Early Returns: AL Runs Scored Down Again

Last year, I wrote about how 2010 AL run scoring was significantly depressed. AL batters scored 4.45 runs per game in 2010, down from 4.82 in 2010. In fairly robust 330 game span, here are the early returns from 2011: AL batters have scored just 4.29 runs per game in 2011. If that were to hold up over a full season, it would be the lowest level of run scoring since 1989. It should be noted that while there are validity concerns in projecting run scoring down (Baseball conditions are different in April than in other months, although there was Continue reading Early Returns: AL Runs Scored Down Again

What did Yanks get for Jeter’s contract?

There’s two things I hope the Steinbrenner brothers learned this off-season. First, Brian Cashman knows a lot more about baseball than Randy Levine does. Secondly, professional sports is a business, and sometimes it can be a very cold, hard, business. Introducing sentimentality into your decision making process for no reason is a recipe for disaster, and that’s why they jobbed themselves by giving Derek Jeter $51 million over the next three years with a player option for a fourth.

Without dredging up too many details from the contentious negotiations, suffice it to say that the Yankees agreed to pay Jeter a much larger amount of money than they had to. They were always going to give him some kind of “legend premium,” but they ultimately went well above that considering the total lack of any competition in the marketplace for Jeter’s services.

Not that I want to get into yet another argument about how much Jeter “deserved” to be paid, but here’s my question; what exactly did the Yankees get in return for overpaying Jeter by such a large amount? Jeter obviously wasn’t happy about the deal, and didn’t hide that fact whatsoever. Heck, he wouldn’t even thank them by going to Orlando to do a press conference during the Winter Meetings, instead demanding everyone come to him in Tampa (insert “imagine if A-Rod did that” meme here). It sure didn’t save them any drama during the negotiations. As far as I can see, the only thing they got is an overcommitment they didn’t have to make to an aging icon who simply isn’t playing very well these days.

This isn’t a statement on Jeter or his career by any means. He’s a Hall of Famer and certainly had every right to try to get as much money as he could. But he also had basically no leverage whatsoever in the negotiations. Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson about giving big contracts based primarily on sentiment or intangibles. Continue reading What did Yanks get for Jeter’s contract?

Just say no to Millwood!

The Yankees have a choice to make this weekend. Kevin Millwood is eligible to opt-out of his minor league contract on May 1 if he isn’t called up to the big leagues, meaning that the Yankees may have to call him up before Sunday or risk losing him to free agency. Earlier in the week is almost seemed like a given he would get a chance to replace Ivan Nova in the rotation if only to see what he could do, but Nova may have saved himself with a fine outing Monday night.

For my part, I’m not particularly interested in having anything to do with Millwood.

Millwood has only made two minor league starts so far, so we don’t have a lot to go on, but the results so far are less than encouraging, to put it mildly. Yes, the fact that Millwood has allowed just two runs and eight hits in 14 innings through those two starts is encouraging on the face of it, but he’s also walked five of the 53 batters he’s faced while striking out just six. That’s a K/9 of 3.90 and a K/BB of 1.20 if you’re keeping score at home. For a long-time major leaguer facing minor league prospects in April, that’s not an encouraging sign. Add in scouting reports saying that his fastball is sitting at around 85 MPH, and I simply don’t have any faith in Millwood’s ability to get outs at the big league level. Continue reading Just say no to Millwood!

Swisher’s swings and results

A few days ago, I looked at Robinson Cano and his swing data. Cano’s hit well, but there are red flags in his swing profile so far this year. The problems have been masked a bit since Robbie’s been hitting, and that includes a three run home run last night. Nick Swisher, on the other hand, is not hitting well. Let’s check the swing data from FanGraphs and see if there’s anything on which we can pin Swish’s slow start. The first thing we notice is the first item listed: O-Swing%. While it’s not as high as it was last Continue reading Swisher’s swings and results

Bartolo silencing his skeptics

When Bartolo Colon was signed this offseason, he wasn’t expected to be, well, anything. Luminaries such as Sergio Mitre and Mark Prior seemed to be above him on the depth chart. Clearly, he’s been much more than the Yankees could have hoped for, 2-1 thus far, with 26 strikeouts in 26 innings against only 6 walks and 2 HR.

But we’ve been through this before. It’s not uncommon in small samples to see pitchers outperform their expectations– it is uncommon for their fan bases to temper expectations. Just as you’ll find written at the bottom of any mutual fund track record, past performance is not indicative of future results. And so when I see outsized (heh) returns from a pitcher expected to be crappy, I start digging. For once, this has led to good news.

Bartolo Colon’s results this year are, for the most part, legit and repeatable. First off, he’s not benefiting from a ridiculously low batting average on balls in play–his mark of .300 is right around league average, and is actually 8 points above his career average. He is benefiting from a bit of luck on timing of hits–his LOB% is a bit too high at 77% (league average is 72%, and his career is average is 73%). That essentially means that he’s giving up hits when there aren’t men on base, or the hits he’s giving up aren’t allowing runners to score at the rate they typically do, either against him, or against the broader MLB. He’s allowed 30 baserunners so far this season–this means that by his historical rate he’d have allowed either one or two more batters to score. He’s also benefiting from a  low HR/FB rate (8%)–that is probably unsustainable, especially pitching in Yankee Stadium. But it’s not out of the question low. The reversion upwards will occur, but it won’t be severe.

And this is all backed up by his ERA/FIP/xFIP line. To clarify, FIP is a fielding independent form of ERA, and xFIP is the same fielding independent version of ERA adjusted for his expected HR/FB rate. While it’s not the only indicator, it’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to check for unsustainable performance–if the numbers are off by a wide (heh) margin, then the results are probably not repeatable. Bartolo Colon’s line this year? 2.77/2.84/2.97. That’s as close to spot on as you’ll find.

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Hughes may have TOS

The Yankees got some mildly encouraging news on the Phil Hughes front yesterday:

Here’s Joe Girardi explaining the Phil Hughes situation.

“One of the tests they did with Phil showed — and we’re not saying he has it and we’re not saying he doesn’t — a real low-level risk of thoracic outlet syndrome, which is basically a circulatory problem… We’re sending him to a specialist in St. Louis to either rule it out or rule that he does have it.”

According to WebMD, TOS “is a condition presenting with arm complaints of pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. The cause is pressure in the neck against the nerves and blood vessels that go to the arm.” So that certainly sounds like something that could be afflicting Hughes this season.

And when I say this is encouraging, obviously I don’t mean it’s a good thing Hughes may have TOS. But it’s obviously better to know what’s wrong with him, or at least have an idea, than not, and any issue that doesn’t involve a structural issue with Hughes’ arm would be a welcome development for everyone, I would think (assuming he doesn’t have a life-threatening problem or something, of course).

As for treatment, The Mayo Clinic says the most common treatment for TOS is rehab, but that surgery may also be necessary. Continue reading Hughes may have TOS

The Bartolo Colon redemption tour continues in the Bronx

This one was over in a hurry, as two strong starters were throwing strikes and working quickly. Mark Buehrle was good over seven innings of work, but Bartolo Colon was better. The portly right-hander pitched eight dominant innings of one-run baseball, allowing seven hits and just one walk on 99 pitches. Colon improved his ERA to 2.77 on the season and has looked flat-out dominant in his two starts this season. Colon’s fastball continued to show late life in the zone, and was clocked as high as 97mph on the YES gun. He mixed in the occasional breaking pitch to Continue reading The Bartolo Colon redemption tour continues in the Bronx

Continuing the Discussion on Pitching to Contact

In my article last week, I discussed the fallacies that exist behind the concept of pitching to contact.  A couple of days later, IIATMS newcomer, the Sporting Hippeaux, used swing rates to explain why pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were able to not only survive, but also excel despite their average to below average contact rates.  While it’s an incredibly compelling argument, I couldn’t help but wonder if the two pitchers he chose were merely outliers rather than the norm.  Surely, his hypothesis makes logical sense, but frequently what seems logical isn’t always logical in practice.  As a result, I decided to dig a little deeper.

Just to get us started, I’m first going to take a look at the top and bottom ten pitchers in Swing %.  In order to keep things consistent, I’ll use the same sample covering the 2006 to 2010 seasons, using only pitchers that pitched at least 700 innings.  Also, I’ll use the chart the same stats as before, but instead of tracking xFIP, I’ll instead track fWAR.*

* A hat tip to the Sporting Hippeaux for pointing out my glaring omission last week.  Somewhere @SI_JonHymen is smiling at my use of the phrase “hat tip.”

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Game 21: White Sox 1, Yankees 3

The Yankees found themselves with their first losing streak of the season, but were able to cut it short on Wednesday.  A big homerun in the first inning combined with another stellar outing by Bartolo Colon gave the Yankees a 3-1 victory over the White Sox and a chance to split the series on Thursday.

Colon came out firing in the first inning, striking out Juan Pierre to start things off.  A two out double by Carlos Quentin did little, as Colon came back and struck out Paul Konerko looking.  The pitch, which crossed the plate just about Kornerko’s knees was a nice 92 mph fastball, but Ozzie Guillen disagreed, coming out of the dugout and furiously arguing with the umpire before being tossed and made to spend the game tweeting from the clubhouse.

Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the first by working a walk off White Sox hurler, Mark Buehrle. Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira each struck out, but Alex Rodriguez knocked a single to right and there were runners on first and third for Robinson Cano.  The Yankees’ second baseman drove a fastball over the wall in right and the Yankees held an early 3-0 lead.

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