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.

Scrapbooking and scorecards

Long before there was the Internet or ESPN or even cable television, there were three ways for me to keep up with the sport of baseball and my team, the New York Yankees. There were broadcasts of games on WPIX: Channel 11 (or on radio), newspapers like the New York Daily News and the Bergen Record and The Sporting News (TSN). The Sporting News of my youth was an over-sized magazine printed on newspaper paper. Its arrival on Friday or Saturday was always one of the highlights of the week.

At that time, TSN really covered sports in depth and baseball in particular. Each team was given at least a full page or possibly two from journalists who covered those teams. The writing was fantastic and probably sowed some of the seeds of my own desire to write.

After I devoured that thing from cover to cover over a four or five hour period, my fingertips would be black from the ink.… Click here to read the rest

Girardi versus Torre in bullpen use

There is a common narrative when it comes to looking back on the two great Yankee managers over the last eighteen years. The narrative goes something like this: Joe Torre burned out his bullpens and Joe Girardi‘s use of his bullpen is one of his strengths as a manager. I have heard variations of those memes over the years and wondered if there was a way to measure the bullpen usage to see how true these narratives were. Once I put together all the numbers, the conclusion I came up with is that Torre really did not earn his reputation until the last five years of his tenure.

First, let’s look at the most basic of numbers, things like ERA, WHIP and bullpen losses. Each provides some insight to the conclusion.

Joe Girardi’s bullpens have beaten the average American League bullpen in ERA every season he has been the manager. His accumulative average bullpen is then higher than the league over that time period.… Click here to read the rest

Nova better beat his projections

I was thinking about starting a series called, “Things that have to go well.” The idea was to talk about certain Yankees players and how they have to stay healthy and play well if the Yankees are to compete in 2014. But you can probably see the obvious problem with such an idea. EVERYTHING has to go well. The same can be said for most teams. Last season everything went about as badly as it could. I will at least stick with the player who was going to lead off the series: Ivan Nova. Good golly, Ivan Nova needs to be a really good pitcher for the Yankees in 2014.

If you are a Yankee fan, the thought of the Yankees’ 2014 starting rotation (as it stands now) probably causes you to curl up in a fetal position. I have already documented how poorly CC Sabathia pitched in 2013. I knew that Hiroki Kuroda went from a Cy Young candidate at the end of July to a crashing finish.… Click here to read the rest

Minor move that might be major

The Yankees signed Robert Coello to a minor league contract. Coello might be one of those nice surprises the Yankees have come up with in the bullpen the last couple of years like Kelley and brief brilliance by Eppley, Repada and Wade in 2011 and 2012. What made me sit up and take notice was this terrific post on Coello by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.com. Click the link and drool over that forkball. Remember the name. Coello might be one of the nice pickups of the off-season. In only sixteen appearances for the Angels last year, Coello struck out 23 batters in 17 innings of work.… Click here to read the rest

Jerry Coleman’s 1957 World Series

This post initially appeared on ESPN on January 6, 2014.

Jerry Coleman, who passed away on Sunday, became one of the most popular people in San Diego while broadcasting Padres games from 1972 to 2010, a career that earned him a place in the broadcasting wing of the Hall of Fame. But when a well-known Yankee player passes away, headlines often read something like, “Yankee Great Jerry Coleman Dies.”

The truth was that Jerry Coleman was not a great. He was pretty good and he had his moments and was very good at getting on base, but the Yankees often had someone they preferred better. There were Phil Rizzuto and Gil McDougald and later Tony Kubek and Bobby Richardson. And it did not help that Coleman basically lost five years flying combat missions in both World War II and the Korean War. The JAWS system of ranking players ranks Jerry Coleman as the 231st best second baseman in baseball history.… Click here to read the rest

Thinking about the swing men

Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs.com recently had a very interesting article about the five starter rotation myth. The most effective writing is that which makes you think and Sullivan certainly brings a perspective on a topic we don’t think about very often. While he admitted his methodology was a bit sloppy, the basic point was that the average MLB team ends up getting 32 starts a season from pitchers other than the supposed top five of the rotation. Think about that for a minute. As he states, that is a full rotation slot made up of guys off the bottom of your pitching roster, emergency trades and minor league depth.

Despite the Yankees’ injury problems in 2013, they came under the curve on this one as they needed only nineteen starts from pitchers that were not considered the five rotation pieces. They were pitched by David Phelps (12), Adam Warren (2), Vidal Nuno (3) and David Huff (2). The team had 29 such starts in 2012 and 19 again in 2011.Say what you will about the quality of the rotation over the past three seasons, but durability has not been one of the problems.… Click here to read the rest

Paul Blair – Yankee infielder and post season hero

In 1978, when Derek Jeter was four years old, another shortstop for the Yankees wore the number two on his uniform. That shortstop was Paul Blair. Yes, that is correct, Paul Blair. But before we get to that story, there is another story you should hear about Paul Blair’s Yankee tenure and concerns two pivotal post season games–one in 1977 and the other in 1978.

Blair, who passed away this week at the age of 69, should rightly be remembered as one of the best fielding center fielders ever through the glory years of the Baltimore Orioles from 1965 to 1976. He was an eight time Gold Glove Award winner in center and fits right in with Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger as the Orioles collected some of the best fielders in baseball history. Baseball-reference.com ranks Blair as the third best fielding center fielder behind only Andruw Jones and Willie Mays.

But by 1977, Blair was past his glory years and was traded to the Yankees for Elliot Maddox and Rick Bladt, neither of which panned out for the Orioles.… Click here to read the rest

Measuring Joe Torre as a manager

In my long life of watching the New York Yankees, I feel like I have two Yankee uncles. There was Phil Rizzuto and there is Joe Torre. Since the better half of me is Sicilian, I guess the feeling is natural. My Uncle Joe was elected into the Hall of Fame this week. I want to celebrate. I really want to celebrate. My problem is that I have no idea how to rate managers. In other words, I don’t know if he belongs there any more than Mayo Smith. You cannot go to a stat site and see WAR or wOBA totals for managers. And if you think win-loss records for pitchers are fairly useless, what does that make the win-loss total of a manager? So how, then, do we measure Joe Torre?

The current way managers make the Hall of Fame is to hang around a long time and win at least one World Series or manage the Yankees.… Click here to read the rest

Evil empire all that tired jazz



When Twitter exploded with the news that the New York Yankees had signed Jacoby Ellsbury, the same old tired refrain resonated: “The Evil Empire is back.” Ugh. While some Yankee fans glory in such a moniker and revel at the anguished teeth gnashing behind it, there is a part of me that wishes the team could be feted instead as a great American success story.

It does not happen just in baseball. Sam Walton built his brand and Wal-Mart became so successful that the story turned to a negative. The funny thing about our people is that we want to believe in the American Dream and that a person can create a successful business out of nothing, just as long as it does not become too successful. In the past half-century there has been Gates of Microsoft and even Bezos of Amazon to carry on the tradition of Carnegie and Rockefeller before them.

George Steinbrenner, along with his initial minority partners: Michael Burke, Lester Crown, John DeLorean and Nelson Bunker Hunt purchased the Yankees from CBS in January of 1973 and it was not as if they started their new venture from scratch.… Click here to read the rest