Hitting Aces

To find out, I looked at the ten Yankees games so far this year against the top starting pitchers in the A.L., measured by xFIP.  xFIP stands for “Expected Fielding Independent Pitching”, and this is an advanced statistic that measures a pitcher’s ability to control those factors for which a pitcher is supposed to be responsible: walks, hit by pitches and strikeouts. Based on xFIP, the top pitchers faced by the Yankees so far are James Shields, David Price, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander (twice), Trevor Cahill, Ricky Romero (twice), Michael Pineda and Jered Weaver (note that Beckett does not make this particular list). The Yankees have won 5 of these games, and lost 5. Interestingly, the opposing starter won two of these games, lost two of these games, and there were six no-decisions, indicating that a lot of these games were close encounters. Four of the five Yankees losses in these games were by one run, and the fifth was by two runs.… Click here to read the rest

Faltering Freddy

Batters are hitting Garcia hard: 25.6% of the batted balls against him have been line drives, and this is the highest line drive percentage against any pitcher in baseball this year (minimum 50 innings pitched).  Earlier in the season, Garcia survived this barrage of hard-hit balls with more than a little luck: the batting average on balls in play (BABiP) against Garcia was only .204 in April; it rose to a more normal .312 in May.  In similar fashion, Garcia was able to strand an astounding 93.4% of runners on base in April; this percentage dropped to a pedestrian 79.8% in May (Garcia’s career LOB% is 73.2%).  As Garcia’s luck returned to something closer to normal, hitters raised their batting average against Garcia by more than 100 points (.182 in April, .286 in May). Garcia’s WHIP ratio (ratio of walks and hits allowed to innings pitched) rose from 1.17 in April to 1.40 in May.

Let’s look a bit longer at Garcia’s line drive percentage and BABiP against.… Click here to read the rest

Tonight’s Recap: A Preview

1.       The Yankees have been scoring a lot of runs (most per game in baseball), putting a lot of men on base (second best on base percentage in the American League), without getting a lot of hits (9th best team batting average in the American League). How have they done this? One key is those league-leading 88 team home runs.  But to score runs (and of course, to score more than one run when a home run is hit), a team still needs baserunners, and the only way to put guys on base without getting hits (absent a boatload of hits by pitches, passed ball third strikes and opposing team errors) is to draw a lot of walks … which the Yankees have done. The Yankees’ team walk percentage is 10.2%, or 3.9 walks a game, highest in baseball. If the Yankees have an advantage going into tonight’s game, is that they’re good at drawing walks and Jon Lester is prone to give them up.… Click here to read the rest

The Rational Guide To Bunting (Curtis Granderson Edition)

Here’s how Girardi defended his decision: “I was trying to get a lead, in a sense … [Mets’ reliever Tim Byrdak] is a lefty [Granderson] hasn’t seen a lot of. I thought it was a good time to bunt there. There are times where I will just let him swing the bat there, as well. You’ve seen me do that. But today I thought it was time to bunt.”

Uggh. There may be a defense in Girardi’s explanation, but I can’t find one, so it falls to me to provide one. I think Girardi made the right call here. At minimum, it wasn’t the wrong call, it was a defensible call, and there are strong arguments in favor of having Granderson bunt.

Let’s start with a couple of rational rules. These rules are general rules, subject to exceptions, but they are (I think) good places to start.  Here is rule number one: bunting with a man on first and no one out is always a suspect move, always requires a robust defense, unless it’s the pitcher (or someone equivalent) who is doing the bunting.… Click here to read the rest

Yankees Not Finishing Strong (UPDATED)

Take a look at the combined line score (again for innings 1-9 only) for the Yankees’ 44 games played through last night:

Here’s the take-away statistic from this combined line score: during innings 1-3, the Yankees have outscored their opponents by 32 runs. During innings 4-6, the Yankees have outscored their opponents by 16 runs. During innings 7-9, the Yankees’ opponents have an 8-run advantage.

Because the Yankees’ 2011 offense has finished weak, the team has shown little ability to catch up once it has fallen behind. The Yankees’ 2011 record in games where they trailed after 5 innings is a disheartening 1-12, compared to a record of 19-5 when the team held the lead after 5 innings.  True enough, it’s a good thing that this year’s Yanks have held the lead 24 times and trailed only 13 times (7 ties) as they entered the top of the 6th inning. But the Yanks have lost 5 of those 24 leads (21% of the time), and they’ve been able to overcome the other team’s lead only once in 13 tries (8% of the time).… Click here to read the rest

A Rational Guide to the Slump (Glass Half Full Edition)

Second point to note: the Yanks are losing, but they’re not losing by much. Other than two shutouts and one blowout (an 11-5 loss last Thursday to the Royals) the losses have been close games: one 3-run loss, three two-run losses and three one-run losses. In three of these losses, the Yankees were ahead in their half of the sixth inning; in two other losses, the Yankees were tied at that point in the game. During this 13 game streak, the Yanks have been outscored by only 16 runs. In contrast, the Red Sox started the season 3-10 and were outscored by 30 runs during those 13 games. The Twins started the season one game better, at 4-9, and they were outscored during those 13 games by 25 runs.

Here’s another reason to hope: the Yankees’ ace in the rotation, CC Sabathia, has been decidedly non-ace like during this streak, with a 1-2 record and a 5.95 ERA. Sabathia’s only win in May came on Mother’s Day, when the Yankees supported Sabathia with 12 runs of offense against Texas.… Click here to read the rest

Better News On Posada Affair (UPDATED)

Curry has now spoken to Girardi as well. Apparently, the meeting between Girardi and Posada was emotional, apparently in a good way. Girardi admitted that there’s “no manual” for managing aging Yankee greats. Girardi knows of no planned fine or sanction for Posada’s pulling himself from last night’s lineup (editorial comment: GOOD!), and like Jeter, Girardi expressed his support of Posada: “I believe he’s going to turn it around.”… Click here to read the rest

Bartolo Colon, Stem Cell Pioneer?

According to the New York Times report, Colon received stem cell therapy treatment last April in the Dominican Republic from Joseph Purita, a Florida-based orthopedic surgeon. The cells in question were bone marrow stem cells, reportedly taken from Colon’s hip (so none of the ethical issues involved with embryonic stem cells are present in the Colon case).

Let’s get a couple of issues out of the way first. Baseball has no rule prohibiting a player from receiving stem cell treatment. Stem cells are not classified as performance-enhancing drugs, not by baseball or by any other sport.  The only possible controversy here is that Dr. Purita admits to treating other patients with Human Growth Hormone (HGH).  Dr. Purita denies treating Colon (or for that matter, any other professional athlete) with HGH. There’s no evidence that Colon received HGH.

So: why would the New York Times use the term “disputed treatment” to describe the stem cell treatment received by Colon?  In order to seek an answer to this question, let’s dive deeper into the story.… Click here to read the rest

A Sweeter Jeter?

There are other encouraging signs.  Jeter’s line drive percentage for April was an abysmal 9.6%, but so far in May, it is a robust 26.3%.  26.3% is a terrific line drive percentage, higher than the 2011 line drive percentage for any other Yankee playing full-time.  If Jeter can manage to pound out line drives at close to this rate, he’ll finish up this year just fine, and his April will (largely) be forgotten.

Now come the caveats. When I speak about “so far in May”, I’m talking about something closer to a week than a month. A good week does not eliminate concerns about Jeter’s performance during the month of April – or for that matter, his performance last July and August. He’s still hitting a large percentage of ground balls along with those line drives. Also, while we don’t have May splits to show this, Jeter still seems to be hitting better during the day than at night, and better early in the game than later.… Click here to read the rest