Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Long Way To The Top

Everyone talks about pitching, pitching, pitching. Pitching is our problem; pitching is why we haven’t already run away with the AL East. Our hitters can hit, so it must be our pitchers, right? Blah blah blah pitching, blah blah blah pitching, blah blah blah pitching.

But now, nine games into August, the Yanks actually rank worse in Slugging Percentage (9th) and On Base Percentage (9th) than ERA (7th) and WHIP (8th). This is quite a difference from July, where we ranked 12th in ERA, 6th in WHIP, and first in OBP and Slugging.

And you know who’s on top of that OBP heap in August? Yes, those forsaken Red Sox (they rank 4th in Slugging). What’s their record this month? 7-2? Compared to our, what, 4-5? By the way, Boston ranks 10th in both WHIP and ERA this month.

These numbers are killing me, because I’m a huge pitching guy. I’d rather see the Yanks with five solid arms than have six sluggers in the lineup. Give me nine guys who understand the strike zone and draw frequent walks, and I’m set if I’ve got pitching. This is why I’m a closet A’s fan.

This whole hitting and pitching in correlation with a team’s record is quite intriguing to me at the moment, so I’m going to do you all a (dis)service and go over the numbers by the month. Maybe then we can figure out the conundrum that is the 2005 season.

OBP: .357 – 2nd (Boston – .358)
SLG: .422 – 5th (Baltimore – .497)
ERA: 4.61 – 10th (Chicago – 3.13)
WHIP: 1.50 – 12th (Minnesota – 1.14)

Record: 10-14; Boston: 12-11; Baltimore: 16-7; Minnesota: 15-8; Chicago: 17-7

Comments: See, I toooooooold you pitching wins ballgames. Look at those whacky teams from the Central!

OBP: .349 – 2nd (Boston – .367)
SLG: .452 – 3rd (Texas – .517)
ERA: 4.54 – 9th (Minnesota – 3.22)
WHIP: 1.39 – 10th (Minnesota – 1.17)

Record: 17-10; Boston: 16-12; Texas: 18-7; Minnesota: 14-13; Chicago: 18-10 (6th in OBP and SLG, 8th in ERA, 4th in WHIP)

Comments: Um, about that whole thing with pitching winning ballgames…seems you need guys to actually hit, too; Minnesota ranked 10th in OBP and 12th in SLG. For us, a slight improvement in rank, a huge improvement in record. Still, the hitting is carrying us…not a good sign.

OBP: .359 – 2nd (LAA – .360)
SLG: .426 – 9th (Boston – .501)
ERA: 4.42 – 9th (Oakland – 2.83)
WHIP: 1.30 – 7th (Oakland – 1.08)

Record: 12-14; LAA: 17-9; Boston: 17-9; Oakland: 19-8; Chicago: 18-7 (8th in OBP, 7th in SLG, 2nd in ERA and WHIP)

Comments: Third straight month we’re second in OBP. I guess it doesn’t have much bearing on our record. Huge drop in slugging, which seems to be more the problem, since our pitching actually improved from May. At this point, Slugging Percentage seems to be the stat to watch, though Oakland is proving that pitching may in fact win ballgames – though it helps that they were 3rd in OBP and 5th in Slugging.

OBP: .357 – 1st (tie for 2nd, Boston and Toronto – .354)
SLG: .504 – 1st (2nd – Detroit, .463, 3rd – Oakland, .462)
ERA: 5.09 – 12th (Oakland – 3.66)
WHIP: 1.41 – 6th (Oakland – 1.26)

Record: 17-9; Boston: 14-13; Toronto: 13-12; Oakland: 20-6; Detroit: 14-15; Chicago: 15-11 (7th in OBP, 7th in SLG, 6th in ERA, 11th in WHIP)

Comments: Kickass month, and we did it without pitching. The WHIP is down and the Slugging is up. Beginning to make a connection? And notice that this is Chicago’s worst month, and they’re down in WHIP, too. Let’s see if we can use our nine games in August in the same way…

OBP: .321 – 9th (Boston – .399)
SLG: .405 – 9th (Texas – .553)
ERA: 3.76 – 7th (Chicago – 2.50)
WHIP: 1.42 – 8th (Oakland – 0.98)

Record: 4-5; Boston: 7-2; Texas: 3-6; Chicago: 6-4; Oakland: 7-2

Comments: Slugging is way down, record is way down. Texas proves that Slugging isn’t everything, as their pitching just can’t get the job done. The pitching is showing improvement…

Upon Analyzing the Data…
I just can’t expect our ERA to ever cross the Mason-Dixon Line in the AL. But at this point, we need it more than ever. There is no reason for our OBP and Slugging to stay in the bottom half of the league. And it seems that when we get that Slugging up above .450 and when the WHIP gets below 1.40, we win ballgames. The ERA and OBP seem to be incidental stats for the Yankees at this point. By the way, Texas has a 1.84 WHIP this month.

If the team can take solace in something at this point, it’s that there is plenty of time for the bats to get hot. Conversely, there is still time for the pitching to falter and kill the season. But right now, the focus should be on the slumping bats, and I know just where to start.

Bernie Williams (.208/.208/.250 in August) and Jorge Posada (.219/.219/.313). Neither has drawn a friggin free pass all month! Nine games, zero walks combined. I’m actually livid while typing this right now. And this is especially for Jorge, who was hitchhiking on the Interstate (.169 BA) in July. Is he just in a Jabba the Hut sized slump, or is he showing signs of decline as a 33-year-old backstop? I vote for the latter. Everyone talks about how we need a new center fielder, and they forget our pressing need at catcher.

Needless to say, finding a catcher (possibly overpaying for Bengi Molina or Ramon Hernandez) and a center fielder (maybe dealing for Corey Patterson) will be right up there on the off-season to-do list with signing A.J. Burnett – which I think is a good idea. But, once again, I thought signing Carl Pavano was a good idea.

I doubt any solution I come up with will hold any merit, since I don’t know the team like Joe does, and he can’t seem to find the answer, either. But I have to say, DL Bernie, call up Kevin Thompson (he can’t be much worse), and start playing Flaherty twice a week to give Jorge some time off. That 1) gives him some extra rest, which he may need at his age, and 2) keeps his suddenly undisciplined arse out of the lineup.

The deficit seems Everest-sized. But remember the words of Bon Scott: It’s a long way to the top if you want to win the AL East. And I’m pretty sure that’s the exact line from the song.