Peter Gammons & The AL Cy Young Race

September 1, 2010

While eating a delightful sandwich that I made for myself this afternoon, I caught a bit of Joe & Evan’s interview with Peter Gammons on WFAN. This exchange struck me as problematic:

WFAN: Would you actually consider a guy like Felix Hernandez – I know he’s 10-10, but you look at his other numbers for a bad team – would you consider a guy like that for the Cy Young, Peter?

GAMMONS: I would consider it. I just don’t think that when you look at his body of work… He’s been great, there’s no question about it. He’s got the highest quality start percentage and all that, and he leads the league in innings, which I think is very important. I take that into consideration. I think he’s there, but it’s just that there are some pitchers with really good records that have had extraordinary seasons. I mean, I think Sabathia – it’s not just leading the league in wins, it’s that consistency. He’s always there . . . I still think that right now, CC is the leader. It’s not just the wins but also what he means to that staff. He’s been the one guy all year long. They’ve run a lot of different guys in there behind him . . . I was actually thinking this morning “where is he going to sit in terms of the MVP race?”

There are some pretty obvious themes that I write about here on the blog: old school analysis versus new school analysis, scouting versus statistics, subjective arguments versus objective arguments, etc. Certainly, Gammons’ belief that Sabathia should win the AL Cy Young award could easily be turned into a classic “baseball men vs. nerds” post. I could go into detail about why Sabathia is more like the fifth best pitcher in the AL, citing statistics like WAR and xFIP along the way. But forget about all that for a moment. This isn’t about that.

My problem with Gammons’ argument is simply the inconsistent thinking behind it. Gammons likes but doesn’t love Hernandez because of his 10-10 record. We can agree that this record is largely because the Seattle Mariners stink. To be clear: it’s Hernandez’s teammates’ fault that his record is middling. Then, Gammons loves Sabathia because he’s been “the one guy” the Yankees can count on all season long. Why has Sabathia been “the one guy”? Because the rest of the Yankees’ rotation has been shaky. Sabathia shines because the rest of the starters are inconsistent or outright bad.

You probably see where I’m going with this now. Gammons isn’t into Hernandez because his teammates stink, but Gammons loves Sabathia because, well, his teammates stink.

In my vision of a perfect world, baseball analysts would routinely use advanced statistics (or at least convey advanced concepts in accessible terms) to make arguments for or against something. I would turn on ESPN News and see the league leaders in xFIP scroll across the bottom of the screen instead of league leaders in wins. But I realize that that’s unrealistic right now. In the meantime, all I want is a fundamental level of consistency when making a point, and Gammons falls short of that here.

Although if Gammons starts actively pushing CC Sabathia for AL MVP, you might see my patience deteriorate pretty quickly.


You’re A Good Man, Carsten Charles

February 19, 2010

By all accounts, Yankees starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia is a great guy and a wonderful teammate. So it comes as no surprise that, when discussing new center fielder Curtis Granderson, Sabathia said the following:

“Hopefully [Granderson] will hit like 50 homers. He’s going to be a great ballplayer for us. He was always a tough out for me.”

Because I’m me and I hate fun and anything complimentary towards anyone, I cross-checked Sabathia’s memory with And, much to my delight, I have learned that Granderson is 3 for 19 lifetime (all singles) against Sabathia with no walks and seven strikeouts – a .158/.158/.158 line.

But hey, maybe each and every one of Granderson’s plate appearances against Sabathia lasted over 10 pitches.

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 »

Francesa: CC Sabathia Sucks For Not Being Historically Great

December 10, 2008

What does one call Mike Francesa’s radio show now that Chris Russo is gone? “The Mike Francesa Show”? I have no idea. Regardless, I caught a five minute segment of it today, during which Francesa methodically and monotonously compared CC Sabathia and Johan Santana’s numbers over the last five years. His tone indicated that he was trying to prove Santana is better than Sabathia. I will not argue against this, because it is true. Furthermore, I suspect his greater point was that the Yankees could have had Santana last year, and their decision not to trade for him led to huge spending for Sabathia. He is, of course, conveniently ignoring that the Yankees would have had to give up young players for Santana, while acquiring Sabathia cost only money. But that is not what I am posting about.

Eventually, Francesa put a caller on the air, who then tried to argue that the gap between the two pitchers is not that significant. Francesa would have none of it (paraphrasing):

“Santana is an elite pitcher. I don’t use that word often. He is an elite pitcher. Your best argument for Sabathia is that he’s gotten better the last couple years. But let’s be honest – he’s not elite. He doesn’t even average a strikeout an inning!”

As a knowledgeable baseball fan, I am aware that it is extraordinarily difficult to average a strikeout an inning for one season, much less for a career. So, I was pretty sure Francesa was knocking Sabathia for not doing something incredibly rare. I checked, and I urge you to guess how many pitchers have averaged a strikeout an inning for their career. 



Six pitchers have averaged a strikeout an inning for their career. They are Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and…Johan Santana. 

There you have it. CC Sabathia sucks for not being a top five performer in a particularly difficult pitching measurement.