Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rocketing Forward

Since the Yankees and Red Sox met at the Stadium at the end of May, both clubs have played 18 games. I'm cherry picking this period simply to illustrate something interesting about the ebb and flow of a season. Both clubs have gone 10-8 since that time. The Red Sox went 6-3 to close out May and have started June 4-5. The Yankees finished May with 2 out of 3 against the Beantowners, but slumped badly with a 3-6 finish to the month. June has seen the Yankees go on a 7-2 tear, effectively making up the ground that they gave to the Sox when the deficit in the standings stood at 14.5 games.

The Red Sox opened the season going 16-8 in April and 20-8 in May. The Yankees, by contrast, went 9-14 and 13-15, respectively. Each month is a 7 game separation in the standings. This month, to date, we've made up 3 games on the Red Sox. According to BP's Adjusted Standings, we should be about 5.5 games back of the Red Sox. That is all without Rocket in the rotation. Those numbers are built on Pythagorean wins and losses, where runs scored and allowed are factored into an appropriate record. Here's where we stand today:

Red Sox
322-238 (61 games)
5.28 runs scored/gm
3.90 runs allowed/gm

Yankees
329-285 (60 games)
5.48 runs scored/gm
4.75 runs allowed/gm

Isn't there something obvious about why we're so far behind the Sox here? Runs allowed for the Sox is very very good, while it's awful for the Yankees. To translate those numbers to a 162 game schedule, you'd get the following"

Red Sox
855-632

Yankees
888-770

Lets take a look at the ERA for the Sox and the Yankees by starting rotation:

Schilling (3.49) vs. Wang (3.73)
Beckett (2.88) vs. Pettitte (3.11)
Matsuzaka (4.63) vs. Mike Mussina (5.63)
Wakefield (4.22) vs. Rasner/Igawa/Pavano/Karstens (6.43)
Tavarez (5.25) vs. Hughes/Clippard/DeSalvo/White (4.96)

Here's where the stability of Clemens takes over. Replacing the combination of 4 semi-established, Major League back end guys with Roger Clemens means that we can significantly improve our run differential with one simple, but expensive move. Even if Rocket pitches to a 4.00+ ERA, he'll be shaving runs off the prior results every week. Likewise, the #5 spot is easier to fill because you only have to plug in Clippard until Phil Hughes is ready in August some time. Clippard has been fair and has actually managed to pitch to a 3.60 ERA and .235 BAA in his 4 starts. If he improves....wow. If he regresses, we'll look to Igawa. If he turns out to be a complete bust, Cashman will figure something out. Bring up Ian Kennedy!! ;)

The other ERA that seems out of whack is Moose. He's just got to get better, even if it's only a little over a run per 9. He's not that bad. He should be able to muster a 4.50 at worst this season, which means he has a bunch of great starts ahead of him. The gap will close. The only question now is will it be enough.