Ramiro Mendoza was in his prime. Well, if you wanted to say that, I probably would not fight you on that.

At some point, does Brian Cashman have to be called onto the carpet for not being able to build an effective bullpen? Or, am I missing something here? His body of recent work (post-2002) and his plan for 2008 sure suggest that he's got no clue on what works in the bullpen.

If all of this means nothing to you, think about these names: Gabe White, Felix Heredia, Felix Rodriguez, Juan Acevedo, Antonio Osuna, Alan Embree, Wayne Franklin, Octavio Dotel...

Brillant moves, all, right?

It's just amazing that Brian Cashman gets a buddy-pass on this one, to me. Pretty soon they're going to have to put him in the Teflon Hall-of-Fame. Amazing stuff.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at December 10, 2007 12:54 PM

Comments

Steve, what would you have done differently this off-season?

Posted by: DownFromNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 01:49 PM

~~Steve, what would you have done differently this off-season?~~

It's not that simple - to avoid this mess requires having a plan 3- to 5-years ago that would have prevented getting to this stage today. But, by being clueless, and being clueless for so long, they're screwed now..because you can't patch a pen, one this bad, through quick fixes in this market.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 01:54 PM

IMO, you often dont know what you have in your bullpen until the season really gets going. Bullpen arms are so risky and unpredictable year to year, its hard to say what to expect year to year.

I like that Cashman has not bogged down the bullpen with any more multi-year deals for mediocre relievers. The Yankees have something like 20 arms they can mix and match with as the season progresses, and I see it as being a very fluid bullpen under Girardi.

I also dont think BC is done yet this offseason.

While teams dont give up good bullpen arms, considering what they are now getting on the open market, if the A's do trade Haren, I could see the Yanks make a strong move for Huston Street. It's been reported that once one chip falls for Billy Beane, the entire team could be available. Street in front of Mo would be dominant.

I just think its way too early to say this bullpen is a badly constructed one.

Posted by: TurnTwo [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 01:58 PM

If you assume that Cashman had little control of the Draft until 2005, and thus couldn't give huge bonuses to high-profile players, then you can really only look at his body of work since 2005, and since then, he has filled the farm with names like JB Cox, Mark Melancon, Dave Robertson, and Humberto Sanchez.

You cannot build an effective bullpen without building from within. Thankfully, Cashman obtained one of the best free-agent middle relievers of the 2000's (Tom Gordon), or the 2004 and 2005 teams would have been screwed.

It's hard to enact a 5-year plan when you're not allowed to spend money on that plan. Funny how things drastically improve when you are allowed to.

Posted by: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 01:59 PM

I'm not of the belief that just because the Yanks have a bunch of young guys waiting in the wings that the situation will eventually iron itself out. Who knows - that could all totally suck! Which is why I'm glad they signed Hawkins. At least he's a known mediocrity (as pathetic as that sounds).

Still, add one stud like Street or Nathan to a pen of Rivera, Farnsworth, Hawkins, Ohlendorf, and Rasner; and suddenly, the Yankees are stacked and We Heart Cashman.

Ultimately, it seems that building a dominant, cost-effective bullpen might just be the most elusive of all baseball challenges. There are just so many moving parts and variables - from middle reliever performance fluctuations, to injuries, to escalating contracts for mediocrities, to the fact that most great relievers will not be content to be a mere set-up man - even for the great Mariano Rivera.

Posted by: brockdc [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 02:39 PM

It's not that simple - to avoid this mess requires having a plan 3- to 5-years ago that would have prevented getting to this stage today.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is an absurdly ignorant statement. What you fail to understand is that middle relievers are highly variable (study after study has shown this); thus, developing a three to five year plan for an entire bullpen is virtually impossible.

Quick quiz, name five middle relievers who have been consistently good for the last three years. (ERA+ over 115) and who have had good WXRLs. Bet you can't do it.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 02:42 PM

At some point, does Brian Cashman have to be called onto the carpet for not being able to build an effective bullpen? Or, am I missing something here?
=============
As TurnTwo says, "bullpen arms are so risky and unpredictable year to year, its hard to say what to expect year to year."

AFAIK, one cannot really "draft a bullpen" as most pen men are failed starters. Patching holes in the pen is usually what teams do, given the general disposability of a relief pitcher.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 02:47 PM

Henn will make the team, at least out of spring training. He is out of options so if he is not on the 25 man roster when camp breaks, he is probably gone.

Also, with the inning limits for Chamberlain and Hughes, I would not be surprised to see Chamberlain back in the Pen, especially if Mussina, Hughes and Kennedy perform during spring training.

Posted by: dave [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:02 PM

~~~Quick quiz, name five middle relievers who have been consistently good for the last three years.~~~

Aaron Fultz
Aaron Heilman
Bobby Howry
Chad Qualls
Damaso Marte
David Riske
David Weathers
Geoff Geary
Jamie Walker
Justin Speier
Luis Vizcaino
Matt Wise
Michael Wuertz
Mike Timlin
Scot Shields
Scott Eyre
Scott Linebrink

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:09 PM

~~one cannot really "draft a bullpen" as most pen men are failed starters. ~~

That's fine. So, where are the starters that Cashman has drafted 5 years ago that can be turned into RP today?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:11 PM

~~~It's hard to enact a 5-year plan when you're not allowed to spend money on that plan. ~~~

When, oh, when, was Cashman not allowed to spend money in the draft? What player did the Yankees ever pass on, in the draft, because of money?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:13 PM

Steve,

You asked, "Outside of Rivera, is there any name above that you know, for a fact, can be trusted to pitch in a big spot?"

Well, I'm going to add Rivera's name to those who can not be trusted to pitch in a big spot.

Unless it's the 9th inning, or the rare 8th inning appearance, if the game is on the line, but it's not time for the "save", we know that Rivera's butt is going to be glued to that bench.

Therefore, since he will not be used in a big spot, by definition, we can not trust that he can pitch in a big spot.

Posted by: Lee Sinins [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:14 PM

***When, oh, when, was Cashman not allowed to spend money in the draft? What player did the Yankees ever pass on, in the draft, because of money?***

Steinbrenner never let the Yanks go over slot, Cashman & Co. didn't get the okay to go over slot until 2003. They were drafting the David Parrishes and Andy Browns and John-Ford Griffins and David Wallings of the world in the first round all those years because they were cheap.

Posted by: Mike A. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:35 PM

Okay, Steve. Not all of those guys meet the ERA+ requirement (including Vizcaino in 2007!) and I don't have easy access to WXRL data; but, for the sake of argument, I'll give you that they are all decent relievers. Since you went well over the five requirement, I assume that list is exhaustive. That's 17 guys spread out over 30 teams for an average of 0.57 long-term, good middle relievers per team.

Does having one of those guys mean that you have a good bullpen? I don't think so. The Yankees had Luis Vizcaino in 2007, did they have a decent bullpen because of that?

Lee makes a good point, here, too. There is an ineliminable amount of crap shoot to building a bullpen (plus, of course, I think that the manager has some input here.).

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:49 PM

OK, so of the guys Steve mentions, these do not meet the simple criteria jonm requested:

Fultz - ERA+ of 103 in 2006
Weathers - ERA+ of 108 in 2005
Timlin - ERA+ of 109 in 2006
Geary - ERA+ of 105 in 2007
Wise - ERA+ of 107 in 2007 and 98 in 2004
Eyre - ERA+ of 113 in 2007
Linebrink - ERA+ of 113 in 2006 and 2007

That leaves 10 "quality" middle relievers in all of MLB. The Unbelievably ironic thing is, you actually list Luis Vizcaino as one of them. And, actually, the total is 9 because Vizcaino falls short of the 115 ERA+ in 2007. Not to mention that I don't think anyone on any Yankee board or blog has endorsed giving a guy like Linebrink a $10 Million contract. Same for Vizcaino.

The fact is that "building" a bullpen is a like Loch-ness - a myth.

Also, do not discount for a single second the immense benefit the bullpen will get from ridding itself of Joe Torre. That alone could be the difference between a horrid bullpen and a good bullpen without changing a single guy.

So to sum up, you are calling out Cashman for not having one of the 9 decent middle relievers in baseball - well, unless you count the one he DID get in Vizcaino.

Oh, and don't forget that Chris Britton - another Cashman get - has 2 years with an ERA+ of more than 115. And speaking of bullpen success, Joba did come up under the Cashman regime. Heck, Proctor was traded with an ERA+ of 117.

And one of the guys that did make the list - Damaso Marte - still ended up 1-7 on the year.

I mean really, are we still talking about this ???

Posted by: Sherard [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 03:53 PM

Guys, with all due respect, ERA and ERA+ for RP is somewhat meaningless, no?

Isn't it all about Baserunners allowed/prevented, Runs Saved Above Average and Inherited Runners Left Stranded?

I mean, with RP, and their low IP totals, one bad outing can screw their ERA for the season, no?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 04:01 PM

Which says nothing of the fact that having an ERA+ of a whopping 115+ is pretty mediocre coming out of the bullpen. As good as Joba was, I don't think anyone believes for a second that he would have come near an ERA of 0.38 in 24 innings as a starter. A 115 ERA+ is really not that tough coming out of the bullpen. And yet only NINE middle relief guys in all of baseball were able to pull it off.

Posted by: Sherard [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 04:03 PM

A cursory check of your list, Steve, shows that the pitchers do not match the criteria set. Some, like Fultz, were well below that level for quite a while before improving, in his case for 3 years. Some, such as Eyre and Weathers, may meet the ERA+ criteria, but have peripherals that scream trouble. For example, giving up 12 and 11 home runs in just 74 and 61 innings or averaging over 4 walks per 9 innings. Marte had similar issues.

More to the point is the essential argument that you cannot plan who will succeed in that role. Heilman for example was a failed starter before having bullpen success. Vizcaino is on your list but was erratic for the Yankees. Signing Gordon and Quantrill would be good examples of seeking successful relievers, but both faded, whether from overwork or simply because that's what happens to relievers. In fact, the most successful pickup was probably the least likely-Proctor.

It is to Cashman's credit that he has stayed away from pitchers like Linebrink or even Riske and Speier. Perhaps the Karsay experiment cured him of that temptation. But signing pitchers like Vizcaino, Farnsworth, Heredia, White, Osuna, Benitez, Hammond, Acevedo, Reyes, Miceli, Sturtze, Quantrill, Gordon, F. Rodriguez, Groom, Dotel, Embree, Villone and Myers is exactly what you suggest he should have done, that is find relievers with some history of success or with some outstanding quality, and hope they continued it. There was no more reason to expect Timlin or Howry to maintain their effectiveness than there was to expect Farnsworth or Quantrill or Gordon or F. Rodriguez to maintain their's.

Posted by: Bob R. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 04:14 PM

That's Bob R. ftw... well said, man.

While Steve apparently wants the Yankees to go after "big name" relief pitchers this off-season, it is exactly those "big names" which have hurt the Yankees over the past few seasons. You can't on the one hand criticize a GM for making those moves and then with the other hand criticize him for NOT making those moves.

As the mounting evidence above shows, there is no such thing as a consistent middle reliever. If they're dominant, they become closers.

Posted by: mehmattski [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 04:28 PM

~~~While Steve apparently wants the Yankees to go after "big name" relief pitchers this off-season, it is exactly those "big names" which have hurt the Yankees over the past few seasons.~~~

Whoa..did I say that I want that? I thought I just said that I wanted Cashman to build a bullpen that didn't stink. I don't care how...through the draft, farm, FAs, whatever..but, I don't think I ever said I wanted him to go out and sign "names" for the sake of names - did I? (Let's be fair.)

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 04:35 PM

~~~I don't think I ever said I wanted him to go out and sign "names" for the sake of names~~~

Well, but, realistically, which players would you feel "comfortable" with other than a pitcher who had a "name"? You're throwing the possible contributions of the Yankees' young pitchers out as "unreliable" because they haven't proven anything on the big league level yet. This suggests that you would only feel "comfortable" with the Yankees' pen if it had players with proven track records.

As folks in this thread have noted, consistent middle relief is somewhere between a myth and a crapshoot. Overwhelming pitchers become closers and then it costs a ton to convince them to come to the Yankees to become middle relief again (see: Gordon, Tom and Farnsworth, Kyle). Spending tons of money on it is probably unwise (like a 3 year deal for Ron Mahay, for example). Spending modest money on short term deals is probably acceptable. The best way is to build it himself from the inside, through the draft, small free agent signings, and under-the-radar trades. That's how the bullpen we all remember and love (96-00) was built, after all.

Posted by: mehmattski [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 04:56 PM

Thinking it over, maybe I’m not being 100% clear here – since so many think I’m saying something that I’m not. Let me try and break it down to a few key notes:

The Yankees, in the late ‘90’s, under Stick and Watson, had a good bullpen.
The Yankees, in the last 5 years, under Cashman, have had a bad bullpen.

I want the Yankees, now, under Cashman, to have a good bullpen – like in the days of Stick and Watson.
How Cashman does it, I don’t care – just get the job done – like Stick and Watson.
And, if Cashman is not capable of it, which the last 5 years suggest, then I think it’s time to realize that he’s not as smart as Stick and Watson and it’s time to get someone who is as smart as Stick and Watson.

That’s my opinion on this. I’ll let this stand as my last comments in this one.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 04:59 PM

If I may offer a couple of observations as a Red Sox fan with (naturally) a concern for the Yankee roster:

Unless the Yankees luck into an Okajima-type performance from someone, there will be big trouble in Yankee land until Joba is returned to the bullpen.

I'm not saying that Theo is brilliant at putting a bullpen together - his have been hit and miss, too - but he's at least had the right approach of mixing low-risk vets plus selected youngsters to create a bullpen. Going into this season with Mo, Farnsworth, Hawkins, and a bunch of no-names is inviting disaster.

Street is not someone that the Yankees will pick up on the cheap. Think Kennedy, and probably someone else, too. Nathan will command even more. So the trade market isn't going to be easy. At this point the Yanks are stuck with what they've got, plus the big wild card everyone is pushing into the rotation instead of his obvious position.

And anyone who thinks that having Torre burning out arms in LA instead of New York will make a difference, you didn't watch Girardi here in south Florida. Or have you not noticed how many of his young pitchers went on to arm surgery after he left?

Posted by: DanTheRedSoxMan [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 05:04 PM

You missed Horne, who has the ability to fill a Joba-like role in the pen if given the opportunity.

Most of the other relievers you mentioned, if they make the team out of ST, are merely placeholders. The pen will be filled out by Marquez, Sanchez, Melancon, Cox, etc. over the course of the season.

That has been Cashman's plan.

Girardi mentioned last season that he would prefer to have two long relievers, but Karstens is awful. He should be DFA'd.

Posted by: Rich [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 05:22 PM

Waiiiit a minute Sox fan. Coming into 2007 the Sox had a bullpen consisting of: Papelbon, Timlin, Okajima, Tavarez, and Pineiro. And guys like JC Romero. How is that not the exact same situation? Papelbon was the only 'reliable' reliever they had. So was Theo extremely lucky? Didn't he just apply the same exact method Cashman has been applying, but with better luck? Remember that the Sox had an absolutely, positively horrendous bullpen in 2006, aside from Papelbon. Tavarez was crap. Timlin was a shell of his former self. I can't even remember the rest of the names because they were so awful.

Also, your point about Girardi somehow 'ruining' good young pitchers has been debunked again and again and again. It's getting a little tired.

Also: Chamberlain is not Papelbon. Chamberlain is a better prospect than Papelbon ever was. The difference being he can maintain his velocity past the fourth inning, which was something, after a year of closing, Papelbon was just not able to do. Add into the fact that he had to be put on a plan in 2007 because of injury concerns, and you have all the differences right there. Chamberlain's obvious role is in the rotation, where he was absolutely sick from Tampa to Scranton, where he made one start consisting of 5 scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts.

Posted by: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 05:31 PM

Andrew,
I am hardly going to bother responding to your delusional and extremely biased comments, the most pathetic of which would be the claim that Papelbon "couldn't maintain his velocity beyond 4 innings". Minor league starters don't become a team's top pitching prospect if they can't maintain their velocity beyond four innings. But I'll be sure to alert Cooperstown to get Joba's plaque ready.

I didn't expect a warm welcome here, so I'll just invite you to enjoy the next several years as you learn the painful lesson that:

Most "can't miss pitching prospects" fail to live up to the hype;
Even Mariano won't be great forever;
and a roster full of 35+ regulars is a recipe for disaster.

Have fun chasing number 27. It may be quite a while.

Posted by: DanTheRedSoxMan [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 05:56 PM

I think mehmattski points out the flaw in Steve's argument perfectly.

Posted by: Basura [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 06:33 PM


I thought that it was only in the past 3 years that the reigns have been lifted off of Cashman so how can we blame him for not building a foundation for the bullpen 3 years ago,

Steve if you had control of the Yankees circa 2002-2004 what would you have done differently? Steve, you've got to admit that this is sometimes about luck and the Yankees had it in 2006 more than 2007. As Yankee fans we've got to maybe bite the bullet and come to turns with the fact that 2008 might be a rough year so we should look forward to A-Rod hitting 500 hrs.

Posted by: ipap86 [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 06:38 PM

Dan -

You're not going to get a warm welcome here when you come barging in and tell us how Theo is a genius and Cashman is doing it all wrong - when they're essentially doing the same exact thing. Also, when you spout off nonsense like the Yankees being filled with 35+ year old veterans (I think Giambi is the only starting positional player who fits the bill...and he's not even set to start), and when you miss the fact that I said after a year of closing, Papelbon couldn't maintain his velocity after the fourth inning in Spring Training, which is actually true, you're going to get clobbered, or ignored. Especially the "Yankees suck they won't win anything anytime soon" garbage.

Now, I don't think you made any point past what I've already covered, so you can try to respond in a civil manner now, if you can.

Posted by: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 07:17 PM

Steve, the problem is not that we are misunderstanding or misinterpreting what you say but that what you say is not sensible.
Of course we want Cashman to build an effective bullpen, but do you really think Michael and Watson did something special to manage it? Of course not. They signed relievers like Nelson and Stanton just as Cashman signed the ones I mentioned; there was not special quality that set them apart at the time of the signing. Fortunately, they worked out better.

In the 90s, the farm produced Mendoza and Rivera, both failed starters. Was that brilliant planning or again good fortune that both served well.

Others were signed, such as Lloyd and Weathers who actually were terrible but both of whom had great post-seasons. Again, there is no special ability to plan to build a bullpen. They simply tried to fill in on the fly and got lucky. It is entirely invalid to claim that it took some special gift to recognize that Nelson, Stanton, Rivera, Ramirez, Lloyd, Weathers et al would serve better than the pitchers Cashman has brought in.

Incidentally, here is the bullpen Michael and Watson bequeathed the Yankees in 1996. After Wetteland and Rivera, the rest were:
Mendoza: 6.79 ERA (He actually started, relieving only once)
Nelson: 4.36; 36 BB in 74.3 IP
Wickman: 4.67; 79 IP, 94 Hits, 34 BB, 61 K
Polley: 7.89;
Boehringer: 5.44
Mecir: 5.13
Hutton: 5.05
Weathers: 9.35; 14BB in 17.3 IP
Lloyd: 17.47; 5 BB in 5.7 IP
Howe, Whitehurst, Bones, Brewer, Gibson had ERAs from 6.23-14.14. The best of the lesser relievers was the immortal Dave Pavlas.

Do you really think they did a better job assembling a bullpen than Cashman has? I agree that ERA is not a reliable way of evaluating a bullpen, but look at every year in the 90s and you will see the same erratic performances and lots of nonentity relievers who might have some temporary usefullness at best. There was no long range plan to construct a bullpen.

Posted by: Bob R. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 10:41 PM

Dayn Perry writes a decent column for Fox sports. Here's a part of his most recent article "The Firve Worst Off-season Signings" (at number two, we have one of Steve's favs):

2. Scott Linebrink, RP, White Sox: Four years, $19 million

Let's be frank: Tendering a four-year contract to a reliever is almost never a good idea. However, it seems to be all the rage these days. Partly because of the peculiarities of the role and partly because of the small-sample size inherent in bullpen work, relievers can be a volatile, unpredictable lot. Locking them up for so long doesn't make a great deal of sense.

In Linebrink's case, his career numbers are made to look better than they are because of all the time he spent in run-suppressing Petco Park, and now he'll be pitching his home games in U.S. Cellular, one of the best hitting environments in baseball. In particular, Linebrink has struggled allowing home runs (12 in 70.1 innings last season). It's worth noting that the Sox's home yard has been the best home run park in the AL throughout recent history. Linebrink's effective in the right environment, but given his weaknesses, pitching half his games on the South Side could be a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 11:09 PM

~~~Dayn Perry writes a decent column for Fox sports. Here's a part of his most recent article "The Firve Worst Off-season Signings" (at number two, we have one of Steve's favs): 2. Scott Linebrink, RP, White Sox: Four years, $19 million~~~

jonm - to reuse something you said to me today...

"This is an absurdly ignorant statement. "

Linebrink made the list, that YOU requested, of "five middle relievers who have been consistently good for the last three years" because he had an RSAA of 0+ three years in a row - not because he's my "fav" - in fact, see:

http://www.waswatching.com/archives/2007/11/scott_linebrink.html

Please, stop putting words in my mouth that I never said. It's cheap, and, weak.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 11:18 PM

~~~Steve, the problem is not that we are misunderstanding or misinterpreting what you say but that what you say is not sensible.
Of course we want Cashman to build an effective bullpen, but do you really think Michael and Watson did something special to manage it? Of course not. They signed relievers like Nelson and Stanton just as Cashman signed the ones I mentioned; there was not special quality that set them apart at the time of the signing. Fortunately, they worked out better.~~~

Bob R., how do you know, for a fact, that "there was not special quality that set them apart at the time of the signing"? You cannot prove that. You can claim it, because it makes your case sound better, but, unless you can prove it, it's just a claim - like mine, no?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2007 11:27 PM

Naturally, I am interpreting and not claiming omniscience. But there are claims built on more solid evidence and claims built on shakier grounds, and it is up to people to decide among them.

In this case, reviewing the names and careers of the pitchers involved strongly suggests that success or failure upon signing them is unpredictable. Look at a comparison between Farnsworth and Stanton as an example.

Stanton had a very successful career with the Yankees in his first tour of duty. In his 5 years prior to arriving, his ERAs were 4.10 (ERA+=90), 4.67 (87), 3.55 (119), 4.24 (108), 3.66 (139). He was 30 years old, was walking 4+/9 and striking out between 4 & 6/9. Any reason to believe he was going to be effective? As a matter of fact, after a fine 1997 despite 34 BBs in 66.7 IP, he was miserable in 1998 (5.47 and 13 HRs in 79 IP). His next 4 years were pretty good, but still erratic, especially in walks, Ks and H/9.

Farnsworth was even more erratic pre NY, but the year before signing had an ERA of 2.19 with 87 Ks in 70 IP. He was also 30, and I see no reason to credit Michael/Watson while criticizing Cashman.

One more point. With relievers especially, hindsight and numbers often eliminate the emotional element from analysis. Yankee fans may never have been as globally irritated by Nelson, Stanton et al at the time, but every failure was noted each time they screwed up. As NY won more in that era, there is now a tendency to forget that and surround them with halos. NY bullpens in the 1990s were composed of the same combination of some outstanding talent and assorted dumpster diving drek that the current ones are, and to suggest there was a long term plan to build it is simply not supported by evidence.

The NY bullpen was anchored by Rivera, Mendoza, Nelson and Stanton. The rest was composed literally of dozens of players rotating through every year. The first two were products of the system, failed starters. Clearly, once given free reign, Cashman has been seeking to develop the same sort of talent. The other two were from outside the organization, and I challenge you to look at the pre NY career of Stanton and Nelson and demonstrate that their futures were more predictably promising than that of Gordon and Quantrill, for example.

Posted by: Bob R. [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 06:59 AM

I don't know why people keep bringing up Gordon as a failed reliever. Other than Rivera, he was the best reliever the Yankees had since mid-90s Nelson. Look at his two seasons. He was excellent. The only reason he fell apart at the end of his seasons was because Torre didn't know how to use a bullpen correctly.

Posted by: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 07:50 AM

The best way to build a successful bullpen is to build a solid starting rotation. Nelson, Stanton, and Mendoza weren't effective middle relievers because of some natural ability to pitch in the 7th and 8th innings. They were effective relievers because the starting pitchers were giving us 7 innings every night.

Posted by: christopher [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 08:27 AM

~~The best way to build a successful bullpen is to build a solid starting rotation. Nelson, Stanton, and Mendoza weren't effective middle relievers because of some natural ability to pitch in the 7th and 8th innings. They were effective relievers because the starting pitchers were giving us 7 innings every night. ~~

Excellent point. But, again, that brings us back to Cashman - and his inability to ID good pitching, albeit in the pen or as starters.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 09:16 AM

Steve, what criteria did you use to come up with your list?

Aaron Fultz
Aaron Heilman
Bobby Howry
Chad Qualls
Damaso Marte
David Riske
David Weathers
Geoff Geary
Jamie Walker
Justin Speier
Luis Vizcaino
Matt Wise
Michael Wuertz
Mike Timlin
Scot Shields
Scott Eyre
Scott Linebrink

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 09:38 AM

Excellent point. But, again, that brings us back to Cashman - and his inability to ID good pitching, albeit in the pen or as starters.
==============
He has; the "lightning in a bottle" acquisitions, such as Chacon, Small & Bruney come to mind.

Other than that, he has made the right moves; He got one good year, one bad year out of Johnson, Contreras & Brown. He got a 1/2 year out of Vazquez, who got hurt during the season, and 1/2 year out of Clemens.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 09:48 AM

Andrew,
I am hardly going to bother responding to your delusional and extremely biased comments, the most pathetic of which would be the claim that Papelbon "couldn't maintain his velocity beyond 4 innings". Minor league starters don't become a team's top pitching prospect if they can't maintain their velocity beyond four innings. But I'll be sure to alert Cooperstown to get Joba's plaque ready.

I didn't expect a warm welcome here, so I'll just invite you to enjoy the next several years as you learn the painful lesson that:

Most "can't miss pitching prospects" fail to live up to the hype;
Even Mariano won't be great forever;
and a roster full of 35+ regulars is a recipe for disaster.

Have fun chasing number 27. It may be quite a while.
Quote
I hate to say this but Dan is right on several points.What I am confused about with Cashman is if he wants to go the Blue Jay route with the bullpen and have young homegrown flamethrowers or go the Red Sox route of a mixture of both oldies and newbies for the long term.For the time being ,it seems like a mixed situation.Signing Hawkins instead of Vizcaino is a big mistake.Say what you will about Vizcaino,he proved that he could pitch for the Yankees(meaning that he could pitch in NY) whereas Hawkins seems to be Farny Part Two!The biggest faux pas that Cashman has made is no candidate being groomed for Mariano.And Cash has had years to implement this plan,Mariano hit his thirties nearly a decade ago and where is his heir apparent?Please do't mention Joba,because this kid could be a 1a with 20 wins a year!Can Oppenheimer find these diamonds in the rough to help the Yankees this year?Hey one never knows,look at what happened last year with Joba and Kennedy.For the time being,the soft white underbelly of the Yankees will be the bullpen and that is a bad sign.
About Papelbon,say what you want about him,he got it done this year in the postseason.Velocity or not,he has a ring this year and did a very good job during the regular season.To take away credit from Papelbon because of some perceived velocity issue is weak.He is a great closer in the making and who knows if he goes back to starting.And Theo has made some mistakes BUT his errors are outweighed by his good choices.Remember,the answer to Dice-K was Igawa!And who knew about Okajima?

Posted by: butchie22 [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 10:07 AM

But, again, that brings us back to Cashman - and his inability to ID good pitching, albeit in the pen or as starters.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have no particular fondness (or distaste) for Cashman (I could be convinced that he's an average GM). But, the criticism of Cashman here is rarely convincing. This is because you refuse to ever make constructive criticism of Cashman. You won't even engage in retrospective constructive criticism.

Which relief pitchers should Cashman go after now? Which major league starters in the 2000s should Cashman have targeted? Which pitchers should he have drafted since he gained control of the draft (from 2005 onwards)?

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 10:20 AM

~~~I have no particular fondness (or distaste) for Cashman (I could be convinced that he's an average GM). But, the criticism of Cashman here is rarely convincing. This is because you refuse to ever make constructive criticism of Cashman. You won't even engage in retrospective constructive criticism. Which relief pitchers should Cashman go after now? Which major league starters in the 2000s should Cashman have targeted? Which pitchers should he have drafted since he gained control of the draft (from 2005 onwards)?~~~

jonm - this "what would you have done different" attack is silly. Think of it this way:

If I ate a cookie, and it tasted like dog crap, I would have a right, at that time, to say "This cookie is crap. Whoever made this cookie did a very poor job at it. In fact, I'm not sure that I would ever want a cookie from this person again" - - without the need/requirement/whatever of having to also say "Well, clearly, given all the options available at that time, this is what I would have done to make the cookie - and this is why the cookie would have been better using my plan, etc."

Sometimes, when something looks, feels, smells and tastes like crap, it's crap - and you don't need to know what other options were there to call it crap.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 10:31 AM

~~~Steve, what criteria did you use to come up with your list?~~~

Three years in a row with 0+ RSAA, and, IIRC, Games > 40 (or some number close to that).

~~He has; the "lightning in a bottle" acquisitions, such as Chacon, Small & Bruney come to mind. Other than that, he has made the right moves; He got one good year, one bad year out of Johnson, Contreras & Brown. He got a 1/2 year out of Vazquez, who got hurt during the season, and 1/2 year out of Clemens.~~

Boy, over ten years worth of work, that's some report card.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 10:37 AM

"Sometimes, when something looks, feels, smells and tastes like crap, it's crap - and you don't need to know what other options were there to call it crap."

While that's fine Steve, you do have to consider the options available. Keeping with your cookie analogy, if all the cookie makers were only able to buy rotten flour to make the cookies, then most of the cookies you're going to get are going to be crap. The only cookies that would be good are the ones from the companies that stockpiled good flour.

You know what, I really hate analogies. In the past, Cashman only built ineffective pens due to bad (or, really, no good) luck, especially because of the absence of year-to-year good relievers. You also seem to forget that Joe Torre had a major influence on the bullpen as well. The Yankees could have had something real good with Scott Proctor, but because Torre has no clue how to run a bullpen, he ruined his arm and now we have Wilson Betemit instead. Paul Quantrill suffered the same fate. Tom Gordon as well, at the end of each of his years. Joe Torre was one of the worst in-game managers in the game, and absolutely horrific at bullpen use. He also refused to use Edwar Ramirez after his spectacular debut, and refused to use Chris Britton, even though he pitched effectively whenever he was used, instead opting for crap like Sean Henn in game-critical situations. Cashman had to ship away Proctor so that Torre might, might use the other options in the bullpen. Torre was HORRIFIC. Now, you can say, "but Cashman wanted Torre, so he's still to blame", but then you're changing the topic and scope of the argument to fit your agenda.

Posted by: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 10:47 AM

Sometimes, when something looks, feels, smells and tastes like crap, it's crap - and you don't need to know what other options were there to call it crap.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I like the metaphor. Let's say that someone else says that they think that the cookie is quite tasty (call this person Steinbrenner) and that you and Steinbrenner are trying to persuade a neutral party whether he should taste a cookie. In that case, your "alternative plan" explanation would be a useful tool in trying to persuade the neutral party not to taste the cookie. Plus, it would be interesting.

The Steinbrenners obviously like the Cashman cookie; he hasn't been fired and I read somewhere that they want to give him a contract extension.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 10:57 AM

Aaron Fultz - 2 teams in 3 years
Bobby Howry - 2 teams in 3 years
Damaso Marte - 2 teams in 3 years
David Riske - 4 teams in 3 years
Jamie Walker - 2 teams in 3 years
Justin Speier - 2 teams in 3 years
Luis Vizcaino - 3 teams in 3 years
Scott Eyre - 2 teams in 3 years
Scott Linebrink - 2 teams in 3 years

Same team 3 years or more
Aaron Heilman*
Chad Qualls*
David Weathers
Geoff Geary*
Matt Wise
Scot Shields*
Michael Wuertz*
Mike Timlin

*= With original team

Looks like it can go either way with effective relievers; they move from team to team, or they remain with a team over a period of time. And of those who remained with a team over 3 years, a majority of them were developed "in house."

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 11:01 AM

Joe Torre had a major influence on the bullpen as well.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dead-on! I think that bullpen usage is the major criterion of managerial success. I think that Torre thought that he was being a clever strategist by mulling over who should bat third.

I hope that the Yankees give Britton a clear chance to succeed or fail next year. I think that his upside could be as good as Scott Linebrink in his best years.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 11:07 AM

Boy, over ten years worth of work, that's some report card.
==================
Are we using the 1998-2007 timeline? For some reason, I was thinking 2003/4 - 2007?

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 11:10 AM

~~~The Steinbrenners obviously like the Cashman cookie; he hasn't been fired and I read somewhere that they want to give him a contract extension.~~~

Big Stein has been MIA the last four years:

http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2003/12/27/steinbrenner031227.html

Hank and Hal are just on the scene.

If Big Stein was around and at the top of his game, I doubt that Cashman would have survived the last four years.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 11:23 AM

Andrew, if Torre is to blame for the recent bad pens, then what about from 1996 to 2001 when the Yankee had a good pen and Torre was in place? Or, is that just the luck excuse again?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 11:27 AM

Andrew, if Torre is to blame for the recent bad pens, then what about from 1996 to 2001 when the Yankee had a good pen and Torre was in place? Or, is that just the luck excuse again?
=============
Luck?

From 1996-2007, save 1997 & 2007, the Yanks won the AL East. There were the right moves made in the postseason that backfired, there were the wrong moves made that worked out.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 11:43 AM

Aside from whether Cashman should be vilified over his creaky pen, I don’t necessarily agree with the premise…that the Yankees have always had a bad pen under his tenure. All you can expect is to have 2-3 reliable guys and maybe another decent option or two. For the most part, the Yankees have had that since Cashman took over.

In 1999, the Yankees had a pretty solid pen, and Cashman’s two additions were both strong contributors: Allen Watson and Jason Grimsely.

In 2000, the bullpen was solid again. The only major addition was Dwight Gooden, and he pitched pretty well in relief.

In 2001, once again, the bullpen was solid. The only major off season addition was Boehringer, who was actually very good before being trading mid season.

In 2002, the Yankees bullpen was actually pretty good (that year, the Yankees had one of their more stable staffs). The big addition was Karsay, and he performed pretty well in his first season.

In 2003, the big decisions were to let Mendoza and Stanton go (which, I think, ultimately proved to be correct). Hammond and Osuna, two of the replacements, were actually above average. Along with very good short-term contributions from guys like Heredia and Reyes, as well as fine bullpen work from Contreras, all in support of a dominant Mo, the Yankees bullpen wasn’t a major weakness.

In 2004, the Yankees bullpen was a two man show…Rivera and Gordon. Gordon was just good, he was great (ERA+ over 200). When you consider that Cashman also brought in Quantrill (coming off an ERA+ of 231), I think you’d have to say Cashman did pretty well that off season.

In 2005, Gordon was very good again, but you can lay some blame on Cashman for not finding another decent option. That year, the Yankees pen was abysmal.

In 2006, the Yankees big decision was to let Gordon walk (which turned out to be a good one). Unfortunately, Farnsworth, the man signed to replace Gordon, didn’t work out. I guess you could fault Cashman for that, but he was coming off a pretty good season. Personally, I thought he’d be able to handle set-up. Anyway, two righties did emerge to fill the gap, and both were acquired in very savy trades. They were Proctor and Bruney. At least for that year alone, Cashman turned nothing into 121 very good relief innings. I think that should be counted as a feather in his cap, not to mention having Small and Chacon basically save the season.

Finally, last year, the Yankees pen was an early mess, but doesn’t Cash deserve credit for Joba? Still, I’d agree that he could have come up with another body here.

If you look at it season by season, I don’t think the picture is as bleak as you suggest. Also, how many times have the Yankees been burnt in the post season by a bad pen? In 2002, the pen probably played the biggest negative role, but it was reliable guys like Stanton, Mendoza, El Duque and Karsay who coughed it up. In 2003, the pen did blow a huge game, but I think we can lay that on Torre’s doorstep. I don’t think Cashman intended to have Weaver used as a extra inning reliever when Mo was available. Again, 2004 saw some late blown leads, but Rivera was on the mound (one BS the result of Gordon putting the tying run on 3rd, and the other a pesky Dave Roberts). Finally, in 2005-2007, the starters were much more at fault than the bullpen.

Posted by: williamnyy [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 12:20 PM

I read today Veras impressing the organization
throwing in the Dominican. While that is good news, isn't it also time to pull the plug until spring training? It's a long time from now to playoffs and God knows we have seen our share of late season burnt out relief arms.

Posted by: Santino53 [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2007 12:55 PM