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.

I keep waiting for someone to yell “April Fools!”

From Wallace Matthews over at the ESPNNY Yankees blog.

This year, these are two very different teams. Boston no longer has the fearsome lineup it boasted in the Manny-Papi era. Now, the Red Sox scare you more with their arms than their bats. No doubt, their starting rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and new addition John Lackey is more than a match for the Yankees staff of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, the returning Javier Vazquez and the still-developing Phil Hughes.

Really? No doubt? Look, I know I clearly lean towards my hometown Yankees, so I’m not going to go so far (in this post) as to say it’s no doubt that the Yankees starting rotation is better than the Red Sox rotation. I’ll simply put the numbers in front of you, and you can make the determination yourselves.

Boston 2Yr FIP 2Yr ERA 4Yr (3Yr) FIP 4Yr (3Yr) ERA
Lester 3.39 3.31 3.74 3.67
Beckett 3.42 3.94 3.72 4.05
Lackey 4.03 3.79 3.63 3.51
Dice-K 4.27 3.66 4.14 4.01
New York 2Yr FIP 2Yr ERA 4Yr (3Yr) FIP 4Yr (3Yr) ERA
Sabathia 3.12 3.02 3.12 3.11
Vazquez 3.26 3.75 3.46 4.01
Burnett 3.83 4.06 3.85 3.98
Pettitte 3.92 4.36 3.89 4.26

FIP, in its most basic description, is a fielding independent version of ERA. It’s supposed to be used the same as ERA, except with the understanding that it does its best to accurately identify the contributions of the pitcher, independent of his team’s efforts. It is also a much better tool for predicting future ERA than past ERA is. Red is bad, blue is good–and you can see that objective analysis of the two rotations doesn’t paint nearly as rosy a picture for the Red Sox as a lot of people think. If anything, this tilts towards the Yankees. Continue reading I keep waiting for someone to yell “April Fools!”

Are the Red Sox suffering from sticker shock?

All is not well in Red Sox Nation, as ESPNBoston reports that Theo Epstein is unwilling to give Beckett the same contract that was given to John Lackey this past offseason.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Talks are ongoing for a contract extension for Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, who is scheduled to pitch the season opener next Sunday night at Fenway Park against the New York Yankees.

But it turns out the benchmark for a new deal will not be the five-year, $82.5 million contract the Sox gave free agent John Lackey this winter, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. The Red Sox will not go beyond four years in a deal for Beckett, the source said.


Early in his minor league career, Beckett had evidence of some fraying in his rotator cuff, which led his former team, the Florida Marlins, to limit how much he threw, according to a major league source. And when the Red Sox acquired Beckett from the Marlins in 2005, Sox officials who inspected his medical records were concerned about his shoulder, but not enough to walk away from the deal, according to a baseball source with direct knowledge of those trade negotiations.

Yes, Beckett has had some injury questions in his career, but it’s most commonly been blister issues rather than shoulder tendinitis. Here’s why this doesn’t smell right to me.

FIP Lackey Beckett
2007 3.54 3.08
2008 4.53 3.24
2009 3.73 3.63
3-Year 3.93 3.32
Career 3.83 3.61

Combine that with Beckett’s age advantage (he’s 1.5 years younger than Lackey), Lackey’s recent injury history (Lackey spent significant portions of 2009 and 2008 on the disabled list, notably with elbow inflamation), and Beckett’s playoff heroics on this team, and I have to wonder if the Red Sox are running into budgetary constraints.

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Continue reading Are the Red Sox suffering from sticker shock?

We’re DOOOOOMED (or: Dispelling The Rotation Myth, Chapter 2)

This past weekend, NY Daily News columnist Bill Madden had a chat with Tito Francona, and came away with the distinct idea that the Red Sox’ rotation is better than the Yankees’ rotation.


This spring, I’ve got six proven starting pitchers that I like, even though it presents a bit of a problem for me.


“The fact that Francona is boasting about a five-strong rotation of Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz, with 43-year-old Tim Wakefield, a first-half All-Star last year before he sustained back problems that required surgery, in reserve, should come as unsettling news to Yankee legions watching Joe Girardi conduct endless tryouts for the fifth spot in his rotation.

Now, I personally thought that Bill Madden’s value, besides simply reporting news, would come in his analysis of the topics he was delivering to us, the public–analysis which is largely absent from this article. I’ve made my views on the two rotations fairly clear (along with stacks of statistics to back up my theories) before — notably here.

(click “view full post” to read more) Continue reading We’re DOOOOOMED (or: Dispelling The Rotation Myth, Chapter 2)

The difference three years makes

Late in 2004, I started hearing whispers of an incredible Japanese pitcher. Reports varied–some said the youngster threw 6 average to plus pitchers, some said 8. All agreed that he had easy 98 MPH heat, and a pitch that no one else threw–the legendary gyroball. The kid had already won the Japanese versions of the ROY and the Cy Young. He started the All-Star game as a rookie. His first three seasons he led the Japanese leagues in wins, took home a gold glove, and was awarded to the prestigious “Best 9” award. Not one in each year, all three in each year. In his second year he led the league in strikeouts, and did so again the following year, when he was also awarded the Japanese version of the Cy Young.

The year before he’d been drafted by the Seibu Lions, he had one of the most ridiculous 4 game stretches in the history of ridiculous. In game one, he threw 148 pitches, coming away with the complete game shutout. In game two (yes, he started both), on a total of no days rest, he threw 250 pitches over 17 innings. Even god rested on the seventh day, and so Dice-K was relegated to playing LF in game three, but still managed to throw 15 pitches in a relief role. And to top it all off, he threw a no-hitter in the series final.

He was going to be a star, make people forget about Matsui and Ichiro (indeed, his first time facing Ichiro at age 18, he struck him out three times). He was going to obliterate the all time record posting fee–(the cost US teams pay to Japanese teams for the right to even speak to their player regarding a US contract)–some speculated he could cost as much as $10 million. And people started to dream.

(click “view full post” to read more) Continue reading The difference three years makes

Dispelling the Rotation Myth

Thus far this offseason the Red Sox and Yankees have both splashed the pot rather dramatically, with the Yankees pulling off trades for Javier Vazquez and Curtis Granderson and bringing in Nick Johnson, while the Red Sox have reeled in free agents Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and John Lackey. Chit chat around the internets still gives a pretty heavy edge to the Yankees in 2010, but this is based on lineup strength. The Yankees are perceived to have a juggernaut offense, with a very good rotation. On the other hand, the murmers around baseball regarding the Red Sox generally give them the edge rotation-wise, but a fairly big gap to make up offensively. Some examples can be found here and here.

After the tremendous expenditures by Cashman and Company last offseason, this struck me as a bit odd. Could Lackey really offset Javier Vazquez enough to actually give the Red Sox the edge? That got me working, and as I expected, the Yankees still have a significant edge.

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Continue reading Dispelling the Rotation Myth

Free Brett Gardner!

After the changes of the past month, the Yankees are just about restocked. They have four starting pitchers who could arguably head up many major league rotations and two talented youngsters fighting for the last spot. They’ve got 8 batters who could smack 20 home runs (and a number of whom will challenge 30 and 40). And they’ve got a solid bullpen between Rivera, whichever pitcher doesn’t win the #5 spot in the rotation, Robertson (led the AL in K/9 last season), Aceves, Marte (who was great for us in the playoffs), Melancon and Boone Logan.

The team has gotten cheaper, younger and better all at once. It appears the bullpen is sorted (pending Joba/Hughes’ competition, and possibly one of Gaudin/Mitre as swing man). That leaves one spot still in flux–the final outfield starting position (which will either be LF or CF, depending on the Yankees’ defensive analysis of Curtis Granderson). As of right now, that’s taken by Brett Gardner, with Rule V draftee Jamie Hoffman taking the 4th outfielder role (rated the best defensive outfielder in the Yankees’ system by Baseball America).

Twitter and the blogosphere is alight with discussion of who could take that final spot away from Brett Gardner. The wide assumption is that the Yankees are out of the Holliday and Bay sweepstakes based on cost (both in years and dollars). Frankly, either would be overkill offensively, and Bay would be disastrous defensively. Both have offers currently on the table for $16 million+ per season at least four seasons–and Brian Cashman has made it clear that any additions hereafter would be small in nature. Granted, he also called the concept of signing AJ, CC and Tex “candyland”, so who knows.

The names being considered at the moment: Reed Johnson, Jonny Gomes, and Xavier Nady. All three have seven years of ML experience, and all three have a single good season hidden amongst mediocrity (or worse). Let’s take a look:

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Continue reading Free Brett Gardner!

So what does this mean for the defense?

I’ve been campaigning for Brett Gardner to start in the outfield as long as I’ve been blogging (ok, so that’s all of 6 months). Thus, it should be no huge surprise that I’m not bummed to see Melky Cabrera moving on to the Braves. There’s been this odd perception around the interweb that Melky Cabrera is:

  1. Much better offensively than Brett Gardner; and
  2. a better fielder than Brett Gardner, largely on his arm strength.

Let’s go in order. It’s tough to really compare Melky and Gardner at the major league level, largely because Gardner doesn’t have enough of a sample size to really base a conclusion on (though it’s clear he’s been largely ‘blah’ during that small sample). Melky does have the sample size–and it’s pretty ‘blah’ too. In his four full seasons, he’s reached the average level for hitters (a .330 wOBA) twice, both times just barely (2006, 2009). That’s pretty decent for a CF, especially one who can field the position at least competently. Unfortunately, he’s also sprinkled in a .317 wOBA (2007) and a .285 wOBA (2008). Which, of course, means we can’t send him to the Japanese leagues, because over there they make you commit seppuku if you perform that terribly.

Gardner has only two seasons to discuss, and those include 280 ABs in 2009 and 140 ABs in 2008. In 2008 he was terrible, putting up a .282 wOBA. In 2009, he was pretty good, putting up a .337 wOBA. It’d be easy to try and argue that we should put more weight on his longer sample (especially given my ‘free Gardner’ stance), but in reality neither of those samples are large enough to conclude anything. So we’re stuck on the Gardner/Melky comparison.

Except they did both spend five years in the minor leagues. And we do have THAT data, and it’s more than enough to make a comparison. Let’s go to the video tape:

Melky’s 5 years slash to .296/.349/.420/.769
Gardner’s 5 years slash to .289/.389/.383/.772

Sure looks to me as though Gardner’s a lot more patient, and a chunk less powerful than Melky. The OBP, especially combined with his ability to turn walks into doubles by stealing bases, is a lot more valuable than the upgrade in power that Melky represents. The issue with this analysis, of course, is that Gardner’s five years are from ages 21-25, while Melky’s are from ages 18-23 (he spent all of his age 22 season at the major league level).

So what does this data tell us about Melky and Gardner offensively? It certainly doesn’t show that Gardner’s the better player, much as I’d like it to. What it does show is that there’s not a big edge one way or the other. These guys are both aiming to be league average each year (which is slightly above average when playing in CF, or a bit below average when playing a corner spot).

Where we can highlight a big difference, however, is defensively. For the purposes of this analysis, we’re going to look at both players’ performance in CF, because there’s where we have the biggest sample size of data. First off, let’s look at Melky.

Continue reading So what does this mean for the defense?

So What's Changed: Take 2

Following up on my post discussing the changes in the Yankees’ lineup thus far this offseason, I decided to take a little deeper look (via fangraphs) and then to compare the changes to those made on the Red Sox so far. For the Yankee faithful out there, I must warn you–it’s not particularly pretty.

First, let’s take a look at the Yankees changes, including a look at the fangraphs.com value statistics, which are:

  • RAR: Runs above average, broken out into:
  • Bat: Runs above average offensively
  • Fld: Runs above average due to skill at one’s position
  • Rep: Runs above average based on playing time, and the cost of replacement
  • Pos: An adjustment based on difficulty of position played. This is a net positive for skill positions (shortstop, catcher, etc.) and a net negative for non-skill positions (LF, 1B, DH)

Select View Full Post to continue reading. Continue reading So What's Changed: Take 2

Granderson & Johnson versus Damon & Matsui

It’s been a busy few weeks in the baseball world–and for the Yankees in particular. Against all expectations, they’ve replaced both Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, along with some more expected moves (re-signing Andy Pettitte).

This past season, the Yankees’ lineup was the best in baseball by a sizable margin, but there have been some changes–and so I took a look at the statistical profiles of Matsui and Damon, versus Granderson and Johnson, to give us an idea of what has actually happened. To do this, I had to move away from my chosen metrics of wOBA and OPS+, simply because I am unable to quickly and easily calculate them myself from the underlying statistics, and I didn’t want to rely on averaging wOBAs (which would be useless in any real analysis). So we’re going to be looking the players’ combined slash lines (avg/obp/slg/ops) over lookbacks of three years and five years, as well as taking a look at career splits. To make this a bit easier to read, each pair of numbers are depicted in blue (better) and black (worse).

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Continue reading Granderson & Johnson versus Damon & Matsui