The Great Debate continues: TCM takes on the pitching staffs

2010

Name FIP
Mariano Rivera 3.25
Joba Chamberlain 3.85
Chan Ho Park 4.45
Damaso Marte 4.10
David Robertson 3.58

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1998

Name FIP
Mariano Rivera 3.48
Ramiro Mendoza 4.08
Jeff Nelson 3.96
Mike Stanton 4.67
Graeme Lloyd 3.75

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I don’t know, those bullpens look pretty similar.  The ’10 Yankees might have a slight advantage, but our projection systems have a huge discrepancy on Rivera (.6), Chamberlain (.59), and Robertson (.36).  If Rivera and Chamberlain dip to one extreme or the other, it will throw off our analysis.  Also, Joba has the same problem as Hughes above, where Marcel is still projecting him as a starter, or at least a swingman.

We also have to contend with the fact that the ’98 Yankees played in a higher run-scoring environment than the ’10 Yankees are likely to, and that FIP (I don’t think) doesn’t account for era and ballpark and whatnot.  Given that the competition in ’98 scored almost .2 runs per game more than the 2009 American League, isn’t that a ringing endorsement of the ’98 team’s run prevention?

Finally, we weren’t really able to delve into the defensive numbers during this debate, since there’s some legitimate concern over those numbers’ reliability.  The Yankees in 1998 had a 3.82 ERA, but an FIP of 4.19.  Why such a discrepancy?  Because according to both Fangraphs and BR.com, the Yankees led the Majors that year in BABIP (though the two sites disagree over the exact number, at .284 and .280 respectively).  According to BR.com, the rest of MLB hit .300 on balls in play in ’98.  So while the pitching was not solely responsible for the team’s low ERA, we have to acknowledge that that represents some pretty terrific defense on the ’98 club’s part that we can’t account for using individual defensive tools we have available (or at least I can’t, not being a mathematician).  And it’s hard to suggest that the club’s performance was a fluke, given the sheer number of plate appearances (6,100) that we’re talking about. 

Now, the ’09 club did have a .292 BABIP (against .299 for the league), and it did upgrade it’s outfield defense with the addition of Curtis Granderson and the subtraction of Johnny Damon.  However, Granderson’s got to cover a lot of ground to make up for .12 points of batting average across 6,000-6,500 plate appearances, particularly if Jeter and A-Rod feel the effects of their age in the infield.  Overall, I think it’s clear that the ’98 Yankees were better at preventing runs than this current club is going to be.  And no matter how good or bad the pitching is, overall run prevention is still the name of the game. 

But I look forward to Will trying to prove me wrong.

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The Common Man also writes about baseball writ large on his own site three days a week, and you can follow him on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “The Great Debate continues: TCM takes on the pitching staffs

  1. Larry@IIATMS

    TCM, I think that this is a great piece of analysis.  But I'm not sure what conclusion you've reached — which team had the better pitching?  You're giving the '98 club a slight edge?  Sabathia = Cone, Wells > Burnett, '98 Pettitte > '10 Pettitte (but it's close), Irabu < Vazquez, Hernandez > Hughes.  Or do we give '10 the slight edge, based on a better average FIP?   Maybe you've reached the conclusion I've reached, which is that the two staffs are comparable and that there's not much to choose between them. 

  2. Jon

    Didn't realize the two staffs would be so close;  I would have been more inclined to grant Javier's superiority had I not watched his first attempt a pitching this year.  These predictions would be a lot easier for you if you could wait a couple weeks, and see if players are going to perform as anticipated.  (Put me down to double Robertson's predicted ERA in your above chart – sorry, but I've always found it hard to have faith in him, even when he does come thru.)

  3. misterd

    I think pitching tends to be a bit more volitile than hitting, so this makes a pre-season comparison much harder than either offense or defense.

    I think CC beats Cone by a smidge, but fatigue could be an issue.

    Wells had a career year. AJ could match that with his stuff, maybe even beat it, but will he? Unlikely.

    Young Andy is definately better than Old Andy, and likely by a decent margin.

    Not sure why El Duque is matched with Hughes. I think he compares better with Vasquez, but either way, knowing Duque's results, I think he has the advantage.

    Fat Toad vs the Phranchise? It was FT's one good year, but that's still one more than Phil's had. Given that we still haven't seen Phil pitch one inning this year, I'll say its a crapshoot.

    Now for relief, he's where volitile comes in. We had the amazing solid core of River, Nelson, Stanton and Mendoza, with Lloyd as a reliable lefty. Its going to be very hard to beat, and the relievers are the worst players to judge based on last year's results. At best this is a push, but without the benefit of hindsight, '98 gets the nod.

    Here's my scorecard:

    Lineup: 2010

    Defense: 2010

    Rotation: 1998

    Bullpen: 1998

    Bench: 1998

    I don't think there's any way the 2010 team hits 114, let alone 125, but the real question is whether the 2010 squad could take the Great '98s.

    Given a 7 game series, I hand it to 1998, probably in 6.

  4. Joe R

    I think a more accurate way to compare would be by saying the 2010 staff is CC/Javy/AJ/Pettitte/Hughes (and you could switch around those last two even).  Javy is a more consistent pitcher than AJ who will likely put up better numbers.  Thus, it'd be more like:

    CC > Cone (I'd give the slight edge to CC, he'll likely put up similar or slightly better numbers, against better competition, and some more innings)

    Javy = Wells (Again, tough, but I think Javy could be slightly better than Wells.  Will likely wind up being a push though.)

    AJ > 1998 Pettitte (Another one that could wind up being a push.  AJ's such a wild card that this could really go either way, but  his number will probably be slightly better than Andy's in 1998, as long as he stays healthy.)

    2010 Pettitte < Hernandez (Andy will likely pitch far more innings than Duque did in 1998, for obvious reasons, but Duque was lights out that season.  If this were Hughes vs. Hernandez, I'd say Duque would win that too)

    Hughes > Irabu (Hughes doesn't have much of a track record to go off of, but he should perform pretty well this year, even if he has some youthful inconsistency.  1998 was Irabu's best season, but that's not saying much, given the fact we're talking about Hideki Irabu here.)

    As for the bullpens, it's real close.  I can't even choose, to be honest.  All I know is that it's pretty amazing that current Mo, at age 40, and 1998 Mo, will likely not be that different from each other in terms of results.

    Overall, I'd give a slight edge to 2010.  But much of that depends on health – AJ and Andy (and the rest of the staff, obviously) have to stay healthy in order for 2010 to maintain any advantage over 1998.  Though if the Yanks are smart and turn Joba into a starter if one of our current 5 go down with a major injury, he could make up for that.  But 1998 obviously got fortunate with their pitchers staying in pretty good health.  Honestly, that's going to determine this debate – 2010 needs to stay as healthy as 1998 did overall.

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