I've had a little time to digest the numbers I projected for Kei Igawa, and I've found something very interesting. My calculations for Matsuzaka were very close to the numbers that Clay Davenport of BR made for the future Red Sox ace, with the exception of the ERA, which came in far too low. The rest was in the ballpark.
I'll take that as a sign of confidence in the method as a rough way to gauge a Japanese pitcher's value. It's been in the ballpark in the past, and seems likely to be in the future as well. Knowing all that, I'd like to post the translated projection again, and expand upon my player comparison to show a possible predictor of Yankee value on Igawa.
You may be right, I may be crazy, but it may just be the starting guy we're looking for......
I projected the following, based on Igawa's 2006 season with Hanshin:
14-9 record (1 decision for every 9 IP)
The ERA and W/L has been adjusted up from my calculations, but the WHIP has not. We'll see about all of that. I mentioned that a possible scenario for Igawa was the 2006 campaign of Andy Pettitte. The problem with that was the AL/NL differences, and the fact that a 1.44 WHIP and .284 BAA seemed to be more of a road to disaster than I was willing to admit. I went back and looked more closely at what Pettitte accomplished in his Yankee years to see if his numbers bore any consistency. They do.
In 1998, 1999, and 2000 Pettitte pitched ERAs of 4.21, 4.70, and 4.35 respectively. He put up 80-90 walks each of those years, against 120-140 strikeouts. I'll list his important ratios below so you can see what he did.
Note that Pettitte's WHIP is consistently over 1.400 and that his K-rate is between 5.50 and 6.00 during this stretch. His ratios aren't anything remarkable to look at, really, but considering the reverence with which Yankee fans hold Pettitte, and the thought that we might bring him back to the Yankees at the age of 33-34, it's important to note. Is it a stretch to consider these numbers a fair range for Igawa? He's a lefty with numbers that translate along these very lines, if not better, and he is pitching in the same age range from which Pettitte is shown above. People who have been watching Matsuzaka have been comparing him with the finest pitchers in the world. The names Roger Clemens,Roy Halladay, Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, Jason Schmidt, Josh Beckett, Pedro Martinez, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy have been used. Igawa has not been of this caliber in Japan, despite being an ace, but then again neither was Pettitte.
The scouting report on Igawa is "good fastball made much more effective by a great change and plus slider." In 1998 SI asked MLB scouts to boil down the Yankees to a sentence or two that best describes their style of play. For Pettitte they said, "Lives on his changeup and cut fastball. Has a good curve and should use it more." Rob Neyer gave this description of Pettitte more recently: Scouting Report: "Andy Pettitte has morphed into a different guy. He's not able to overpower anybody, but he's deceptive--hitters can't see his ball. He's in and out, up and down with his fastball, and he sells his changeup well."
Finally, Stats, Inc. has a comment or two on Pettitte in his Fox Sports profile: "Pettitte throws a fastball and a cutter that is probably his best pitch. He throws the cutter to both sides of the plate and also has a good curve and a changeup, and he moves all of his pitches in and out at varying speeds. Pettitte can throw in the low 90s but rarely had his normal velocity most of last season. He depended much of the time on moving the ball in and out and trying to coax hitters into swinging at bad pitches. The Astros admired his toughness and willingness to fight through the pain."
Aside from the physical issues that Pettitte has been plagued with and which cost him his job with the Bombers, it seems that the two players are even similar types. Andy is clearly a bigger guy, but has never counted his size as one of his most important assets, considering his fastball is a cutter rather than a Clemens heater.
Pettitte's VORP during the 3 year stretch in question were:
1998 39.2 (40th)
1999 31.4 (67th)
2000 41.8 (36th)
That makes him a great sidekick and one of the strongest #2 starters in baseball. It's also MUCH better than the Lillys, Meches, and Suppans which are out there at the same money. Pettitte's player comparisons for the years between 1998 and 2000 are:
Halladay wasn't Halladay at that point in his career, as he took a little time to refine his stuff, but McDowell sports a 111 career ERA+, which was hurt by his gigantic collapse in his final four years in baseball. I defy anyone to tell me they wouldn't take McDowell's 1995 season in pinstripes from Igawa, minus the middle finger. Look at it again. Likewise, Mark Mulder has put up a fantastic career. Last year was awful, but he has experienced some injuries that have hurt him severely. His career ERA+ is 109, and I think we'd all be thrilled if Igawa put up anything resembling his final year in Oakland, which wasn't even remotely his best work. If Matsuzaka is Clemens, then Igawa may be Pettitte. I like that idea, and I'm going to stick with it until he proves me wrong.
In the end, I don't think the bar is set too high here. If Igawa does Pettitte-like work at $10-11 million a season, he'll be an absolute steal in this market. He'll also win a lot of games with the Yankees 6 runs behind him, and should he muster any of the Andy magic in the playoffs, he may become a darling son of New York. Time will tell, but I'm more and more optimistic by the day. Cashman is playing it low profile, calling Igawa "a back end starter", but I think he's well aware of the upside and is managin fan expectations and salary negotiations at the moment. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I've had a little time to digest the numbers I projected for Kei Igawa, and I've found something very interesting. My calculations for Matsuzaka were very close to the numbers that Clay Davenport of BR made for the future Red Sox ace, with the exception of the ERA, which came in far too low. The rest was in the ballpark.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I was surprised to find this morning, as I Googled "Igawa" at my desk, that the Yankees had put up $26 million dollars for the winning bid on the #2 Japanese arm on the market this offseason. At first, I thought it was too much money, and really I still do, but I think there are some logical reasons to like this move. Many Yankee fans around the blogosphere are complaining, while others are taking a wait and see approach. I'll give you my two cents on this player, from my firsthand observation of his pitching.
First, the bio on Igawa. I am going to steal the blurb written by Gary Garland over at Japanese Baseball Daily, as it is comprehensive and also comes from significant firsthand experience. (Scroll down to "Igawa" for the full listing.) Gary is a master of everything related to Japanese baseball, and you should make his site a regular visit for interesting and informative perspectives on the game over here. Sorry for the piracy, Gary.
"Biography: Started playing nanshiki ball in third grade. Reportedly joined his junior high baseball team because they didn't have a soccer program. Is still a big soccer fan today. Had an 18 strikeout perfect game (it was called after seven innings) in high school and at one point struckout 72 over the course of 42 innings and was unscored upon in 35 straight frames. Was scouted by the Mets as a schoolboy. Had some back problems summer of his senior year and didn't pitch during that time. Drafted on the second round (1997). Had control problems his first year of pro ball and set a Western League record for wild pitches in a game with four. However, as Hanshin was going down the tubes again with a crap pitching staff, then manager Katsuya Nomura asked minor league skiper Akinobu Okada who could throw hard down on the farm and Igawa ended up getting the call.
But in his first appearance, he walked three and gave up a hit and didn't record a single out. Started on Opening Day in 2002 and fashioned the Tigers first win on that day in 12 years with a complete game one run, six hit effort against Yomiuri. It was also their first Opening Day win against the Giants in 39 seasons (4/24/2001). He won 14 games that year, the first Hanshin pitcher to attain that in ten years. He also became the first Tigers moundsman to eclipse 200 whiffs since Shigeru Kobayashi in 1979. Won 12 straight during the 2003 campaign. Liked the team's dormitory so much (it was cheap and comfortable) he didn't move out until after the 2003 season. Was in such a funk during 2005 that he was actually demoted to the minors at one stage. He got absoutely drilled in the Japan Series against Lotte as well. He had lost some velocity off of his fastball after trying to add a two seamer to his arsenal and didn't recover it until late spring of 2006. Once it returned, then he started being the old Kei Igawa.
Became the first Hanshin pitcher to have five straight ten wins or more seasons since 1983 (2006). 1000th inning (8/23/2005 against Hiroshima at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium). 1000th strikeout (4/14/2006 against Hiroshima at Koshien Stadium, the 119th man to that mark). Selected to three all star teams (2001-2003). Is something of a bargain hunter (i.e., tight with a buck) and his hobbies are radio controlled toys and computer games. Is reputed to have several hundred soccer-related videos at home. Cannot drink without getting sick. He can also be a little oblivious at times off the field and he won't eat meat two days before he starts. Was angry before he made the start for what would prove to be a no hitter because he had to miss his favorite anime show, Meitantei Konan (Famous Detective Konan), which was on that night. Fastball that tops out at 92mph, decent curve ball, slider with good downward movement and his outpitch is a changeup."
I'll get into more specific scouting and analysis soon. First, I want to add to Gary's commentary with some thoughts of my own. I believe that Kei Igawa is capable of becoming a very strong #3 starter in the Major Leagues. I said as much at Matsuzaka Watch a few days before the Red Sox won Daisuke's rights, and here at COH a day before that. I've had my eyes on 6 Japanese pitchers in recent years. The first being Matsuzaka, the second being Koji Uehara, third was Kei Igawa, and more recently I've turned my attention to 3 others to be named at a later date. I used to be much higher on Igawa. At one point in his career he was terrifyingly good. He's faltered a bit in recent years, but is only going to turn 28 in the middle of the 2007 campaign and showed signs last season of jumping back to form. As a lefty, if he can recapture his form from the 2001-2003 seasons, the Yanks may have made a steal. The Hanshin Tigers are the Japanese answer to the Cubs or Red Sox. They have the most rabid and devoted fans, play in the oldest and most revered ballpark, and can't seem to win it all. The fan following alone is worth some of the posting fee.
Igawa isn't the beast on the mound that is Matsuzaka. He isn't an imposing force that intimidates hitters, or blows them away with blistering heat. He doesn't have that frightening glare that makes batters swallow hard, a la Clemens, but he has a presence. His stuff isn't electric, and doesn't make you leap out of your seat, like "What the hell was that?!" He throws hard enough(88-91 on the fastball), and has a plus plus change(78-81)that serves him well. Combine those pitches with a plus slider(80-83), and you have a solid player on your hands every 5 days. That's the up and down of Igawa. You can read a very thorough scouting report on him here.
His career stats are good. He has a 3.15 lifetime ERA, which is made to look worse by his shaky 2004 and 2005 campaigns. He has a career .235 BAA, .297 OBPA, and .288 BABIP over 190 games in 6 full seasons and change. Click the chart below for his 2006 game log, and important ratios.
You can see that his ratios were generally very good in 2006. He posted a 2.97 ERA and a 1.096 WHIP, which are better than average in the Central League. His ERA was good for 7th, and his WHIP was 5th. Igawa was 3rd in innings pitched, and 2nd in wins. 8 complete games was good enough for 2nd overall in the Central, and 3 shutouts was tied at the top with two other outstanding pitchers (Kawakami and Miura). Igawa closed out the season with a flurry of strikeouts to tie Kenshin Kawakami for the league strikeout crown. Looking more closely at his ratios, we find that he posted a .223 BAA with 8.35 K/9 and an outstanding 3.96 K/BB mark. I'm a big fan of the K/BB ratio, as regular readers may know, and I think it's worthwhile to examine what he's done in his career year by year to evaluate his combination of power and control. I did a piece at Matsuzaka Watch in which I evaluated Matsuzaka against the other top pitcher of the last generation. Igawa is one of the 10 pitchers on that list, and you should stop there to read a bit. Here are the K/BB ratios for Igawa:
Anything close to 4 is outstanding. The thing that separates Matsuzaka from virtually all other Japanese frontline pitchers is his ridiculous combination of control and power. His K/BB ratios have been skyrocketing in the Curt Schilling range for the last 3-4 seasons and topped out at 6.06 in 2006. Igawa has shown flashes of this ability too, although you'll note by his game log that he can lose the plate on occasion. Let's look at his Pitcher Abuse Points, shall we? First what are the stats we need to know:
TOT_NP = The number of pitches a pitcher has thrown in 2006.
MAX_NP = The highest number of pitches he threw in one start.
AVG_NP = The average number of pitches thrown per start.
TOT_PAP = Total Pitcher Abuse Points (NP-100)^3 where NP > 100
MAX_PAP = The single highest PAP total in one start.
AVG_PAP = The average PAP total across the full season's work.
CAT 1 = 1-100 pitch starts
CAT 2 = 101-109
CAT 3 = 110-121
CAT 4 = 122-132
CAT 5 = 133+
Stress = PAP/NP
Baseball Prospectus lists the following Major Leaguers as the leaders for 2006:
1. Livan Hernandez (4266 average, 42 Stress)
2. Carlos Zambrano (4085 average, 37 Stress)
3. Aaron Harang (3636 average, 34 Stress)
4. Jason Schmidt (3353 average, 31 Stress)
5. Dontrelle Willis (3202 average, 30 Stress)
Here is Igawa (click below):
I posted the Top 5 Major Leaguers and their stats, not to throw crazy numbers at you, but rather to show you how out of control Japan is in abusing pitchers. Igawa sports a 18,040 average and a 157 Stress. That's probably about league average. Yikes!!! Hope the Yankees give him a good physical.
I'll also throw you his MLB All Star Series numbers. It's worthwhile to see how Igawa has fared in a small sample size against Major League hitters.
The answer is......not well. He has been absolutely tattooed against Major Leaguers. Before anyone tries to look on the bright side, and say that it's unfair to evaluate him with a 4 game sample size against the best players in the Majors, Matsuzaka, Uehara, Kawakami, and Iwakuma have all shined in these series. Those are some of his most impressive peers. How he does in a real MLB situation remains to be seen, but these numbers aren't very encouraging.
The last thing I want to attack is an MLB projection, based on Jim Albright's work. He has been fairly successful with a simple set of calculations. This should be nothing more than an extremely rough sketch of Igawa's upside. He could be infinitely worse, or simply league average. I did this same process for Matsuzaka some time ago and the numbers look reasonable to me, save the ERA, which was far too low in my opinion. Clay Davenport at BP has done more fine work on Matsuzaka, and perhaps his calculations will arise yet again for Igawa. In the meantime:
I see problems with the ERA in this situation again. The calculations don't seem to pan out when I do this process, although Albright has had some success with it. The WHIP, K/BB, and K/9 resemble a few different pitchers. I'll try to list the upside, mid-range, and lower expectations by choosing 3 lefties based on these numbers.
1. CC Sabathia (3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.91 K/BB, 8.03 K/9, 44 BB, 172 K)
2. Andy Pettitte (4.20 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 2.54 K/BB, 7.47 K/9, 70 BB, 178 K)
3. Randy Johnson (5.00 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.87 K/BB, 7.55 K/9, 60 BB, 172 K)
That's a good list of players. Remember, that's if Albright's projections hold up. It's important to note that Sabathia had a .247 BAA, Unit had a .250 BAA and Pettitte in the NL sported a .284 BAA. The 2006 ERA+ for the 3 pitcher above are:
If the Yankees can manage a 2006 Andy Pettitte out of Kei Igawa, and can do so at a price of around $26 million posting, plus 4 years at $4-5 million a year, you'll be spending about $10-11 million per for Igawa at 27-28 years of age. Pettitte's 2006 salary was $16 million and change at 33-34. It's a gamble. One final word today. Looking at the two flops from the Japanese pitching ranks, Kazuhisa Ishii and Hideki Irabu, I find that Ishii was about a half to a full notch below Igawa in statistical analysis. His career ERA in the Majors was 4.44 and his career ERA+ was 91. Irabu and Igawa pitched together for Hanshin in 2003. Irabu's ERA was a full run higher. Looking at his MLB career he put up a 5.15 ERA and an 88 ERA+. If I were to use those players as a benchmark for Igawa, I'd have to say he'll post about a 4.10 or 4.20 ERA in all likelihood, and perhaps live up to Andy Pettitte's year in 2006. Hmmmmm....It's up to you to decide if that's worth the money. I'll keep you posted on more......
UPDATE: I forgot to mention before I went to sleep last night that I think the ERA for Igawa will be around 4.20, which will change the above mentioned W/L to something akin to his 14-9 over 29 starts with Hanshin. Interesting. If he makes 34 starts, he could win 16 games against 10 losses, or something in that neighborhood. Give or take.
Monday, November 27, 2006
So things are heating up with trade talks around Manny Ramirez. ESPN reports that Ramirez may be traded as soon as this week, and the suitors for his services are the Giants, Padres, and Dodgers. Things with the Orioles and Rangers are lukewarm at best and dying quickly by all accounts. The deal that the Red Sox seem inclined to take will involve prospects, much like the Yankees' deal involving Sheffield. It seems that the Sox would be getting young talent in exchange for a huge money contract, made to look reasonable by the current market, and the best hitter in the AL over the last 10 years.
This is absolute music to my ears. The Sox will be bringing in J.D. Drew at around $14 million a season to play his typical 120 games, when they could deal with Manny Being Manny at $17 million. You can't replace a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer with J.D. Drew. The impact of this situation may sink the Sox when it's all said and done. The only legit deal that they should consider, that would bring back equal value, is a deal that nabs Miguel Tejada. He would fill the void at SS with an MVP caliber bat, and replace Manny in the heart of the order. That doesn't look like it's going to happen, so barring any huge moves this winter it looks like Boston may have Drew protecting Ortiz in the lineup in 2007.
Just to cap things off, let's look at Manny's career numbers. I'll also throw in J.D. Drew and you'll see the impact right away.
Games per Season: 142 (not including 1st two partial seasons)
Games per Season: 118 (not including 1st partial season)
Manny Ramirez has career highs of .351/.457/.697 (all 2000 Cleveland), and a 190 OPS+ (2002 Boston). Drew has a fine line of .323/.436/.613 (a mixture of 2002 and 2004), and a best OPS+ of 162 (2001, Cardinals). The problem is not that Drew is a poor player. He clearly has tremendous ability in him. The problem is that he isn't Manny Ramirez, he will cost nearly as much, and he plays an average of 118 games a year (25-30 less than Manny).
The Sox are playing a +/- game of Manny vs. Drew and multiple prospects, but that game seems to be a zero sum game at best, and a flop at worst. If Drew is hurt, and the prospects never emerge as anything more than league average, it will be one of the most costly moves in Boston's long history. Over his 14 seasons, Manny Ramirez has averaged 24 Win Shares a year. That includes the two partial seasons at the start of his career. J.D. Drew has produced 16.5 Win Shares over his 9 seasons, including his 1st partial year. The last 3 seasons have seen Manny produce 29, 34, and 27 WS, respectively. Drew has produced 34, 13, and 21. It's all about health. A healthy Drew can produce 34 Win Shares, as is seen in 2004 with the Braves. An injured Drew is capable of throwing up a 13. Keep an eye on this situation Yankee fans.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Eric Neel of ESPN the Magazine called me some weeks ago and we spent about a half hour on the phone talking about Matsuzaka, and Japanese baseball. He was an engaging and friendly guy, and he's written a fantastic piece for the publication that you should check out. My name didn't make the cut in the final story, but I enjoyed the chance to talk baseball with Eric and hope to work with him in the future on another Japanese baseball story.
Give it a look, and pick up the latest edition of ESPN the Magazine at a newsstand near you.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Gary Matthews, Jr.
The Hot Stove has exploded. This is one of the most free spending off-seasons in memory, and it has only just begun. The names you see above have commanded money the likes of which the Sultan of Brunei would be envious. Let's check in with the situation:
Matsuzaka isn't even signed yet, but the Red Sox have shelled out $51.1 million to negotiate with Scott Boras. The money goes back to the Sox and Matsuzaka goes back to Seibu if nothing gets hammered out between them, but that seems highly unlikely. Matsuzaka could cost the Sox $10 million per year on the low end, based on the current market, and Boras wants a 3 or 4 year deal. That means that Matsuzaka, on the low end, would cost the red sox about $81 million over 3 years, or $91 million over 4. That's a per year expenditure of $23-27 million for a pitcher. You think the $10 million per is a stretch? Ted Lilly is seeking $9 million per. Stay away Cash Money!!!!!
Soriano cashed in on a freakishly good season by signing with the Cubs for 8 years at $136 million. That's a per year average of $17 million. I understand that the Cubs need help, and that Soriano will hit 50 home runs in Wrigley, on the high end, but $17 million is insane. He is "most similar through age 30" to Howard Johnson.
Juan Pierre is a below average player. 5 years and $45 million puts him in the same salary class as Frank Thomas, who just signed a two year $18 million deal with the Blue Jays. For the record, Pierre's career OPS+ is 86. I understand that he hits .300, steals 50 bases, and gets you 200 hits and 10-12 triples a year, but those numbers hide the fact that he also has a career OPS of .727 and the last two seasons have seen him post a .680 and .718, respectively. He is most similar through age 28 to Willie Wilson, who in turn had a "most similar career" to Brett Butler.
Gary Matthews, Jr. signed with the Angels for 5 years and $50 million. That's $10 million a season. Does anyone realize that Gary Matthews, Jr. just got the same money as Mariano Rivera? The Angels will be his 7th Major League team, and he sports a career 96 OPS+. Most of the top players in baseball are making in the $12-$15 million a season range, so you find guys like Matthews, Jr. and Edgar Renteria making $10 million per, but you still have Travis Hafner, Jermaine Dye, and Vernon Wells in single digits. Imagine what they will command in the next couple of years!!! His numbers through age 31 place him most similar to Michael Tucker.
Carlos Lee just signed with Houston for $100 million over 6 years. That's $16.5 million a season for a player who has a career similarity rating comparable to Cliff Floyd, Jermaine Dye, Mike Sweeney, Paul Konerko, Magglio Ordonez, Carl Everett, Richie Zisk, Derek Lee, Carlos Beltran, and Rondell White. At first glance, you might be willing to spend big on a guy with Dye, Lee, and Beltran upside, especially in the NL Central. On the other hand, his comparisons at age 30 are as follows: George Bell, Kent Hrbek, Raul Mondesi, Paul Konerko, Reggie Smith, Billy Williams, Derrek Lee, Dave Winfield, Jack Clark, and Greg Luzinski. Remember when comparing Carlos to Derek that Derek Lee has posted a total of ONE MVP caliber season in his career, and a collection of fair seasons the rest of the way. Lee may be good enough to justify the money, but I think the Astros just paid about $20 million too much for Lee, in terms of real value.
In fairness to the huge Yankee contracts, let's list the similarity ratings to make sure we're valuing our overpaid guys according to a more reasonable scale....
Johnny Damon = Cesar Cedeno (ROY, 4 time All-Star, 6 times in the MVP race)
Derek Jeter = Roberto Alomar (ROY, 12 time All-Star, 7 times in the MVP race)
Bobby Abreu = Bernie Williams (5 time All-Star, 6 times in the MVP race)
Alex Rodriguez = Ken Griffey, Jr. (ROY, 11 time All-Star, 10 times in the MVP race, 1MVP)
Jason Giambi = Mo Vaughn (3 time All-Star, 6 times in the MVP race, 1 MVP)
Jorge Posada = Carlton Fisk (ROY, 11 time All-Star, 7 times in the MVP race, HOFer)
Hideki Matsui = Raul Ibanez
Robinson Cano = Tony Cuccinello (4 time MVP candidate) or Tony Lazzeri (5 times)
It's clear that Damon is overpaid. Jeter, Abreu, and A-Rod are all fair value considering their comparisons. Jeter and A-Rod are comparable to Hall of Fame players, and Abreu to a guy on the fringe. Giambi and Mo Vaughn are a good comparison actually, as Vaughn also tripped over himself in New York and went out in a ball of flames. Giambi has a chance to turn it around if he can produce at close to an MVP level before it's all over, but he's way overpaid. Posada is a bargain at Carlton Fisk quality. Matsui's value would seem to be overblown, but his Japanese credentials and marketability make him worth the money. Cano is young, on a minor league contract, and draws comparisons to a Yankee Hall of Famer. He may get even better, and it's hard not to like him. As long as Cash Money stays out of this insane market, and pools his resources for Carlos Zambrano, Johan Santana, or other similarly otherworld players, the league average guys can find their way onto Other People's Payrolls. I'm not down with O.P.P., but that's just me.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The title of this post is only a mild allusion to Derek Jeter's Avon scent. You'll find some comments about the MVP snub buried somewhere deep within this post, but it's only a part of my current line of thinking. Today is about burning desire. Today is about laser-like focus and will.
In the Spring of 1996 I found myself dissatisfied with the direction of my life. Things just weren't going according to plan, and I felt as though there were loose threads everywhere. I was working hard, eating my vegetables, and thinking happy thoughts, but something was just off. The Yankees had been eliminated by the Mariners in a tough wild card series a season earlier, and while baseball wasn't on the radar in terms of my personal angst, I definitely felt hyper-attentive to the 1996 campaign, especially when pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training. It was one of those times in life that sports provides the perfect diversion for misplaced energy.
As the season closed that year, and the Yankees made their magical run, I found myself alone at home each night cheering on the Bombers and participating in a wild roller coaster ride of October drama. I was high when the Yankees were high, and low when they were off the mark. In retrospect, it probably wasn't such a healthy thing to project my personal stress on baseball. Had the Yankees lost, I think I would have been extraordinarily depressed. But they did win. I rode the wave to the crest and shouted at the top of my lungs. I remember clearly when Charlie Hayes caught the last out and gripped his glove tight, I beamed...and I felt a great rush of power that permeated my very being. After 15 years, it was over. I was 10 years old when the Bombers had last triumphed as world champions, and the weird sports void that my adult life had possessed was suddenly gone. Red Sox fans must have experienced this emotion to the 100th power in 2004.
The subsequent championships were sweet. They were jewels in the crown we'd won back in '96. Each title that followed was more affirmation than revelation. 1998 was my favorite baseball season in history, and will likely stand as my single favorite ballclub of all time, until the day I day. I would take a big act to top that one. The thing is, the current drought of 6 seasons is beginning to be similarly trying to the 15 years between 1981 and 1996. It's less than half the time, but nearly double the strain. Here are a few reasons why:
1. The Budget
No one will let us forget that we have, by far, the highest budget in baseball every year. Even though the Red Sox, Cubs, and Mets, among others, are also spending vast sums of money, and shooting the moon on player expenditures when compared to the rest of the sport, they are given a pass because of the Yankees. The Sox spend on Matsuzaka's bidding and their fans have the nerve to duck and dive, hiding behind some intellectually superior veil of market trends, economic models, and diversified interests. The next Yankee free agent splash will undoubtedly be accompanied by the familiar cries of, "There they go again, those damn Yankees."
2. The Jealousy
Yankee fans are arrogant. Yankee fans feel a sense of entitlement. Yankee fans are the most annoying and unbearable people on Earth, next to the Taliban....maybe. That's what you'll hear from fans around the country. There are plenty of people that resent the success of the Yankees. Yes, there are plenty of fans wearing the interlocking "NY" that rub it in, and make the whole thing worse, but I'm sure the spite would exist without them. It's a biproduct of success. People hated on the Celtics and Lakers in the 80s. They hated on the Bulls in the 90s. The Yankees have worn the bullseye for decades. It's not the ire of haters that annoys me.
What annoys me is the blame that is tossed around at the Yankees for the things that are wrong in the sport. The Yankee payroll, as I discussed above, is a strike against the image of the team, but the jealous owners and writers around the country use the whole thing to their advantage. It's a kind of propaganda campaign that drives fan anger in the direction of the Henry Hudson Parkway. The Royals owner won't spend, but it's the Yankees fault that they haven't been competitive in a generation and a half. Likewise, the national media loves to focus on the failures of the Yankees. There is so much local media attention in New York that spills over into the media outlets stationed in the Big Apple that the backlash is palpable. Many of the beat writers that follow the Yanks work for papers that are in a blood war for circulation. That war is fueled by sensational headlines on the back page. If the Post can generate more controversy by, say, shitting on A-Rod every other day, people will read, get fired up, and buy more papers.
The national folks pick up on all this and feed the masses of Yankee haters with plenty of the bloody scraps left on the floor of the cage. ESPN is particularly bad when it comes to this, as they are a tight bunch of Red Sox fans looking to give the Bombers a swift kick in the ass. Anyone who follows SportsCenter knows the one week long celebrations that follow a David Ortiz walk off home run. They aren't the only ones though. There are plenty of beat writers for other teams, in other cities, that have such a chip on their shoulders that they will vote against Derek Jeter in the MVP ballotting, just out of spite. Many of them will make their case for another player, in an attempt to divert attention from their card-carrying Yankee Hater-ship, but it exists. It's out there. Not all the votes that went against Jeter are of this nature. I don't want to paint it as a conspiracy theory. If a guy votes for Joe Mauer, he has my respect. If Santana gets the vote, I'll reluctantly agree that it's probably deserved. But, you have less conspicuous members of the media like the ridiculous Joe Cowley, who voted Jeter sixth.
3. The Stars
With a team full of famous players, with long records of Hall of Fame credentials, it seems ludicrous that we haven't won a title in 6 years. The team is worth a billion dollars, the payroll is through the roof, and everyone from 1-9 on the roster is an All Star. The pitching is the problem, but even so it's not like we're throwing a bunch of AA guys out there night in and night out. It's difficult to swallow that this kind of Dream Team isn't able to slug its way to one championship in six years. The frustration of the fans is made exponentially worse by this fact. I think it's one of the main factors in the A-Rod hatred and subsequent booing. If the Yankees are spending all this money on famous Hall of Famers that can't deliver a title, they shoud be roundly booed, or so the thinking goes. That booing is directed at the most famous Hall of Famer on the roster, who also happens to be the most highly paid. Fan booing is WAY out of control in all sports, but it starts in the Bronx.
Fans pine for the Scott Brosius era, as if his .307 OBP and 15 home runs are the answer to our shortcomings. The answer is Johan Santana, or someone of his ilk. He's not available, yet, and the Yankees are going to have to play with the army that they have, to quote a famous monster. They can win. They're close every year, and they just might pull it off one of these days.
The point in writing all this is that I'm focused, as a fan. I'm so razor sharp focused on the 2007 campaign that there's no way the Yankees can fail. I'm going to will it to happen. I'm so tired of the talk of our payroll, while other teams get a pass. I'm fed up with the haters and the ultra-biased media, both local and national. I'm finally on the side of all those overpaid stars. They are busting their asses to win, whether we see it in their eyes or not. I believe in them and my belly full of guts tells me that they're going to silence the critics and emerge on top in 2007. My life is in a much better place now than it was 10 years ago. My son will be born in about a month, and life is sweet. The thing is, there are too many things on my back, as a Yankee fan, that I'm going to shake off like a wet dog. Yankee haters out there beware. The irresistable force that is the New York Yankees is about to be unleashed. Who's with me?
Monday, November 20, 2006
A few interesting news items to comment on today. The first big position player of the 2006 free agent class has been signed. Alfonso Soriano, a personal favorite, has agreed to an 8 year, $132 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. That is ridiculous, stupendous money. $16.5 million a season is a big sum, and the Cubs are one of the few teams that can dole it out like candy. Finally, they're opening their wallet for their fans. It's a good move actually. The money is stupid, but Wrigley is home to the longest championship drought in the Majors, despite one of the deepest bank accounts. May as well try to buy one.
Soriano will likely shift to center field at Wrigley. He will do fine at that position, as he showed himself quite capable of playing an exceptional outfield last season, leading the Major Leagues with 22 outfield assists. I have always loved the kid, and he'll be a Yankee to me until the day he retires. I think the people in Chi-town will appreciate his dynamic style of play, and he ought to hit a ton of home runs in the friendly confines of Wrigley. Watch out for the ivy and brick out there Sori.
The other signing of note is the 2-year deal that the Dodgers struck with Nomah. It looked unlikely that the Yankees had a shot to relocate Garciaparra to the Bronx, but it was worth a wish or two. At this point, Shea Hillebrand appears to be the frontrunner to play first for the Bombers next year. I'm not mad at that, but it doesn't thrill me either. It seems unecessary. Read my post about Rich Aurilia from yesterday to see how I feel about the Yankees spending on a mediocre corner infielder.
The All Star Game appears to be headed for Yankee Stadium in 2008. That ought to be a hell of a send off to the greatest sports facility in the history of the world. I know it's not exactly the House that Ruth Built, after the 1970s renovations, but it has played host to 26 World Champions and has seen the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Berra, Mantle, Maris, Reggie, Jeter, and Mariano Rivera play on its hallowed grass, among others. Knowing the significance of the that season, you can bet that the Yankees are going to go into 2008 and 2009 with a HUGE push for a title, one for the old stadium and one for the new. Johan Santana may be comin' to town......
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I realize that this is the 2nd post in a day which features a "do not" sign mark on a player's picture. The Yankees are looking at Rich Aurilia to play the role of full time right-handed firstbaseman next season. Along with Jeff Suppan, I have to say that this is another troubling sign for Yankees fans. Suppan just plain stinks. He's worthless to a team hoping to win an AL division, and by all accounts the Yankees are cooling on him. Likewise, I hope the Yankees cool on Aurilia. There is no reason in the world that a team worth a billion dollars should field a player with a below 100 OPS+, unless he is a young player from within the organization.
Rich Aurilia has a career OPS+ of 103, but last season was the only time since 2001 that he was above 100. I don't think he's likely to repeat that feat in the American League at the age of 35. Why? Oh Lord, why? Brian Cashman, please tell me why I'm reading this.
I'd be more inclined to try Shea Hillenbrand at 1st than Aurilia, although there's a lot of baggage that goes along with him. He can play multiple corner infield positions, and has succeeded in the AL East in the past. That idea doesn't thrill me either though. The guy that the Yankees should be looking at is Kevin Millar. Defensively he'll leave something to be desired, but he sports a career 117 OPS+, a career batting line of .287/.366/.472, and knows the Yanks/Sox rivalry intimately. I know it's yet another Red Sox "idiot" that we'd have to "cowboy up" some cash for, but it would be sweet if he hit a homer off Matsuzaka to give us the season series or something. That OBP mark is difficult to match in the FA marks.
Garciaparra is the sexiest option, as he'd complete the Jeter, A-Rod, Nomah infield that Big George would smile at. He's also got the biggest upside, by far, although health is an issue. It's also more likely that he'll stay with the Dodgers than anything else. Garciaparra is the one guy in all of the sport that I would give the thumbs up to Cashman for spending on. Otherwise, I'd be just as content to stand as is until the season begins and we see where the holes emerge. We have the chips to make a trade in the event we have a disaster on our hands, and probably don't need to do anything to score 6 runs a game.
My ideal plan, that won't happen, is move Damon to first and let Melky play center. Next year go out and add Ichiro. You'll see Aurilia in pinstripes next year though, and we'll all roll our eyes.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The talk of the offseason has been pitching, and rightly so. There isn't a big name slugger out there this year to capture headlines, and the pitching ranks are also thin. With the lack of supply to meet the always voracious demand, the big name pitchers who are sitting out there are getting a lot of attention. The mid-range pitchers are even set to cash in, with some silly team overpaying for league average results. It's the kind of market that has prompted the Yankees to lose their minds in the past on players like Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown. Not this year, or at least it would appear that the Yankees are staying out of it.
Pitchers are a lot like cars. Even the Rolls Royce and Ferrari varieties depreciate the moment you drive them. If you or I were to go out looking for a car, we'd be on a budget. Such is also the case for Big League GMs and their pitching rotations. While the Royals and Pirates are working on a Chrysler "Town and Country" budget, the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox are working with Bugatti Veyron 16.4 level money. The Red Sox have launched the initial volley with a $51.1 million bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka that has blown a hole in the side of the GMs budgets for pitching contracts on the remaining free agents. The fact that the Sox bid was more than $13 million more than the 2nd place Mets, and about $18 million more than the Yankees shows that they misread the market horribly. Speculation has arisen that the Red Sox were operating with information that the Yankees intended to bid $50 million, and the $1.1 million tagged on was insurance against the Bombers. Silly.
The remaining big boys are generally listed as Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt. Hardly an awe inspiring duo, although Zito is a former Cy Young winner and by all accounts a fine left-handed starter. Schmidt is also very good, but his value is inflated far too much this year with the void of prospects in the veteran ranks. His NL pedigree also is enough to scare off half of the GMs in baseball. Where do teams with needs turn? The Yankees situation is enough to answer that question. The answer is stand pat.
I am proposing that the Yankees spend only a bare minimum if they plan to acquire a starting pitcher. Actually, I'm advocating no free agent spending at all in 2007. It's unecessary. Here's why:
Chien Min Wang
The worst case scenario is that Wang isn't as good, Mussina is spotty and occasionally ineffective, Johnson is fragile and similarly ineffective, Pavano is a non-factor, Proctor doesn't translate to a starting role, Rasner is bad, Chamberlain isn't ready, Karstens is bad, Sanchez is injured, and Hughes never arrives. That's terrifying, but no more so than any other team in the Majors.
The best case scenario is Wang is as good as he was last year, plus an improved strikeout rate. Mussina turns in another 125 ERA+, Johnson rebounds from surgery refreshed and effective to the tune of a 3.75 ERA. Pavano finally pitches and checks in at a 4.00 over 32 starts. Proctor remains as a reliever as Darrell Rasner is better than advertised. That's sunny and optimistic.
What I expect in 2007 is the following:
Wang posts a similar season to 2006, with a few more Ks, and a slightly higher ERA. Mussina will also repeat his 2006. 2004 and 2005 looked bad for Moose, but his 2006 showed that the prior inconsistency was a result of some nagging injuries that he was freed from at the start of last year. I think he'll be healthy again this season and post his career numbers, to the tune of a 3.63 ERA and a 125 ERA+. Johnson will take longer to return from back surgery than expected, but will benefit from a cautious approach. He will keep his ERA at 4.00 and give the Yankees some solid outings against the weaker teams in the league, and post RJ numbers just a bit worse than 2005. Pavano will actually pitch this year, but will be up and down. One good game, one stinker. The 5th spot will be Rasner out of camp, as he'll win the job. By mid-season you will see Phil Hughes come up to replace either Pavano or Rasner in the rotation.
When you look at it, the rotation should look almost exactly like the 2004 Yankees. That team started Johnson, Mussina, Wang, Pavano, and the combination of Brown, Wright, Chacon, Small and Leiter. This year, Wang is better and so is Mussina. Johnson is worse, but Pavano is back. The #5 options seem stronger and younger. It wouldn't surprise me to see the following results:
Wang (117 ERA+)
Mussina (125 ERA+)
Johnson (110 ERA+)
Pavano (95 ERA+)
Rasner (100 ERA+)
Compared to the following Red Sox prediction, I think we have a great chance again:
Schilling (125 ERA+)
Beckett (105 ERA+)
Matsuzaka (115 ERA+)
Papelbon (125 ERA+)
Wakefield (100 ERA+)
This is pure speculation, but Schilling should be good for the most part, Beckett has produced one great season in his career, in the NL, and there's no evidence that he can do more than slightly above average in the AL East. Matsuzaka is a crapshoot, but I think he'll be anywhere between a 140 ERA+ and the number I put up there. I went conservative. Papelbon has never shown anything but dominance, if he can stay healthy as a starter, and I think he should match anyone in either rotation. Wakefield is a stop gap pitcher. If both Matsuzaka and Papelbon find their upsides, the Yankees will be in trouble. The Sox will have the far superior rotation, especially if the Yankees aging rotation falters. The question here is not will the Sox rotation be better than the Yankees, as it appears there's a very good chance it will be, but rather is there anything the Yankees can do about it? The answer is yes, if you want to splash on Zito, but no if you don't. If you can win the Kei Igawa bidding for a reasonable number, he should be no worse than a #4 in the AL. That's one other option at the right dollar figure. ($10 million for the posting, and $15 million over 3 years?)
I don't want to spend on Zito because the free agent class of 2007 is FAR superior to this 2006 crop. Think about it. Carlos Zambrano, Chris Carpenter, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, John Smoltz, Ichiro Suzuki, Andruw Jones, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez, Michael Barrett, Francisco Cordero, Trevor Hoffman, Joe Nathan, plus our own Jorge Posada, Bobby Abreu, and Mariano Rivera. I'm sure most of those players will be signed to their current clubs before the end of the season, but there will be an opportunity to spend big money on actual star quality players. Yeah, but Mike what if none of those players are available to the Yankees? What if the Red Sox make a run at the pitchers and beat us to the punch? They need to replace Schilling and Wakefield?
That's all true. It's an all out spending war with Boston now. Fortunately, we seem to be matching them with our minor league pitching prospects, have a more well-rounded lineup, and in the end can outspend them if we choose. I never factored Phil Hughes into my 2007 rotation discussion. Joba Chamberlain is pitching lights out in Hawaii. Dellin Betances has the potential to be a freakish pitcher in the Majors. If any of those players becomes ready over the next few years, we'll be at least even with the Red Sox. That's enough to dissuade Cashman from overspending on guys in the free agent market, unless they are proven aces. Zito is on the fringe of that evaluation, and I don't think he's worth the money.
If you don't spend on Zito and get one of the big name guys in 2007, you could be looking at the following rotation:
That will be as good as anyone. In 2008, Johan Santana looms large. Minnesota will lose him because they can afford to pay $25 million a year for one player. The Yankees can. There is also the possibility that Cashman can work a trade. If the Yankees are willing to part for a few top prospects, not named Hughes, an ace can likely be had. There are many options. No need to go overboard. I'll keep an eye on this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
A quick note to those of you depressed, disappointed, or disgusted about the Red Sox insane bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka. I have started project #2 in my efforts to bring a top Japanese pitcher to the Yankees. That pitcher is Koji Uehara of the Yomiuri Giants.
Uehara is Japan's other ace. He is Greg Maddux to Matsuzaka's Pedro Martinez. Uehara is not the otherworldly talent that is Matsuzaka, but he is a top caliber starter that will come to the US in the 2007 offseason as a FREE AGENT. While there may be a number of teams ready to pay him big money, I would argue that the Yankees have the best shot. His former teammate is Hideki Matsui, and the Yankees have a working relationship with the people at Yomiuri. If you don't believe me look at our outfield wall and see for yourself. I won't use much space at the Canyon to hype him, but I'll let you know when there's a new piece at Uehara Watch. It's making it's debut, and you can check in to see what I've got cooking today.
Help is on the way next year!
Monday, November 13, 2006
....is another man's treasure. Cash Money pulled another miracle out of his bag of tricks, by dumping the trash and getting a very useful pitcher in return. Jaret Wright was on the Yankees' endangered species list, and was scheduled for termination. Instead of buying him out and dropping him completely, essentially we bought him out and got a nice young pitcher in return.
Chris Britton may be doing his best Chris Farley impression, but he can pitch. If he gets his weight under control and continues to improve, there's yet another good arm to count in our fold. It's almost like Cashman is building an indestructable army of supermen, bent on world domination. We may not get Matsuzaka, but we can sew the spare parts of all the pitchers together and build one monstrosity of a player!!! Just don't take Pavano's guts, Johnson's back, or Britton's belly.
What's Dr. Frankenpitcher got up his sleeve next?
Friday, November 10, 2006
Gary Sheffield is a Tiger. He's reunited with Jim Leyland, and has a new contract through 2009. That's the big news as the Yankees wait to hear about Matsuzaka. It's actually very big news and it has good points and bad points.
The bad point of this situation is that Sheffield is a very good player, and he's no longer on the Yankees. His bat was terrifying and promises to stike fear in the hearts of AL pitchers for a few more years to come, bad wrist notwithstanding. That bat didn't go to the NL, but instead to the team that knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs. The Yankees have made a new and tough rival, even tougher. With their pitching and young players on the field the Tigers should compete in a very strong AL Central for the next few years. That means the wild card will come from that division, in all likelihood, and the Yankees will HAVE TO win the AL East to make the playoffs. All of that is dependent on Sheffield staying healthy.
The good point is the young arms that came back to New York in the deal. One of the arms was lights out at AAA, while the others are still at A ball. The trio looks very good, and the Yankees continue to stock up on young arms for the future. Buy your bats, and raise your arms. That is the formula for big success.
More on the minor leaguers when I can tell their stories completely. See you on the flip Sheff. We'll miss your 2500 career foul home runs, and your Fenway Fists of Fury.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Nothing yet on Matsuzaka, as of 3:30pm Japan time. It has been announced that Hanshin Tigers lefty Kei Igawa will be allowed to pursue a Major League contract via the posting system after several years of requested transfer. Igawa is the 3rd player to be posted in 2006, after Matsuzaka and Yakult Swallows' thirdbaseman Akinori Iwamura.
Igawa is a fine pitcher with a shot at being a very good #2 or #3 pitcher in the Majors. If the Yankees are unsuccessful in their bid for Matsuzaka, or even if they are successful for that matter, they should look into acquiring Igawa at a far lower price. He's going to come in under the radar thanks to the Daisuke hype. He's also a far better option than Jeff Suppan or Jaret Wright. Keep your eyes peeled.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Less than a week from now, we'll know the destination of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Fans from all walks are absolutely rabid over the prospect of this young Japanese ace joining their favorite club. There are questions to be sure, and many a GM is asking himself those very questions. Will he translate to the Major Leagues? Will the tremendous number of pitches he's thrown at the young age of 26 affect him negatively in the near future? Can anyone justify an out of pocket expenditure of $20 million a season for one foreign pitcher?
Those debates are raging internally in the Yankees offices, as they would seem to be elsewhere as well. The Mariners, Dodgers, Angels, and Orioles have already answered those questions for themselves by all accounts. The money is best spent on multiple players to plug multiple holes. I can't argue with that line of thinking. The Mets and Yankees look to be major players in the bidding, along with the Rangers and Cubs. The Red Sox have been quiet, but you have the distinct feeling that Theo Epstein is about to make a major move. For those teams that can afford him, what are the stakes?
For the Yankees and Red Sox the stakes are clear. If one of those teams should acquire him, and should he be a true #1, the other will be devastated. If he doesn't measure up, the team that lays off will have money in the coffers to pursue more proven pitching. The Yankees and the Mets share the additional dynamic of the tabloid exposure of New York. If one of those teams wins out over the other, a line will be drawn in the sand. Who wields the most influence in New York, the Yankees or the Mets. The Mets are doing a very good job of redefining the market with Omar Minaya's bold maneuvering.
The Cubs need help. 99 years without a title. More money than anyone else. Restless, if eternally loyal, fans. If they could ever put together a complete team, they's have a very good chance. They need more than one pitcher though. They have some arms, if they can stay healthy. They need some bats desperately. Word is, they may bid the moon for Matsuzaka, but I don't think even the great Daisuke will cure the Cubs woes. The Rangers need a marquee pitcher in the worst way. They haven't had a real #1 since Nolan Ryan, and they don't figure to be in the running for any of the free agents on the market. Matsuzaka sits out there a ripe plum to be picked. If they win his rights, he almost has to pitch for them. Hicks WILL overpay. The stakes are high in Texas.
If you ask me, I believe the stakes are highest for the Yankees with both the Sox and Mets in the running for this player. They've hired Matsuzaka's high school teammate as their Asian scout. They have Jean Afterman on their side to master the Japanese market. She has a very long relationship with the Japanese market and helped to bring Matsui to the Bronx. She's been to Japan 3 times this year to work on this situation. I'm a bit worried about the Mets beating us out at this point. The Japanese papers are reporting some debate among Yankees' brass about the sense of spending big on Matsuzaka, and while I believe that Cashman will ultimately make an aggressive move, the Mets and Rangers appear to be almost rabid about acquiring Daisuke. Don't be surprised to see him in orange and blue.
I was asked by Mike Axisa of Pending Pinstripes, over at the Most Valuable Network, to write up a piece on Matsuzaka. Swing over there and check it out. I'll be active at Matsuzaka Watch this week, so head over there too. If anything is happening, I'll be on top of it. See you later. Go Yankees.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Jeter doesn't deserve MVP because he didn't cuddle with A-Rod. That's the crux of Phil Taylor's absolutely hack piece at CNNSI.com. It's a load of horseshit. Jeter can be criticized for a lot of things, on or off the field, if a person should so choose. It would be silly, in my opinion, as he stands for everything that is wholesome about the game, but there is something that he could be knocked for.
A-Rod being soft is not one of them. A-Rod is A-Rod. Jeter is Jeter. Why a guy who goes out every night and plays the game the right way and has done more for the Yankees franchise than any player since Mickey Mantle, deserves to be the subject of an amateurish hit and run piece is beyond me. That's the mainstream media for you. Invent controversy, sell papers.
Thanks Phil Taylor. I needed something to line my electronic birdcage with.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Just an hour ago I completed the GRE. I'm back in my Tokyo hotel room kind of tired and my brain isn't really able to wrap itself around the results yet. In the previous post, mehmattski wrote some very good remarks in the comments section. I just read them now, and I'm marvelling at how his experience matched my own.
mehmattski wrote that he ran out of time on the math section. Guess what. Today I was kicking ass to start the math and seemed to be progressing at a very nice rate of success. For those of you unfamiliar with the computer based exam, it gets harder as you answer correctly, and easier when you make a mistake. The end score is some matrix of your totals answers right and the level of difficulty that everything averages out to. The questions got tougher, and I took more time to answer. I could see the little clock on the screen showing me falling behind the pace to finish in a decent amount of time. There was nothing I could do. The problems required reading, translating data to my scratch paper, computations, translation of those computations in to other computations, and then answering on the computer. I was able to do everything. It wasn't an issue of ability, but rather the pace I was able to accomplish the tasks. By the end I saw the little flashing clock in the upper right hand corner flashing....mocking me. There were six questions left and almost no time to even attempt to do any of them. What's worse, the problems that were coming up were graph and chart problems that require a lot of careful reading. No time. I had to click randomly to get all the answers tallied before the clock expired. A blank is infinitely worse on the GRE than a wrong answer. How did it turn out? Good and bad.
The good news is despite guessing on 5 or 6 of the 30 questions, I didn't pull an A-Rod. (Just kidding). The bad news is, I scored a 620 on the math, which is league average (50 percentile) for all test takers. It's like a pitcher with a 100 ERA+, or a zero on the VORP.
The verbal is the important part. I'm not trying to enter an engineering program or a science department. I'm interested in studying Media, Culture, and Communications. Verbal would be my savior. I'd been scoring around a 700-720 on the math, and on the verbal a 650-680. The verbal section is far more difficult by all accounts, and a score in the high 600's or low 700s is between 90 and 99 percentile. I thought I was kicking the things ass, and I ended up with a 650. That's a very nice score, but I'm still a bit disappointed. It's 91st percentile, but I'd been shooting for about 97. I'm trying to get into MIT, Brown, NYU, and Fordham. With those scores, MIT is a longshot at best. Brown is on the bubble. NYU (my real 1st choice) may be possible, and I think Fordham should be a shoe-in. The Analytical Writing section is the 3rd part of the score, and I teach Analytical Writing. I know I aced it.
So, you wonder what the title of this post means. The 2006 Yankees look good going down the stretch, and so did I. I rounded out my practice tests with a 700 math and a 720 verbal. Like the Yankees, I was beaten. My scores don't reflect my true ability, but there's no turning back. I'm left with a feeling of emptiness. Not sorrow, or disappointment, but simple emptiness. All that's left is my applications, recommendation letters, personal statements, transcripts, and Daisuke Matsuzaka in pinstripes. See y'all later.