Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Slow News Day

It's the baseball off-season, the Hot Stove!  But not every day is a big news day.  Yet columnists still need stories to write.  Let's file this one under "Interesting Item that will be Quickly Forgotten".  According to Michael Axisa at River Ave Blues, the Yankees are considering hiring Jeff Pentland for their vacant hitting coach position.  Who is Jeff Pentland?  He's a 68-year old veteran who's bounced around the majors for the last couple of decades and presided over some pretty bad teams with mostly lousy hitting.  Here's a look at those teams, their records when Pentland was acting as hitting coach, their league rankings in both Average and OPS, as well as the standout from that season.

Marlins 1996 80 82 9 10 Sheffield, .314-42-120
Cubs 1997 68 94 5 12 Sosa, .251-36-119
1998 90 73 5 6 Sosa, .308-66-158
1999 67 95 14 15 Sosa, .288-63-141
2000 65 97 13 12 Sosa, .320-50-138
2001 88 74 8 6 Sosa, .328-64-160
2002 67 95 15 11 Sosa, .288-49-108
AVG 74 88 10.00 10.33
Royals 2003 83 79 4 7 Beltran, .307-26-100
2004 58 104 13 14 Sweeney, .287-22-79
2005 56 106 10 12 Sweeney, .300-21-83
AVG 66 96 9 11
Mariners 2005 69 93 14 14 Sexson, .263-39-121
2006 74 84 10 12 Ibanez, .289-33-123
2007 88 74 2 6 Ibanez, .291-21-105
2008 61 101 9 13 Ibanez, .293-23-110
AVG 73 88 8.75 11.25
Dodgers 2010 80 82 10 12 Ethier, .292-23-82
2011 82 79 6 10 Kemp, .324-39-126
AVG 81 81 8 11

For the most part, Pentland's teams were bad, the worst one being the 2005 Royals.  To be fair, Tony Pena walked away from the team in May and the coaches soon followed.  Remarkably, Pentland managed to find work quickly with the Mariners and led their hitters... well, nowhere.  The 2005 Mariners finished dead last in the AL in both average and OPS.  It only got slightly better in 2006.  But in 2007, the Mariners busted out and gave Pentland his best season as a hitting coach.  Led by Ichiro's .351 average and three players with an OPS over .800, the Mariners finished 6th in the AL in OPS.  By the next season, though, the M's OPS dropped to 13th in the league and Pentland was gone again.

Now, I don't know much about Jeff Pentland beyond these numbers.  He was apparently good enough to keep getting hired, in spite of the apparent lack of success he brought to his teams.  But if I'm looking to replace Kevin Long, a hitting coach with a long record of success in New York, Jeff Pentland is not first on my list.  Or second.  Or, well, you get the idea.

I happen to like the idea that was floated a few months ago: bringing back Jason Giambi to coach.  These aren't the Royals or Marlins.  Even an unproven coaching commodity like Giambi makes more sense than a small-town, semi-successful, retread like Pentland.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The More Things Change, the Yankees Don't

The Hot Stove season is underway, and the Yankees are making moves.  Underwhelming, head-scratching, and downright bone-headed moves. 

They began by re-signing Chris Young, a player the Mets didn't want.  (Let that sink in for a moment.)  But Young will be the 4th outfielder, a guy who can play all three OF positions, and someone who's not expected to do much.

Today, though, the Yankees addressed a much bigger need.  With a Derek Jeter-sized hole at shortstop, the Yanks traded for Didi Gregorius.  Gregorius is primarily a glove-first guy, having shown only marginal success hitting at the major-league level.  I would question the need to acquire a glove-first SS, considering they already have that in the form of Brendan Ryan.  But I will also agree with those who say Ryan cannot hit, while Gregorius has hitting potential

The head-scratcher, though, is that the Yankees chose to part with Shane Greene, a major-league ready starting pitcher, in exchange for Gregorius.  While his sample size was small from his rookie year, Greene put up good numbers: 81 strikeouts in 78 innings and an ERA under 4.  Sure, Greene might not rise very far above a 3rd or 4th starter.  But for a team with a question-mark riddled rotation, a Gregorius for Greene swap may amount to nothing more than patching a hole here while creating another over there.

But for me, the worst move of the off-season so far has been the signing of Andrew Miller.  While I think Miller is a good reliever (at least he was last season), in no way is he worth $36 million over four years.  Miller, you'll recall, is a failed starter.  No big deal there, as nearly every successful reliever is a failed starter.  However, successful teams don't pay $36 million for someone else's reclamation project.  There are cheaper alternatives to be found everywhere, and teams that put together those great bullpens with arms no one else wanted -- see Royals, Kansas City or Orioles, Baltimore -- reap the rewards.  (It's no surprise that Miller was part of that outstanding Baltimore pen, and also not a surprise that the O's didn't want to pay to keep him.)  It remains to be seen how long Miller remains an elite reliever and whether the Yanks will earn a return on their hefty investment.

It's only December, and the Yankees still have needs.  Third base, starting pitching, maybe second base, too.  But I don't see any obvious fixes or any evident plan that puts the Yankees on a course correction for 2015.  With other teams in the East getting better, the Yanks might be playing catch-up during the regular season, too.