About William Tasker

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

Rival Roundup – The Boston Red Sox

RedSox

The last of a four-part series, Rival Roundup has been an overview of the Yankees’ American League East rivals. As stated throughout the series, almost half of the Yankees’ games will be against these four rivals. This last installment looks at the Boston Red Sox. Like the first three in the series, we have enlisted the thoughts of member sites of The ESPN SweetSpot Network. For this installment, my good friend, Jeff Polman, of Fire Brand of the American League will provide some insight throughout the piece.

Of course the last installment had to be the Boston Red Sox. Cue the bad-guy organ music! Actually, a lot of steam has gone out of the antipathy between the two teams. They spend too much time respecting each other these days. Even so, the bottom line for both teams and the teams’ fans is that both ends of the “rivalry” are shooting for the same prize. Only one can win the division. And as we have seen, it is not like the rest of the division is going to stand by and let this be decided by the Red Sox and Yankees. Continue reading Rival Roundup – The Boston Red Sox

Game Thread: Red Sox at Yanks 3/18/2014

The Yankees host the Boston Red Sox for a 1:05 ET at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

The Lineups:

Boston Red Sox:

  1. Jackie Bradley, Jr. – CF
  2. Jonny Gomes – DH
  3. Mike Carp – LF
  4. Ryan Lavarnway – 1B
  5. Xander Bogaerts – SS
  6. Corey Brown – RF
  7. David Ross – C
  8. Brandon Snyder – 3B
  9. Jonathan Herrera – 2B

Felix Doubront – SP

New York Yankees:

  1. Brett Gardner – LF
  2. Derek Jeter – SS
  3. Carlos Beltran – RF
  4. Mark Teixeira – 1B
  5. Alfonso Soriano – DH
  6. Francisco Cervelli – C
  7. Brian Roberts – 2B
  8. Kelly Johnson – 3B
  9. Ichiro Suzuki – CF

SP – Michael Pineda

Of course, we will all be interested in how Michael Pineda performs. Enjoy the game and if you are watching, comment on how the big pitcher does. Continue reading Game Thread: Red Sox at Yanks 3/18/2014

Rival Roundup – The Toronto Blue Jays

20111118-blue-jays-logo

Part three of a four part series, Rival Roundup takes a look at the American League East rivals the New York Yankees will have to navigate for almost half of the team’s games in 2014. After visiting the Orioles on Friday and the Rays on Monday, our next stop is the Toronto Blue Jays. To offer insight and perspective of someone who covers the Jays closely, we turned to one of our fellow members of the ESPN SweetSpot Network, Matthias Koster of Mop Up Duty. Koster’s thoughts will pop up throughout. Continue reading Rival Roundup – The Toronto Blue Jays

Rival Roundup – Tampa Bay Rays

Rays

The second of a four part series, Rival Roundup takes a look at each team of the American League East. The Yankees will play almost half of their games against these four clubs so it is really important to get to know their strengths and weaknesses. We have reached out to our ESPN SweetSpot Network partner sites to contribute their thoughts to the series. Today we look at the Tampa Bay Rays and Tommy Rancel of The Process Report has been kind enough to provide his thoughts that will be sprinkled throughout. Continue reading Rival Roundup – Tampa Bay Rays

Rival Roundup – Baltimore Orioles

This is the first of four installments looking at the 2014 American League East rivals. After all, the New York Yankees will play close to half of their games this season against these four division rivals. As we look at each team, we have reached out to our friends in the ESPN SweetSpot Network. Throughout this look at the Orioles, we will hear from Jon Shepherd of Camden Depot. 

The Orioles and the Yankees finished with the exact same record in 2013. But both got there by different routes. The Orioles scored a lot more runs, allowed more runs and played better defense. The Yankees pitched better but lagged behind the Orioles both offensively and defensively. Despite the differences, the rivalry has really been exciting the last two years as the two teams battled for the division title in 2012 and played to a 9-9 tie during that season. The Yankees were one game better in 2013 with a 10-9 record against the Orioles.

Both teams were disappointed with 2013 and made moves over the winter to try to get back into the playoff picture. Despite the moves made by each team, neither team has impressed projection systems with the Orioles generally predicted for a 79-win season and the Yankees with an 83-win season. Obviously, both teams will be working hard to make those projections look conservative.
Continue reading Rival Roundup – Baltimore Orioles

Game Thread: Yanks versus the Rays – 3/9/2014

The Yankees play at 1:05 today at GMS Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays. It looks like a lot of regulars are on the field.

The lineup:

Rays:

Chris Archer – Starting pitcher

New York Yankees:

David Phelps gets the start.

Interesting with Solarte at third. The games is on the YES Network today. Enjoy! Continue reading Game Thread: Yanks versus the Rays – 3/9/2014

The best Yankees by uniform number

I really enjoyed an article on ESPN’s SweetSpot Network by Diane Firstman on uniform numbers. I have written about uniform numbers quite a bit over the years and have enjoyed those written by others–especially those numbers that are retired around the league. Firstman’s article made me think about Yankee uniform numbers and the idea popped into my head about taking a romp through the Yankees uniform numbers over the years to see who the best players for each uniform number were. Obviously, some will be easy, like Number 3. Others, like Number 18 will be a lot more difficult. .I Continue reading The best Yankees by uniform number

Teixeira, Roberts, Beltran key to World Series title

You expect biting analysis from this site. Obviously, that differs greatly from analysis that bites. For anyone who studies the game, the hope is for an “aha” moment. I had one this morning and I could not wait to share it with you. This is one of those dope statistics that is going to land me on all the lists of writer geeks of all time. Here it is: Data suggests Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Carlos Beltran all have to play significant time for the Yankees to win the World Series.

Whoo…that sounds good, doesn’t it? So what is the data that is going to shake the world? Every Yankee World Series champ in the Jeter-era featured at least three significant contributions from switch-hitters. Therefore, Teixeira, Roberts and Beltran all have to make significant contributions this season for the Yankees to win the World Series.

You are stunned, right? Brilliant, eh? If I do this right, now I have to throw a bunch of data at you to prove that I am a full-fledged Saberboy. Wait…that’s Bill Parker. Anyway, here is the data: Continue reading Teixeira, Roberts, Beltran key to World Series title

The great batting race of 1984

Thirty years ago, the New York Yankees were a month away from starting a season that would be another in a long line of forgettable teams in the 1980s. They had finished in third place the year before, seven games behind the Orioles and Billy Martin was again replaced, this time by Yogi Berra. It was the famous year when the Detroit Tigers started the season 9-0 and then 19-2 and would run away and hide from the rest of the American League East. The Yankees best starter was a 45-year-old Phil Neikro. Graig Nettles, Don Baylor and Goose Gossage were gone. Ron Guidry and Shane Rawley had rough seasons after Marin fried them a bit in 1983. But despite the Yankees being toast by May of that season, it was also the year of one of the most exciting in-team batting races of all time.

Batting average was still a big deal back then. Though much less important today in the grand scheme of statistics, back in 1984, it was one of the most cherished titles in batting. And the Yankees had two players on the same team that would battle for the crown that season down to the very wire and nobody else in the American League was close. It was the year Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield put on quite the batting show.

It was Don Mattingly’s first full season in the Majors and would be the start of a four-year run of being one of the best ballplayers on the planet .He made $135,000 that season. Dave Winfield was in the fourth season of his massive (for those days) ten year deal and made more money in a month than his first baseman made for an entire season. Steinbrenner had Winfield pegged as Mr. May by then but he had some terrific years with the Yankees.

Both players got to the end of the season in different ways. Mattingly was the picture of consistency with a BABIP and overall batting average hovering within 30 points all season long. Winfield’s BABIP went up and down like a Pogo stick and had crazy good numbers in June and August.

Winfield hit .476 in June and peaked by July 6 and was hitting .377! Don Mattingly was batting .344 by the end of June. It was clear that one of these two players was going to lead the league in batting and it certainly looked at the time like it would be Dave Winfield.

Despite the heroics of these two hitting dynamos, the Yankees were floundering. How was it possible that these two hitters were hitting line drives all over the field and the Yankees were only 33-41 and were already 21 games behind the Tigers on June 30, 1984? One can only imagine what it was like being around George Steinbrenner in those days.

The team would cut that overall lead to 17 games by the end of the season with a 54-35 run in July, August and September, but the Tigers were too far ahead for anyone to catch them.

Pitching had certainly been a problem, but there were too many holes in the lineup. Toby Harrah was brought in to replace Nettles and bombed out. Omar Moreno was thought to be a leadoff batter in the mold of Mickey Rivers but he only walked 13 times the entire season and had lost the lead-off spot by the end of may.Bob Meacham, Andre Robertson and Tim Foli put a gaping hole at shortstop. Lou Piniella was 40-years-old and only played 40 games and the magic of Oscar Gamble lost its luster.

It is no wonder that between Mattingly, Winfield and Baylor, they combined for 24 intentional walks. Why pitch to them when there were so little to follow? It is also no surprise that Winfield had his amazing June since the Yankees had tired of Moreno and put Willie Randolph in the lead-off spot followed by catcher, Butch Wynegar. With the on-base skills of those two and then Mattingly hitting everything in sight, Winfield had to be dealt with.

By the end of July, Winfield had cooled off and was down to .346 and Mattingly finished off that month sitting at .339. But Winfield had another big month that August and finished the month at .352. Meanwhile, Don Mattingly had a great August as well and finished August sitting at .349. The race was on.

Here is a daily account of September for each batter:

  • September 1: Winfield .351, Mattingly .352. Mattingly had three hits and passed Winfield for the first time since the end of June
  • September 2: Winfield .352, Mattingly .351.
  • September 3: Winfield .354, Mattingly .349. Winfield went 2-3 with a homer.
  • September 4: Winfield .354, Mattingly .349. Winfield hit another homer and drove in three.
  • September 5: Winfield .352, Mattingly .347. Both players went 1-5.
  • September 7: Winfield .355, Mattingly .350. Both players had three hits.
  • September 8: Winfield .355, Mattingly .349.
  • September 9: Winfield .352, Mattingly .349
  • September 10: Winfield .352, Mattingly .349
  • September 11: Winfield .351, Mattingly .349
  • September 12: Winfield .351, Mattingly .347. Mattingly went 0-4 against the 14-5 Doyle Alexander
  • September 13: Winfield .351, Mattingly .347.
  • September 14: Winfield .350, Mattingly .344
  • September 15: Winfield .353, Mattingly .343. Winfield had three hits and was up by 10 points with fifteen games to go.
  • September 16: Winfield .352, Mattingly. 342
  • September 17: Winfield .349, Mattingly .342
  • September 18: Winfield .347, Mattingly .343
  • September 19: Winfield .347, Mattingly .346. Mattingly had three hits. Winfield did not play
  • September 21: Winfield .344, Mattingly .346. Winfield is zero for his last 12 at bats.
  • September 22: Winfield .344, Mattingly .347. Mattingly goes ahead by three points.
  • September 23: Winfield .341, Mattingly .344. The first time all month that neither batter had a hit.
  • September 24: Winfield .341, Mattingly .344. Double-header. Both play both games.
  • September 25: Winfield .342, Mattingly .344.
  • September 26: Winfield .342, Mattingly .342 Tied! Mattingly hitless against Storm Davis.
  • September 27: Winfield .341, Mattingly .342. Winfield hitless.
  • September 28: Winfield .342, Mattingly .341. Winfield goes up by one with two hits.
  • September 29: Winfield .341, Mattingly .339. One game left. Mattingly hitless.
  • September 30: Winfield .340, Mattingly .343. Mattingly goes 4-5 with two doubles to win it!

There were five lead changes in the last fifteen games. Dave Winfield’s 0-12 stretched evaporated his ten point lead and Mattingly’s big final day put the title in his hands. Mattingly had become the next Yankee thing. The loss must have been disappointing for Winfield as he wanted the title badly. He felt disrespected in New York and it had to be a bitter for him in the end.

Perhaps Winfield had some of the sting taken off with his Hall of Fame nod. Mattingly will never attain that, though, in the end, Mattingly made about $2 million more in his career.

So which player had the better year in the end using today’s metrics? Mattingly wins there too. He had a .401 wOBA and a 153 wRC+ with 6.1 fWAR. Winfield finished with a .399 wOBA and a 151 wRC+ and a 4.8 fWAR. Winfield’s WAR was dinged for his defense.

Winfield missed time in the early part of the season with a leg problem and played 141 games. Mattingly played .153 games. Mattingly would have played more, but he had to earn his spit in the lineup in April (believe it or not).

The overall offensive production was statistically identical. It was so close that only percentage points separated them in categories across the board. You have to wonder how Winfield would have fared if he had not had the health problem early in the season.

For another lost season in the 1980s for the Yankees, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield gave all Yankee fans a treat and something special that does not come along very often. The 1984 batting race was a rare event and will long be the subject of Yankee legend.

For more information on this topic, check here and here, though they were not used for source material.

William Tasker loves baseball’s past, present and future. Check him out on Twitter and on Facebook. Continue reading The great batting race of 1984