About Will@IIATMS

Will is a lifelong New Yorker and Yankees fan who splits his time between finance, music, and baseball. He was one of the early contributors to IIATMS, though life took him away for some time. He is very excited to be back.

Change of Plan


Per LoHud, the official rotation for the ALCS:

“The Yankees just announced their rotation for the American League Championship, and it has Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte swapping places.

Game 1 – LHP CC Sabathia
Game 2 – RHP Phil Hughes
Game 3 – LHP Andy Pettitte
Game 4 – RHP A.J. Burnett

The roster will be the exact same as in the division series.

Why swap Hughes and Pettitte? The Yankees haven’t talked publicly about the decision, but it does give them a chance to split their lefties and it lets Hughes make both of his starts on the road, where he’s been much better than at Yankee Stadium. Hughes had a 3.47 ERA on the road and a 4.66 at home.

Joe Girardi said before the ALDS that he was using Pettitte ahead of Hughes so that the Twins left-heavy lineup would have to face four left-handed starters (if the series went five games). That’s no longer an issue against the Rangers.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into making a rotation,” Girardi said this afternoon. “Do you decide to go left-right-left-right? Do you stack your lefties together? These are a lot of things and factors that we have to discuss in making that rotation. Home and away, a lot of different things.”

So let’s get first things first. If the Yankees go into game four down 0-3, or 1-2, you can count on Sabathia starting in Burnett’s place. But past that, let’s take a look at what Girardi suggested was behind the change. Namely, that the Twins were vulnerable to left handed pitching. This, of course, was true (as we said at the time). The Twins split went from .276/.343/.432 against righties, to .268/.336/.400 against lefties. But it turns out it’s somewhat true of the Rangers as well, who batted .280/.343/.429 against righties, and .266/.326/.391 against lefties. In other words, the Rangers were worse against lefthanders than the Twins were in 2010.

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A first look at the pitching matchups and a re-look at the Rangers’ offense

As I said, just a week ago (kind of): “The easy road to the playoffs runs through Texas.” At that point, I was writing about the ALDS, and lamenting the Yankees’ first round matchup versus the Twins (though I made it clear that the Yankees were still significant favorites in that series). Nothing has changed. Despite the Rangers’ victory over the Rays, this was essentially the best case scenario for the Yankees. Not only will they be facing the inferior offensive club, they also will only have to see Cliff Lee twice if the series goes seven games.

First off, to rehash a previous argument, we need to establish the fact that the Rangers are a diminished offensive club. I spelled this out fairly clearly a few days ago, so to quote myself:

Rangers fans, are you reading? Shield your eyes…because this is ugly. Take away Hamilton’s contributions on the season (well, make him league average–which it’s not clear he even is, in his injured state), and the Rangers wOBA drops from .333 to .322–roughly on par with the Royals (even before adjusting for park effects, as the Rangers benefited greatly from playing half their games in Arlington). I’m not going try to get any more precise than this, but I can say pretty clearly that unless Hamilton starts hitting like a semblance of his healthy self, the Rays are a much better offensive team than the Rangers.”

If you’d like some evidence that Hamilton is not his normal self, take a look at what he did in the ALDS: 2 for 18, no extra base hits, 2 walks, a sac fly, and an error, good for a .111/.200/.111 line. That’s right — he slugged .111. It’s undoubtedly a small sample size–but it certainly does nothing to contradict the injury theory. The above projection (.322 wOBA) relies on Hamilton being an average hitter for the Rangers — something it appears he is not in this state. He’s likely a lot worse than average. Remember, this is similar to the injury that kept Jacoby Ellsbury out for the entire season. Hamilton himself referred to it feeling “like being in a car wreck“. Between the reporting on this injury, Hamilton’s own words, and his performance since sustaining it, this doesn’t have the feel of an injury you can just play through. He did steal a base which bodes well for his performance, but if he’s not mashing at the plate, the Rangers are in trouble.

(click “view full post” to read more) Continue reading A first look at the pitching matchups and a re-look at the Rangers’ offense

Where do we go from here?

And just like that, poor Yankee fans across the globe will have to wait a few days to see their beloved bombers play again. It’s a tough life, I know. But baseball continues, as all three of the other divisional series live on–most immediately relevant being the cage match between the Rays and Rangers, which was extended last night due to a Texas bullpen implosion. And for once, I’m really not sure who I want to win today’s game.

There are two  forces at work here. Often enough you’ll hear people talk about the advantage of finishing a series early, to give your players a day or two off, reset your bullpen and rotation, and in general just prep for your upcoming opponent (lots of time in the video room, batting cages, etc). Conversely, having a long, drawn out series, and burning your bullpen can set you up for failure in the next round, as your rotation doesn’t match up properly, and your players don’t get the downtime they need. So from this standpoint, I guess you’d want the Rays to win tonight–push the matchup back to Tampa, hopefully go extras, whoever wins will be that much more tired.

But then there’s this nagging feeling–do you really want the Rays to get a shot at advancing? Would you rather play a rested Texas, or a tired Tampa? Because if they do game five, the Rangers will no longer be favored in this series. They are–by a significant margin–the worse of the two teams. Let’s take a look at the matchup:

(click “view full post” to read more) Continue reading Where do we go from here?

Five Numbers Twins Fans Should Worry About

Think back to when you were a youngster, the day before a birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever it might have been. The next day had unlimited potential. You weren’t quite sure what it would bring. What was hidden behind that shiny wrapping paper, twinkling under the tree? That was an exciting feeling, but also a bit uncomfortable, almost antsy. That’s how I feel right now. The playoffs start tomorrow, and I’m up well past midnight, searching for a post, because maybe, just maybe, Santa’s struggling down the chimney with a bag full of goodies.

In the spirit of Brien’s post yesterday, here are five numbers that Twins fans should worry about (and if you want to check out my deeper dive into the matchup, check here, too):

3.80

That’s not an ERA. It’s not an FIP, or an xFIP, or anything like what it appears to be. No, it’s how many batters Nick Blackburn strikes out per nine innings. If that number looks low to you, it should. In fact, it’s the lowest K/9 rate of any starter in the major leagues this year (minimum innings pitched: 140). It would have been the lowest rate in 2009, as well. To find the last person that “topped” that K/9 rate, you have to go back to 2008, when Livan Hernandez did it–and that’s really, really not company you want to keep. He makes up for his lack of strikeouts by not handing out many free passes, but this Yankee team can really hit. If you aren’t missing bats, they’re going to tee off on you.

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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

The 2010 regular season is in the books and the Yankees will meet the Twins in Minnesota on Wednesday. As I pointed out a few days ago, the easier road to the world series would have been through Texas, but for that to happen, the Yankees needed to win today against Boston, and have the Royals beat the Rays. Having gone 0 for 2 on those two goals, it’s time to break out the bug spray, pack a warm jacket, and go experience Minnesota in October. That whole open air ballpark is sounding worse and worse.

The Yankees have faced down the Twins in the ALDS three times in the recent past, ending Minnesota’s playoff dreams in 2003, 2004, and 2009. But while those are fond memories, they have just about no bearing on the Yankees’ chances in 2010. These are two very different teams from those that faced off in those three divisional series. They have new players, new coaches, heck–new stadiums. Next time you hear someone suggest that the Yankees are “good at beating the Twins in the playoffs”, ask them if they remember when we were “good at beating the Red Sox in the playoffs”. I feel like the ALDS trophies need to have some small type at the bottom: Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Because make no mistake–this Twins team is no push over. Let’s start at the top.

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Debate Over: Bring on Texas!

There’s been a debate going on about whether or not the Yankees should be resting their ailing starters and preparing for the playoffs, or fighting to the bitter end to secure their spot atop the American League East to secure home field advantage (at least for the first two rounds of the playoffs). The debate is over.

From ESPNDallas:

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton learned Tuesday he has small fractures to the seventh and eighth ribs that previous tests did not identify, and he is hoping to return to action during the final week of the regular season.

Some fans want the Yankees to win the division for home field advantage. Others just think it should be part of the Yankee ethos to win. Me, I just want the Yankees to play the Rangers. Because despite the optimism in the above quote (remember, folks, this is from the Texas portion of ESPN), I just don’t remember the last time I heard about a player with fractured ribs making it back quickly. This is an injury that Hamilton himself described as feeling “like [having] been in a car wreck“. It’s the same type of injury that has caused Jacoby Ellsbury to have a total of 84 plate appearances this season (Ellsbury will not return to baseball activities until December!)

And to be clear, Josh Hamilton is the franchise. His performance this year has been nothing short of incredible. Even having missed nearly three weeks of playing time, he still sits atop the WAR leaderboard, with 8.0 wins above replacement to his name. Ironically, the American League runner-up is the guy who put Ellsbury on the shelf, Adrian Beltre (and raise your hand if you saw that coming). Hamilton has been worth more wins above replacement than the combination of Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler (who combine for 7.4). He’s been worth more than Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (who combine for 6.5). I could go on, but you get the point.

(click “view full post” to read more) Continue reading Debate Over: Bring on Texas!

The lucky, the unlucky and Joba

We’re finally to the point in 2010 where sample sizes aren’t so small, and we can start drawing conclusions from season-to-date statistics. So who’s been lucky and who’s gotten screwed less than lucky? Let’s take a look.

Let’s look at the simpler group first, that being the batters:

So what’s the point of the above chart? The column titled “Delta” shows the difference between each player’s historical batting average on balls in play, and what it’s been so far in 2010. That’s a pretty quick way of seeing who has been lucky, and who has been unlucky (or, put another way, who is likely to perform better in the 2nd half than they did in the 1st half, and vice versa). Red indicates “highly lucky” while green indicates “highly unlucky”.

And it shows a few things we knew: Jeter, Tex, A-Rod and Granderson have been pretty darn unlucky so far this year and are likely to improve in the latter half of the year.

It also shows that Nick Swisher has been very lucky. And Marcus Thames…well, he must have some naked photos of Lady Luck, besting his career BABIP by more than 100 points. I’ll make the point that Brett Gardner’s career BABIP is not based on a large enough sample size to have really stabilized, and speedy batters tend to have higher BABIP than slow ones (based on the infield hits they leg out). That’s not to say that I expect Brett Gardner to consistently get on base 36% of the time he puts the ball in play—but rather that it’s not inconceivable that his rate could be higher than normal given his speed, and I’d like to reserve judgment until we have more data. [Larry took a deep dive into Gardner’s first half performance and seems to come to nearly the same conclusion: that his to-date numbers are incredible but likely not sustainable long term. Again, it’s still under the “small sample size” umbrella.]

It also highlights something I just hadn’t noticed to this point. Derek Jeter’s career BABIP is .357. That’s tied with Ichiro for the 5th highest career BABIP since 1917. I had no idea.

Moving on the pitching:

(click “view full post” to read more) Continue reading The lucky, the unlucky and Joba

On Sale Soon: Trade Deadline Primer

It’s that most wonderful time of the year–when trade rumors start becoming trade offers and teams are forced decide whether they are buyers or sellers. The AL East trio of the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox are buyers–who will each add as they continue to fight for two available playoff spots? We know now that it won’t be Cliff Lee–but that’s only one player amongst hundreds who are undoubtedly available for the right price.

With that in mind, a mighty band of bloggers (led by Nick Nelson from TwinsCentric) has put together a massive Trade Deadline Primer, aiming to provide all the information you could desire. In the form of an e-book that goes on sale early this coming week, you get a foreword penned by Rob Neyer, more than 150 pages of baseball goodness, contributed by team specific bloggers from each and every team, including IIATMS writers Larry Behrendt and myself (Yankees), Evan Brunell (Red Sox, Firebrand of the AL East), Jason Collette (Rays, DockOfTheRays), Bill Baer (Phillies, Crashburn Alley) and many others. Amongst other things, it includes short writeups on more than 150 possible trade targets, articles on each team, fantasy tips, and report cards for the Yankees season so far (as a team and individually).

One of the beauties of blogging is that it’s inherently collaborative. Every once in a while, you get the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and Larry and I were honored to be included as the Yankees contributors. Also, since every team is represented by a team-specific writer, there is a breadth of perspectives within that is tough to recreate without surfing around 30 seperate URLs on a daily basis. You can expect a link to be posted when the e-book goes on sale–and you can help support our hard work by purchasing a copy for the relatively low price of $9.95. The version that will be linked to here will be Yankees-centric, but there will be more than 20 other versions of the thing with additional content for specific teams.

We’re really proud of the work we’ve done on this book, and I know that I’ve learned a ton from reading my fellow contributors’ work. So check back here in the next day or so, and pick one up–both to inform yourself of what’s likely to happen by the deadline, and to support all the hard work this talented group of bloggers has put in. Because at some point, It’s About The Money, Stupid.

Here’s an example, by way of Scott Downs’ writeup (a lefty reliever who has to be fully on the Yankees radar screen):

Scott Downs Toronto: RP
Over the last four years, Downs has been one of the most consistent relievers in baseball (FIPs of 3.24, 3.39, 3.33, 3.26)…and he happens to throw with his left hand. That makes him extremely valuable to a Yankees team that is currently using Damaso Marte and Boone Logan in high leverage lefty batter situations. Downs is also a free agent after this season, and costs $2 million for the remainder of the season, but he’s a good bet to be type A (meaning the Yankees would have to surrender some serious value to pry him away from Toronto). He’d be a big get for this team—but given the picks (along with the strength of next year’s draft), he’s a long shot.

Here’s an example of a report card.

Mariano Rivera Closer: A-
Still one of the elite closers in baseball, Mariano Rivera continues to mow down hitters despite incremental regression in his peripheral statistics. His strikeout rate has dropped a bit, but so has his walk rate, and as a result his K/BB rate remains in the stratosphere (5.50). He’s been the beneficiary of a bit of luck on fly balls (his 3.3% HR/FB rate is extremely low), and nagging injuries will keep him out of the All Star game, but for the most part, Mo continues to age like fine wine.

Continue reading On Sale Soon: Trade Deadline Primer

Remember when Gardner and Cervelli were AAAA players?

Let’s take a swing back to one of the more heartwarming moments of 2009.

Back on May 15, 2009, Brett Gardner was a bit player on the Yankees, a speedy but powerless rookie who had played his way into contention for a starting spot with Melky Cabrera, but wasn’t expected to succeed. Alyssa Esposito was a name on a long waiting list for a new heart—at list she had been on for more than 100 days—and with each passing day, her own hopes were dimming. This unlikely pair was brought into contact by Project Sunshine, a charity which works to bring authors and celebrities into hospitals to read and play with sick children.

That day, Alyssa gave Brett a project sunshine bracelet, suggesting that it’d help him hit a home run. Gardner’s first thought?

“ Yeah, right. I don’t hit home runs” (H/T Samantha Strong and Corky Siemaszko) Continue reading Remember when Gardner and Cervelli were AAAA players?