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.

Who should you root for today?

The final post-season slot rests upon the outcome of game 163 today, and no team is more affected by that outcome (other than the participants, of course) than the New York Yankees. The Bombers are scheduled to host the winner of the one game playoff Wednesday night, when the teams begin play in the Division Series. The question for Yankee fans is which club presents the easier route to the ALCS. Both teams have a fair amount of question marks, and New York would be favored against either opponent. Detroit certainly has its share of question marks: Ace Justin Verlander had to work on short rest Sunday, making him unavailable for game one should the Tigers advance. Slugger Miguel Cabrera is in boiling hot water over a domestic abuse incident that occurred during the Tigers’ weekend slide. Still, as a Yanks fan, I would prefer to play the Minnesota Twins for several reasons.

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Favorite memory of 2009: Mariano Rivera KOs K-Rod

Mo SavesWe won’t know who the Yankees will be facing in the playoffs until sometime this evening, and so while my analytical keyboard is stopped up by uncertainty, I’ll take this opportunity to look back at my favorite moment from a season filled with incredible moments.

Mariano Rivera has appeared in 992 games in his storied major league career, for a total of 1206.1 innings, 4349 total batters faced and 560 saves (these totals including his lengthy postseason resume). He’s got 1098 strikeouts to just 272 unintentional walks, and he’s watched a grand total of 62 balls leave the yard on his watch, good for a HR rate of 0.46 per 9 innings.

So we can all agree, Mariano Rivera has been around a long time, and most all of the accolades he’s had a chance to accrue, he has (this without quibbling over MVPs/CY Youngs, which are pretty much unattainable by relievers).

Yet this year the greatest reliever in history ever managed to add a new first to his resume this year, and he did it in style (did we expect anything less?).

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Tiger offense watch: Magglio Ordonez

Even with a loss today, Detroit has a two game cushion on Minnesota with three left to play for each club. Technically, Minnesota could pull even or surpass the Tigers, but with such little time left, that would be unlikely. Assuming that New York will open post-season play against Detroit, I thought it would be appropriate to chronicle a few of the bigger bats featured in the Tiger lineup.

Two seasons ago, Magglio Ordonez was one of the best players in baseball. He was nearly nine wins above replacement, leading the league in hitting with a .363 average. He was third in the league in wOBA with a .438 mark, and also played outstanding defense in right field (18.3 UZR/150.) Had Alex Rodriguez picked any other time to have an other worldly season, Ordonez would have taken home the MVP award.

But this year, Ordonez has fallen on harder times. All three of his slash stat lines are down, most significantly his slugging. His slugging percentage has fallen from a lofty .595 in ’07 to a pedestrian .407 in 2009, and he hit as many home runs in 2007 as he has the past two seasons combined. This is largely due to a change in Ordonez’s batted ball profile. This season, over 51% of the balls Ordonez has put in play have been on the ground, nearly seven percent higher than his previous high as a Tiger. The extra grounders have caused his fly balls to decrease, consequently resulting in a major power outage. I can’t explain why this happened. Even though he has always hit more grounders than flies, a shift of this magnitude in one season is very rare: a career forty-four percent ground ball hitter does not normally see a seven percent increase in that department. Perhaps it is a sign of his bat slowing down a bit, but if that was a case, I would expect a more dramatic increase in strike outs, and that’s not evident. It appears that for whatever reason, be it age, fatigue, bat speed, or a flaw in his swing, Magglio is not a power hitter right now.

This is useful to consider for the upcoming series. A thirty-five year old ground ball hitter in the middle of a lineup is a serious double play threat. Since Ordonez also shows a noticeable platoon split, (.338/.401/.486 against southpaws, .281/.351/.370 against righties) manager Joe Girardi might have the perfect opportunity to use platooning to his advantage with regards to Ordonez. To sum up, the Tigers have some bats to worry about. Ordonez should not be one of them, particularly if there is a righty on the hill for the Bombers. Magglio is still a useful player, but not the difference maker he was just a couple years ago.

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=248&position=OF

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2007&month=0

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/5889/splits;_ylt=AudbfLmrh5l71l3oBIy9JPyFCLcF

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Tampa Bay Rays series preview 10/2-10/4

Tampa Bay Rays: 82-76, 3rd in the AL East.

Pitching match-ups:

Game 1: CC Sabathia vs. David Price
Game 2: Andy Pettitte vs. Jeff Niemann
Game 3: A.J. Burnett vs. Wade Davis

Hitting:

Team wOBA: .343. 4th in MLB, 4th in the AL. Tampa Bay won’t be playing deep into October this season, but the offense certainly isn’t to blame. Evan Longoria has had an excellent sophomore season, bashing thirty-two home runs to go along witha a .379 weighted on base average. Left fielder Carl Crawford is not far behind Longoria in offensive production, with a wOBA of .368 to go along with sixty stolen bases. It’s hard to believe that neither of those established stars are in the top two in wOBA for their lineup: Those honors go to Ben Zobrist (.401) and Jason Bartlett (.386.) B.J. Upton and Dioner Navarro have slumped for the Rays this year, but nonetheless, this is an excellent offense that will be among the league’s best for years to come.

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The Amazing Phil Hughes

So we all know that Phil Hughes has been incredible this year. A revelation, even. But did you know that as a reliever, he’s been the best pitcher in baseball? OK, so that’s ignoring that Hughes has only pitched 49.2 innings from the bullpen this year, and both Greinke and King Felix have both passed the 200 mark, but in our decidedly smaller, cherry picked more focused sample, Hughes’ FIP is an astounding 1.91, topping the leaderboard for relievers with more than 40 innings pitched in 2009 (these statistics, again, compiled only from his time in the bullpen).

So what’s been different? As a reliever, he’s got three pitches tracked–fastball, cutter and curve. As a starter? Fastball, cutter, curve and changeup. And the difference in effectiveness is startling:

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Onwards and upwards

Last year’s playoff no-show really drove home the understanding that we, as Yankees fans, are tremendously spoiled. The team’s previous no show, back in 1994, was prompted by the players’ strike. I was 11 years old–girls still had cooties, the card game Magic was in, and my computer (a Mac LCII, pictured to the right) had 16 Mhz. Since then, the Yankees have been on a run of dominance only challenged by the 20th century heroics of Mantle, Berra, DiMaggio and their ilk.

In the following 15 years, they have appeared in 14 postseasons (which includes this year). Along the way they’ve made it to the series 6 times, winning it all in 96, 97, 98, and 2000. Things have been pretty good since then, too. Though the mass media has attempted to annoint the Red Sox the best team of the decade–a look at the numbers gives that honor to the Yanks, and it’s not that close. The Yankees have won one fewer world championship since Y2K, but lead total wins by almost 50, playoff wins by 7, and AL Pennants by 1.

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