This is part 4 of the Yankees Roundtable here at Blogs by Fans. See part 1 at depressedfan.com; part 2 at behindthebacksports.com; and part 3 at greenpinstripes.com

Before we answer the questions posed to us, here are some other thoughts on previously discussed Yankee-related topics:

On the starting rotation: Mussina will be the opening day starter on April 2nd, provided he is healthy. Torre always goes with the veterans; even if the fans now perceive Wang as the "true" ace of the staff, Mussina and Pettite will go before him in Torre's rotation (assuming health). Speaking of assuming health, at the four-spot: Pavano. And, provided he doesn't completely bomb in camp, at the five-spot in the rotation... Kei Igawa. Note: Pavano and Igawa could flip spots, if Igawa has a solid camp. From what I've heard, his stuff isn't too impressive; but alot of lefties can get by with unimpressive stuff if they know how to pitch (see Jimmy Key).

Favorite Jimmy Key-related story: I was hanging out with Ill Will once, and described a lefty as Jimmy Keyish.

SML: You know, he throws crap but gets away with it. He throws his change-up alot.

Will: If you throw it all the time, is it really a change-up? Should it be called a same-up?

That still cracks me up.

As for Philip Hughes, I love the future, but he won't be in the majors any earlier than June, and then only if there are injuries. And even then, I don't think he will be needed... the Yankees only got rid of Randy Johnson because they must think they have the inside track on Roger Clemens come July.

Questions about Pettite are unnecessary. Assuming he is healthy, he has thrown for over 200 IP the last two years; yes, it was the NL, but his homefield was a hitter's park, and he had an amazing 2005 (17-9, 2.39 ERA). I don't think he'll do that, but I think a 14-16 win season with a 4.20 ERA is likely.

On to the questions from greenpinstripes:

1. The Yankees strength is their offensive firepower, but outside of the top of the order (Damon and Jeter) and the number 9 slot (whoever is on first), what would be the best way to fill out the everyday lineup?

The problem the Yankees have had the last three to six postseasons has been that they can't manufacture a run in a close game. The rely too much on power, and especially the last three years, they have had too many power hitters in the lineup - that's great in the regular season, when you can rely on Giambi to carry the team for a few weeks when he's hot, A-Rod for a few, etc; but in the postseason rarely, if ever, can a hitter really carry a whole team. You are now facing top pitching every night - you'll never see so much as a team's fourth starter, and you won't see much middle relief in a close game - only the top pitchers.

The Yankees (from 1996-2001) used to be able to hit and run, or have someone lay down a bunt in a critical situation. When was the last time you saw the Yankees bunt, or sacrifice, in a playoff game? How do you ask Sheffield, or A-Rod, or Giambi, or Damon, to lay down a bunt?

The inability to manufacture a run cost the Yankees in game 4 and 5 against Boston in 2004; they had opportunities, but could not score a run from second with less than two outs. We saw it again last season against Detroit - they lost game 2 by a 4-3 score, and let Detroit back into the series. We saw in 2005 against the Angels.

The Yankees need less power in their lineup, which is why, even though we love Sheffield we knew he had to go. Giambi is still untradeable, and has a great eye. So, too does Abreu. With Cano, Damon, and Jeter, and whoever is playing 1st (watch for Josh Phelps, he has an outside chance), the Yankees now have a team that can better manufacture runs - speed, contact hitters, guys with good eyes. I would go with Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Matsui, A-Rod, Giambi, Posada, Phelps/Mientkiewicz, and Cano, in that order.

This off-season saw the Yanks trade Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson for young arms. Will any (like Humberto Sanchez or Ross Ohlendorf) make an impact on the Yankees in 2007 or will Philip Hughes be the best bet to make the claim as the Yanks new young gun this year?

Both have a better chance of making the team than Hughes; whereas Hughes is 20 years old and never pitched above AA, Sanchez is 23, Ohlendorf is 24, and both have some (minimal) experience at AAA. Sanchez is 6'6 with a power arm and a tender elbow - I could see the Yankees going the bullpen route with him, and in that role he would be my bet to have the most impact on the 2007 Yankees. I don't see Hughes getting a significant amount of time in the majors, unless Clemens signs with the Red Sox and forces the Yankees' hand. Ohlendorf is the oldest, so if something happens to the rotation (with Pavano, Pettite, and Mussina, that's almost certain), he could be used to spot start or fill an injury, but Sean Henn and Jeff Karstens have dibs on that role. He could be tradebait (see next question).

What do you expect out of Carl Pavano this season? Also, if he has a strong Spring Training, should the Yankees consider trading him while his value would be at its peak?

If Pavano can avoid injuries, he will be a decent fourth - his stuff never wowed me, but he'll be better than Jaret Wright last season. Put him down for about 12-9, 4.40 ERA. He won't be an ace, nor will he have to - as long as he can do a decent job as a fourth starter, he has done his (overpaid) job. As for trading him - if you trade out of camp, even if he looks great during camp - you are going to get undervalue for him. I don't see Cashman going that route; if anything, I think he would let him show his stuff for a few months, then trade him in July when Clemens comes in. If the rest of the rotation - Mussina, Wang, Pettite, and Igawa - are doing great, then it makes sense - Clemens can take Pavano's spot, the Yankees save $10 million next season, and can get back some prospects or some bench depth.

One last thing to watch for, in the event Clemens doesn't sign with the Yankees - look for a possible move for Dontrille Willis or even Carlos Zambrano, both free agents after this season. The Marlins are not re-signing Willis, so he should be available; Zambrano is a different story but it depends on how the season goes in Wrigley. With the newly restocked farm system, I could see Ohlendorf or Sanchez getting traded for one of those guys.

Questions for Depressedfan:

1. Who do you see as the biggest threat to the Yankees in the East next year? Alot of people in the media want to play up the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but don't you think the Blue Jays are the real threat? Or do you think the Sox can make up the ground they lost to the Jays last season?

2. What would you do to improve this season's team? What do you feel are the weak spots that need to be worked on?

3. Where do you see Cashman taking this team in the long-run? Is he (re)building the foundation of the team, and, if so, is he betting the future of the team on these young prospects (Hughes, Sanchez, etc) or is he going to go out and get a free agent after the season, like a WIllis or a Zambrano?



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10 Comments

Comments

[February 15, 2007 1:33 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Mike said

Interesting points. Why would you bat Cano 9th?

[February 15, 2007 4:29 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Brian said

Personally, I like Cano at the bottom of that lineup. Damon and Jeter are good RBI guys for leadoff and #2 hitters, it makes the lineup more potent if they hit w/ men on base. Of course, this wouldn't be an issue if Melky was in left and matsui was at first. Then you really wouldn't have a hole anywhere.

[February 16, 2007 12:25 AM]  |  link  |  reply
stopmikelupica said

Hey Mike: Cano bats 9th because he has good speed, so he is basically a second leadoff hitter; if you wanted to bat the lineup in terms of actually hitting ability, then Cano should bat 7th, ahead of Posada and 1B. But I doubt Torre will do that.

Brian: I love the Matsui at first idea; I liked Shef at 1B last season, and see no reason why Matsui at first wouldn't work. But I think Torre values Matsui's defense alot; he had in center until Damon came along, and Hideki compensates well for his lack of arm strength... Japanese outfielders are for the most part very fundamentally sound; Matsui may not as good an arm as Ichiro, but he has the same sense of timing and footwork that makes him a solid defender. Of course, Melky is better. I expect to see alot of Melky in the OF, Matsui at DH, Giambi at 1B this season, at least once a week, just so Melky can get playing time.

[February 16, 2007 9:47 AM]  |  link  |  reply
brandon said

Dude, how can you say "Questions about Pettite are unnecessary," when you are predicting a 14-16 win record? So you're telling me that the Yanks just paid 16 million for a .500 pitcher with an over 4.00 ERA???!?!? You're happy with that? They could have found someone who would put up those type of numbers for 6 mil. I know it's not your money, but come on.

You're Pettitte defense should be that you think he's going to win the Cy Young Award. Otherwise, it's looks like one of the worst signings of all-time. They paid Randy Johnson less than 16 mil, and he won 17 games a year for the Yanks.

They should have left that hick in Texas.

[February 16, 2007 10:21 AM]  |  link  |  reply
brian said

I'm pretty sure he meant he would have between 14 and 16 wins, not have a 14-16 record. And I'd much rather they pay pettitte that kind of many than they bring in a guy who's never pitched in the AL, and never pitched for this environment, and pay him a ton of dough (Yes, I'm looking at you Pavano).

[February 16, 2007 11:51 AM]  |  link  |  reply
brandon said

I know what he's saying. A 14 win season is .500 or close, after a typical 30+ start season. $16 million should not equal 14 wins. $16 million, should not equal 16 wins. $16 million should equal Cy Young Award, 20+ wins and pitching and winning the first and last game in every playoff series. Pettitte isn't even going to be the ace of the staff.

[February 16, 2007 12:58 PM]  |  link  |  reply
brian said

In theory, you're right. In practice, $16M doesn't buy you what it used to.

Did they overpay for Pettitte? Yes. Beyond the money was he a good acquisition, yes.

He's got experience in the AL. He's got experience w/ the Yanks. He was Clemens' workout buddy for years, so you know he got the best roids money could buy.

And while he isn't the ace, he's a strong candidate for #2 in the rotation, and I know that if he's healthy, I'm going to want him on the mound in the playoffs.

[February 16, 2007 4:32 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Mike said

I agree that Torre probably won't bat Cano higher in the order, but he should. He was their best hitter going into the post-season last year even after missing all of July.

Matsui at first would be a mistake. Sheffield was a mess at first last year (no matter how much the Yanks tried to spin it) and he had experience in the infield (even though it was a million years ago in Milwaukee). It's not as easy as it seems.

[February 16, 2007 7:18 PM]  |  link  |  reply
brian said

First base is, by far, the easiest position on the field to play. Matsui could pick it up in no time, all you need are soft hands, and the reality of it is, you don't even need that. I'd be fine with Giambi playing there, he's servicable as long as he doesn't have to make any throws.

[February 17, 2007 1:56 AM]  |  link  |  reply
stopmikelupica said

@Brandon: They could have found someone who would put up those type of numbers for 6 mil

Really? Have you seen what pitching costs nowadays?!? Gil Meche, 55 million for 5 years. Would you rather have Gil for $55 or Pettite at $16 for one year? No contest... Pettite is worth the money, even if he is only 14-12 with a 4.30 ERA. And that's floor, since that would be one of his worst seasons career-wise. And, as Brian pointed out, he would be a solid #2 in the playoffs, and he might be the reason Clemens signs with the Yanks in July. Aside from being workout buddies with Pettite, Clemens also shares the same agents with Andy; no doubt this might have been a two for one signing. All this = $16 million, in my mind.

Agree with Brian that Matsui could do as good a job at first as Giambi with a little bit of practice with Donnie Baseball. But it isn't going to happen....


Spring Training 08






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