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.

Author Archives: William Tasker

The clutch hitting thing

The Yankees have been on national television a thousand times already. While that is good for ratings and for far-flung Yankee fans like yours truly, it also provides these national outlets plenty of opportunities to put up their statistics on how badly the Yankees are faring with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded. While certainly these are valid statistics, they do not tell the entire story. The bottom line is how many runs your team scores and how many runs the other team scores. And that equation is going in the Yankees’ direction more often than not.

The Yankees are second in the majors in run differential behind only the Texas Rangers. In the American League, the Yankees are fourth in scoring and prevent runs third best in the league. That is a winning combination. Should we really care on how that gets done? It is often said that the Yankees failed in the post season last year because of this same problem with clutch hitting.…

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Ibanez ties it. Chavez wins it. Yanks beat Mets, 4-3

Reaction to Ivan Nova‘s start was mixed on Twitter. Some said the Yankees’ starter was bailed out by the homers. But the truth is closer to the fact that he kept the Yankees in the game and made three bad pitches. One resulted in a Kirk Nieuwenhuis solo homer in the bottom of the third. The second was a double to Omar Quintanilla that compounded a fielding error by Alex Rodriguez to lead to another run. And Daniel Murphy hit a double to center that led to the third and final run in the bottom of the sixth. But it really could have been worse. Nova got out of a second and third situation in the fourth with only one of the runs scoring on a ground out and struck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end that threat. Nova struck out seven in his five and two-thirds innings and walked three.

Once the Yankees took the lead, they still had to preserve it by getting nine more outs.…

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Andy Pettitte is quite a story

Pettitte is getting batters to chase pitches out of the strike zone at a much higher rate this season than in 2010. Opposing batters have swung at 37.1 percent of his pitches out of the strike zone. That compares favorably to his 29.7 percent rate of 2010. That might be the biggest factor in his swing and miss rate, which is also much higher. Batters are swinging and missing on 11.2 percent of his offerings. This is easily his highest rate since this kind of data began recording in 2002 and it blows away the 7.6 percent swing and miss rate of 2010.

And for an old guy who got a lot older in the past two seasons, he is going deeper into games. He averaged 6.15 innings per start in 2010 and is averaging 6.88 innings per start in 2012.  He is also throwing more first pitch strikes than at any point in his career. 67 percent of his first pitches are strikes.…

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Whitey Ford pitches a 14-inning shutout

Whitey Ford is important, of course, to Yankee lore. “The Chairman of the Board,” is lumped together with Yogi and Mickey as the bulwarks of that era of Yankee baseball. It is often mistakenly thought that his success was largely due to the team he pitched for. After all, his 236-106 career record and .690 winning percentage are kind of freakish. But Ford was more than just a guy who benefited from pitching for the Yankees. He finished his career with a 2.75 ERA and allowed only 7.9 hits per nine innings for his career. His post season career may not look impressive at 10-8 in the World Series, but his post season ERA and hits per nine were nearly identical to his regular season career totals. He was a really good pitcher.

And Whitey Ford lost two full seasons to the armed services. He had broken in to the majors at the age of 21 in 1950 and had stunning success as he went 9-1.…

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The A-Rod surge may never come

His season thus far raises a lot of questions. Alex Rodriguez has a home run to fly ball ratio of 22.3 percent for his career. The last three years have been at 17.1, 14.5 and 16.7 (this season) respectively. Combine that with the fact that his lifetime fly ball rate is 39.5 percent and sits this year sits at a career low of 32.1 percent and you have a guy hitting less homers per fly ball and less fly balls. That is not a combination that will seem to trend into any kind of power surge in the months to come.

Alex Rodriguez looks tentative at the plate. And the numbers show that he has lost some sense of the strike zone. He is swinging at 31 percent of pitches outside the strike zone according to Fangraphs when his career average is 21.8 percent. Conversely, his swing rate for pitches that are strikes is down from his career. The 64.8 percent of the time he swings at strikes is the lowest of his career.…

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A more patient Robinson Cano

Whether it is truly a more patient Cano or simply more fear from pitchers is a little harder to determine. And as Cano has rounded into form at the plate, the intentional walks are starting to pile up. He has walked in four straight games for a total of seven walks, a gaudy number for Cano. But four of those were intentional to push his season total to six. But even so, he has 21 unintentional walks this season (27 total), which is only six off of last year’s total with only forty percent of the season’s games played thus far.

The PitchF/X data suggests that Cano is at least aware when pitchers are not trying to challenge him. His O-Swing rate is the lowest of his career and for the first time ever, under 30 percent (29.4 percent) and for the first time ever, his overall swing percentage is under fifty percent (47.1 percent). This data seems to suggest that Cano is more selective at the plate and looking more for a pitch he can drive.…

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So this has been fun…

Of course, the Yankees were not as bad as they appeared on May 21 and they certainly are not as good as they have been in the last nine games. The big thing is that they have now put themselves in position to play solid baseball the rest of the season and have a great chance to again see postseason ball. All the more remarkable is that during this stretch, the Yankees continue to miss Brett Gardner which leads to the overexposure of Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones. They were also without their two biggest cogs in the bullpen and David Robertson has only just recently returned. Despite the lost of Rivera and Robertson in the bullpen, that ragtag bunch of Clay Rapada, Cory Wade, Cody Eppley, David Phelps and Freddy Garcia only cost the Yankees two wins since that late-May low point.

The surge has put the Yankees on pace to win 99 games. Could anyone have seen that being the case a month ago?…

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