Friday, February 15, 2008

Bless you, FJM

They give bad sportswriting the brutal dope-slapping that it deserves. In fact, they do it so well that some people notice and realize instantly what it means: accountability. They can no longer run thrice-weekly columns claiming that David Eckstein makes your team better, or that "my eyes tell me that Bert Blyleven isn't a Hall-of-Famer," or "this guy strikes out too much." They have to keep up with things.

Some folks react poorly to this, as the Bill Conlin saga demonstrated. Most just put down their heads and plow onward, as this tidbit shows.

Dak doesn't touch on everything, but he mentions this one glaring statement by George King: "There was nothing wrong with Andy Phillips and Doug Mientkiewicz, but the Yankees got rid of them. Instead, they are looking at Duncan, Wilson Betemit, Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg."

There is, in fact, a whole hell of a lot wrong with the guys the Yanks ditched. Andy Phillips is just short of 31, with a career OPS of .678 in less than a full season's worth of plate appearances. Last season's mark of .711 was 44th in all of baseball among first basemen, with teammate Mientkiewicz checking in at 30th. This would be an embarassing month for a lot of guys, much less a full season from two of them. The Yanks cannot afford an entire season of this from first base, where offense is the premium concern.

Shelley Duncan was a rookie last season and hit seven homers - as many as Phillips and Mientkiewicz combined. Add in Betemit (who can also spell A-Rod at third), hope that either Jason Lane (primarily an outfielder, but moving to first is generally easier) or Morgan Ensberg (again, can move from third to first, and waves a decent stick) makes the roster, and the Yankees have improved that spot in the lineup considerably over teh suq that generally ruled last season. Bonus: Lane wouldn't be a bad fourth outfielder, either, so the Yankees can properly rest the aging and injury-prone Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

The worst bit, to me, was one not covered by Dak: "How will the young arms fare?" Read those three paragraphs and tell me if you find even word one about how the writer thinks they will do. I didn't find a thing. Was it badly done? Not necessarily - the upshot is, if Chamberlain starts, the Yankee bullpen is weakened and Ian Kennedy goes to AAA ball. Reasonable analysis, and also irrelevant to the question, which was how these guys will actually pitch, not where.

If we were in a bar and I said, "Hey imaginary person in this cool invisible bar, how do you think the Yankees young pitchers will do this year?" then you might say, "Well, 'fly, Joba only threw 115 or so innings last year, only has 24 major league innings, so they should limit his work and build him up to about 140 or so this year - maybe spot-start him when there aren't that many days off. He may struggle as the league catches up to him and he pitches through fatigue more often. Hughes will hold down the second or third spot in the rotation. Kennedy may not be league-average at first but he'll get innings and he should have a better second half as he adjusts to big-league hitting." I'd then say, "Cool, thanks." Or, you could say, "Gee, I read the Baseball Analysts and their section on the AL East's rookies has some good info on Chamberlain and Kennedy," and I'd say, "That's nifty! I'll have to read up."

That would be better, wouldn't it?

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