Showing posts with label New York Yankees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York Yankees. Show all posts

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Expert League Challenge



I have had the privilege of participating in several fantasy baseball and football expert leagues. I have done well in a few of them but unfortunately have yet to actually win one. I plan to change that this season. Whether you participate in Fantasy Baseball or another type of sports betting the goal is always to win. Sometimes you want to win for recognition (as in Expert leagues) and other times you want to bring home the fantasy league pot. In either case the method is pretty much the same – develop a winning strategy and implement it to the best of your ability. 

On Sunday I drafted in two Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge Expert Leagues run by Fantasy Sports R Us. One league was an NL-only with 11 teams and the other a nine team AL-only.  My Strategy in both leagues was fairly simple. Draft at least 200 homeruns, 120 stolen bases, two closers and strikeout starters. You can judge the execution of that strategy for yourself. I was more happy with the AL team than the NL team. I was not nearly as obsessed with the Reds and Yankees as the rosters may make it appear. I failed to acquire the quality of pitching I was hoping for but think I have a solid core in both leagues.

The NL-Only Team

C Rob Brantley, Miami Marlins – showed new on-base skills after joining the Marlins
1B Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers – hopefully over his shoulder problems
3B Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds – a talented player in a great lineup
CI Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals – an underrated power source
2B Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds – a top second basemen
SS Alex Gonzalez, Milwaukee Brewers – should see time all over the field and serve as Segura insurance
MI Steve Lombardozzi, Washington Nationals – betting on Espinosa’s shoulder problems
OF Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves – my bet to be a 2014 first round pick
OF Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals – his endurance should be better this season
OF Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates – a youngster with power and speed
OF Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres – a powerful hitter who is presently healthy
OF Tony Campana, Arizona Diamondbacks – just for the stolen bases
Utl Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres – my rookie of the year pick
SP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds – I think he’s an ace starter
SP Trevor Cahill, Arizona Diamondbacks – trending very well, improved skills
SP Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs – an underrated starting pitcher
SP Ross Detwiler, Washington Nationals – him too
SP Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies – put it together in the second half of the 2012 season
MR Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks – betting he finds his way to saves somehow
MR Brandon Lyon, New York Mets – next in line for saves in New York
CL Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals – A top five closer
CL Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies – a top skilled closer
R Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds – If he comes up early he’ll save my horrid middle infield
R Jerry Hairston, 2B, 3B, OF Los Angeles Dodgers – love having reserves that play all over
R Erik Kratz, C, Philadelphia Phillies – should be very productive while Ruiz sits
R Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates – an ace as soon as he gets the call
R Cory Luebke, SP, San Diego Padres – help down the stretch

The AL-Only Team

C Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox – should see more at-bats in a park built for him
1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays – he may not repeat but 30 homers is a cinch
3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics – a sleeper pick after getting caught looking elsewhere
CI Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees – the power is not going anywhere
2B Robinson Cano, New York Yankees – worthy of the number one pick in any league
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians – a top shortstop
MI Omar Infante, Detroit Tigers – a quality late round middle infielder
OF Dayan Viciedo, Chicago White Sox – big power potential
OF Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians – a solid player in a very improved lineup
OF Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics – the stolen base master of the present
OF Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers – a better hitter than most understand
OF Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels – if he hits he should also steal bases
Utl Darin Mastroianni, Minnesota Twins – knows how to get on base and the speed skills for 70 SBs
SP Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers – better than he looked last season
SP Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox – flashed his former stuff last season, finally healthy
SP Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue Jays – a solid pitcher on a great team
SP Vance Worley, Minnesota Twins – a pitcher I like more than you
SP Dan Straily, Oakland Athletics – a minor league strikeout leader with a rotation spot
SP Joe Saunders, Seattle Mariners – the park should make him look better than his skills
SP Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals – one of my bets to step up big time in 2013
MR Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics – my favorite relief sleeper
CL Brant Balfour, Oakland Athletics – the only closer left on the board
R Ryan Flaherty, 2B, 3B, OF, Baltimore Orioles – versatile and behind a brittle starter
R Matt Dominguez, 3B, Houston Astros – improved his bat skills last season, starting 3B
R Mike Aviles, Cleveland Indians – versatile reserve on a team with many potential holes
R Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees – a young and versatile player on an aging team
R Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona), SP Tampa Bay Rays – the Rays are miracle workers

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

2011 Sleeper: Eduardo Nunez SS New York Yankees


The 2010 Major League Baseball season is officially over. Congratulation to the San Francisco Giants for winning their first championship since leaving New York for the West Coast. I am certain that few fans (outside of California) expected the Giants to get past the Philadelphia Phillies. Actually winning the World Series was the ultimate fantasy. It makes you want to check the Belmont Sportsbook for the odds. And while it is sad that we won't have much baseball to watch over the winter months, now, in a lot of ways, is when the 2011 Fantasy Baseball season truly begins.

I have missed on plenty of sleepers in the past (you're shocked I'm sure...) and hit on more than my fair share (I despise your doubting chuckles) of undiscovered gems. One of the most galling misses was Robinson Cano. I am an avid follower of the New York Yankees but I did not see him coming. He looked like a mediocre infield prospect without much patience at the plate. A lot like Eduardo Nunez before the last two seasons of rapid development during which he became the Shortstop of the Future(read with a super-cool Space Ghost style voice).

Okay. You may be wondering how I can get excited about a Yankees shortstop prospect when Derek Jeter is as close to a lock to spend his entire career in pinstripes as any active player of the last fifty years. The easy answer is I'm not alone. The Yankees themselves were willing to part with stud catching prospect Jesus Montero in a trade for Cliff Lee back in July, but they refused to sub Nunez for injured infielder David Adams and forced the Seattle Mariners to deal with the Texas Rangers instead. It is easy to assume that Nunez is just a contingency plan in case Derek Jeter does something unexpected like become one of Buck Showalter's Baltimore Orioles. But according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News the Yankees could have other ideas:
Though no one in the Yankee high command is ever going to even speculate about the future after 2011 - especially with the very sensitive contract negotiations with Jeter about to get underway – but it's becoming increasingly clear the plan is to phase out Jorge Posada next season when his contract expires, opening up the DH slot for Alex Rodriguez, thereby allowing Jeter to move to third, making room for a more athletic shortstop, which would be the 24-year-old Venezuelan, Nunez, who hit .289 with 50 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton this season.
Yes, that could very well be just ridiculous speculation on the part of Madden but it makes a lot of sense. General Manager Brian Cashman has been adamant about incorporating more younger talent into the 25-man roster. You have seen evidence of this on the pitching staff (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson) and in the outfield (Brett Gardner). Shortstop has not been an area of great need, but even the most fervent Jeter supporters will admit it would be nice to improve the defensive range at the position. Even if Jeter does stick at shortstop Nunez is likely to see an ever increasing role off the bench - subbing at shortstop and third base as New York's aging superstars spend more time at Designated Hitter and resting on the bench.

So pretend you buy that Eduardo Nunez will receive meaningful at-bats. The question then is about his worth to fantasy owners. Obviously, I believe he will have greater value than his cost. He should come very cheaply because most will not expect him to play at all. Nunez was highly touted as a Five-Tool Prospect when the Yankees signed him as an non-drafted free-agent in 2004, as a 16-year old. Nunez is an excellent contact hitter but has struggled with patience and plate discipline in the past. He has shown very little power but has begun to pack solid muscle weight onto his once skinny frame. He is now a very solid 215 pounds. When drafted he was a frail 155 pounds. Adding power to his game is about learning to wait for his pitch, he has the potential to become a 20-plus homerun hitter. Nunez also has plus speed and is learning to become a better base stealer. He has the potential to steal 20-30 bases annually.

The last two seasons have seen massive improvements from Nunez. Some of this is the result of giving up switch-hitting to bat exclusively right-handed. Although there is still a lot of room for improvement, his plate discipline and selectivity at the plate have improved dramatically. He is waiting for his pitch more often and is more willing to take a walk. Anthony Dorunda of Pinstripes Plus (Scout.com's Yankees Site) received this quote:
"He's matured mentally a lot," hitting coach Butch Wynegar said. "I didn't know him much before but from what I've heard and what I've seen now, he's done a nice job of mentally maturing and he's got a better idea of what he's doing up at the plate. He's done a lot of battling with two strikes. whereas last year he didn't battle as well."
Defensively (relevant to playing time questions), Nunez has great hands, a cannon arm and tremendous range. He struggles with consistency and staying focused on the job at hand. He has struggled with taking bad at-bats into the field, but has shown improvement here as well. He routinely makes plays that many shortstops could not. With maturity he should become a Gold Glove caliber (in the very best sense of the phrase) shortstop in the majors.


When you bet on baseball, play in a big money fantasy leagues, or vote independent you embrace risk. Rostering Eduardo Nunez is a risk but a small one relative to price. I place his ceiling as a player somewhere around Robinson Cano's but with much better stolen base potential. He should eventually hit for a good batting average, average power, and provide great speed and excellent defense. Acquiring him in your fantasy league should be a risk well worth taking.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What You Overlooked About the Texas Rangers

Coming into the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, the Texas Rangers were undersold. They were undersold because of their starting pitching. Their second- and third-best starting pitchers (C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis) are almost as good as the Yankees’ best starting pitcher (C.C. Sabathia), or at least they are in 2010. This should have been obvious to every avid baseball fan, at least, and we shouldn’t be surprised that the Rangers hold a 3-games-to-1 lead as I write this.

Let’s look at some numbers that tell us about underlying performance, shall we.

Here are the 2010 FIP’s (Fielding Independent Pitching on an ERA scale, from FanGraphs.com) for Cliff Lee, Sabathia, Lewis and Wilson:

Lee: 2.58

Sabathia: 3.54

Lewis: 3.55

Wilson: 3.56

Lee’s FIP was the second-best in all of baseball. Clearly he’s the best starting pitcher we’ll see in this series. But it may come as a surprise that Sabathis, Lewis and Wilson were essentially equal at least in terms of FIP.

Here are their 2010 WAR’s (Wins Above Replacement, again from FanGraphs):

Lee: 7

Sabathia: 5.1

Wilson: 4.4

Lewis: 4.4

Sabathia has a bigger edge in WAR than in FIP but it’s still closer than most fans probably realize. The gap between Lee and Sabathia is greater than the gap between Sabathia, Wilson and Lee. Lee let major league pitchers in WAR, Sabathia was 13th and Wilson and Lewis were tied at 18th with Dan Haren. No other Yankees pitcher was in the top 35 while the Rangers had three pitchers in the top 18.

Here are their ERA+ (ERA adjusted for league and parks, this from BaseballReference.com):

Lee: 130

Sabathia: 134

Wilson: 129

Lewis: 116

Things are a little more bunched up here. Sabathia looks better here than he does in the other statistics we’ve looked at, actually out-shining Lee. But this stat is based on ERA, and ERA is influenced by defense and luck. While ERA+ takes into account league and parks, it does not account for defense and luck. So it is not a great measure of the fundamental, underlying performance level of a pitcher; it’s much more results-based than performance-based.

Cliff Lee is obviously head-and-shoulders above any pitcher we’ve seen or will see in the ALCS and quite possibly in the playoffs. But the Rangers have two other starters that are almost as good as any starter their ALCS opponent has or will throw at them. Many probably overrated the bigger names of Sabathia and Pettite and overlooked the 2010 performances of CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis. But name recognition doesn’t always mean more talent, at least not current talent level.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Rise of Francisco Cervelli


Photo from fOTOGLIF


Jorge Posada
is out for the next few weeks with a hairline fracture in his foot. Posada suffered the injury on Sunday when a foul tip off the bat of Michael Cuddyer struck him on the foot. Top catching prospect Jesus Montero is not quite ready to replace him. The Yankees already have Juan Miranda on the roster and I am positive he will benefit from Posada's absence, but the player that I would grab would be Francisco Cervelli.

Cervelli will not hit for a ton of power or steal any bases. However, he has improving plate discipline, the patience to take walks and low strikeout rates over his career in the majors and minors. He should hit for a strong batting average and by virtue of being in the Yankees lineup will pile up the runs and RBI.
From MLB.com:

Girardi said he foresees Francisco Cervelli continuing to get the majority of at-bats in place of Posada. Cervelli has already made a good impression this season in his 17 starts, batting .375. He hit .298 last season in two starts.

"Jorge has been a leader," Girardi said. "It's something that we dealt with last year. [Kevin] Cash and [Cervelli] came up big and did a good job, and we're going to need someone else to come in and do a good job for us."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Granderson to the Yankees and the Rest of the Big Trade


Photo from fOTOGLIF

It is not quite official yet but it appears that the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks have completed a three-way trade at the Winter Meetings (and on Peter Gammon's last day at ESPN).
From ESPN:

The Yanks would acquire center fielder Curtis Granderson (from the Tigers), the Diamondbacks would get right-handers Edwin Jackson (Tigers) and Ian Kennedy (Yankees), and the Tigers would pick up center fielder Austin Jackson (Yankees), left-handed relievers Phil Coke (Yankees) and left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth and right-handed starter Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks).
The Yankees do a good job of replacing Johnny Damon in left by acquiring Granderson. I do believe he will wind up in left field. This is primarily because I believe that Brian Cashman wants to put his best possible defense on the field and that includes Brett Gardner in center field. Melky Cabrera should be the fourth outfielder in that scenario with Nick Swisher staying in right field.

Granderson is at his best when he pulls the ball which makes Yankee Stadium a great place for him to play. last season Granderson went through a dramatic transformation from a groundball hitter to a flyball hitter. It caused his BABIP and subsequently his batting average to fall dramatically. It also resulted in a career high homerun total. I believe that there should be a happy medium in there somewhere and I'm absolutely certain the Yankees and hitting coach Kevin Long will work to find it.

The Tigers make out with two great arms from the D'Backs and a few odds and ends that should prove useful. Austin Jackson should be an adequate center fielder who steals bases well. But he will not provide much beyond that. He has always been expected to develop power but it would be a surprise if he found it in 2010. Max Scherzer has fantastic stuff (and violent injury-inducing mechanics) and could be either a frontline starter or a top-notch closer, Daniel Schlereth is similar (from the left side) to Scherzer but will definitely be in the bullpen. At this point he has to be considered at least a mild sleeper to become the closer. Phil Coke is better than the average lefty specialist and should be an asset in the Tigers bullpen.

Edwin Jackson has amazing stuff but often pitches like a fringy finesse guy. He wore down as the 2009 season continued thanks largely to a heavy workload. I believe he'll be a fine starter for the D'Backs who should benefit from the AL to NL switch. Ian Kennedy is not a hard thrower but has potential as a mid rotation starter or bullpenner.

Better Fantasy Value: Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson, Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy

Same Fantasy Value: Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Phil Coke

Worse Fantasy Value: None

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Yankees Trade Brian Bruney to Nationals

From the Washington Times:

The Washington Nationals made the first trade of the 2009 MLB winter meetings Monday, acquiring right-handed reliever Brian Bruney from the New York Yankees for a player to be named and making an early, if marginal, move to improve a bullpen that often struggled to protect leads last season.
Brian Bruney is a solid bullpen arm that the Yankees always seemed to like. The rumor is that the Yankees have traded Bruney for the Nationals' number one selection in the upcoming Rule V Draft. The Nationals have the first overall pick. The Yankees must really like someone who will be available to make a move like this. The Yankees just don't need the typical Rule V pick hanging around on their roster. This should be fun.

Bruney should be an asset to the Nationals' bullpen. He has good stuff and has been called a possible closer in the past. But the results have not been very exciting so far and he probably is not a massive improvement over Saul Rivera who was released as a consequence. Bruney has solid strikeout rates and poor walk rates. He is not particularly fantasy worthy but the Yankees' interest in this trade makes it interesting.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The New York Yankees Fantasy Report

If you are a Yankees fan, you are used to seeing the team bashed as if they a dimwit with an unlimited credit card ran the team. Nevertheless, the fact is this is one of the best-managed teams in sports. They should be a model for other teams rather than just the envy of them. They have a very deep farm system. Although not filled with many elite prospects, the depth of B and C prospects is impressive. The vast majority of those prospects are pitchers. The Yankees recognize that nothing is more valuable or more difficult to acquire than pitching. After years known as an organization that would not give a rookie a chance – they are successfully integrating youngsters onto the team on a regular basis. Then they use the savings that these young players provide, and the massive revenue (that years of winning and good business bolstered) to sign the very best players available.

Last year the very best players were CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Mark Teixeira. It should be noted that these players took the roster spots of players whose massive contracts had finally expired – Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano, and so forth. The depth in the system had also made trades for Nick Swisher, Damaso Marte, and Xavier Nady possible. Now that depth may result in the acquisition of Roy Halladay and the level of hatred for all things Yankees would certainly reach new heights. However, it makes some sense. George King of the New York Post calls the Yankees and Red Sox favorites for Halladay because of their ability to part with major league ready talent (or close enough) and to provide Halladay with the Sabathia-like contract he is certain to demand.

Meanwhile, the Yankees could be losing two key players to free agency. Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Andy Pettitte are free agents. Pettitte is not as likely to leave for another team, as he is to retire. However, Damon and Matsui look like prime targets for teams seeking outfielders but unwilling or unable to meet the contract demands of players like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. Ironically, if the Yankees do lose both Damon and Matsui, it increases the chance that they will go after a Holliday or a Bay. Despite their willingness to include young players in the mix, it is unlikely that the Yankees would go into the season with Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Melkey Cabrera starting in the outfield.

Fantasy Focus

Alex Rodriguez, 3B
After Alex Rodriguez’s gutsy season, he has won quite a bit of respect from me. After a pre-season that included accusations of (and later admitting) PED use, a tell-all book from Selena Roberts, and surgery to repair a muscle tear in his hip, I had no faith that A-Rod would perform. But he did. He had some help. Derek Jeter turning back the clock and Mark Teixeira providing an MVP quality season took away much of the unwanted attention. For the first time since coming to New York, Rodriguez just played baseball. In just 124 games, he managed to hit 30 homers and collect 100 RBI.

However, there are still some questions to answer. Does he need further surgery on his hip and how will that affect his play offensively and defensively? Do you believe his story about quitting PED use after the 2003 season? If not, how will he react? If he is only stopping their use now, how much will his performance degrade? Right now, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe many players stopped their PED use after the 2003 season with serious testing implemented. There are many rumors that A-Rod may not even need the more invasive version of the hip surgery. In any case, Chase Utley’s season provides a ton of reasons to hope for the best. I think A-Rod belongs back in the first round. He needs to prove some things before he returns to the Top 5, but Top 10 is a lock.

Phil Hughes, RHP and Joba Chamberlain, RHP
After the General Manager meetings, the New York media swarmed onto GM Brian Cashman with questions about the direction the team would take in 2010. One of the revelations was that Cashman and the Yankees had not yet made a decision about the starting/relieving status of either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Cashman indicated that he thought of both players as starters who could also pitch in relief. Both will be part of a large group of starting candidates in Spring Training. The acquisition of Roy Halladay would almost certainly cost the Yankees one of the two pitchers. In that scenario, I believe that the remaining young player would be in the rotation with Sabathia, Burnett, Halladay, and Chien-Ming Wang or Andy Pettitte.

Phil Hughes had a great season for the Yankees. Fans tend to forget just how highly the Yankees think of Phil Hughes. When Wang went down to injury, Hughes stepped up and performed in the rotation. He was not untouchable as a starter but his talent was on obvious display and it would have been nice to see him stay there. However, when Wang returned (it was a short-lived return) Hughes campaigned to stay and pitch in the bullpen. He not only pitched well there but he may have been the MVP of the pitching staff by bridging the gap between the starters and Mariano Rivera.

Hughes finished the season with excellent fantasy stats including an 8-3 record, 3 saves (3BS), 3.03 ERA (3.22 FIP), 1.12 WHIP, and 10.05 K9. Looking a little deeper, Hughes had solid control (2.93 BB9), kept the ball in the park (0.84 HR9) – the Homerun rate may look on the lucky side but he has been displaying that ability his entire career despite being a flyball pitcher. One of the skills that Hughes seems to have is inducing infield flyballs, which obviously do much less damage than the other sort does. Hughes did not seem to have his previously excellent curveball this season. However, in the bullpen it wasn’t needed. His fastball was excellent and his cutter was a solid pitch. If Hughes can rediscover his curve I believe he will be an excellent starter and is worthy of fantasy consideration. If only one of the two is in the rotation, I believe it will be Hughes.

Joba Chamberlain seems to pitch better in the bullpen because he does not attempt to conserve his energy to make it through multiple innings. However, that is not the only reason he looked better as a reliever in 2009. In the first half of the 2009 season, Chamberlain pitched like an average major league starter (with excellent potential) which is just fine for a young player in his first season in a major league rotation. It is even more impressive when you consider that Chamberlain spent just one season in the minors has pitched just 364.3 innings since being drafted. Even for a college player that is a miniscule amount. Now consider that this young and inexperienced pitcher was skipped whenever it was possible in the first half as part of the attempt to limit his innings. Then in the second half, the Yankees hit on a plan to give him 8-10 days between starts. This quickly proved to be a disastrous idea. The Yankees adjusted the plan to allowing him to pitch regularly in the rotation but with a ridiculously low pitch count that made it difficult for Joba to escape even the third inning. The second half was a disaster.

Chamberlain has excellent stuff and if he works on developing his other pitches, he can be a very good starter. There is little point in going into the numbers. He was below average and way off his previous career marks in almost every category. The Yankees still see Chamberlain as a starter but they may not have a spot for him in the rotation in 2010. He will have to earn it. Keeper League owners whose rosters allow Joba to be benched indefinitely should definitely consider holding onto him. With experience, Joba still projects to be an impressive pitcher. However, those in year-to-year leagues are cautioned to avoid Chamberlain as a starter. He will experience ups and down consistent with young pitchers. If Chamberlain in a reliever he should be treated as a very good set-up reliever and next in line for saves should anything happen to Mariano Rivera (knock on wood). In fact he should probably be considered next in line even if he spends the season starting.

Searching for Sleepers

David Robertson, RHP
The most underrated player on the Yankees is probably David Robertson. Illustrated beautifully by the way manager Joe Girardi ignored him during the playoffs. Despite a high walk rate (4.74), Robertson earned a 3.30 ERA and 3.05 FIP. He seems to strikeout batters (12.98 K9) almost at will and despite being a groundball pitcher he keeps the ball in the park, which looked like quite the feat at times this season. He has the stuff to close and probably should become next in line for saves should Joba be established as a starter when Rivera retires.

Francisco Cervelli, C
It is strange the way the Yankees have used Cervelli. He played at four different levels in 2008 and then played at four different levels again in 2009. The Yankees obviously like him as a defensive catcher and he looks like the favorite to backup to Jorge Posada in 2010. Posada is bad enough defensively that I can easily see the Yankees giving Posada lots of at-bats at designated hitter, especially if they do not re-sign Hideki Matsui. If that happens, I believe that Cervelli would make a fine one-dollar catcher. However, this is where the Yankees strange usage makes it hard to predict what he’s capable of doing with consistent at-bats. I think he will make solid contact and hit for a good average but without any real power. Batting in the Yankees lineup on a regular basis should be good for his Run and RBI totals, making him of use in AL-only leagues.

Best Team Blogs for the New York Yankees:

YanksBlog.com - http://www.yanksblog.com/`

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog - http://www.replacementlevel.com/

Was Watching - http://waswatching.com/

Respect Jeter’s Gangster - http://respectjetersgangster.blogspot.com/

Bronx Banter - http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/

LoHud Yankees Blog - http://yankees.lhblogs.com/

River Ave Blues - http://riveraveblues.com/

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Empire State of Mind

I have to work tonight. That means I will not get to see the World Series tonight which bothers me more than you might think possible. I never miss the World Series, especially when the New York Yankees are involved. Yes, I am a Yankees fan. Alex Rodriguez has really shown his stuff the last few weeks. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are the old and steady hands. Andy Pettitte is just plain clutch. I'll have the game on in some silent form tonight. Damn the rules. But the nature of my job means that even then I won't see much of it.

I love that the Yankees are facing this Philadelphia Phillies team. It has so many great players on it. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are just awesome, I'd love to have any of these guys in New York. The pitching should be great for both teams as well. I expect this to be a tight, well fought series. It may not go seven games but both teams will know they were in a battle.

And now the new anthem of New York City... (there is a video, for you RSS types, come check it out)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Missed Call

I was rooting for the New York Yankees but this was a terrible call. I'm not sure it would have made a dramatic difference in the game but the umpires should not miss calls that are this clear.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Saga of Phil Hughes and the Yankees Bullpen

He was supposed to be the new ace of the New York Yankees. A young star for a franchise with a long history of winning and turning good baseball players into media icons. But that did not happen for Phil Hughes as we expected. Instead he struggled, he got hurt, and he was replaced. But the talent that was on display in the minor leagues and in the Arizona prospect showcase was obvious and undeniable. He came into the Yankees camp and had a very solid spring. He was not the worst performer of the starters and by a considerable margin. But because the Yankees often have more faith in the highly salaried than in young phenoms, Hughes was sent to the minors yet again.

The Yankees did not start the 2009 season well. Injuries to the lineup's stars and poor performances by the aforementioned highly salaried starters led to unexpected losses and talk of firing the Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, for letting it happen. Chien-Ming Wang, once the Yankees' most reliable starter and winner, was pitching so horribly that he was placed on the disabled list to regain his strength and confidence. Meanwhile, Hughes has gone to Scranton-Wilkes Barre and pitched like the ace he was once destined to become. He was called up to replace Wang in the rotation.

Hughes
was brilliant in his first start. Then horrible in the next two. He was mediocre in his fourth start, and in his fifth but was starting to flash that incredible ability we all knew was there. his sixth start was awesome. His seventh was not amazing but his skill as a pitcher was becoming obvious to all observers. But by now Wang was healthy again, appearing temporarily in the bullpen. The Yankees needed to make a decision on what to do with each pitcher. They chose to reinstall Wang into the rotation and pushed Hughes into the bullpen.

Which brings us to last night. Wang's first start since returning from the disabled list. Overall it would have to be classified as a mediocre start, but Wang looked a lot like the pitcher we had come to know. He had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5-1, and induced eight groundballs to just one fly ball in 4 and 2/3 innings. Hughes has yet to appear out of the bullpen.

Here is a question that Yankees' fans and fantasy baseball owners are interested in answering. Can Phil Hughes become the missing piece in the Yankees' bullpen? Most observers forget or choose to ignore that Joba Chamberlain was never meant to be a full time relief pitcher. It was never in the Yankees' plans. But he did so well that fans fell in love with the idea, probably because most had never seen him as a starter. No one ever expected Randy Johnson to stay in the bullpen despite his being brilliant in his few appearances there. Mostly because they knew how good he could be as a starter. You don't waste a brilliant starter in the bullpen. Relief pitchers are far easier to find than frontline starters. Admittedly the Yankees have made it look difficult at times.

I expect Phil Hughes to do an excellent job out of the Yankees bullpen. I expect him to win and save games when called upon to do so. I expect his strikeout rate to soar and his ERA and WHIP to shrink. This is based on his incredible talent as a pitcher and the boost that usually comes when a starter moves to the bullpen. But next year when Andy Pettitte is gone, Phil Hughes, no matter how good his bullpen resume, must...MUST be returned to the Yankees rotation. Hughes is not, and should not be the future of the Yankees bullpen.

Lest I forget that this is not my old Bronx Pride blog, a bit of advice for the owners of Hughes and Wang. Fantasy owners should not be afraid to re-activate Chien-Ming Wang. Wang looks like his old self again and should be the solid (not an ace) starter he was in the past and is expected to be again. Hughes owners should be patient, especially those in keeper leagues. Both pitchers should have positive value in AL-only leagues and in deeper mixed leagues.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Yankees Re-Boot their Pitching Staff


Sometimes I wonder why the Yankees (and every other big market team) have to see things fail before they make the moves that seem so obvious to me and I'm certain many others. The Yankees finally placed Chien-Ming Wang on the disabled list to give him time to re-build his arm strength. Brian Bruney and Cody Ransom also hit the disabled list. They recalled closer of the future Mark Melancon and the talented David Robertson to fill roles in the bullpen. Angel Berroa who looked great this spring had to wait for Cody Ransom of all people to get hurt before getting a job.

I thought it was obvious at the end of the 2008 season that those two players would have big roles to play in the 2009 bullpen. It also seemed as if the Yankees knew it too. But rather than give them jobs to start the season they insist on working with lesser talents and blow a few games before doing what they knew months ago they would do eventually. But maybe I'm missing some subtle ability in Cody Ransom and some skill that Robertson and Melancon were missing that a few weeks in the minor leagues solved...

Owners in American League-only should grab Melancon as soon as possible. He should take over the eighth inning role this season and eventually replace Mariano Rivera as the Yankees closer. David Robertson is another option for the Yankees that I like a lot. He has great stuff and should provide strikeouts in bunches. He has control issues at times like most young pitchers but has shown improvement lately. The Yankees released Humberto Sanchez which seemed unnecessary to me. I can think of a few names I would rather dump before giving up on him. Though again, the Yankees probably have some information I don't. Seriously, they probably do.

Phil Hughes, who I suggested to anyone who listened as a bullpen candidate out of spring training, is expected to get the call on Tuesday to start in Wang's spot. He is probably getting two starts on the road which is not really a bad thing. I sincerely believe that Hughes will never ride a minor league bus again. I'll be picking him up in every league possible. It wasn't so long ago that Hughes was more highly thought of than Joba Chamberlain.

Speaking of Joba...the Yankees need to stop babying him so much. I respect that they want to be responsible with his arm and put restraints on his pitch counts but I think its holding him back. From watching him, I think Joba pitches better when his arm is well stretched. In the bullpen he always seemed to pitch better when he had multiple outings in a week. When he went long stretches his control would leave him. This is not an argument that he should return to the pen. But rather that the Yankees should extend his pitch count a little and stop skipping him in the rotation. I still love Joba as a fantasy option he just won't do much good for fantasy owners or the Yankees until they stop treating him with kid gloves.

Mark Melancon Statistics


Mark Melancon Profile


Mark Melancon Spring Report

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Xavier Nady Likely Out for the Season

UPDATE: According to Peter Abraham of the LoHud Yankees Blog, Xavier Nady will not require surgery on his injured elbow. Unfortunately the return date for Nady is still unknown.

The Best Yankees Blog on the Planet

Xavier Nady
had Tommy John Surgery on his elbow in 2001 and he may need it again. He will be placed on the disabled list before Thursday's Home Opener.

From the New York Daily News:
Although nothing is official, Nady told several teammates that he was likely headed for Tommy John reconstructive surgery, the same procedure he underwent in Sept. 2001. That would knock him out for the rest of this season, leaving the start of 2010 in doubt for the free agent-to-be. Nady will be examined by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad before Thursday's home-opener, at which time a final diagnosis will likely be released
For the New York Yankees and obviously Xavier Nady, this is bad news. Fortunately, Nick Swisher is still around and hot to boot. He is the obvious replacement in right field which is good for his owners but a problem for the Yankees' depth. Melky Cabrera will obviously get to hang around a lot longer. The Yankees will need some corner infield depth which with third baseman Alex Rodriguez out and first baseman Mark Teixeira's wrist bothering him when he bats right-handed was already a problem. Shelly Duncan is probably the first option. This may force the Yankees to consider some trade options. Players such as Hank Blalock and Dallas McPherson could be available.

In the short term, Nady owners in shallower leagues should check the waiver wire for Swisher, who with is hot start may already be out of reach. In deeper leagues, Melky Cabrera will see an increase in at-bats especially against left-handers. This could also force the Yankees to seriously consider A-Rod's claims that he could be ready by the end of April.

More as it comes together...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New Yankee Stadium - Park Factors


From MLB.com
...The baseball bounces a little bit harder off the walls here, Damon insisted. And sure enough, his point was proven on the first pitch of Saturday's game, as Alfonso Soriano scorched a line drive off the wall, only to be held to a single as Damon came up with the perfect play...

..."Sometimes I'll hit line drives that might be doubles in other stadiums that will sneak over that right-field wall," Teixeira said. "A lot of the balls that were hit the last few days would have gone out any day in any park, but I think this is going to be a good hitter's park."

...the deep drives came as no surprise to Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who accurately predicted the phenomenon before Saturday's game. "I looked at this thing [Friday] night," Piniella said. "It doesn't seem like the ball goes too well to center field. At least now, it doesn't look like the ball travels too well to left-center. I think, basically, there's a wind tunnel out to right field. It really, really, really shoots the ball out that way." Piniella said that the Yankees would have to wait for the weather to warm up in May or June to get a true indication of how the park will play. But his suggestion for the Indians and Athletics, the stadium's next two visitors, would be to pitch to the middle part of the ballpark...

...There is also more space in foul territory behind first and third bases, giving infielders more of an opportunity to help pitchers and snag outs. Had the Yankees been playing here in 2004, Jeter might have avoided bloodshed on that dive against the Red Sox...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Surgery to Cost at Least 10 weeks


I can not be the only one getting the feeling the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez are not on the same page. After a couple days of insisting that A-Rod would attempt rest and rehab before pursuing surgery as an option, it turns out that the initial reports attributed to A-Rod's brother were very accurate. On Monday A-Rod will have arthroscopic hip surgery. Reports are that A-Rod will miss six to nine weeks and will require further surgery after the season.

I do not usually report on individual injuries like this but this is something that every fantasy owner needs to know. A-Rod will not miss just six to nine weeks. After this rehab period A-Rod will probably have a couple weeks of spring training in the minor leagues before re-joining the New York Yankees. As a renowned wuss, Rodriguez can be expected to come back from this very slowly. The problem is not being fixed, it is being patched. He will still have to play through pain. He could very well make the problem worse. Then he will endure the more serious version of the surgery at the end of the season.

Any fantasy owner with a serious chance at winning this season should avoid playing even 50 percent of A-Rod's usual cost. In re-draft leagues I would not bother selecting A-Rod before the 12th round and he is certain to be taken by a fearless (or stupid) owner before that point. I was leaning toward predicting a bad season for A-Rod because of the pressure on him to perform under the close eye of the media while enduring the boos of fans. He has responded poorly to this in the past and it will be increased by a factor of at least ten this season. Add "playing through pain" to the list of obstacles placed in the path of A-Rod having a strong season. This is the recipe for disaster. Even those owners who are choosing to re-build this season should be wary of bidding on A-Rod as next season will also begin slowly as he'll still be rehabing from surgery. If it is enough to keep a gamers like Chase Utley, and Mike Lowell from making opening day, surely Alex Rodriguez can't be expected to do any better.





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Monday, January 26, 2009

My mind on my money and the Yankees on my mind

It feels like I haven't slept in weeks. That may be because I rarely seem to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. I've been sick (I just read that honey is better than cough syrup - not surprising) and for the past week added a aching back to my problems but I'm sure you don't give a damn about that.




The big news around baseball right now seems to be Joe Torre's new book, "The Yankee Years" which was actually written by Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci. The book supposedly exposes lots of juicy gossip and jealousies. But the major story points picked up by the New York Post were based around Torre supposedly trashing Alex Rodriguez and Brian Cashman. There are no direct quotes of Torre doing this in the book according to recent articles. Bronx Banter picks up most of the links if you want to follow the story.

My Twitter Buddy and RotoExperts boss, RotoTommy is asking for the biggest fantasy baseball disappointment predictions. I'm going with Brad Lidge who has had some serious bouts with disaster the last few years.

If you are like me and can't afford to subscribe to those big prospect sites you are in luck. Keith Law has been prospect crazy lately and has put together all sorts of great lists. He has a ranking of the Top 10 Farm Systems. The Rangers come out on top and I'm not surprised. If you are an insider you can see how he ranks all of the teams. You would think that with the amount of advertising on ESPN.com that they would make the content free. Law also has prospect rankings by teams this week.

It could be that the guys at Chop-N-Change (MVN's Braves Blog) are onto something with their placement of Brian Cashman in the second tier of General Managers in their article : Best GMs in baseball? If Cashman were truly taking advantage of all his resources the Yankees would have one of the top ten farm systems and Keith Law would have given us a complete top ten list. Fortunately it seems to be prospect season. Baseball-Intellect has posted their top 15 Yankees Prospects - albeit in two parts. Part One: 6-15, and Part Two: 1-5.

I love that they place my favorite Yankees prospect at number two on their list, which has not happened on any other list that I've seen. River Ave Blues profiles that same prospect. His name is Dellin Betances and he dominated with a 10.59 K9 in the second half of last season. Though Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts has an article suggesting that K per 100 pitches may be a far more relevant statistic.

Is this too much Yankees talk? If you're a Yankees hater you may enjoy this article by Bert Blyleven that suggests the Yankees are an incomplete team despite their heavy spending this off-season.

Alan Horne who turned himself into a prospect a couple of years ago is looking to make a comeback from a tear in his rotator cuff.


“The tear was causing my shoulder to bind up really bad, so he cleaned it up so it would work a little better,” he said. “It feels good so far.”

Horne couldn’t throw for three months following the surgery, but since resuming his workouts in early December, he has had no complaints.

“I feel great so far. I’ve been real pleased with how the rehab’s gone,” he said. “I feel no pain so far. I feel like I’ve got the problem fixed and I can continue to move forward toward my ultimate goal, which is pitching in the big leagues.”

It was a struggle for Horne last season, starting off by losing three of five decisions in the International League, then dropping his only decision in three starts in Tampa.

For the year, Horne was 2-4 with an 8.77 ERA, a far cry from his 2007 success.

In retrospect, Horne said it’s obvious why the struggles were so great.

“(The injury) was a big struggle for me,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge pain, it was just pretty uncomfortable. My arm wasn’t working like it was supposed to work and it just wasn’t allowing me to extend a long way.

“It took more effort to be able to throw. I was having to work a lot harder to do things I normally do without a problem. Towards the end of the season, my stuff started deteriorating.”
Speaking of New York general managers. Steve Phillips is joining Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN this coming season. I know its an unpopular feeling among sabermetrically inclined baseball fans, but I actually like listening to Jim Miller and Joe Morgan. Yes, I cringe sometimes but they are fairly entertaining if you can get around that. Having more studio time from Peter Gammons is good for me too.

Non-Fantasy, Non-Baseball Links: (just cuz I can)

There is a new version of Ad-Aware available. A really cool free option for fighting spyware.

Do you love web comics? I do and one of my favorite artists has a new one out. The Flobots.

My friend's father trashes Obama. Peter David opines.

Joe Posnanski
picks the most Iconic songs of the Rock 'n Roll Era. And gets a lot of it wrong!


Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How the Teixeira Deal Changes the Yankees Outfield


Before the Mark Teixeira deal we were fairly certain that Nick Swisher would be playing everyday at first base. This made predicting the Yankees outfield fairly simple (before any new trades or free agent signings). Johnny Damon would be the regular left fielder, Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera would share center field, and Xavier Nady would play right field. Hideki Matsui will be the everyday designated hitter and an extra outfielder. That gave the Yankees five outfielders which is the number that most teams carry on their 25-man rosters.

Upgrading the Defense


Teixeira is now the first basemman. This means Nick Swisher must get most of his at-bats as an outfielder. Swisher has played center field in the past but his defense there leaves much to be desired. One of the under reported aspects of the changes the Yankees are making this offseason is the improvement to the team defense which was not very good during the 2008 season as measured by UZR. The 2008 Yankees defense was -39.4 runs as measured by UZR, 28th in baseball. Two large factors in that measurement are no longer on the team - former right fielder Bobby Abreu (-25.9) and former first baseman Jason Giambi ( -2.5 ). Giambi has been replaced by Teixeira who was the best first baseman by UZR/150 at +10.1 in 2008. The Yankees also want to upgrade their outfield defense.

Defensive Potential

Johnny Damon LF (19.9 ) CF ( -3.0 )
Xavier Nady LF (-1.2) CF ( -41.0) RF (0.5)
Nick Swisher LF ( 6.3 ) CF ( -10.3 ) RF ( 14.2 )
Melky Cabrera CF ( -11.3 )
Brett Gardner LF (24.3) CF ( 40.2)
Hideki Matsui LF (-15.2 )

This makes the best possible defensive outfield for the Yankees -- Johnny Damon in left field (19.9), Brett Gardner in center field (40.2) and Nick Swisher in right field (14.2). But obviously the Yankees also need to consider offense which was not what they were expecting in 2008.

Offensive Potential

Johnny Damon (.373 wOBA in 2008, .349 wOBA career)
Xavier Nady (.374 wOBA in 2008, .342 wOBA career)
Nick Swisher (.325 wOBA in 2008, .347 wOBA career)
Melky Cabrera (.285 wOBA in 2008, .311 wOBA career)
Brett Gardner (career .358 wOBA in the minors, .380 wOBA 2008 at AAA, and .282 wOBA MLB)
Hideki Matsui (.348 wOBA in 2008, .366 wOBA career)

The Best of Both Worlds

Since Matsui is likely the DH is any case we'll place him there and take him out of this part of the discussion. Johnny Damon is clearly the best candidate for left field when we combine his offense and defense and his likely role as the Yankees leadoff hitter. Melky Cabrera's track record of lousy offense should remove him from the conversation as well. His defense just isn't good enough to justify an everyday role while contributing zero to the offense. Xavier Nady's defense in center is much worse than Gardner's and Swisher's so he is not a candidate to play center field. Brett Gardner's offensive potential and superior defense makes him clearly the best possible center fielder for the Yankees. This creates a battle for right field between Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady.

The Battle for Right Field

To this point most have assumed that the Yankees' most like Spring Training battle would be between Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner for center field. I think it isn't a contest. By the numbers, Gardner is the far superior option. This makes the biggest battle of the spring between Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady. Swisher seems clearly the better defensive option but Nady is not a detriment in right field. The real question is what is the true offensive level of both players. If we believe that Nady's gains in 2008 are for real then Nady gains an edge on Swisher. However, if both revert to their career levels of performance Swisher becomes a slightly better option especially when defense is considered.

Both Swisher and Nady have demonstrated the ability to play multiple positions. Nady is competent at first base, and both corner outfield positions and Swisher adds center field to his versatility. Nady has an .863 OPS against lefties during the last three seasons and an .810 OPS versus right-handers. Swisher also is better against left-handers with a .864 OPS and a .799 OPS against right-handers. So a platoon doesn't make much sense.
Feelings from Deep Down in the Guts

I believe that Xavier Nady's 2008 gains are for real. I get the impression that the Yankees also believe that those gains are real. I also believe that Nick Swisher will bounce back to at least his career levels and very possibly higher. I have followed the Yankees for years and unfortunately they tend to sacrifice defense for offense, especially when it means playing a veteran over an untested younger player. But I think manager Joe Girardi will break from this trend in 2009. So what does this mean? Here is what my gut and my examination of the context is telling me:

  1. Unless Melky Cabrera is absolutely amazing in Spring Training he will not be on the major league team to start the season.
  2. Xavier Nady will be the regular right fielder.
  3. Brett Gardner will start in center field unless he is attrocious in Spring Training.
  4. Nick Swisher will utilize his versatility to find 350-400 at-bats rotating between left field, center field, right field, first base, and designated hitter.
  5. If Hideki Matsui is not the designated hitter, he will not be in the lineup.
Other Possibilities

The rumors of Manny Ramirez also coming to the Bronx are still out there but I think this is an unlikely development. Much more likely is that the Yankees complete their much rumored trade for Mike Cameron. Cameron would start in center field and throw everything off again.

The other very strong possibility is that the Yankees do what they usually do and begin the season with the veteran Nick Swisher in center field. In this scenario Brett Gardner would be the reserve outfielder to start the season. Even if this is the case I believe that (to use a battered cliche) the cream will rise to the top and Gardner will be the regular center fielder by the all-star break. Gardner is simply too talented too remain on the bench in favor of inferior defensive (and potentially offensive) options based on nothing but veteran status.

Conclusion

Brett Gardner is one of my favorite sleepers for the 2009 season. I will be posting my complete evaluation of his skills in the series of sleeper articles that should appear in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas Yankees Fans!



It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...and to Yankees fans it looks like Christmas, New Years, birthdays and Mothers Day all wrapped together with a bright red bow.

The New York Yankees just committed $180 million over eight years to first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira was negotiating with several teams including the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox until late last week when both teams dropped out of the bidding. The Yankees didn't even make an offer until Tuesday morning but it was quickly accepted. I'm guessing that LA and Bostn were trying to get a recession discount because this is pretty close to the asking price all along.

Teixeira is a fantastic hitter with plate discipline, patience and power. He should be an excellent fit in New York's lineup. He should have no problem scoring runs in front of Alex rodriguez and driving them in behind Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon. Teixeira is a solid early round pick in mixed leagues and a top selection in deeper AL-only leagues.


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Friday, December 12, 2008

More Hot Stove Free-Agent Signings

The Yankees have reached an agreement with RHP A.J. Burnett and the Indians have all but signed closer Kerry Wood. You can read my complete analysis of those pitchers on the RotoExperts.com Fantasy Baseball Blog.

The New York Yankees Sign A.J. Burnett
As a New York Yankees fan I'm not all that enamored of the much rumored plan the Yankees have to sign three free agent starters.The plan forces Phil Hughes and to a lesser extent Ian Kennedy out of the rotation to begin the 2009 season. This seems like the wrong move to me. Signing CC Sabathia was a necessity for the Yankees. They needed that intimidating starter to place at the head of their rotation. I can even understand the second free agent pitcher so that the young guys are not just given a job and will instead have to fight for it. But to sign a third and probably older starter and seemingly give up on the youth movement is just not good team building.
The Tribe Inches Closer to Closer Kerry Wood
Kerry Wood took a physical for the Cleveland Indians on Thursday. Assuming that Wood passed he would soon sign a contract with the Indians expected to be for two years and $20 million. Wood stayed relatively healthy last season as the Cubs closer and was also very effective in the role. He converted 34 of 40 save opportunities while providing the Cubs with 66 and 1/3 innings. He struck out out 84 and walked just 18 batters. He is moving to the tougher league but this generally has a greater effect on starters than relievers.


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