Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Last Samurai

The most heated discussion Yankee fans will have during the off season will be concerning Arod. They should be talking about the Yankees most pressing need which is pitching. Johnson, Wang and Pavano are under contract for next season. In Johnson we have a pitcher who will turn 43 next year and has a back that will require off season surgery. In Pavano we have a player who has pitched a total of 17 games over two years while collecting $20 million dollars. Wang was great this year, but his lack of strikeouts should be a major concern. No pitcher has been able to sustain a winning record with the low strikeout totals that Wang put up this year. He could the one exception in baseball history, but that's not likely. He needs to come up with another pitch or somehow start striking out more batters with what he's got now. He simply cannot continue to win at the rate he did this year by putting so many balls in play.

Jaret Wright has a team option for next year, but it's unlikely that the Yankees will bring him back. They need more than a 5 inning starter, which is what Wright had become this year. Mussina also has a team option for somewhere north of $15 million. The team will not pick that up, but they may resign Mussina for a two year deal in the $8 million/per year range. At least that makes sense to me. Mussina may be able to get more money elsewhere given how thin the pitching market will be this off season, but I don't know if he wants to go to another team at this point. He's got an outside shot at the Hall of Fame and the Yankees probably provide him with the best opportunity to win games. He's 61 away from 300 and it would probably take at lest four more seasons to get there. I don't know if he's going to want to hang around for that, considering the $122 million he's already made in his career, but anything is possible.

If Mussina does re-sign, that would leave one spot open in the rotation. Although as we've seen, there will probably be at least one more spot available due to some unforeseen injury (that's right, I'm looking at you Carl Pavano). Phillip Hughes, the Yankees best pitching prospect, will be given a chance to make the team out of spring training. It's possible that he could be the 5th starter, however it's just as likely that he ends up in Columbus and then gets called up in mid-season if he does well there. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese phenom is going to get a long hard look from the Yankees. They have been burned before by one japanese pitcher(Hideki Irabu), but Daisuke is supposed to be a different story. He was the best pitcher at the World Baseball Classic and went on to have a stellar year in Japan. He will not come cheaply for the Yankees. They would have to outbid the other major leagues team (which could cost upwards of $20 million)just to have a chance to sign him. Matsuzaka is the supposedly the only pitcher in professional baseball who throws the Gyroball. It supposedly comes out the hand with a different spin and is very deceptive. We'll just have to see (I saw some video of him supposedly throwing the Gyroball and it looks and acts just like a screwball). However, let's all remember that Irabu was supposed to throw a 95mph splitter before we all get too excited.

The bullpen also needs some attention. Scott Proctor was great this year, but he was over used by Joe Torre. He needs some help out there. Brian Bruney is an intriguing addition to the team. He throws in the mid to upper nineties and was a great late season addition. He was released by the Diamondbacks however, which leads to some concern as to why a team would release such an obviously talented player. The Yankees need another arm in the pen and I don't thing that Tanyon Sturtze is the answer. I'm not sure who is going to be available, but the Yankees need to pick a hard throwing lefty to complement the lefty specialist Mike Myers. Kyle Farnsworth needs to show that he is indeed going to the set up man or else he'll have to move back in the pecking order. If your primary set up man can't pitch two days in a row, then you have a problem. This year, the Yankees had a problem. Farnsworth has outstanding stuff. He topped 100 mph on the Yankee radar gun on more than a few occasions this season. At times he can be dominating. Other times it seems like he's afraid to throw it in the strike zone. And still other times, it seems like the ball is coming up to the hitters on a tee. He certainly has the arm to dominate. It just remains to be seen whether his back and his head will allow him to.

Brian Cashman definitely has some work to do in the off season. I trust that he will make the right moves and once again put the Yankees in position to make another playoff run. I know George wants another championship before the heads off to that great big luxury box in the sky, but I want a million dollars and I don't see anyone lining up to give me that either. The Yankee pitching is not in shambles, but they do need some help. Hopefully, they'll get it this winter.



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