Kevin Youkilis’ Strange Absence From AL MVP Consideration

August 17, 2009
Although currently undeserving, Kevin Youkilis has been strangely absent from the AL MVP discussion.

Although currently undeserving, Kevin Youkilis has been strangely absent from the AL MVP discussion.

I had a wild Saturday night this past weekend. Around 10:30, I tuned the radio to the Yankees-Mariners game. Then, I got into bed and fell asleep. At some point between 11 o’clock and midnight, however, I woke up to the soothing sounds of a good, old-fashioned debate about who deserved the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

Broadcasters John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman invited the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand into the booth to discuss the candidates. Even in a sleepy daze, it was easy to tell that the three were collaborating in starting the “Mark Teixeira for MVP” meme. Sterling gushed about Teixeira’s unparalleled defense, Waldman about his knack for getting the big hit, and Feinsand about anything that his hosts missed. At the end of the inning, the three concluded that Teixeira is the frontrunner, with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (not enough RBIs) and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer (on a bad team) next in line.

Before making my surprising suggestion, I want to be clear about the fact that Joe Mauer has clearly been the American League’s MVP so far this season. Mauer – a catcher – has a .377/.444/.626 line this season, including 22 home runs and only 46 strikeouts. He’s an exceptional hitter at home (1.166 OPS), and merely excellent on the road (.983). In fact, Mauer is having the single best offensive season by a catcher in baseball history (186 OPS+), just ahead of Mike Piazza’s 1997 season. If the season ended today, Mauer should be the league’s MVP, and it’s not even close.

Given that Sterling, Waldman, and Feinsand were intent on ignoring Mauer’s historic greatness, I wondered to myself (and to you, now) why Kevin Youkilis was not mentioned. Certainly, I find the Red Sox first baseman whiny, hyperemotional, and generally unlikeable, but he’s having a superb season. His .311/.424/.564 line trumps Teixeira’s .285/.382/.557, and his home/away split isn’t nearly as comical as his counterpart on the Yankees’. Furthermore – and you will most likely get shot here in New York for saying this – Youkilis’ defense has been better than Teixeira’s. Finally, Youkilis is on a winning team and has that fiery, scrappy, team leader-y (read: he’s white and looks like he’s trying hard) thing down pat, which MVP voters absolutely love. As you can see, Youkilis has satisfied the historically important criteria for MVP consideration, and yet his name remains conspicuously absent from any preliminary lists.

Again, the AL MVP award should be Joe Mauer’s to lose. But for now, I just wanted to help beat back the idea that Mark Teixeira is clearly the frontrunner. After all, he isn’t even the most valuable Yankee.

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The Yankees Had A Better Winter Than The Red Sox

March 10, 2009

In recent months, I’ve taken a much more even-tempered approach to the decaying state of sports analysis. My blood pressure is very thankful for this adjustment. I smile more. I curse less. People seem to like me more, and I can still uphold Fan Interference’s fundamental goal of pointing out shoddy, lazy, or factually incorrect analysis in an effort to better educate you, the avid sports fan. That hasn’t changed, but the tone has. 

I mention this because this post will be decidedly in the “old style” tone. Jayson Stark’s recent column comparing the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ off-seasons has served as the impetus for this brief regression. The column heavily implies – if not outright asserts – that the Red Sox’ player additions are better than the Yankees’, despite the latter’s prodigious spending. It’s essentially yet another David versus Goliath analogy that, of course, sides with David (even though David is a Goliath too). To be clear, I’m not arguing that the Yankees are better than the Red Sox. I’m arguing that it’s lunacy to suggest that a team improves more by adding the current versions of John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and Rocco Baldelli than adding CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett. I am putting my fan hat back on for this post, because quite honestly, Stark’s piece got my blood boiling again. Articles like this are the reason we started this blog in the first place.

Here we go, Fire Joe Morgan-style:

Read the rest of this entry »


Yankees Must Consider Moving Teixeira To Third Base

March 6, 2009

My friends think of me as a baseball mad scientist sometimes. Maybe that’s just how I think of myself. Or maybe I’m simply mad, and there’s nothing scientific about it. Regardless, I come up with some pretty extreme theories related to baseball tactics or strategies. You can determine the theories I espouse the most by how far into the back of their heads my friends’ eyeballs roll when you mention them. Popular tactics include a total ban on bunting or stealing, deployment of relievers based on descending quality (best reliever in the 7th, second best in the 8th, etc.) and an absolute lack of regard for a player’s defensive ability. 

It is that last tactical preference that applies directly to the forthcoming proposal. Since the release of the inauspicious news about Alex Rodriguez’s hip, my thoughts have inevitably turned to figuring out just who in the heck is going to play third base for the Yankees if Rodriguez’s injury persists. I asked this of a friend yesterday while walking home, and the responding text message said only “Ransom?” Cody Ransom, he of the insane vertical leap, is the Yankees’ probable utility infielder. His career line of .251/.348/.432 isn’t all that bad, but that came in only 214 career PAs. Ransom is also 33 years old, so even if that number is indicative of his true ability (which it isn’t), he’s probably declining anyway. If Rodriguez is out for several months, 300 PAs of Ransom would be disastrous for the Yankees’ postseason chances.

The prospect of this happening got me thinking about alternatives, and my mind’s eye shifted slowly towards the Yankees’ new first-baseman, Mark Teixeira. Within a minute, I decided that the Yankees should take a long and hard look at shifting Teixeira to third base for the duration of Rodriguez’s absence. They need not commit to it, or force it if it clearly isn’t going to work. But at the very least, they need to examine all potential solutions, and this one isn’t nearly as ridiculous as you might think.

It really comes down to a simple choice for the Yankees. They can have 300 PAs of .290/.390/.550 hitting at first base with very good defense and 300 PAs of .230/.300/.350 hitting with bad defense at third base. Or they can have 300 PAs of .250/.350/.450 at first base with below-average defense, and 300 PAs of .290/.390/.550 at third base with probably terrible defense. The first scenario would occur if the Yankees kept Teixeira at first base and Ransom at third for the duration of Rodriguez’s injury. The second happens is they put Nick Swisher at first and Teixeira at third during the same time span. Teixeira has a tiny bit of experience playing third base, having played 15 games there for the Texas Rangers in 2003. Six years is probably enough time, however, to make that experience virtually negligible. Thinking about shifting Teixeira to third base is really just an act of faith based on his remarkable athletic ability and work-ethic. 

I am not an unreasonable man. If the Yankees were to act on my potentially harebrained suggestion, I would make some concessions to the difficulty of Teixeira’s task. For example, a better defender should play third base on days that Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte are pitching, because of their general inability to strike anyone out. When CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Joba Chamberlain are pitching, however, hitters put the ball into play less often, making Teixeira’s presence at third somewhat less of an issue. Late-game defensive substitutions at third would also be a no-brainer.

The point is that the Yankees owe it to themselves, the fans, and sheer rationality to consider moving Teixeira to third base. If they give him a third-baseman’s glove in Spring Training, watch him field grounders, and decide that it would be an unmitigated disaster, then that’s fine. But they should give him a glove and see what he can do, no matter what. Someone much smarter than I am can probably quantify which combination of offense and defense is more valuable: Teixeira (1B) and Ransom (3B), or Swisher (1B) and Teixeira (3B). I bet the answer is much closer than most people think.


Yankees Had To Sign Mark Teixeira

December 24, 2008

It is important to distinguish between situations in which order does and does not matter. Sometimes, the order in which events occur reveals degrees of importance, preference, or need. Think of your high school or college days. You have two tests tomorrow. In one subject, you are thriving; in the other, languishing. The rational individual would react by studying first for the latter subject, because it is more important than the former. The marginal benefits of studying the more difficult subject outweigh those of studying the easier one. You gain more by increasing your knowledge from middling to average than you do from above-average to exemplary. This is the type of situation in which order matters.

The New York Yankees’ recent spending spree is an example of order not mattering. Brian Cashman has signed C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira this offseason – in that order. This does not mean that Sabathia was more important than Burnett, who was more important than Teixeira. This order is merely the function of a variety of factors that I cannot profess to know. I do know that the Yankees planned to improve both their pitching and their hitting this offseason. The way to do that is to improve the quality of players on the roster by Opening Day of the upcoming season. Order does not matter.

I bring this up because of the general response Teixeira’s signing has elicited. Media types and fans alike seem to be in agreement that this deal was done in the name of wretched excess. Most understood signing Sabathia. Some talked themselves into Burnett. But Teixeira? How much richer must the rich get? The implication is that Teixeira was the most superfluous acquisition of the three. This is because he was the third to be signed. This deal only seems excessive because of the order. In reality, it is the most important signing of the three. Above all else, the Yankees needed to improve their offense this winter. They needed an offensive talent like Teixeira more than they needed pitching. It just seemed like the opposite was true because of the order. Read the rest of this entry »


Teixeira!

December 23, 2008

The Yankees have apparently signed Mark Teixeira. Insight and analysis are forthcoming. For now, I share with you my theory on what Hal Steinbrenner said to Brian Cashman at the beginning of the offseason. I give you Gary Oldman in “The Professional.”