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Wright’s Stance, Alfonso Soriano, Matsui Reunion, SF in Lead for Beltran



By Mike Silva ~ July 25th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

David Wright returned from the disable list to hit a homer and drive in six runs this weekend in Florida. Chuck Johnson, who does scouting and contributes here at NYBD, had this to say about his observations about the weekend:

I was shocked at the changes David Wright made to his stance and set-up. He’s less open, looks to be a little more square and didn’t seem to be as crouched.

His two run single to left that he “hooked” through the hole on a change up last night he would have missed by a foot with his old stance.

Sometimes an injury or an otherwise long layoff is good for a player because it forces them to make changes they otherwise wouldn’t have because you don’t have time to get comfortable with them playing every day.

***

Wright is still struggling with his throws as the SNY booth pointed out that 52% of his career errors have been of that type of variety. Keith Hernandez believes Wright’s sidearm throws is the culprit.

This is going to be a huge issue going forward. Wright simply can’t be trusted to get the ball across the diamond. He makes most of his throws tough for any first basemen to handle. If the bases are loaded and there are two outs who would you rather see throwing the ball from third: Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, or David Wright? I think one of these three is not the answer.

***

The Cubs are not going to trade Matt Garza away without obtaining an expensive package. Perhaps the Yankees could save some prospects in exchange for helping the Cubs with an albatross of a contract. Could Chicago send Alfonso Soriano back to New York with Garza? Perhaps a package of Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova for Soriano and Garza would entice Jim Hendry. This type of deal would be the Cubs way of dumping that albatross of a Soriano contract by sacrificing a lesser package for Garza. There are 3 years and $54 million dollars left on his deal.

The Yankees could use Soriano as their full time DH. At 35 years old he is no longer a 30 stolen base threat, but he mashes lefties, can hit the long ball, and might just rediscover his stroke in the Bronx. It’s a lot of money, but the real return would be obtaining Matt Garza without giving up any of the top pitching prospects in the system. Is that worth the final three years of Soriano’s contract? It’s not like he is completely worthless at the plate. So far this year he’s hitting .250 with 15 homers and 45 RBI. The Yankees have spent more for a lot worse.

Taking away the need for him to play the outfield (where he is awful) and it might just help him at the plate. It’s a crazy idea that could work.

***

The Yankees really need another right-handed bat, but if a quality one doesn’t become available how about bringing Hideki Matsui back? Despite his 5 hit day yesterday afternoon Godzilla has produced the worst offensive year of his MLB career (.237/8/45).

Ironically, going into the game Matsui has struggled against RHP this year (.586 OPS), and has hit to his historic levels against lefties (.851).

Bringing back a professional bat that knows New York like Matsui is not the worst idea.

***

Is San Francisco the leader in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes?

The Mets have top scout Roy Smith following the Giants minor league system. That type of individual on hand is a great clue to where this thing is headed.

All the talk of Texas, Boston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia will be ways to motivate Brian Sabean to give up as much as possible. Forget Zach Wheeler and Brandon Belt, but a package that centers on Gary Brown must include one or two pitching prospects.

I posted video of Brown yesterday. Lefty Eric Surkamp pitched for Double-A Richmond last night and went 7 innings giving up 1 run and struck out 10. He is now 8-3 with a 2.00 ERA on the season.

Check out some video on Surkamp.

RHP Jose Casilla is another arm that would intrigue me. John Sickels describes him as having a “power sinker could make him a future closer.” He’s been injured since May, and assuming it’s not serious, he is an interesting arm as well.

***

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun outlines the trash talk that goes on with the established Hall of Famer’s and the newbies on induction weekend:

Around 6:30 on Sunday evening Robbie Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick will return to the Otesaga Resort Hotel.

The speeches will have been made.

The tears and the laughter are over for the moment.

The Hall of Fame photos with each inductee and his plaque will have been taken.

Next on the agenda is dinner for Hall of Famers only.

One of the 53 Hall of Famers will ask them to sit down, ask what they’d like to drink and rush off to the bar like an out-of-work actor serving a producer, in the market to hire an actor to play a waiter.

Until then?

“Oh guys will be busting their chops, we’ll be giving them all the business,” said Tony Gwynn, sounding a little like a character on Leave it To Beaver.

Sharp, acid-filled senses of humour inside a big-league clubhouse? Nothing compared to Hall of Famers.

Johnny Bench teased Gwynn so much, so often and so ruthlessly that Gwynn, considered one of the nicest, even-tempered athletes ever to play the game, had had enough in 2007. He told a friend he was so stressed he was going to tell Bench where he could go … and it wasn’t to Oklahoma or Cincinnati.

“Then we get finished on Sunday, Johnny brought Cal Ripken and I over, and sat us down,” Gwynn said. “He rushed off to get us a drink and when he came back he told us of the Hall of Fame familiarity, explained what had been going on, it was a surreal moment.

“That moment was awesome.”

***

Johan Santana will be making minor league rehab assignments shortly. According to reports he was throwing 87-89 mph during a simulated game. What type of pitcher will Santana be if he makes it back to a big league mound? I suspect best case scenario is something similar to what we saw with Pedro Martinez during his Mets tenure.

The one problem with Santana is, unlike Martinez, he doesn’t have the diverse repertoire. Pedro was able to redefine himself as his fastball deserted him and relied on craftiness, changing speeds, and location. Santana is a fastball/changeup pitcher that needs deception and differentiation.

It’s unlikely that post-surgery Santana will be able to throw harder than 90 mph. How he differentiates that changeup with speed and deception is the key.

I also think there are going to have to be times where the Mets skip Santana in the rotation. Keeping him fresh for 162 games (and hopefully future playoff appearances) will require close monitoring of pitches, innings, and days between starts.

Everyone thought the Mets were getting a top 5 pitcher in his prime when the Mets acquired him from Minnesota after the 2007 season. The inexpensive haul should have been a clue that Bill Smith knew he had a pitcher that might be headed for some sort of surgery. Perhaps not as serious as it turned out to be, but compromised nonetheless.

You can’t criticize the Mets for taking a chance. But now they must see how much they can squeeze out of the remaining two, possibly three years left on the contract.

Santana is owed $50 million dollars the next two seasons. His contract has a vesting option ($25 million) for 2014 that is based on him pitching 630 innings between 2011- 2013 (not going to happen), 420 innings between 2012-2013 (highly unlikely), or 215 innings in 2013 (outside chance).

If he doesn’t reach those incentives the Mets could buy him out for $5.5 million.

Unlike K-Rod, I don’t see how that option will be vested even with normal usage. The days of Santana going 200 innings plus a year are over. Right now, you probably are looking at 175 innings/30 starts at best.

I wouldn’t discount him being effective. Pitchers like Santana don’t get to elite status without a high level of competitiveness. If the shoulder stays healthy (big if) I suspect he won’t be the vintage Santana of his Minnesota years, but give you a glimpse like Pedro Martinez did throughout his Mets tenure.

***

Another bat to keep an eye on for the Yankees is Carlos Quentin. He’s hitting .266 with 20 homers and 60 RBI.

The Yankees recently inquired about him. Also keep an eye on John Danks.

The 26 year old lefty suffered an oblique strain earlier this year. He’s 3-8 with a 3.92 ERA. He’s probably not the first pitcher they would want to trade, but Danks is arbitration eligible.

Both are controllable for next year and will hit free agency in 2013. Considering both are entering their prime you could justify a bit of a pricey prospect haul to bring them on board.

Maybe a Montero, Nova, and Adam Warren type package could be the starting point of a deal.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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7 Responses to Wright’s Stance, Alfonso Soriano, Matsui Reunion, SF in Lead for Beltran

  1. LongTimeFan

    David Wright is notorious for his inability to replicate his stance and mechanics these past few years in particular for more than short time frames.

    The critical change since his return I think is his return to toe tap instead of leg kick. With toe tap, he’s in good hitting position before the ball gets there and can also make good pitch selection decisions. With leg kick, especially the higher ones – he’s neither and the poor results reflect that.

    His other adjustments since his return are minor but noticeable. I doubt it will be long before he abandons the minor ones, as well as toe tap.

    I think it’s not if, but when. How long will it be before he again abandons what works, and returns to bad habits? The only question I think is which will he abandon first. Unfortunately, this is David’s pattern, a maddening pattern of failing to maintain what works.

  2. LongTimeFan

    Mike, it’s way too early to know what Santana’s MPH will be. 90 mph is pure conjecture on your part. Sounds like you’re trying to play God or doctor. Whatever MPH he has now, 87-89 mph may not at all be what is his capacity in a month or next season and beyond.

  3. RealityChuck

    If the bases are loaded with two out, why does Wright have to throw the ball at all?

  4. Mike Silva

    @Long Time Fan

    Good point on Wright. As for Santana, since coming to the Mets here are his average velocities according to Pitch f/x by Texas Leauger:

    FB- 91

    2 Seam FB – 88

    4 Seam FB – 90

    Slider – 82

    Not that much differentiation. That’s a big problem, unless there is some sort of deception (which Santana has historically been pretty good at).

    I don’t see how after this major surgery he throws any harder than his previous 3 years in a Mets uniform.

    In God we trust, all else much have data… at least some of the time.

  5. Chuck Johnson

    Thanks, Mike.

    Wright’s HR yesterday was another telling sign of the changes. As the first commenter alluded to above, his lower half is noticeably quieter than it has been.

    While hitting from an open stance does allow one to “cheat” on certain pitches, it also is counter-productive in the sense it creates more movement and thus slows the bat down.

    By squaring up, or even closing one’s feet eliminates needless lower body movement and allows the upper and lower halves to move together in the hitting motion instead of acting as opposing forces.

    Many, many times we’ve seen Wright hit a weak line drive or fly ball to right center on a ball he should have crushed to left because his extra movement prevented him from catching up to the pitch.

    It’s only two days, but if you’re a Mets’ fan you should be encouraged by the changes and hope they’re permanent.

  6. David

    Why don’t the Yankees just do this, which retains all prospects for the future?

    Montero – Up on August 1st. Vast improvement at DH, and BUC, helped along in getting his feet wet by using him at C against slow teams.

    Cervelli – Down

    Hughes – Bullpen. He dominated there before.

    Nova – Up. He will do just fine.

    We improve the offense. The bullpen becomes lockdown, so the starters don’t have as much pressure on them. We retain an awesome load of prospects for the future, which is very necessary given the contracts that we have.

  7. LongTimeFan

    Mike, it’s just not possible to know what Santana’s future velocity will look like right now.

    He’s not even a year post op.

    It cannot be based upon current velocity nor last year’s which may have been impacted by the injury before it shut him down.

    His previous three years in Mets uniform also included a consistent 92 on his fastball for some time. That number included his first full season and parts of the second. Since that time he’s had three surgeries. Granted he’s still early in recovery from his latest, there’s no way to know right now how high his velocity will be next year or the following. Your assumptions of no higher than 90 is merely your personal opinion not to be confused with anything other than that.

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