Notes From A Delightful Comeback

May 18, 2010

At one point tonight, the score was 9-7 Red Sox following back-to-back home runs allowed by Yankee reliever Chan Ho Park. It felt like fate that I would end up blogging angrily but hopelessly about how poorly current managers use their bullpens. But then, because God is good and evidently a Yankee fan, Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames hit homers in the bottom of the ninth inning, thereby neutering my frustration and rendering me incapable of arguing with the fervor that I originally possessed. Instead, before I go to bed and while I fight this bug I’ve picked up, here are seven notes of varying lengths and importance:

  • Try as I might, I can’t totally ignore the fact that this game featured yet another prime example of all that’s wrong with modern bullpen management. With the Yankees up 7-6 entering the top of the seventh inning, Joe Girardi chose Chan Ho Park to relieve Boone Logan. No problems so far, since the Red Sox were sending solid but not spectacular Darnell McDonald, Marco Scutaro, and Dustin Pedroia trio to the plate that inning. Park, who had just come off the disabled list, managed to retire the side with little difficulty. The top of the eighth inning rolled around, and the Yankees still led 7-6. Of course, now the Yankees had to face the heart of the Red Sox order – J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Victor Martinez. I then tweeted the following: “Leaving Park in here to face the middle of the Red Sox order would be a huge mistake, in my opinion. Let’s see what Girardi does.” Girardi left Park in, and one single and two home runs later, the score was 9-7 in favor of the Red Sox, and Park was walking off the mound to a chorus of boos. I will keep my point fairly brief. One day, a manager will look at this situation and decide to bring in his “closer” because he will realize that this situation – a one run game against the heart of the order – is when the game needs “saving,” not simply when the number in the innings column or box or whatever says “9.”  A manager will deploy his team’s Mariano Rivera or Joe Nathan or whomever he deems to be the team’s best reliever and say to him “this is the game right here, go get ’em, and we’ll use [second-best reliever] against the bottom of the order in the 9th.” And more often than not, that move will be the correct one.
  • Marcus Thames has been an absolute abomination in the field this season, so bad that I become uncontrollably nervous even when he settles underneath the laziest of fly balls looking into the clearest of skies on the stillest of nights. But provided he never sees the field again once Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are both fully healthy, he’s been quite an addition to the team. For a whopping $900,000, Thames has hit .414/.514/.621 against lefties and .263/.348/.263 against righties. Even when the former set declines, it will be hard to say that he wasn’t worth the money. $900,000 isn’t a lot of money to any team in baseball, much less the Yankees, and he’s been worth half a win so far this season. Money well spent, I’d say.
  • Going into tonight’s game, Alex Rodriguez’s career line in “close and late” situations was .279/.380/.540. His overall career line is .304/.389/.574. Clutch God Derek Jeter’s career line in “close and late” situations was .293/.388/.422. His overall career line is .316/.387/.458. We can all agree to never again say that Rodriguez is an un-clutch choker, right? Right.
  • Javier Vazquez throw four pitches in the game, striking out Kevin Youkilis with runners on first and third in the top of the ninth inning. He got the win. What a meaningful statistic.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka entered the game with a 6.35 ERA. After allowing seven runs in 4.2 innings, his ERA is now 7.89. Is it too early to say that his signing has been an enormous bust for the Red Sox? The hype surrounding this guy was unbelievable in 2007. He was supposed to be a rubber-armed, ultra-competitive, flame-throwing ace. He purportedly threw at least 16 types of pitches, some of which could – separately, of course – cure cancer, defy gravity, clean up oil spills, and figure out what to do with the other arm while spooning. Teams went nuts bidding for this guy, but none more so than the Red Sox, who shelled out $51 million to negotiate with him. Now he’s owed $8 million this season, and $10 million in each of the next two, bringing the total amount invested in him to $103 million. Going into tonight’s awful start, he’s been worth eight wins since his debut. That’s $12,875,000 per win. There’s still time to make the contract acceptable, but it’s hard to say that the trend is encouraging.
  • The older I’ve gotten, the harder it’s been for me to muster up those youthful feelings of contempt for or ill will towards members of the Red Sox. But if there’s anyone who can bring that version of me out of retirement, it’s Jonathan Papelbon (especially when he’s blowing a save in spectacular fashion). That I got to see Kevin Youkilis fall on his keester and Dustin Pedroia impudently complain about a bang-bang play at first was the icing on the cake.
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Michael Kay Did Not Look This Up

August 19, 2008

During tonight’s Yankees-Blue Jays game, the YES Network flashes the Red Sox-Orioles score. Michael Kay mentions Daisuke Matsuzaka’s 14-2 record this year, but calls it “shaky.”

I agree. This is good.

Kay then explains it is shaky because Matsuzaka “walks six batters a game.”

Having looked at precisely zero statistics and without the advantage of preparation, I am 100% positive this is wrong.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched 121 2/3 innings this year, in which he has allowed 72 walks. Basic number-crunching reveals that he allows 0.59 walks per inning, and 5.31 per 9 innings. Mind you, 5.31 BB/9 does not mean Matsuzaka walks 5.32 per game, which would be somewhat close to what Michael Kay is saying. It just means that if he were to regularly pitch a complete game, he would allow 5.31 walks.

Kay is arguing that Matsuzaka allows six walks per start. Matsuzaka has started 21 games this season, which means on average he pitches 5.79 innings per start. This means that he allows 3.41 walks per start, which means that Michael Kay is wrong.

I am going to dance on Kay’s grave a little bit more. Let’s ignore the fact that every reputable baseball website shows that Matsuzaka’s BB/9 is less than six, rendering Kay’s statement mathematically impossible. Let’s focus more on the fact that spending 30 seconds looking at Matsuzaka’s game log shows that he has walked six batters or more in three starts this season. Therefore, Kay’s statement has been true 14.28% of the time this season.


Matsuzaka’s Fat Will Lower His ERA, And Other Assorted Double-Standards

March 11, 2008

I don’t understand this:

2. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox. Matsuzaka surprised the Red Sox by reporting to camp heavier than last year. He explained he enjoyed his best seasons in Japan when he carried more weight. Perhaps Matsuzaka also is better prepared for the grind of the longer major league season, which took its toll on the right-hander over the final two months of last season.

Maybe it’s true. Maybe Matsuzaka’s success really is directly proportional to his weight. I don’t know, although I’d love to see some numbers on this. It just irks me that the Red Sox seemingly get a pass for things like this. Call me a paranoid and delusional Yankees fan; that’s fine and probably true. But I implore you to hear me out on this. If any other high-profile pitcher in baseball did this, there would be questions about his dedication and work ethic. If not, it certainly wouldn’t be passed off as a good thing. It just always seems to be something with the Red Sox. Does anyone remember Josh Beckett (and subsequently, Peter Gammons) blaming a blister flare-up on a defective baseball? Does anyone remember the Red Sox saying Matsuzaka struggled because he couldn’t adapt to his new American mattress? It’s unbelievable.

Anyway, I would like to close with the following reminder. Red Sox don’t under-perform, they have defective baseballs and insurmountable mattress problems. Red Sox don’t get old and decline (despite having the oldest roster in baseball last season), they gain experience. Red Sox aren’t injury risks, they just get nicked up from playing so hard. Yankees, on the other hand, are overpaid mercenaries (despite having more home-grown players than the Red Sox), who are getting old and brittle. If they show up fat, they are spoiled slackers.

That’s it for now. Soon I will post the Second Annual Yankees-Red Sox Comparison, during which I will predict that the Yankees will win the division.

EDIT: In light of today’s Yankees-Rays brawl, I have a new double-standard to add to the preceding list. Rays players Jonny Gomes, Troy Percival, and manager Joe Maddon have all been quoted as saying (paraphrasing) “that’s not the Yankee way. Usually they’re professional and play the game the right way, but that’s not what happened today.”

Under Joe Torre, the Yankees would never, ever throw at an opposing player or seek revenge for prior incidents. Never. Torre was too “classy” for that stuff. It reached the point where – specifically in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry – Red Sox pitchers hit Yankee hitters twice as often as Yankees did Red Sox. I have the specific statistics on this somewhere; if you think I’m full of it, I’ll dig them out. Anyway, for years now the Yankees have maintained a general policy of non-retaliation, even following blatant acts of aggression.

This brings us to our newest double-standard. When other teams retaliate for previous incidents, it is known as “being old-school,” “defending your teammates,” or “showing heart and fire.” When the Yankees do it, it is called “borderline criminal” (Maddon) or “not the Yankee way” (Gomes).

I, for one, am thrilled with this development. I have no idea whether Girardi ordered this, or whether Shelley Duncan did this on his own. Regardless of its origins, I am completely and unabashedly optimistic that the Yankees are done being unwaveringly “classy.”

Is it March 31st yet?


Why We Love Boston

September 14, 2007

Because Daisuke Matsuzaka just barely got out of a pretty bad 1st inning unscored upon. But the Fenway fans acted like he had just struck out Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Don Mattingly on nine straight pitches.

This is the essence of fanaticism.

* I just want to emphasize that the “love” in the title is ironic.


This Is The Worst Piece Of Sports Journalism I Have Ever Read

May 31, 2007

It’s worth criticizing John Donovan’s piece on SI.com for its take on the Yankees. The article’s primary purpose is to diagnose where the Yankees went wrong during the winter, thus affording them their poor start. This is a worthy purpose indeed, because no one on planet earth could have predicted the Yankees’ record thus far. Donovan’s analysis, however, is bad. His tacit negligence in looking up statistics, as well as his frequent contradictions and logical inconsistencies make this piece truly awful. Let’s take a look.

Hindsight being as eagle-eyed as it is, it’s easy to see just where the present-day Yankees went wrong. They tried to restock their farm system and compete at the big league level at the same time. They pulled away from what they do best — nobody bullies people in baseball with a checkbook quite like the guys in the pinstriped front office, whether it’s in the free-agent market or at the trade table — and that’s costing them now.

Awesome. Everyone complains that the Yankees only win by outspending other teams. The Yankees (relatively speaking) abandon this strategy for one off-season, during which they restock the farm system, and they are getting lambasted for being cheap. Super.

Let’s look, with some of that unerring hindsight, at just some of the ways that the Yankees have burned this baby:

Indeed, let’s. This way I can show every intelligent reader why I am more qualified than you for your job.

1) They counted on Carl Pavano…This guy had one good year, in 2004 for the Florida Marlins. One…Sure, they had laid out for that $40 million contract, and so it probably wasn’t too much to ask for a little return on their money. But since when does spending money guarantee results?

But, wait…you said in the opening paragraph that the Yankees are bad because they didn’t spend money. Now you’re criticizing them for spending money on a player that, at the time, was in incredibly high demand (Baltimore, Detroit, Boston). And if spending money doesn’t guarantee results, as you just said, then why are you partially attributing the Yankees’ downfall to not spending enough? I am curious about what exactly Donovan would have done during last off-season, because so far he’s advocated both spending and not spending. Pick one.

2) They underestimated the importance of getting Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Oh boy.

You bid $32 million for the right to talk to Matsuzaka, the phenomenal right-hander from Japan, and you figure you’re doing plenty. As it turned out, the Yanks, in their new conservatism, badly miscalculated. Their offer was nearly $20 million less than Boston’s. And the decision to go low is killing them.

I think Donovan’s dictionary is faulty, because phenomenal means “really really good” or “awesome” or, in a sports context, “game-changing”. Matsuzaka has an ERA+ of 93. 100 is, by definition, average. Matsuzaka has been a below-average pitcher so far. He is 34th in the AL in ERA. Players with better ERAs include Chad Durbin, Carlos Silva, Joe Kennedy, Boof Bonser, Paul Byrd, Steve Trachsel (!), Gil Meche, and Chad Gaudin. I don’t know how else to say it. Matsuzaka has not been worth the $100 million so far. Is it early? Yup, sure is. But to say that the Yankees’ failure to acquire a below-average pitcher is the reason they’re playing poorly is idiotic.

Also, if Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the Yankees, he’d be 8th in ERA among their starters. Yankee starters better than Matsuzaka so far this season include: Carl Pavano, rookie Tyler Clippard, rookie Matt DeSalvo, and Darrell Rasner. To quote baseball analyst John Donovan, “since when does spending money guarantee results?” The Yankees are being criticized again for “going low” on Matsuzaka, therefore making their finanical restraint “kill them”, even though Donovan’s point is that the Yankees should have spent more money during the off-season. But what about the money not equaling results thing? Does this make sense to anyone?

3) They blew it on Igawa, who wasn’t going to be a star anyway.

This is fine. Igawa is bad. But he’s not THE reason the Yankees are playing poorly.

4) They forgot just how old they really were.

What?

The Yankees saw the aging of their roster coming. They were trying to get younger. That’s the whole idea of re-stocking the farm system. It’s an admirable goal, and it’s needed.

Donovan now thinks it was admirable and necessary for the Yankees to re-stock the farm system. Mere paragraphs before, he said the Yankees are bad because they tried to rebuild and not spend money. Pick one.

At 29.9 years old the Yankees are among the majors’ oldest teams, ranking in the bottom third in average age.

The Red Sox’ average age is 30.9. I looked it up. They seem to be doing just fine.

No one could have expected all of those players to struggle as they have. It’s just another example of the extreme bad luck that the Yankees have run into this season.

This is the absolute closest Donovan gets to correctly diagnosing the Yankees’ problems so far. Unexpectedly poor pitching early + random, crazy, unpredictable, lineup-wide slump = bad record.

But many of the injuries have been to older players. Shouldn’t the Yanks have seen this coming?

Again, the Red Sox are old and they are doing just fine. And also, John Donovan, like three sentences earlier you said, and I quote, “the Yankees saw the aging of their roster coming”. Now you’re wondering why they didn’t see this coming. Pick one.

5) They essentially traded Gary Sheffield for Abreu in the offseason.

Sheffield has a career OPS+ of 145. Abreu’s is 135, and that’s including his horrendous and unforeseen OPS+ this year of 66.

So, in choosing between two similarly productive outfielders, would you rather have the 38 year old crank with wrist problems and a violent swing or the low-maintenance 33 year old guy with no injury history? And what if you knew you could trade the 38 year old crank for some decent prospects AND keep the 33 year old guy? I thought so.

6) They thought they could get by without a decent-hitting first baseman.

Damn right they did. Posada, Giambi, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Matsui, Damon, and Abreu. Damn freaking right.

The Yanks were right in that they probably could survive without much production at first base — if everyone else was hitting. They’re not.

Super, let’s criticize the Yankees again for the bad luck that the author himself recognized was a random, weird part of the problem.

7) They banked, literally, on Roger Clemens. The pro-rated portion of $28 million (about $18 million) for a guy who impacts one game a week? That’s more like the old-school, spend-at-will Yankees. But that doesn’t automatically make it smart.

Firstly, you used “literally” wrong. And secondly, oh my God, $18 million for a guy who impacts one game a week??? What about, like, your homeboy Matsuzaka, who cost the Red Sox $100 million to be bad (so far)? He also impacts one game a week. Oh, but right, that’s different. Getting locked into a long-term deal with an unknown quantity who only affects one game a week is a MUCH better idea than spending $18 million in the short-term for a low-risk investment. I get it.

There are also more contradictions here about the Yankees’ spending. Donovan chastises the Yankees for spending money on Clemens, which is exactly the type of spending he encouraged earlier in the article. Then he praises them for reverting to their successful, more-freely spending ways. Then he says it’s not necessarily smart for them to spend. Pick one.

Still, it’s hard to believe that the Yankees couldn’t have somehow used that cash in the trade market this summer to bolster the roster for a second-half run.

Somehow I think the Yankees will still be able to afford players at the deadline. Just a hunch though.

But if the Yanks are completely, undeniably out of it by July, their next move is clear: Hold on to what’s left of their money and spend it next winter. They’ll need it, because if they plan on getting back in the game, they’re going to have to start doing business the old way.

Okay, so now the Yankees should “start doing business the old way”, which means spend money. This is despite the fact that you, John Donovan, have repeatedly said that spending does not guarantee success. And also, if the Yankees start spending more money, media hacks like you will start complaining again about how the Yankees’ spending ruins baseball.

This article is garbage. It is quite possibly the worst analysis I have ever read. It is lazy, contradictory, and dismally-researched. I don’t know who is more of an idiot – John Donovan or his editor.

By the way, if you want the real reason why the Yankees have been bad so far, look here.


How Do You Say “Reckoning” In Japanese?

May 3, 2007

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s numbers on the year following tonight’s start against the Seattle Mariners:

7 games
38 innings pitched
35 hits
15 walks
39 strikeouts
31 groundball outs
35 flyball outs
2 home runs
23 runs (all earned)

Good strikeouts, but he has a 1.31 whip and a 5.45 ERA. Are we allowed to call this a disappointment, if not an outright disaster? Red Sox fans, how can you not be severely disappointed with this performance? For serious.

And while we’re at it, can we stop refering to Josh Beckett as “Bottle Rocket?” Roger Clemens pretty much came flying out of the gates and has been dominant ever since; Beckett has padded his resume with several decent years in the weakened National League. I know, I know: he’s changed his approach and loves to play the game the right way and will plunk you if you try to bunt, but come on.


Special Offer

April 28, 2007

For one day, and probably one day only, Igawa > Matsuzaka.

Igawa: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K.

I am happy. Let’s go Yankees!