Joe Girardi Strikes Again

October 19, 2010

Hi, my name is Kevin, and I think Joe Girardi is an idiot.

No, this is not a blog for recovering baseball manager haters, although I understand how you might have gotten that impression. I’m simply introducing myself because my dashboard is telling me that I am getting many, many new readers tonight. I know why that is, of course. During tonight’s Rangers-Yankees game, Robinson Cano hit a high fly ball to right field. Nelson Cruz went back for the catch, but got his glove entangled with the outstretched arms of three fans. The TBS broadcasters floated the idea of fan interference, and just like that, my hits went through the roof. I love when that happens.

But back to the main point, which is that Joe Girardi is a horrible manager. My regular readers will tell you newcomers that this is a hot button for me, and they are absolutely right. The man is a disaster. Before getting into the specifics, you need to know that I know the following:

  • the Yankees lost tonight because AJ Burnett is a crappy pitcher
  • the Yankees are behind in the series because their offense has vanished
  • the Texas Rangers are a good team

So, to be clear: it is not all Joe Girardi’s fault. But he does have control over several aspects of his team, and it is in those areas that he routinely and disastrously errs.  Read the rest of this entry »


Hold On To Your Butts

October 11, 2010

AJ Burnett will be getting the start in Game 4 of the ALCS.

You heard the man.

The Silent Killers

October 1, 2010

It is a dreadfully gloomy Friday here in New York, which means that whatever creative juices I have are simply not flowing right now. But I did want to start crossing things off my “to write about” list, and given the straightforward nature of this post, it seemed like a great place to start.

I am going to create a team of silent killers. You might think this sounds like the hackneyed premise of a John Woo movie, but you would be mistaken. When I say silent killers, I’m referring to baseball players who have consistently offered mediocre production over the course of the season. This is not a list of the worst players in baseball. The worst players in baseball are so bad that they don’t play much, so while their poor play hurts a team on a rate basis, the aggregate effect isn’t huge because they play so little. Instead, this is a list of players on competitive teams whose poor performances over hundreds of plate appearances have cost their teams those marginal wins that are so important in the standings.

If this concept sounds familiar to you, it’s because I’m blatantly ripping off Baseball Prospectus’ “Replacement-Level Killers” idea. I repeat: It’s a gloomy Friday, and this is all I’ve got.

C: Miguel Olivo, Rockies (427 PAs, .269/.315/.449)

If I were identifying the worst catcher in baseball, I would probably be writing about Jason Kendall here (.297 SLG ? Seriously?). But Kendall’s performance wasn’t the difference between a playoff spot or going home. Olivo’s wasn’t totally either, but his impotence certainly hurt the Rockies in the second half of the season. After hitting a sensational .325/.377/.548 before the All-Star break, Olivo quickly regressed to his very, very mediocre mean, hitting .193/.225/.313 in the second half. Over 427 plate appearances, Olivo has provided below-average offense (92 OPS+) for a contending team with the young, cost-controlled, and talented Chris Iannetta patiently waiting for manager Jim Tracy to come to his senses. It’s not Olivo’s fault that Tracy keeps playing him, but it is Olivo’s fault that he can’t hit.

1B: Todd Helton, Rockies (464 PAs, .259/.364/.372)

I promise that I’m done with the Rockies after this, but Helton’s play really crippled them in 2010. He started off fairly well, getting on base 37% of the time (albeit with zero power) in March, April, and May. June and July saw his OBP and SLG fall off a cliff, although they rebounded in August and September. No matter the distribution, a .259/.364/.372 line at first base is a huge competitive disadvantage, particularly in a pennant race. In May, I wrote that Helton’s OBP would keep him an acceptable starter until his power came back around. That didn’t happen. I was wrong.

2B: Skip Schumaker, Cardinals (520 PAs, .266/.330/.340)

Aaron Hill and David Eckstein are also fine candidates for this spot. But it’s tough to say that Hill’s Blue Jays were ever really contenders, and Eckstein has 42 fewer PAs than Schumaker. Although Schumaker’s offensive performance is horrid even by the meager standards of the position, the icing on the cake is his defense. You may find this hard to believe, but even though he’s a small, white, middle-infielder named “Skip,” his defense is terrible. Single-season defensive statistics can be misleading, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Schumaker has a negative total zone rating for all four positions he’s played in his career.

3B: Pablo Sandoval, Giants (607 PAs, .267/.323/.410)

Sandoval was fantastic in 2009, hitting .330/.387/.556 in 633 PAs. While his OBP drop can be largely explained by going from good luck on balls in play (in 2009) to back luck (in 2010), his sudden lack of power is pretty jarring. It would be foolish to blame only his physique for his poor play, but I do think it’s fair to say that 24-year-olds with his body type don’t have long and successful careers in MLB without a serious commitment to conditioning.

SS: Elvis Andrus, Rangers (660 PAs, .264/.341/.299)

Our first American Leaguer, Andrus second season in MLB has been fairly miserable. He was rushed to the majors last season and played brilliant enough defense that his offensive woes (.267/.329/.373) could be overlooked. Two things have changed this season. Whatever power he had – and it wasn’t much at all – has completely vanished. He has no home runs and just 14 doubles, an astonishing figure for someone with his speed who plays in Seattle and Oakland’s cavernous ballparks nearly 20 times a year. Also, depending on whether or not you believe defensive statistics, his glovework has slipped to slightly below-average this season. He can’t afford to let that continue, because his bat simply won’t play anywhere on the diamond without excellent defense.

OF: Literally everyone in the Twins’ outfield

You think I’m kidding. Take a moment to look at Denard Span’s, Delmon Young’s, Jason Kubel’s, and Michael Cuddyer’s numbers in 2010.

  • In 2008 and 2009, Span was the OBP machine that the Twins desperately needed after years of slaptastic and punchless (but gritty and pesky!) hitters atop their lineup. From a quick glance at the underlying numbers, it looks like he’s suffering from equal parts bad luck and loss of skill, but a .267/.335/.353 line in 693 PAs isn’t very good no matter how you slice it.
  • Young is, admittedly, the least terrible of this quartet. But if you look beyond the .489 SLG and 110 RBI, you’ll find that, aside from a fabulous July, he’s still basically the same hitter as he was when he was being labeled a “bust.” He’s still incredibly impatient and a disaster on defense. I urge you to look at his career UZR in the outfield, because it is truly impressive.
  • Kubel is a former righty-masher who has stopped mashing righties. He has no defensive value, no speed, and it’s looking more and more like his 2009 season was a fluke. That’s 573 PAs down the drain.
  • Cuddyer has transitioned to more of a 1B/OF/DH type, but he still has 68 appearances in the outfield and a dreadful (.272/.337/.418) batting line. Like Kubel and Young, Cuddyer is a statue in the outfield and provides little but the occasional home run.

Honestly, after looking at these numbers, I have no idea how the Twins led the AL Central in runs scored this season.

DH: Adam Lind, Blue Jays (606 PAs, .237/.287/.420)

A designated hitter that doesn’t hit. Fascinating. Just like with Jason Kubel, we must consider the possibility that Lind’s roaring success in 2009 (.305/.370/.562) was the outlier and not a new plateau.

P: A.J. Burnett, Yankees (180.2 IP, 5.33 ERA)

With all the squawking about him here in New York, it’s wrong to call him a “silent” killer. But technicalities aside, he has been brutal this season. His strikeouts are down, his home runs allowed are up, and opposing baserunners run wild on him. I’ve always been a Burnett defender, because it struck me as silly that people were expecting him – are STILL expecting him – to pitch like an ace when he’s only done so twice in his career. I’ve consistently said that if you look at his career numbers and expect that level of performance (you know, like we do with every other player in sports), his inconsistency is much easier to swallow. Well, he’s pitched worse than a fifth starter in 2010, and that is worth plenty of criticism.

Because I’m Feeling Paranoid

August 1, 2009

June 5th, 2009: New York Yankees’ A.J. Burnett suspended six games for pitch

Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett was suspended six games Thursday for throwing high-and-tight to TexasNelson Cruz earlier this week.

Cruz had homered earlier, and plate umpire Doug Eddings warned both teams after Burnett’s pitch sailed past Cruz.

August 1st, 2009: Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Garza fined for hitting Mark Teixeira

Tampa Bay right-hander Matt Garza has been fined an undisclosed amount for hitting New York Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira with a pitch.

Garza hit Teixeira in the fifth inning Wednesday night, then said he did it because he’s tired of opposing pitchers throwing at Rays All-Star Evan Longoria.

This is not consistent.

The Yankees Had A Better Winter Than The Red Sox

March 10, 2009

In recent months, I’ve taken a much more even-tempered approach to the decaying state of sports analysis. My blood pressure is very thankful for this adjustment. I smile more. I curse less. People seem to like me more, and I can still uphold Fan Interference’s fundamental goal of pointing out shoddy, lazy, or factually incorrect analysis in an effort to better educate you, the avid sports fan. That hasn’t changed, but the tone has. 

I mention this because this post will be decidedly in the “old style” tone. Jayson Stark’s recent column comparing the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ off-seasons has served as the impetus for this brief regression. The column heavily implies – if not outright asserts – that the Red Sox’ player additions are better than the Yankees’, despite the latter’s prodigious spending. It’s essentially yet another David versus Goliath analogy that, of course, sides with David (even though David is a Goliath too). To be clear, I’m not arguing that the Yankees are better than the Red Sox. I’m arguing that it’s lunacy to suggest that a team improves more by adding the current versions of John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and Rocco Baldelli than adding CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett. I am putting my fan hat back on for this post, because quite honestly, Stark’s piece got my blood boiling again. Articles like this are the reason we started this blog in the first place.

Here we go, Fire Joe Morgan-style:

Read the rest of this entry »

Yankees Had To Sign Mark Teixeira

December 24, 2008

It is important to distinguish between situations in which order does and does not matter. Sometimes, the order in which events occur reveals degrees of importance, preference, or need. Think of your high school or college days. You have two tests tomorrow. In one subject, you are thriving; in the other, languishing. The rational individual would react by studying first for the latter subject, because it is more important than the former. The marginal benefits of studying the more difficult subject outweigh those of studying the easier one. You gain more by increasing your knowledge from middling to average than you do from above-average to exemplary. This is the type of situation in which order matters.

The New York Yankees’ recent spending spree is an example of order not mattering. Brian Cashman has signed C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira this offseason – in that order. This does not mean that Sabathia was more important than Burnett, who was more important than Teixeira. This order is merely the function of a variety of factors that I cannot profess to know. I do know that the Yankees planned to improve both their pitching and their hitting this offseason. The way to do that is to improve the quality of players on the roster by Opening Day of the upcoming season. Order does not matter.

I bring this up because of the general response Teixeira’s signing has elicited. Media types and fans alike seem to be in agreement that this deal was done in the name of wretched excess. Most understood signing Sabathia. Some talked themselves into Burnett. But Teixeira? How much richer must the rich get? The implication is that Teixeira was the most superfluous acquisition of the three. This is because he was the third to be signed. This deal only seems excessive because of the order. In reality, it is the most important signing of the three. Above all else, the Yankees needed to improve their offense this winter. They needed an offensive talent like Teixeira more than they needed pitching. It just seemed like the opposite was true because of the order. Read the rest of this entry »

A.J. Burnett Is Not Carl Pavano

December 17, 2008

Since the Yankees gave starting pitcher A.J. Burnett a five-year, $82.5 million dollar contract last week, it has become popular to characterize the deal as the Yankees failing to learn from past mistakes. Many analysts and fans have immediately compared Burnett’s contract to the one Carl Pavano signed with the Yankees prior to the 2005 season. Their point, of course, is that both contracts reflect the Yankees’ propensity to reward pitchers of questionable quality and durability with contracts of too many years and for too many dollars. 

This notion is unfounded. Burnett and Pavano are significantly different pitchers, and to discuss their signings interchangeably is wrong. A cursory look at their respective careers will indeed reveal histories of injuries, but there are significant differences even within this apparent similarity. Beyond this, there are no fair comparisons. Burnett is a markedly better pitcher than Pavano was at the time of his signing. The numbers support this. This argument is not about the results of the deals, but about the decision-making process behind them. Albeit unlikely, Burnett could prove to be a worse signing than Pavano. But regardless of the outcome, the Yankees’ decision to invest in Burnett is smarter than their decision to invest in Pavano. Read the rest of this entry »