Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Manny the Killer


Why is it that Boston has a knack for running up the score against us? Why is it that we rarely blow them out? I mean, the last time we beat them by more than five runs was Opening Day last year. Since then, the Red Sox have beaten the Yankees by more than five runs six times, and it would have been seven had A-Rod not started a futile ninth inning rally last night.

Over this period from Opening Day 2005 through the present (24 games), there have been two consistent Yankees killers. First we have Public Enemy No. 1, David Ortiz. In 92 at bats over this period, he’s hitting .337/.407/.620, with 13 walks to go with his 18 strikeouts. Five doubles and seven homers have come off this bat, and in the process he has knocked in 29 teammates. The man who bats behind him, Manny Ramirez, is no slouch himself. He’s at .341/.433/.659 – better numbers than Ortiz! – with an offsetting 14 strikeouts and walks. He has one less double, four, then Ortiz, and one more homer, eight. He hasn’t been as directly responsible for runs, though he nearly has one per game – 23.

[MORE]You know who’s been the best Yankee over this period? Alex Rodriguez. His line of .279/.374/.593 is tops among Yankees facing Boston since Opening Day 2005. A-Rod boasts a 19:12 K:BB ratio, doubling thrice and hitting eight long balls. As far as run production goes, well, at least he’s within ten of Manny – 14. I don’t know if the second best Yankee over this period is even worth mentioning, but for shits and giggles it’s Giambi, hitting .254/.369/.521, 18 strikeouts to eight walks, six homers, 11 RBI, and one lousy double.

Here’s how Ortiz and Manny have fared against all opponents since Opening Day 2005. For added effect, I’ll juxtapose their numbers vs. the Yanks. And then I’ll do the same for Giambi and A-Rod.

vs. Yanks92.337.407.6201813729
vs. Everyone762.295.390.60415612461189

vs. Yanks88.341.433.6591414823
vs. Everyone697.293.396.57515811453166

So really, while we shudder when Big Papi steps to the plate, it’s Manny we should be fearing. Beyond what the tables show, Manny has hit 15 percent of his homers over this period against the Yankees, as well as driving in 14 percent of his runs. Meanwhile, Ortiz has hit just under 12 percent of his homers against the Yanks, but has driven in 15 percent of his runs. These guys just play better against the Yankees, and it’s absolutely killing the team. Remember, the Yankees are now 11-13 against the Sox over this span.

Just so we’re observing how their best players hit against us, let’s examine how the Yankees best hitters, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi, hit against the Red Sox and against the rest of the league.

vs. Red Sox86.279.374.5931912814
vs. Everyone768.311.413.58617711858162

vs. Red Sox71.254.369.521188611
vs. Everyone539.267.446.54714215144122

The difference is visible. When your top two guns hit worse against a team whose best guns hit better against you, well, you’re lucky to eek out an 11-13 record. And this isn’t even touching the pitching, mainly because I know what the comparisons are going to look like. Great hitters getting better doesn’t bode well for one’s pitching staff, while great hitters in decline make one’s pitching staff look marvelous in comparison.

There has to be a way to pitch two these juggernauts so they don’t inflate their already impressive numbers. I realize that there’s a psychological aspect to it, that Ortiz and Manny have a certain mentality when they’re up against the Yankees. This mentality boosts their confidence and allows them to stand up there relaxed. Schilling had it last night, too, and has had it a few times against the Yanks in the past. But he’s a head case, and as such can’t do it as consistently as the two Yankee killers.

It appears that A-Rod and Giambi don’t have the same burning desire to beat the Red Sox. Nor do most of the Yankees pitchers. Until they get fired up, nothing’s going to change. Manny and Papi lock into the Yankees because they were the underdogs in the rivalry. The Yankees had a history (albeit a short one) of dominating the Red Sox, and those two took it as a personal challenge to defeat the Evil Empire. And now every time the Yankees come to town, they feed off this energy, lock in, get comfortable, and kill them some Yankees.

Even Jeter hits a ton worse against the Red Sox, posting a .263/.324/.400 line against them over this time period compared to his .319/.399/.465 line overall. That, actually, is a much more significant drop off than those of A-Rod and Giambi.

So it’s J-Wright on the mound tonight against Tim Wakefield. I’m sure that another loss will inspire me to dig up those pitching records vs. the Red Sox since Opening Day 2005.

Thanks to Dave Pinto’s Day by Day Database for enabling me to find these numbers.