Here are some statistics that might interest you: the Yankees are in the top 5 in every meaningful batting category. Seriously, don’t bother worrying about that. Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova have averaged a 16.44% HR/FB rate combined. Over their careers, they’ve averaged 9.4%. The three “and who?” guys have averaged a .369 BABIP in 2012; their career average (combined) sits around .290. Their 2012 ERAs are 4.38 (Kuroda), 7.88 (Hughes), and 5.18 (Nova); their 2012 xFIPs and SIERAs (two fielding-independent statistics that tend to be predictive of future ERA) are 3.85 and 4.00 (Kuroda), 4.68 and 3.91 (Hughes), and 3.13 and 3.13 (Nova). I’m not saying that these three guys are lighting the world on fire every time they go out there. But I am saying that they haven’t been a) nearly as bad as some media members might have you think, and b) not as bad as their superficial numbers indicate.
Does this mean they’re going to be world-beaters in 2012? No. Does it mean that I think there’s nothing to worry about in the rotation? No. Are some of those statistics misleading? Yes! I wouldn’t have put them in there otherwise-I’m trying to make a point. Ultimately, however, I’m trying to tell you that things aren’t as bad as they seem. The rotation has some holes, sure. But they aren’t as big as some people would have you think.
Monday, April 30
Yankees (Kuroda) vs. Orioles (Hammel); 7:05 PM EST on YES
So, who the heck is this Jason Hammel guy anyways? Well, he’s third in the AL in ERA (1.73), 7th in WHIP (1.00), and last time he pitched he threw a seven inning, seven-strikeout shutout against Toronto. He came over to Baltimore this summer from Colorado, and has basically been lighting up the AL all season–and people haven’t really been talking about him. Probably because he’s on the Orioles. And he hasn’t pitched against the Yankees or the Sawx yet.
But yes, he’s good. I wouldn’t be shocked if he looked really good tonight–he has top grade strikeout stuff, and has a 25:8 K:BB ratio. But Hiroki Kuroda is also good, in case you didn’t get the memo that I’ve been trying to fax to you all article. I’m excited to see how the Yankees handle Hammel; and I’m excited to see how Kuroda handles the Orioles. It should be an intriguing game, maybe the best of the series.
Tuesday, May 1
Yankees (Hughes) vs. Orioles (Matusz); 7:05 PM EST, on YES
So. Many. Narratives. Must. Choose. Ahhhh!
Alright, I’m going with “highly touted, yet disappointing prospect vs. highly touted yet disappointing prospect.” Sue me. Phil Hughes and Brian Matusz have had similar developmental paths: touted by their organizations as the future of their respective pitching staffs, neither player has been able to rise to the occasion successfully. Hughes has had slightly more success than Matusz–2009 and 2010 can be counted as good season for Phil–though Matusz, with his power sinker and strikeout potential, might have more upside.
The truth is, neither of these guys has panned out the way we expect. Matusz has been terrible, especially against the Yankees, and Phil hasn’t been the same pitcher since his velocity went missing last season. At the same time, as with many ex-prospects, there’s always that possibility, however faint, that these guys might turn it around and blossom into the starters we’ve always imagined they’d be. And that’s why it’s so much fun to watch young guys pitch.
Wednesday, May 2
Yankees (Nova) vs. Orioles (Arrieta)
Ivan Nova, in addition to having some pretty horrendous luck this season, has become a very different pitcher from the guy we saw last year. He’s striking more people out, getting a few fewer ground balls, and he has even managed to reduce his walk rate. In short, when his HR/FB rate and BABIP stabilize, he might very well be better than he was last year (if he can keep up these peripherals). Even better? He’s still winning.
Jake Arrieta is pretty much the guy I said he was in our first Yankees-Orioles preview: “has a career 4.73 ERA–and that was actually overperforming the expectations: his 4.99 FIP, and 5.15 tERA suggest that he’s closer to a 5.00 ERA pitcher than a 4.50 ERA guy.” Well, Arrieta is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA on the season–better than his career averages indicate. He won’t be super easy to beat, but he’s not the kind of starter that strikes fear into your bones.