How Much Do You Really Want Felix?

Whenever a major player becomes available via trade or free-agency, the Yankees rumors start floating around, and if it is an area of need, it becomes close to hysteria. If the need is big enough, a player doesn’t have to become available before rumors starting racing across the tubes. That’s the case with Felix Hernandez. The talented and yet still 25-year old pitcher is one of the very best pitchers in the game, and he’s the cornerstone of the Seattle Mariners franchise. The phrase “Face of the Franchise”, however, seems tenable as the Mariners continue to lose. Theoretically, the Mariners would want to trade their most valuable asset, knowing that a playoff run isn’t in the near future, for several impact prospects, essentially turning one great player into 2-3 good ones. In reality, the Mariners don’t want or need to move Hernandez, but for the sake of this post’s existence, let’s pretend that they’ll consider it.

The first question is what you are getting with Hernandez. The answer is easy—awesomeness. Over the past three seasons, he’s eclipsed 200 innings, and he’s pitched 240 in each of the last two seasons. While throwing so many innings, he’s been excellent. His K/BB ratios have cleared 3 in each of the last three seasons, and during the same length of time, his FIP of 3.28 is eighth in all of baseball. Combining his good strikeout rates, above-average walk rates, and a GB/FB rate nearing 2, Hernandez is one of the game’s best pitchers, and he’s just turned 25. The next question is how good he’ll be over the next 4 years through the end of his contract.

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#Toomanyhomers

If you’ve been following the commentary surrounding the Yankees so far this season, you’ve probably heard someone voice concern that the Yankees’ offense is too dependent on home runs to score runs. A big chunk of it has come in the form of generic “too many home runs are bad because you need more singles” nonsense, but some of it has been based on the more rational premise that the rate at which the Yankees are currently hitting long balls is unsustainable. Bill Petti of Beyond the Boxscore brings a bit of the latter today:

When you look at how they’ve scored their runs and combine that with how their pitchers have performed it’s hard to step back and say objectively that this team is among the elite teams in baseball.

Let’s start with their offense. Those 27 home runs are largely the product of a home run to fly ball (HR/FB) rate of over 20%. Generally speaking, teams average about 7-8% for the year. The Yankees are certainly not average given their lineup and their home ball park, but a rate of 20% is very high. Last year, the Yankees finished with a HR/FB rate of a little over 12% and 10.6% in 2009. Even if we given them a 12% rate this year, they should have hit 16 home runs, not 27.

For some perspective on what that does to their runs scored, holding all else constant, a decrease from 20% to 12% would decrease their runs scored from 77 to 65. Even if we adjust for their low batting average on balls in play (BABIP) so far (.260 vs. .300), they still should only have scored 68 runs.

The thing is though, they have hit 77 27 home runs, not 65 16. And while I don’t expect them to keep having one in every five fly balls leave the yard, I don’t really expect them to go into a funk that totally “makes up for” those 11 extra home runs either, both because the Yankees have a really good offense and because fly balls carry better when it’s warmer. Having managed to put up this gaudy HR/FB total when it’s hardest to hit home runs, it shouldn’t be surprising if the Yankees finish the season with a slightly higher HR/FB rate than they have at other times.

On the other hand, people are just overestimating the extent to which the Yankees are struggling offensively outside of the home run hitting. In addition to being 5th in the American League in runs scored, the Yankees are 5th in OBP, 2nd in wOBA (just 0.001 behind Texas), and tied with Texas for 1st in wRC+. They’re position players are 3rd in the A.L. in fWAR. They’re BABIP is just .260, but with fewer fly balls turning into home runs and more becoming singles and doubles, plus some better fortune on ground balls, that should regress closer to .300 at some point in the season. So while they’re probably not going to hit home runs at the pace they’ve beeen doing it, this offense should still score plenty of runs.

Now if you want to worry about the pitching… Continue reading #Toomanyhomers

Martin the Masher

Russell Martin is off to one hell of a start. He’s slugging .600 and has a wOBA of .412. He’s knocked four balls into the people already, after hitting just five homers last year. He’s even chipped in two steals and has played solid defense behind the plate. This is awesome and a half. I’m totally loving Russell Martin and I’m going to enjoy this hot streak while it lasts. But, since I must, I’m going to play a bit of a wet blanket here. How’s he done it? He definitely hasn’t done it by hitting fastballs. Martin is at Continue reading Martin the Masher

Why hasn't Nick Swisher joined the home run barrage yet?

Conspicuously absent from the 2011 Yankees’ home run assault thus far has been Nick Swisher, who was tied for third on the team with 29 bombs last season. Granted, it’s only been 14 games, but this is the latest he’s gone into a season homerless since becoming a full-time player in 2005 (though to keep things in perspective he only had two in all of April last year). I wanted to see if a look at his batting splits might tell us anything (the usual small sample size caveats apply). The following chart (all date from Fangraphs) shows his splits Continue reading Why hasn't Nick Swisher joined the home run barrage yet?

My Favorite Stat on Mo

Career Leaders & Records for Adjusted ERA+   Rank Player (age) Adjusted ERA+ Throws 1. Mariano Rivera (41) 206 R 2. Pedro Martinez 154 R 3. Jim Devlin 151 R 4. Lefty Grove+ 148 L 5. Walter Johnson+ 147 R Dan Quisenberry 147 R Hoyt Wilhelm+ 147 R 8. Ed Walsh+ 146 R Smoky Joe Wood 146 R 10. Roger Clemens 143 R 11. Addie Joss+ 142 R Johan Santana 142 L Brandon Webb 142 R 14. Trevor Hoffman 141 R 15. Kid Nichols+ 140 R 16. Mordecai Brown+ 139 R 17. John Franco 138 L Cy Young+ 138 R 19. Roy Halladay (34) 137 R 20. Pete Alexander+ 136 R Randy Johnson 136 L Christy Mathewson+ 136 R Bruce Sutter+ 136 R 24. Continue reading My Favorite Stat on Mo

Brien Is Right, Murray Chass IS a Hack

Yesterday my colleague Brien wrote a piece about how Murray Chass is a hack. Brien writes lots of these pieces. There’s something about Murray Chass – the ex-NY Times sportswriter and current internet blogger pundit – that really bugs Brien. Privately, we make fun of Brien about this. When Chass writes a blog column, 50 of Brien’s closest friends tweet Brien about it. Brien usually responds by cursing those of us who conspired to ruin his day by bringing the Chass piece to his attention. He then vows not to write about the Chass piece. Then he does. Then he swears never to do it again.

The thing is, Brien is right. Chass really IS a hack.

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TYA Open Thread | Off Day | Monday April 18, 2011

The Yankees have the night off tonight before they head up North to take on the Blue Jays, who will no doubt confront the team with a bunch of homers and pitchers who can´t top 89mph on the radar gun. The off-day is important because it will give Alex Rodriguez and his achy back one more night of rest. Hopefully he´ll be back at full force come Tuesday. In the interim, this seems like a good time for me to launch my annual Mariano Rivera appreciation campaign. I´ve said it before, and I´ll keep saying it so long as he plays, Continue reading TYA Open Thread | Off Day | Monday April 18, 2011

A Birds-Eye Look At 2011 Yankee Hitting So Far

We’ve heard a lot about “Too many home runs!” and other problems with the Yankee hitting so far this season. The Yankees have scored 77 runs in 14 games, which ranks us 5th in the AL, although it should be noted that we’ve got 1 game in hand over all the teams who have scored more runs. If they scored 5 runs in their make-up game in hand, the Yankees would be #1. Here is how they got there: You already know that the Yankees have scored a ton of runs on the home run this season. They lead the Continue reading A Birds-Eye Look At 2011 Yankee Hitting So Far

No, really, Murray Chass is a hack

Blogger Murray Chass is back this week with another one of those blog posts internet columns where he trades on the list of former dignitaries of the game who still take his calls to smear someone else. In some ways this isn’t as bad as his smearing of Stan Musial or Mike Piazza, because collusion really did happen and Ueberroth was almost certainly involved in it, but on the other hand no less a Chass-skeptic than Tangotiger himself has fallen for Chass’ schtick:

Take away Chass’s name, and it’s great inside stuff. Include Chass’s name, and we’re going to get a biased viewpoint from some readers.

Ok, I appreciate the implicit point about not assuming anything, so let’s take blogger Chass’ name out of this, and break apart the blog post on its own terms.

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