Friday, June 03, 2005

Tanyon, Oh Tanyon

Once again, I’m going to opt to not comment about the past three, or even five games. Yes, they were embarrassing, but the quicker we put them behind us, the better off we’re going to be. Unfortunately, conveniently forgetting events to the caliber of being swept by the worst team in the game is a daunting task in New York. And accordingly, the Yanks have been ripped to pieces, being called “Royal Clowns” and “Jesters.”

I know I said I don’t read what the papers have to say about the Yanks before I write for the day. But since I knew I wasn’t writing about the past three or five games, I gave the New York Post (which I don’t enjoy much) and the Daily News (which I enjoy very much) a glance.

Quick to stick with the A-Rod bashing bandwagon when he looks remotely human, the Post points out that A-Rod “was 0-for-10 and a big reason the Yankees hit .200 (33-for-165) in the three losses and .133 (4-for-30) with runners in scoring position.” Sure, 0-for-10 isn’t commendable by any means, but to blame A-Rod for the Yanks dismal hitting, particularly with runners in scoring position, is completely out of line.

How about Bernie and Matsui, who both grounded into untimely double plays – Matsui’s followed by a double by Sheff. How about Sierra blowing a Giambi double by hitting a grounder to the left side of the infield, leaving him dead at third? Or Womack nearly avoiding a DP, only to be picked off in the next at bat, making the situations equivalent? I’d mention Derek Jeter’s dismal plate performance, but it appears that the media has forgiven his 0-for-8 mark during the first two games, where he went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, and struck out in each game’s ninth inning.

But that’s all for the New York media to nit-pick. I’d rather talk about a more positive subject, something that Yankees fans should be excited about this year. His name is Tanyon Sturtze, and you may have noticed him this season. Hell, if you were able to sit through the game last night, you might have noticed that it took him a total of nine pitches to retire five Royals. Too bad Pavano was in the shower instead of taking notes.

Let’s graze over his vitals for this year before really starting to look into them. He has become this year’s Paul Quantrill, the seventh inning man in Joe Torre’s three-headed monster scheme. Obviously, this is just a bit more stressful a role than his last year, the long man in the bullpen. But Sturtze has come out with a fire that he started to build after last year’s all-star break, posting a 2.81 ERA that fits very well with his .97 WHIP. And in the statistic that I covet most, bases on balls, Sturtze has allowed a mere two over the course of 25.2 innings. He gave out 33 free passes in 77.1 innings a year ago, which means he has gone from 3.85 BB/9 to .7 BB/9. That equates to a 550 percent decrease from last year. No biggie.

It’s not even like Sturtze is such a big deal because his improvement from last year. The guy comes in and gets the job done much, much more than not, and that’s the kind of stability in the bullpen needed for any successful team.

Then again, his improvement is more than worth noting. It’s not a commonplace statistic, but Sturtze had sat on a 1.5 strikeouts to walks ratio just about every year of his career. This year, it’s EIGHT. Yes, he has struck out eight guys for every one he has walked. His hitting line (against) this year is .235/.257/.296. Is that stellar or what? As a comparison, Fransisco Cordero, the AL saves leader with 16, has a line of .253/.344/.367, and a Ks to BB ratio of 2.64 (while boasting 11.52 Ks per nine, compared with Tanyon’s 5.61).

I remember at some point in August last year, ESPN.com funnyman Bill Simmons cracked a joke about hearing “now warming in the Yankees bullpen, Tanyon Sturtze” and performing hari-kari (my words, not Simmons’s, since ESPN.com thought it would be profitable to charge for Sports Guy’s archives). Funny now, since Foulke is putting up a 6.48 ERA to go with his 1.48 WHIP. Oh, and his line goes a little like this: .273/.351/.535, with a Ks to BB ratio of 1.6 and a Ks per nine of 5.76.

I could go on to embolden Sturtze’s improvement from years past, but why not take that space up with more stuff from this year? He has allowed a total of eight earned runs this year. Yes, that’s great for the 25.2 innings he’s logged, but against teams not named the Baltimore Orioles, Sturtze has allowed ONE RUN in 21.1 innings – an 0.43 ERA. This also is not to mention his April 9th outing against Baltimore, where he worked an inning, fanned two and picked up his only win of the season.

The guy hasn’t allowed a home run all year, a statistic that’s not given enough weight among relievers. Hitters don’t have the luxury they have with starters, where they have ample time to try and figure out what the guy is doing on the mound and react accordingly. More time than not, a guy will only see a reliever once a game, and he’ll only go one inning, so it’s tougher to pass the knowledge of your at bat to teammates. Home runs, therefore, are key against guys in relief. Most of the time, a dinger is the result of a pitcher’s mistake. I’m not saying that Tanyon hasn’t made any mistakes on the mound this year by any means. I’m just saying that he’s avoided making the worst mistake of them all, a mistake that costs at least one run and some confidence to boot.

So with Sturtze solidly covering the seventh inning and having Gordon and Mariano back in form, the Yanks bullpen doesn’t look like as much of a liability as was thought in early April. Beyond those guys, though, it doesn’t look overly impressive, with the likes of Buddy Groom, Mike Stanton and Paul Quantrill out there. This is my plea to management: please, for the love of everything that is right in baseball, release Stanton when Felix Rodriguez comes back from the DL. Please oh please oh please.

If there’s anything to look forward to in the upcoming Twins series, it’s that we didn’t draw Santana or Radke. Yes, that’s what we have to look forward to, that we were lucky enough to draw the bottom three in the rotation. Sounds promising, right?

Update: Three other "we had nothing to do with this, but will benefit from it" items. Justin Morneau, Nick Punto, and Joe Mauer might not play this series.