My man James Chipman over at Motor City Bengals and I decided to do a series preview since our teams are playing each other to open the season.
The two clubs will open the 2011 campaign tomorrow at 1:05 (weather permitting), and jayrc, as he’s called on his site, and I asked each other a six pack of questions. Check it out after the jump:
Pitching match ups:
Thursday 1:05 pm
Justin Verlander vs CC Sabathia
Saturday 4:10 pm
Brad Penny vs A.J. Burnett
Sunday 1:05 pm
Max Scherzer vs Phil Hughes
15 Day DL
Carlos Guillen – recovering from left knee surgery
Joel Zumaya – right elbow soreness
Maglio Ordoñez – left hamstring
15 Day DL
Francisco Cervelli-Fractured left foot
Pedro Feliciano-Left shoulder discomfort
Damaso Marte-Rotator cuff surgery
Curtis Granderson-Right oblique strain
Detroit: In 28 innings this spring, Justin Verlander posted a 0.96 ERA, striking out 23.
New York: Alex Rodriguez. His numbers this spring have been mind boggling; he led the Yanks with 19 hits, six homers, 15 RBI, 44 total bases (the next closest in TB was 31) and an .898 slugging percentage. His line was .388/.444/.898 in 18 games (49 at-bats). Honorable Mention: AJ Burnett, zero walks in 13 innings.
Detroit: This spring, Jhonny Peralta hit just .197 in 66 at-bats.
New York: Nick Swisher. He led the Yanks in at-bats with 59 but put up just a .254/.274/.339 line. Swish Dog recorded 20 total bases, 12 strike outs and just two walks while driving in just eight runs and socking one dinger in 20 games.
Six Pack of Questions:
James asked me: “Position players turned Designated Hitters often struggle. How well will Jorge Posada handle his new role?”
My response: There’s absolutely no doubt that Jorge Posada is fuming about not being the starting catcher, or even a back up. The Yanks, of course, brought in Russell Martin this offseason to handle the lion share of the catching duties with Frankie Cervelli manning the back-up role. When Cervelli went down with a broken foot this spring I’m sure JoPo thought he would finagle his way behind the plate, but the Yanks said no. The best chance Jorge has to see the field is as a first baseman when Tex needs a day off. That leaves him as the designated hitter.
To answer your question: I think he will handle the transition with class but his numbers will drop. Posada, who will be 40 in August and is in the last year of his four-year, 52.4 million contract, hit .279/.380/.487 in 5,274 at-bats as a catcher and just .223/.336/.358 in 296 at-bats as a DH. Obviously the numbers as a DH are a small sample size, but it is hard for guys to adjust to hitting every few innings without taking the field. I’ve heard many players say that it just feels weird and even Posada said it’s like pinch hitting three or four times a game. He might get used to it later on in the season, but I don’t think we’ll see the same production from Jorge Posada as a DH as we did when he was a catcher.
The good news: Georgie hit .339/.456/.482 as a first baseman! Disclaimer: just 56 at-bats.
James asked me: “In an off-season where three year deals were handed out like Halloween candy, the Yankees inked set-up man Raphael Soriano to a three year $ 35 million deal. How do you feel about that deal and what does he do for your bullpen?”
My response: I can’t be upset with the Yanks signing a player of Rafael Soriano’s caliber to be THE EIGHTH-INNING GUY. However, I’m kind of pissed off as to how it went down. It seems like the NYY brass went behind Cashman’s back to get the deal done, to which Cashman made his displeasure abundantly clear, and it wasn’t even a good deal. It seems like the team just wanted to make a big splash and sign a free agent after missing out on Cliff Lee.
So (my nickname for him, what do you think?) has an opt-clause after each season and the money is kind of pricey, but what can you do? The eighth and ninth innings are now locked down with So and Mo. How can you be upset with that?
James asked me: “Andy Pettite retired and Cliff Lee chose to sign with Philadelphia. You enter the season with Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia at the back-end of the rotation. How do you feel about that?”
My response: Let me start off by saying I’m glad Cliff Lee didn’t sign with the Yanks. I swear to God I’m not a bitter Yankee fan trying to save face. Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve loved to have him on the Yanks, but not for seven years and $150 million. That contract was ludicrous and I’m glad they didn’t make it work.
As for Andy Pettitte, what can you do? The guy wanted to spend more time with his family; you can’t fault him for that. He gave the Yanks 13 glorious seasons and I’ll always remember the good times. However, I’ve got a feeling that we’ll see him play ball again sometime in the near future. I don’t know if he’ll pull a Clemens and return in May/June or make a comeback next season, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion (a la Kenny Powers) that he’ll pitch again.
Their replacements, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, are just that, replacements. They definitely won’t give the team the kind of production that Lee or Pettitte would have, but they’ll (hopefully) hold down the fort. SuperNova looked pretty good last year and had a tremendous spring. He was second in innings with 20 and gave up just four runs on 11 hits with nine strikeouts to just four walks. I’m excited he got the fourth spot and I can’t wait to watch him in the Bronx.
Garcia, 36 in June, was decent this spring, though I thought Colon should have been the fifth starter. Fabulous Freddy tossed 18 1/3 innings and was touched for 10 runs on 17 hits with 15 Ks to just four BBs. The soon-to-be-38-year-old Colon went 16 frames and yielded four runs on 10 hits with 17 punch outs to just one measly free pass. I figure that Colon not pitching last year had something to do with the decision, but still.
I asked James: “How do you feel about the signings of Brad Penny and Joaquin Beniot? Do you think they’ll help/hurt the team?”
His response: I am strongly against three-year deals to non-closing relievers. That being said, the deal was hard to swallow at first. As I mentioned before, three year deals were passed out like Halloween candy this off-season. GM Dave Dombrowski had to be aggressive though to acquire Joaquin Benoit. So, good for Benoit–at least it’s not my cash. Last seasons numbers were amazing. He was also untouchable this spring.With Joel Zumaya injured (again) the signing of Benoit is huge.
Whatever we can get out of Brad Penny is a plus. I’d take his upside over former Tiger Armando Galarraga’s inconsistency any day. Hopefully Brad stays healthy and gives us ten or so wins.
I asked James: “What do you think Victor Martinez brings to the team? Are you happy you guys got him?”
His response: I went back and forth on who was the better target–I also wanted Adam Dunn. We already have a good deal of strikeout prone players, so V-Mart was probably the better choice. He is the epitome of a professional hitter. He is also well known for his leadership. V-Mart will provide Cabrera with some much needed protection in the lineup. Statistically, I expect a great season from him. Beyond the numbers I believe that V-Mart will be a good mentor for Cabrera off the field.
I asked James: “What do you think about the AJax/Grandy trade? If you could go back would you undo the trade?”
His response: As much as I hated losing Grandy, he cannot hit lefties and he strikes out a ton. We essentially received a younger and cheaper version of Curtis, plus Coke. I’m quite pleased with A-Jax and Phil Coke was outstanding in the bullpen last season. I have watched Coke since his days with the Tampa Yankees, I have faith that he will be a solid back-end starter this season. When you consider the fact that we also received Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth for Edwin Jackson it makes the deal an absolute steal. I can’t help but wonder how upset Yankee fans are that they dealt away A-Jax.