Thursday, September 13, 2007

Beasts of the East

A lot has happened this season, some of it eye-gougingly frustrating and some of it worthy of celebration. At the All Star Break the Yankees were a dismal 42-43 for the season. That's a winning percentage of .494 and a 162 game pace of 80 wins and 82 losses. Ouch. The last Yankee club that was that bad is found way back in Buck Showalter's first year with the club, 1992. That Yankee team went 76-86 and finished 4th in the division. I'm willing to bet that more than a few blog readers are either too young to remember those days and can't envision what that means in the Bronx.

The fact is, the Yankees are the highest payrolled club in American sports. Finishing out of the playoffs for a team with this kind of budget and the kind of resumes that its players boast is unthinkable. A disaster of incalculable proportions. The beauty of baseball is, the end of the season almost always meets expectations, be they individual statistics, team goals, or concessions sales. These Yankees are finding their late season correction just at the right time and have put up the best record in baseball since the break. Since early July, the Yankees are now 41-19, which is a .683 winning percentage and a 162 game pace for about 111 wins. I think it might be interesting to look at the batting and pitching lines for the key Yankee regulars to identify just how well they have played.

Jorge Posada - .359/.465/.647
Robinson Cano - .341/.400/.559
Derek Jeter - .281/.354/.376
Alex Rodriguez - .320/.441/.675
Hideki Matsui - .312/.375/.525
Melky Cabrera - .308/.355/.460
Bobby Abreu - .321/.389/.578
Johnny Damon - .279/.363/.421

I left out the rotating cast of first basemen because Phillips, Duncan, Giambi, and now Mientkiewicz simply don't have enough of a sample size to be worth examining individually. Collectively, I'd be willing to bet that the numbers are very nice, but I don't have the time or patience to sort them out. One interesting note is that Derek Jeter is by far the worst Yankee regular since the All Star Break. The average and on base percentage are substandard for Jeter, but the lack of power is startling. He's not a power guy by any stretch of the imagination, but .376 slugging is Juan Pierre territory. You know that the sluggish numbers are a product of the Captain playing through injuries for the team, but they are awful nonetheless. The notable improvements on this list are obvious. Cano and Abreu have been smoking hot and have joined Jorge and A-Rod to present a frightening combination of hitters scattered throughout the lineup. There is no safe stretch of innings for opposing pitchers. One of those guys is going to get his turn at bat every single time you take the mound.

The pitching should be interesting as well.

Chien Min Wang - 4.13 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and more hits than IP
Andy Pettitte - 3.14 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, reduced walk totals but more hits than IP
Roger Clemens - 5.06 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and more hits than IP (.299 BAA)
Mike Mussina - 6.22 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, more hits than IP (.359 BAA!!!!!)
Phil Hughes - 5.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, fewer hits than IP (.237 BAA)

Clearly, Pettitte and Wang have carried this club from a pitching perspective. Clemens and Mussina have been downright awful. At their prices, one might argue criminally awful. Phil Hughes' numbers have been deceptive. He's pitched very well for the most part. His trouble has been with walks followed by XBHs. The BAA is very nice and he's kept the ball from falling in more often than not. Ian Kennedy seems to have sorted out a spot in the rotation that covers Clemens and Mussina given any injury or ineffective pitching concerns. I wonder if he'll be carried on the post-season roster.

The concern for the Yankees in 2007 looks about the same as the end of 2006. As we appear to creep closer to a playoff spot, the offense is carrying the load, while the pitching is barely adequate most nights. In the playoffs, that mix has exposed us the last few seasons with last season's ALDS standing out above the rest. The names are there. Clemens is prime among those famous surnames. The question now will be, "Can he give us 3 more lights out starts before calling it quits?" Those starts are, of course, big games in the ALDS, ALCS, and WS. Moose is almost a guy to write off as a loss at this point, but I'm encouraged by the prospect of having Hughes, Kennedy, and Chamberlain in the pen for the playoffs to enter at the first sign of trouble.

The pen is a mess really. Who is included on a post-season roster? Bruney? Britton? Igawa? Farnsworth? Villone? Edwar? The last three names on that list would probably have to be penciled in as "yeses" based on our knowledge of Torre. The first three would qualify as "nos", with Chamberlain, Hughes, and possibly Kennedy in the mix. I wonder what you think.

Here's to a fun last couple of weeks. Go Yankees!!!


ChrisV82 said...

Normally I disagree with Joe's love of veterans and people he's "gone to battle with," but I don't think Igawa has done anything to earn a spot on the postseason roster. I don't think Igawa is a bust, not yet, there's still time, but for now, he is not a guy I want to see on the mound.

He should have spent the second half of the season in Trenton or Scranton. I really don't think he's ready to start with the team next season, so now we're looking at possibly two wasted seasons with him.

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