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.

Pace Made In New York City

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Before the 2015 season started, Major League Baseball made a major push to speed up the game. MLB did not go as drastic as some wanted and more so than some (read David Ortiz) liked. A half a season has gone by and most of the reports about the pace of the game were from early April. Let’s take a look at what a half season has brought.

The emphasis placed on pace of the game has made a difference. The average game this season across the board is 2:57. That is a full ten minutes shorter per game than last year and the first time the average game has been under three hours since 2011.

Last year set a record for slowness. Baseball started keeping track of game times permanently in 1920. The average game back then was 1:51. Imagine how much earlier you would get to bed on those game recaps!

In 2014, every team in baseball except for the Seattle Mariners averaged over three hours per game. And the Mariners were at 2:59. A full third of all teams (ten of them) averaged over three hours and ten minutes per game. The Rays were the slowest at 3:19 and the Red Sox were next at 3:17. The Yankees were one of the ten at 3:12 minutes per game.

This season, only ten teams are averaging over three hours a game. That was the same amount as those who averaged over 3:10 last year. No team is averaging over three hours and ten minutes.

Of the ten teams that are averaging over three hours a game this season, they are from longest to shortest: Diamondbacks (3:07), Tigers (3:07), Yankees (3:05), Rockies (3:04), Boston and the Dodgers at 3:03, the Cubs and the Pirates at 3:01 and Texas and Cleveland at three hours even.

So how are the Rays doing since they were the slowest last year? They are a poster child for the commissioner. The Rays have dropped from a whopping 3:19 and have gone down to an average this year of 2:56. That is a drop of 23 minutes per game!

Of course, sometimes changing players will make a difference. David Price has long been one of the slowest starting pitchers in baseball. He leads all pitchers with a pace of 26.2 seconds after leading last year at 26.6 a year ago. Apparently, Price did not get the memo.

The Rays also had Joel Peralta in the bullpen last year. That man is a human rain delay. He led all pitchers with a pace of 32.2 seconds. He is still over 30 seconds this year, but has made only thirteen appearances and doesn’t qualify. Losing players such as Price, Peralta and even Jeremy Hellickson has helped the Rays’ pace, if not the quality of the team. Hellickson is the slowest starter in baseball this season behind only Price.

The Yankees have only dropped seven minutes per game. And that is despite losing Hiroki Kuroda, a notoriously slow starting pitcher (pace of 25.2 seconds last year). The team’s starting pitching has been slow. Nathan Eovaldi has a pace of 23.1., Michael Pineda is also at 23.1 tying them both for 18th slowest in the league. CC Sabathia at 22.8 is 24th. Adam Warren was at 22.1 and was tied for 34th before he went to the bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, the Yankees’ slowest reliever is Chasen Shreve at 25.4 seconds, tied for 27th. Justin Wilson is tied for 48th at 24 seconds even. Dellin Betances is 63rd at 23.4 seconds.

Of the Yankees’ batters, Alex Rodriguez is tied for 19th slowest among qualifying MLB hitters at 23.6. Then it drops all the way to Brett Gardner, who is tied for 50th at 22.7. Didi Gregorius is tied for 80th at 22 seconds. All the rest of the regulars are way down below that.

Looking at the pace of the Yankees’ pitchers and hitters, they would appear to be in decent shape and yet the team’s games are slower than most. Can such team slowness have a smoking gun? I think so and I think the lack of length by the starting pitchers is the culprit.

The Yankees are currently 25th out of 30 MLB teams in starter innings. The starters are averaging just a tick over five and two-thirds innings this season. Contrast that with, say, the Cardinals, an NL team that has its starters averaging two-thirds of an inning longer on average.

The Yankee bullpen has thrown the seventh most innings pitched this season and the fifth most pitches. And this is a pretty common culprit. Of the ten slowest teams this year, six of them are in the top ten for reliever innings pitched.

Just as an aside, the four slowest batters in baseball are Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki, both with a pace over 26 seconds followed by Odubel Herrera and Robinson Cano at 25+ seconds. For those who wondered if the new rules would force Cano to speed it up, they haven’t. As for grumbler, David Ortiz…he has actually shaved two seconds off his pace from a year ago. At least he is abiding despite his grumbles.

The emphasis on speeding up the game has taken some good strides this season. Shaving ten minutes from the average MLB game is a nice accomplishment. The new rules have saved baseball fans 207 hours thus far this season. That is a lot of hours! Yankee fans are only going home or to bed seven minutes earlier. But I am sure that few actually care. After all, this is a bottom line kind of fan base.

Photography by William J. Tasker Continue reading Pace Made In New York City

About Last Night And Other Thoughts

Teix-McCann vs TB

The New York Yankees have now won seven games in a row and have built back their AL East leading margin to two and a half games. Life is feeling pretty good right now. Masahiro Tanaka has given the team two great starts and the Yankees are getting timely hits of the big fly variety and the one base at a time type too. Let’s look at a few things to bask in this little glow (before dark clouds roll in).

The impressive part of this win streak is that Yankee starting pitchers have won six of the seven games. In other words, they have all pitched well enough to stay in the game, have competed and have come out ahead. Tanaka, of course, has been VERY encouraging. But CC Sabathia, Adam Warren, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda have all won games in this streak. That is encouraging and impressive.

With Ivan Nova in the wings and the way these starters are pitching, does that buzz for Cole Hamels at the expense of prospects still sound like a good idea?

During this winning streak, the Yankees have beaten Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jered Weaver. Wilson and Weaver aside, those are some really great pitchers to have snaked. It is enough to start hoping the Yankees face an ace these days.

Can we start liking Stephen Drew again? Maybe. Maybe not. He does have four homers in his last three games and has a .308/.308/1.231 triple slash line in the past week. All the while, his defense is very comforting at second (and at short when he plays there). Continue reading About Last Night And Other Thoughts

About Last Night and Other Hump Day Thoughts

Despite another game of poor defense and batter befuddlement at the hands of Mike Montgomery making his MLB debut, the Yankees came back to tie the game off of closer, Fernando Rodney, and won the game in extras. Two of the key contributors to the comeback and the win were guys who have been kicked all over New York by the fans and the media. You go, Stephen Drew and Garrett Jones!

Here are some of the random thoughts I had while staying up way too late to watch the game:

First, why does the defense always seem to get all jelly-legged when behind CC Sabathia? Yes, the big pitcher is not what he used to be and cannot just power his way out of jams like in the past, but man, the defense puts him in these messes quite often. Chase Headley booted a double-play ball and then Carlos Beltran misplayed a ball hit out to him in right.

Speaking of Headley, I have seen some speculation about his health from some quarters and I am starting to wonder myself. His arm doesn’t appear to be the same and I wonder if some of his fielding problems aren’t caused by his uncertainty of his throwing arm.He has played the most games of any Yankee and perhaps could use a day or two off. Continue reading About Last Night and Other Hump Day Thoughts

Dellin Betances and Must See Baseball

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I had a brief conversation on Twitter with Katie Sharp last night. I asked her (since she is so good at such things) if the Royals had been struck out in order in any inning this season. Her reply was, “You mean, how many times have they been Betances’d?” I laughed and said exactly. She later came back and said that it did not appear to have happened to them before Dellin Betances put them away in order last night on fourteen pitches. Betances has become must see TV.

There are several players that I would pay more to watch play baseball. Mike Trout comes to mind, Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw. Dellin Betances has become in that company for me. As soon as he comes in the game, adrenalin kicks in, the heart rate rises, anticipation becomes overwhelming and then awe once the inning (or two) is over. His outings are mesmerizing.

I am not sure even those of us who watch baseball every day understand what we are seeing. Only 23 starting pitchers have a higher fWAR than Dellin Betances has as a relief pitcher. During last night’s appearance against the Royals, he retired his 27th straight batter–like a perfect game. Only he and Wade Davis have not given up a run this season. We are talking about 22 appearances without allowing a run!

The reason I asked Katie that question is because of what kind of offense the Royals have. The Royals put the ball in play. They have the lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 14.7% and it is not even close. The next closest team is the Red Sox at 16.9%. In this day and age of strikeouts, the Royals are are averaging 5.4 strikeouts a game this season. Through 46 games, they have 248 K’s as an offense. The next closest team (the Braves) have 292.

And yet, Dellin Betances blew them away on fourteen pitches.

We were all worried about Dellin Betances after Spring Training. Admit it. You were. I was. This site was. And when the season started, he walked six batters in his first three and a third innings. Uh oh. He’s not the same. What’s wrong with Dellin Betances!? His velocity is down. Panic!

Since those first three games, he has walked four batters. Four! Since those first three games, Betances has struck out 35 batters. That’s a tidy little 8.5 strikeout to walk ratio. He finished at 5.63 K/BB last season. His strikeout rate is higher than last year.

Everywhere you look, there is an amazing number with Betances. He has allowed 2.9 hits per nine innings. His WHIP is .720 and if you toss out the first three games, that WHIP is just silly. When a team actually hits the ball, their BABIP is .182. His ground ball rate is up from last year. He has been spectacular.

Dellin Betances will not stay perfect all season. Sooner or later, he will give up a run or blow a game or two. It happens even to the best of relief pitchers. To this point though? He has been amazing to watch. His success has just been stupid.

Dellin Betances is must see television. He is one of the few players in baseball that when he arrives on the baseball stage, you can’t help inching a little further in your seat and once his inning (or two) is over, you just whistle and say, “Man! That was fun to watch!” Continue reading Dellin Betances and Must See Baseball

About Last Night: Eovaldi, The Fifth Inning, and Other Thoughts

[caption id="attachment_75061" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Eovaldi vs WAS II Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

The New York Yankees keep giving Nathan Eovaldi leads and the pitcher just cannot seem to handle the windfall. Last night, the Yankees had just spotted Eovaldi with a 6-2 lead after scoring four runs in the fourth and another two in the top of the fifth. Eovaldi’s response was the walk the first batter he faced in the bottom of the fifth. Yankee fans everywhere threw stuff.

Sure enough, it was the start of a bad inning that turned a good chance for a win (calculated at 89% at that moment) to a loss. Eovaldi only recorded one out in the inning.

You get to the point where you wonder if Nathan Eovaldi needs a good sports psychologist. Like many starting pitchers, Eovaldi has trouble with the first inning. His ERA this season in that frame is 7.88. But then he settles down nicely in the second through the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, it gets ugly. It’s noted that this is a short sample size, but in the fifth inning of his starts thus far, his OPS against flies up to .988.

Here is another statistic for you. The Yankees have scored six runs for Eovaldi twice this season and Eovaldi has a 9.35 ERA in those two games. He is backwards. When he is pitching and his team is losing, Eovaldi has an OPS against of .567. When he is pitching and the Yankees are ahead in the game, his OPS against skies up to .845. He has a .937 OPS against in low leverage situations this season (again, short sample size alert). Continue reading About Last Night: Eovaldi, The Fifth Inning, and Other Thoughts

Sound the Alarm! Relievers Are Overworked!

When it comes to the New York Yankees, there always has to be an alarm bell. Call it a meme or a talking point, a clarion bell, whatever: There always has to be one. Remember a few years ago when the Yankees were hitting too many homers? Yeah, we still yuk it up over that one. The latest seems to be about the Yankees’ bullpen being overworked. Is it really?

Mike Axisa probably had it drilled down a little bit better. He only mentioned Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller the other day. But are even those two overworked? Part of their workload is the success the Yankees have had this season. The Yankees are winning…a lot. Thus there is more need for your setup and closer to finish out games. But again. are they overworked?

How can you tell with Dellin Betances? He pitched 70 times last season and compiled 90 innings. That’s a new breed of animal. Was that abuse? Was that overwork? He held up all season, so who knows. Time will tell the long-term effects and even then injuries have never really been cleanly tied to workload.

As for this year, Betances has worked in eighteen games and has compiled twenty innings. Last year at this time, he had 15 appearances good for 19.1 innings. He is pitching more often and for less innings per outing. Is that a good trade off? And remember, at this time last year, his star was just starting to rise and he was worked more as the season went along.

Personally, I don’t think Andrew Miller is overworked. He is on pace to appear in 74 games. That seems reasonable for a closer. Mariano Rivera broke that total four times and I am not counting 1996. David Robertson and Craig Kimbrel have averaged 68 games a season. In that light, 74 seems a bit high, but that assumes the Yankees will keep winning at this rate and that they will play this many close and tight games.

Part of the problem is that after the top two, things have gotten kind of iffy. Chris Martin‘s injury hurts (for him and for the Yankees). And I’m sure that affected his performance a couple of times before he finally admitted he was hurting. David Carpenter is unreliable thus far and it is clear that Joe Girardi does not trust him. Esmil Rogers is not trusted (and rightly so) for high leverage situations. And Rogers is needed for long outings.

Last year’s bullpen was deeper. In addition to Robertson and Betances, Adam Warren was useful ahd had three saves. Shawn Kelley had a couple of clunkers, but he had four saves as well. And Matt Thornton‘s numbers looked good (better than my memory of him).

That brings us to Chasen Shrieve. He has pitched 24 times in his MLB career and has a 1.46 ERA and a 2.56 FIP. That sounds good to me. He hasn’t pitched for three days. Why couldn’t he have pitched the seventh today? Either Girardi is saving him for tomorrow when Betances can’t go or he doesn’t trust him.

But let’s get back to my original question. Where do the Yankees stand in the league for bullpen usage? The Yankees were tied for fourth in bullpen innings pitched before last night’s game. They are tied with the Royals. I don’t hear any clarion bell ringing for the Royals’ bullpen being overworked.

Before last night’s game, the Yankees were tied for eleventh in reliever games pitched. That is in the top half, but not terrible. The Cardinals lead everyone. I don’t hear a lot about them overusing people.

It’s good that Joe Girardi worries about his players. It is commendable that he does so. But how much of it is him or his superiors listening to broadcasters and other pundits constantly talking about how many innings the Yankees are pitching in relief? And what are the results?

Sure, it is hindsight, but CC Sabathia probably pitched one inning too many on Monday and in hindsight, Nathan Eovaldi quit being effective after six full innings of shutout baseball last night. And Eovaldi turning into a pumpkin is not surprising when you understand that he only averages 5.6 innings per start, I don’t care what his pitch count was at the time.

If Joe Girardi doesn’t trust his bullpen beyond the top two, then getting him some bodies he trusts seems imperative. Shrieve could be used more. Jacob Lindgren should be on the roster. Jose Ramirez has been very good at Scranton//Wilkes-Barre. David Carpenter has never really been a stud in his career (one good season). If you don’t trust him, replace him!

I can see concern over Betances. He is such a freak of nature and his numbers are like when you get hot with a Strat-O-Matic player, You use him so much that you have cartoon numbers. He is unlike anyone we have seen in years. How much is too much for him? Nobody knows. But his and Miller’s numbers will settle down as the season moves along.

The panic is overblown. But that’s typical when it comes to the Yankees. If you really want to get into a meaty conversation, can we talk about Garrett Jones instead of Greg Bird? Continue reading Sound the Alarm! Relievers Are Overworked!

Game 31 – Where we Wei in on Whitley

A lovely Saturday afternoon game is a perfect setting for baseball at Yankee Stadium III. Although, there is a light mist falling in the Bronx and the temperature is at 54 F. Today’s match-up features Chase Whitley versus Wei-Yin Chen. The Game is on the YES Network and starts at 1:05. The Yankees have already taken the first two games of the series.

The Lineups:

Baltimore Orioles

  1. Manny Machado – 3B
  2. Jimmy Paredes – DH
  3. Adam Jones – CF
  4. Delmon Young – RF
  5. Chris Davis – 1B
  6. Steve Pearce – 2B
  7. J.J. Hardy – SS
  8. Alejandro De Aza – LF
  9. Ryan Lavarnway – C

New York Yankees

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
  2. Brett Gardner – LF
  3. Chris Young – RF
  4. Mark Teixeira – 1B
  5. Carlos Beltran – DH
  6. Jose Pirela – 2B
  7. Chase Headley – 3B
  8. Stephen Drew – SS
  9. John Ryan Murphy – C

Why you wouldn’t start Alex Rodriguez against a left-hander is beyond me. Anyway, enjoy the game! Continue reading Game 31 – Where we Wei in on Whitley

The Yankees’ Upgraded Fielding

Much was made during the off season on how the New York Yankees focused on defense in targeting acquisitions. And while none of us saw this good of a start to the season the team has brokered to this point, one question is how much that defensive upgrade applies to the current success. According to the major statistical sites, the answer is: Not very much.

Let’s get a few valid points out of the way. First, unlike batting and pitching statistics, fielding statistics to this point have had a larger margin for error. While we feel good about what the two former categories are telling us these days, fielding statistics have been perceived to be on less solid ground. Secondly–and perhaps because of the last statement–we are strongly cautioned against taking much stock in fielding statistics on a short sample size. We have been told in the past that such statistics should be viewed on the long term, perhaps over several years, to take seriously.

There is hope that the new Statcast system being hyped over at MLB.com can shed some new light on fielding and make that slippery slope less so. See this Christina Kahrl article for some insight on the new system.

At least for now, we are still stuck with the data we have had available to us. After making the above statements and all the cautions I’ve already mentioned, I still want to look at what we have for the Yankees thus far this season. My one reminder is to keep some healthy perspective on what I will review.

While the offense has been extremely ordinary and the pitching has been outstanding, the fielding has been, according to at least two of the three sites I am reviewing, mediocre. Fangraphs.com has the Yankees as 27th in defense (by runs) out of thirty teams. They only have the Athletics, the Mariners and the Padres as worse.

Baseball-reference.com has the Yankees as the 20th best defense. Again, that’s not very good. Only ESPN.com’s proprietary statistical analysis has the team in the top 50% at a tie for 13th. So what’s going on here?

Well, we know that Didi Gregorius got off to a bad start. His numbers look rather Jeter-like at present. But what else is happening for the position players? I’m going to list the players and how the three sites rate them thus far.

Player – ESPN : Fangraphs : Baseball-reference (in runs)

What is your reaction to those numbers? Do any surprise you? If so, for better or worse? Here are some of my observations:

  • The numbers vary quite a bit from site to site.
  • Stephen Drew hasn’t hit, but his work at second base has seemed stellar. So his second base score surprises me on how low it is.
  • I don’t understand Brett Gardner’s scores at all. He gets to everything.
  • Chase Headley got off to a bad start, but his career numbers tell you he’ll be more than okay.
  • Didi Gregorius has never scored the love his reputation seems to give him.
  • Carlos Beltran…in postive numbers!?
  • I don’t understand Mark Teixeira’s numbers.

The rest seem reasonable.

These numbers (again with the caution that short sample sizes are extremely culpable with fielding) seem to show a team not much better defensively than last year. And certainly, it has not scored as well as what we expected to get in the off season.

The defense hasn’t been too costly in the grand scheme of things. According to ESPN and Baseball-reference, the defense has only cost the team a run. It takes more than ten runs to make a win. Fangraphs.com is the toughest of the trio and rates the entire defense at -7 runs or about two-thirds of a win.

The bottom line from that last paragraph is that the Yankees’ defense hasn’t really cost them during this hot opening start to the season. But it certainly hasn’t helped as much as we thought it would. Then again, this is a strong possibility that the numbers this early into the season don’t mean anything either way. Continue reading The Yankees’ Upgraded Fielding

Yankees can survive a month without Tanaka

[caption id="attachment_64821" align="alignnone" width="300"]Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports[/caption]

But longer than a month? Let’s not jump there yet.

I am sure you have all heard by now that Masahiro Tanaka came to the Yankees yesterday and complained of soreness in his wrist. The sequence of events was mentioned all during the Yankees’ broadcast during the game last night. Brian Cashman said that an MRI showed no significant damage but did show inflammation of the wrist and possibly the forearm. He called it tendonitis. The team felt that shutting Tanaka down for a month was the call for now and Cashman believes Tanaka will be back after that.

The part that has everyone concerned is the mention of the forearm and the Yankees’ broadcast team kicked that around quite a bit. Time will tell as this all plays out and because of the concern of the partial tear of the ulnar ligament, most followers of the Yankees will fear the worst. Who knows what will happen. What we do know for sure is that Tanaka is gone for a month.

Up until this point, the pitching has gone quite swimmingly. Our own Domenic Lanza gave us the details in a recent post. The rotation has been holding its own while the bullpen has been lights out.

That’s not to say the rotation has erased long-term concerns. CC Sabathia is still a shell of what he used to be. And to this point, Joe Girardi has shown little faith in Nathan Eovaldi and even pulled him short of a certain win in his last start before he got the last out of the fifth inning: Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Despite a very good performance his last time out, Adam Warren still has a 1.4+ WHIP and a 4.34 FIP and Eovaldi’s WHIP is a very troublesome 1.662. Michael Pineda has been very good and Tanaka has been the other positive since a rough first outing. Continue reading Yankees can survive a month without Tanaka