About a week earlier than it usually does, Baseball Prospectus 2012 arrived at our doorstep. (Well, actually, the lady downstairs grabbed it and left it in the foyer for us. She's nice.) Like always, we've been feverishly reading it cover-to-cover; it's the rare reference book we devour in order like a potboiler novel. You should really buy it; B-Pro signals that baseball season is almost here as effectively as spring training. To further convince you, here are five quotes from the chapter on the Yankees, and five quotes from the chapter on the Mets:
On Sandy Alderson: "Alderson has done a commendable job of turning the Good Ship Metropolitan in the right direction with a clear vision and the actions to match. It's yet to be seen just how quickly the team will return to the playoffs — Alderson has had quite the perfect storm to weather in New York — but at least the Mets have a clear plan and could conceivably start contending in 2014. There's no question that Alderson was the right man for the job and that the Mets are finally, finally in the right hands."
On Jason Bay: "His bat has slowed down considerably and he's become a stiff, almost laughably bad defensive player. If you are expecting him to rebound to his old level, we have a bridge in the next borough over to sell you, and the Mets are on the hook for $32 million over the next two years for this guy, who clearly isn't Jason Bay anymore."
On Lucas Duda: "He can really hit. While his power tends to disappear against lefthanders, Duda has a surprisingly good contact rate for a huge man with a huge swing, and he's being handed the everyday right-field job in 2012. Don't be surprised one bit if he turns into one of the team's top offensive performers.
On Johan Santana: "It's safe to say he'll never be the same pitcher, as few are after shoulder surgery, but with so much misinformation, we have no idea what the percentage of decline will be, or when we'll be able to figure it out."
On Zack Wheeler, the pitching prospect picked up in the Carlos Beltran trade: "Wheeler has front-of-the-rotation potential thanks to mid-90s heat and a fantastic slow curveball ... the Mets system looks better than it has in years, and with Wheeler and [fellow pitching prospect Matt] Harvey, they have a pair of potential starters who could begin to pay dividends in by 2013."
On the team being quiet in the free-agent chase this winter: "The Yankees are so well-known for freely spending to get what they want that this financial restraint seems wholly out of character, as if the other Joseph McCarthy had suddenly decided he quite liked Communists after all. And out-of-character behavior raises questions. One can argue that a business that exhibits restraint and spends wisely should be lauded, but if this hurts said business's ability to compete, is the practice to be praised?"
On Phil Hughes: "Phil Hughes has been touted as the next big thing for six years already. He is no longer a potential star but simply one of dozens of mid-twenties pitchers trying to establish themselves in the major leagues. His best season, arguably, was 2009, in which he spent most of the season in the bullpen, an instance of a very wrong decision having unintended beneficial consequences. The Yankees' ability to trade him on potential alone could very well be past, but the question of whether or not he will actually help the team remains."
On Brett Gardner: "Gardner is not young and is likely now at his peak. Eligible for arbitration for the first time this past winter, Gardner is about to reach the point when he can command high salaries and long-term contracts, neither of which is in the Yankees' best interest. A more traditional left fielder would be a safer investment."
On Alex Rodriguez: "A healthy Rodriguez still has plenty of value (indeed, he was having one of his best defensive seasons at third before the injuries set in), but any player on the wrong side of 35 is going to decline, and Rodriguez's decay, which may not be especially graceful, may have begun sooner than the Yankees expected. Rodriguez's bat may have at least one Elvis Comeback Special in it, but he has not played more than 140 games since 2007, so durability may be a problem from now until (choke) 2017. Moral of the story: 10-year contracts are stupid. Have fun with Pujols, Angels.
On Joba Chamberlain: "Philip K. Dick wrote, 'There is no perfect defense. There is no protection. Being alive means being exposed; it's the nature of life to be hazardous.' The Yankees spent years trying to deny this truth where Chamberlain is concerned, crafting one plan after another to keep him healthy. Instead, he underwent Tommy John surgery in June, and neither we nor the Yankees will ever know if their efforts delayed the inevitable, hastened it, or were (most likely) completely irrelevant. All we know for sure is that their machinations meant that they got less out of Chamberlain than they otherwise could have. As for what they will get now, we won't begin to know until midseason. Nowadways, pitchers often come back from the TJ procedure ready to pick up where they left off, but Chamberlain was moved around so much it's hard to identify exactly what that would mean in his case. He's just another sore-armed reliever now."