Friday, February 03, 2006

Sans Stats

Welcome once again to Sans Stats, one of the many places I feel compelled to act like a moron. Big day today. Super Bowl Sunday is just two days away, and the NBA All-Star selections were last night. But amidst all this was an even bigger story, which can be found by clicking on this link. Don’t worry, it will open up in a new window, so you can continue reading this abomination of literature.

The helicopter chick is my favorite. Thanks to Deadspin for motivating me to find this treasure of hilarity. If Aaron Gleeman leaves this out of his Link-O-Rama, I’ll be gravely disappointed.

We open up tonight in the NBA, where the 2005-2006 All-Stars were announced on Thursday. Yao Ming was the high vote getter, which was semi-confusing coming on the heels of a report that Tracy McGrady’s jersey sold better in Ming’s home country of China.

Yao is also involved in the most ridiculous story of the draft, as he and teammate McGrady were both selected as starters. Their team is 16-29, cellar in the Southwest Division. The Detroit Pistons, owners of the NBA best 38-6 record, had zero starters selected to the game, though it is believed that Ben Wallace will replace the injured Jermaine O’Neal.

If the best team in the league has zero starters, and a last place team has two, there must be a flaw in the system, right? Well, the system is that the fans get to vote in the All-Stars. So the diagnosis is simple: NBA fans are idiots.

Allow me now to quote from last week’s edition of Sans Stats: “Contracts are only valid [while] both parties agree they are. As soon as one party deems a contract unfit for their current conditions, they can claim invalidity and somehow escape it.” This brings me to Al Michaels, who has recently made it well known that he did not intend to honor his contract with ESPN for Monday Night Football. He signed the contract in June of 2005, and seven months later, before broadcasting a single game under the agreement, has basically backed out of it.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk likens this to T.O.’s situation. But really, isn’t this worse than T.O.? At least T.O. played a stellar season, capped by a speedy injury recovery and a stunning Super Bowl performance. Michaels didn’t even breathe a word under his ESPN contract before he manipulated his way out of it. If anyone at ABC is reading this and can find footage of Michaels making some T.O. commentary, I’d appreciate a copy. T’would be priceless.

One thing we know is that Al Michaels won’t be calling the Super Bowl. Oh, yeah, that’s right, it’s the Super Bowl this Sunday. I almost completely forgot amidst the flurry of Super Bowl related stories and columns. Man, Chuck Klosterman goes three hours without updating his blog and already I forget it’s the Super Bowl.

We here at the Sporting Brews would like to extend a firm handshake to Joey Porter, the star of Sunday’s game whether he make 30 tackles or 3. His quote yesterday made us laugh nearly as much as Ghetto Prom.

"We're going to try to tap out as many people as we can, I'm going to put it like that.”

How pissed is Brett “The Hitman” Hart going to be when Joey Porter puts Shaun Alexander in the Sharpshooter on the 50 yard line? Or maybe it will be Troy Polamalu hooking Matt Hasselbeck in the Tazmission. If we’re lucky, it will be James Farrior locking Bobby Engram in the Texas Clover Leaf, though Ice Man Dean Milenko would probably have to slit his throat.

Would it be Joey Porter if he stopped there? Of course not!

"We're going to try to send as many people to the sideline as we can.”

The sportsmanlike translation is that the defense will bear down and force Seattle to punt – or in other words send all 11 men to the sideline. The Joey Porter translation is that he’s seriously gunning for the ACL, so you’d better move that knee, Shaun Alexander. Still, I like Joey Porter, if for no other reason than a soundbyte from the Steelers Wild Card win over Cincinnati. Troy Polamalu had received an early game personal foul for throwing the football at a Cincy player, but in the fourth quarter came up with a timely interception. He was greeted by Porter with the following line: “Just when I didn’t think you could get any dumber you go do something like this…..and totally redeem yourself!” Hi-friggin-larious.

I’m going to close this week with a retraction from last week. I noted the absence of the Idiot of the Week because everyone we cover on Sans Stats is an idiot. Well, I’m taking that back just for this statement:

Congratulations to the general managers of Major League Baseball for not giving into Bengie Molina’s outrageous contractual demands. This is a 30-something catcher who has proved nothing except that he can play out a contract year – especially against a team that he thought to be a suitor (the Yankees). Even J.P. Ricciardi won’t shell out more than a one-year deal for Molina, which is a good sign, since Ricciardi is insane. You hear that, Bengie? You can’t even get a multi-year deal from a loon.

That’s it for this week’s edition of Sans Stats. Have a good weekend, and Colleen, please stop stalking me.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Question No. 4: Will Villone and Farnsworth Outperform Sturtze/Quantrill and Gordon?

I didn’t want to get into him again this off-season, but I guess it was inevitable that I’d re-visit the most hotly contested Yankees signing this winter, Kyle Farnsworth. For a self-proclaimed detailed breakdown of Farny, Kyle’s Mom Is A Bitch may be an ample read. But that’s not the issue at hand today. What I would like to discuss is the primary set-up role and whether the new tandem of Farnsworth and Ron Villone can outshine the guys from years past, namely Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, and Tanyon Sturtze.

Note first that I’m reasonably assuming that Villone will be placed in Torre’s coveted 7th inning role, one I have disliked more and more with each passing year. If Torre has enough trust in a player to pitch the seventh inning, he might as well use him in critical spots and not limit him to that one frame. But this is Joe’s system, and if it means burning the hell out of a pitcher (see: Quantrill, Paul and Gordon, Tom), it’s his decision. I just hope that the over-stuffed bullpen in 2006 leads Joe to think outside the box.

While Joe has been using the 7th inning role for quite some time now, the position was glorified in the winter of 2003-2004 when the Yankees signed Paul Quantrill for the role. The inherent problem here was that the Yankees had lost 3/5 of their starting rotation to free agency. And when those names are Pettitte, Clemens, and Wells, you know you’re going to be placing some extra strain on your bullpen. What further complicated the issue was that the Yankees just didn’t have a very deep bullpen beyond Quantrill. Translation: more innings for Mo, Tommy, and Pauley.

Unfortunately, Pauley wasn’t ready for the workload placed upon him. He wound up throwing 95.1 innings in 2004, a 20 percent hike from his previous two (wildly successful) years in Chavez Ravine. This is quite significant for a 35-year-old who hadn’t started a game since 1996. As such, Paul began struggling mightily in August before capping the season with a September ERA of 10.50. His notable decline began on August 15th, when he entered the game with 74 innings, right around his number from the two previous years. It’s also of note that he left that August 15th game with 74 innings, though he let up three runs (and did the same thing in his next appearance).

The most notable difference between Quantrill v2003 and Quantrill v2004 was his groundball/flyball ratio, which saw a 24 percent decline. He also let a staggering number of inherited runners to score – 43 percent. Ultimately, Pauley slipped and fell further than anyone would have predicted. So what does this mean for Villone?

Could be trouble: While Villone has routinely thrown 90+ innings per year (every year from ’99 through ’04), he tossed a six-year low 64 innings in 2005. And, disappointingly, he pitched like an uninspired man during his rent an arm stint in Florida, posting a 6.85 ERA.

Might not be all that bad: he still posted quality peripherals. 11.02 strikeouts per nine, 4.56 walks per nine – a 2.41 ratio – and .75 home runs per nine mean that he still has some gas left in the tank. A .333 batting average on balls put in play points to a string of bad luck. This is strengthened when looking at his game log and seeing that he only let up runs in consecutive appearances twice, and never did he give consecutive multi-run performances.

I think it’s safe to say that Villone still has the capacity to perform his job as a Major League reliever (more than we can say for Quantrill at this point). It’s tough to comment on the effect of his lesser workload last year, since different bodies react to strain in their own unique manner. Maybe he’ll be more rested and ready to pitch 120 innings. Maybe he’ll be out of rhythm and not able to spot start or pitch multiple innings. Thankfully, there will be plenty of guys ready and eager for a shot at that 7th inning role.

Torre plays a large factor in all this reliever nonsense. We all know how he only trusts certain guys, and how a bad performance or two could lead to a permanent hook (see Rodriguez, Felix). If Villone struggles early, Joe has to be patient. We all know relievers are prone to bad stretches, and to overreact to someone struggling early can hurt the team in the long-term. Likewise, he can’t be fooled by one amazing stretch when it’s surrounded by crap (see Sturtze, Tanyon). The key is balance, a concept obviously foreign to Torre. I know it will never happen, but maybe just maybe he can rest our 36-year-old closer when we have a 3-run lead in the ninth.

Here’s a good rule to follow with relievers: barring injury, never drastically increase or decrease their workload from the previous year. We already saw the effect on Quantrill, but now let’s take Tom Gordon for example. His workload increased by 17.5 percent between 2003 and 2004, and while he got better results (3.16 ERA to a 2.12), he had every Yankees fan worried that his arm was going to fall off in August. And come playoffs, well, we all know what he did in the playoffs.

This theory doesn’t bode well for Farnsworth, who tossed 70 innings last year. Then again, he tossed 82 in his breakout season, so who knows. This is why I could never work with PECOTA stats; there is absolutely no way to predict how a guy – especially a relief pitcher – is going to perform year to year.

Anyway, the question was, will Farnsworth and Villone outperform Gordon and Sturtze/Quantrill. Since no one I know is a soothsayer, I can’t accurately comment on what will happen. But, I think that with this year’s deep bullpen, Joe can afford to rest his big money guys a bit more, allowing them less tax on the old pitching arm. Translation: better rested pitching staff better able to serve in September and beyond.

As always, no one will listen.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Question No. 3: Will Wang, Chacon, and Small Contribute?

Swiftly moving down the rotation, we’re now at the three through five slots, quite possibly the most underrated positions in baseball. Without adequate performances at the bottom half, a dominant upper half can be easily undermined. As such, Carl Pavano, Chein-Ming Wang, and Shawn Chacon will be under a fine microscope heading into the 2006 season. Since Pavano will be the most highly scrutinized (see: $40 million contract), he’ll have an entire column dedicated to him, and in this space will be replaced by the sixth man in the rotation, Aaron Small.

(Okay, I realize that Joe would likely go with J-Wright should an injury befall one of his starters. That doesn’t mean he’s the best man for the job, however.)

All three of these men inspire curiosity, since it was their improbable performances that carried the Yankees through the waning weeks and months of the season. However, the team can’t reasonably expect them to repeat those clutch performances over the totality of 2006, can they?

It’s easy to cry “fluke!” when the parties involved are a 25-year-old rookie, a guy who has a track record of getting tattooed, and 34-year-old who has had exactly zero success prior to 2005. But I think it is unreasonable to think that all three of these men will bomb in 2006. Surely, one of the three will thrive, potentially providing the Yankees with a viable No. 4 starter. Isn’t this explicitly defined in the Law of Averages?

Of the three, Small is held in the least regards, at least among fans. None of us had really heard of him before July, his first appearance for the Yanks, mainly because there was nothing to hear about. He made his Major League debut in 1994, and had pitched a total of 218 innings prior to 2005, finding little success. In fact, he had only started three Major League games in his career before July 2005, all during an abysmal 1996 season in Oakland where he walked more batters than he struck out and posted an 8.16 ERA. So while we will always remember Smally for his July-September run, it’s easy to discard him as a fluke.

Small is of the finesse brand of pitchers, meaning that his strikeout rate won’t be eye-popping. What scares most people is that despite this finesse style, he still walks too many guys. Even in 2005, his strikeouts to walks ratio was a meager 1.54, which was actually an improvement of his 1.20 ratio coming into the season. If it’s any saving grace, he only averaged 2.84 walks per nine innings in 2005, not a terrible mark, but still troubling when juxtaposed with his K/BB ratio.

One of the keys to Small’s success was his ability to keep the ball from landing in the bleachers. Prior to 2005, he had averaged about one home run per nine innings. During his miraculous run, he cut that number in half, which was aided by his increased propensity to induce the ground ball (.55 ratio in 2004, 1.11 ratio in 2005). He faced less batters per inning, posting a pre-average of 4.60 and a 2005 average of 4.15. And, for the first time in his Major League career, he allowed less hits (71) than innings pitched (76).

If Small can continue to force hitters to put the ball on the ground and reduce his walk totals, he could find a degree of success coming out of the bullpen and spot-starting in 2006. However, the team can’t really count on this, considering Small’s history. He displayed vast improvement in many aspects of his game, but his history is daunting. Maybe Mel Stottlemyer tinkered with his motion or grip and that led to his success, but it remains to be seen if that’s merely an ephemeral effect.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Wang may be here to stay. The 25-year-old rookie from Taiwan had a stellar season, and may have saved the first half of the season for the Yanks. The reason we think he’ll succeed: 2.96 ground ball to fly ball ratio. The only problem with this is that he allowed 9 home runs on 85 fly balls. While the home runs per nine innings ratio isn’t bad (.70), he allowed a home run for every 9.4 fly balls, which just isn’t going to work out in the long term. Of course, he’s young, so despite this number and his strikeouts to walks ratio (1.47), there’s always room for improvement.

In fact, during his minor league tenure, Wang posted a 3.47 strikeouts to walks ratio. And while he doesn’t possess the propensity to miss bats (7.05 K/9 minor league average, 3.64 in 2005), this history of a solid ratio bodes well for his future.

The major cause for concern with Wang is the rotator cuff injury that seemingly came out of nowhere in July. His return to the majors in September and subsequent 4.36 ERA for the month may have some fans on the edges of their seats, but fret not. His peripherals were quite in tact upon his return. In fact, I think it’s table time (and everyone loves table time).


The most glaring improvement was his ground ball ratio, which makes the future look a bit optimistic. While his post-injury sample size may be a tad lacking, it is also notable that he struck out one more batter per nine, yet only had a slight increase in walks per nine (reflected in the inflated ratio). The future looks bright for Wang. I’m not the only one who can see him developing into a solid No. 3 starter, with a ceiling as a No. 2.

The final member of the trifecta is the most confusing: Shawn Chacon. Let’s get one thing straight before I dive into analysis. My brother and I had been pining for Chacon the minute we heard he was available. True, he hadn’t done squat since going 11-4 in the first half of 2003 (when he finished 0-4 due to injury), but there’s just something about curveball pitchers in Coors that always leaves me wondering. It probably has to do with the late Daryl Kile, a master of the curveball who sank his career by taking it from the Astrodome to Coors Field. It has me thinking that maybe, just maybe some of these Rockies pitchers stand a chance elsewhere.

Here’s the progression of Chacon. Never a standout minor league pitcher, Chacon was welcomed to Coors field in 2001 when he posted an ERA of 5.06 against an adjusted league average of 5.19. Not bad for a rookie, but his dismal 2002 (85 ERA+) had many wondering about his ability. 2003, however, was a different story, as he came out of the corner swinging, allowing just four earned runs in 34.2 April innings. The rest of his season was rather sporadic, as he saw some major fluctuation in his ERA. But the gems were gems, and he had half as many crappy starts (7, which I define as an equal or greater number of runs allowed than innings pitched) as quality starts (14). And in 11 of those quality starts, he lasted at least seven innings.

But the wear and tear took its toll, and Chacon spent half of August and all of September on the DL. He indirectly explained this in an interview last August with John Sterling, when he said that the biggest difference between Yankee Stadium and Coors field is the between start and even between pitch recovery time. Apparently he was having a hard time keeping rested in that Rocky Mountain air. Sure, it sounds like a cop-out excuse, but it makes sense in some ways.

In 2004, the Rockies had a genius idea: let’s make Chacon the closer so we won’t wear on him too much. This didn’t work out all that well, as he converted just 80 percent of his save opportunities (for comparison, Mo converted 93 percent and Brad Lidge converted 91 percent). What’s worse, he had as many walks as strikeouts (52), and allowed 1.71 (!!) home runs per nine innings. Yikes. No wonder he was on the scrap heap.

I don’t need to reiterate the story of Chacon’s success in New York. Not only did he pitch phenomenally, he did it with consistency. As with Small, his history has some crying fluke, but I truly believe that a change of environment is just what Chacon needs to catapult his career. Like Wang, I see his ceiling as a No. 2 starter, but for this year I’m happy with him as the No. 5 guy. And we all saw what a team can do when they have a solid No. 5 starter (see: 2005 White Sox and Jon Garland).

Perhaps the greatest factor in the success of this trio is new pitching coach Ron Guidry. He’ll have his work cut out for him, as he has three pitchers right in front of him who have shown flashes of brilliance. It’s Guidry’s job to harness that greatness and perpetrate it. Not exactly the simplest of tasks for a guy with no Major League coaching experience.

Fortunately, the outlook for these three guys looks better than the forecast for Randy and Moose. It won’t be easy winning the division without a dominant top of the rotation, but with these three at the bottom of the rotation and out of the bullpen, the Yanks can compensate a bit, hopefully angling for a July move to put them over the top.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Question No. 2: Can Moose Find Consistency?

If the 2006 Yankees are to find the success that has eluded them for all but the first year of this century, they’re going to need more than sheer dominance by Randy Johnson. While he is the key cog in the rotation, the guys pitching behind him will be quite integral parts in the Yankees 5-cylinder engine. The next important man is the guy behind Unit in the rotation is Mr. Stanford himself, Mike Mussina.

Expectations were limitless when Mussina signed with the Yankees for the 2001 season, and although he has been marvelous at times, those moments seem fewer and further between of late. And even when he has pitched gems, they’ve been overshadowed by inconsistency. The Yankees will find it difficult to get ahead of the pack in the AL East if Mussina can’t be a reliable No. 2 starter.

There are two glaring problems with Mussina, and neither of them makes 2006 look bright. First, he’s made a rather lengthy trip to the DL over the past two years due to his pitching elbow. I’ll state it again: I’m not a doctor by any stretch of the imagination (I don’t even have one of those “trust me, I’m a doctor” t-shirts). But I think I’m qualified enough to be concerned over a 37-year-old with a recent history of pitching elbow woes. A 15-day stint on the DL in June might not hurt – it could actually help in that he can rest for a bit. But anything longer or during a more critical time in the season could be all Toronto needs to make a run.

The second issue is his mediocrity over the last two seasons, which just so happen to coincide with his elbow difficulties. In 2004, he posted a 4.59 ERA against an adjusted league average of 4.50 (ERA+ of 98). In 2005, it was his 4.41 against the average of 4.45 (ERA+ of 101). This is a bit troubling, mainly because Moose has posted an ERA+ of over 125 for most of his career – the past two years and 2002 are exceptions.

So in order for Mussina to find his necessary success in 2006, he’s not only going to have to stay healthy, but he’s going to have to pitch better at a more consistent rate. I know that’s a rather pedestrian analysis, but that’s what it ultimately boils down to. How do we analyze Mussina, then?

Let’s start with Mike Mussina by the numbers.

10 – number of starts that lasted seven innings or more (out of 30)
9 – number of no-decisions
8 – number of losses (hey, it’s hard to find something he did 8 times)
7 – number of times he allowed 5 or more earned runs and number of times he didn’t pitch past the fifth and number of games in which he allowed one or zero runs (luck sevens)
6 – average number of innings per start
5 – number of no-decisions lost
4 – number of no-decisions won
3 – number of times pulled before the seventh inning when pitching well because of a high pitch count and the Yanks ended up losing the game
2 – number of no-decisions lost when Mussina had a quality start
1 – number of times he pitched eight or more innings and lost. Also number of playoff wins. Also number of playoff losses.

Okay, time to move onto something a bit more relevant. Mussina has been long characterized as a stubborn fellow, refusing to admit when he’s gassed and often shaking off a catcher’s sign multiple times. He’s a perfectionist in every sense, and while that is admirable in one way, it’s hurtful to the team in another. Take, for instance, his late-season injury in 2005. After three straight quality starts in August, Moose lasted only 4.1 innings, surrendering eight runs in a 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays. Obviously something was wrong, as he had tossed the first three innings rather effortlessly.

Fast-forward five days to his next start against the hapless Mariners. Mussina lasted only three innings, tossing 64 pitches and allowing four runs along the way. It was only after this game that he hit the disabled list, not to return until September 22nd. Had he explored this injury a bit further following the Jays game, he may have spent less time on the sidelines and may have been more effective down the stretch.

This analysis becomes more significant when placed up against the 2004 season. In a mid-June start against San Diego, Moose only lasted three innings before being pulled for injury precaution. He skipped his next start, but wasn’t placed on the DL. In his next four games, Moose allowed 20 runs in 24 innings before finally hitting the DL on July 7th, not to return until August 18th. Once again, it appears that if he had attempted a stringent diagnosis after the San Diego start, he might have reduced the severity of the injury and spent less time on the DL. It also didn’t help that Kevin Brown was on the DL at that point as well (but then again, when isn’t Brown on the DL?).

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Mussina is going to be able to contribute as a No. 2 starter in 2006. A large factor in his effectiveness is going to be his ability to pitch deep into games. This does not bode well, since another year has passed, which means he’ll probably see less zip in his fastball and less fuel in his tank. He may make 30 starts, but he certainly won’t make 35. And even if he does make it out to the mound 30 times, he probably won’t eclipse 200 innings, which is integral for a No. 2 starter.

His only saving grace is that there is plenty of potential behind him in the rotation. Analyses on these fellows will come as we get deeper into the 12 Questions, but just to get it out there, a chance exists that either Wang, Chacon, or Pavano could step into the No. 2 role, thus alleviating Mussina of his $19 million responsibility (funny how the highest paid pitcher in the game can’t even hold down the No. 2 spot in the rotation).

Monday, January 30, 2006

Question No. 1: Will Randy's Back Hold Up?

Today begins 12 Questions Facing the Yankees, a series dedicated to getting reasonably unbiased analysis regarding our beloved Yankees. The first order of duty: Randy Johnson and his achy back.

After posing this question, I came to the quick realization that I am completely unqualified to answer it. I don’t have a medical degree, nor have I taken copious notes on Randy’s injury history. And believe it or not, that kind of information isn’t just a Google search away. However, that doesn’t make it less of an issue for the 2006 Yankees.

Randy Johnson was acquired in January of 2005 for one reason: to become the dominant ace the Yankees so desperately needed. Pitching defined the glory years, and 2004’s collapse was mainly blamed on the pitching staff, so acquiring someone of Randy’s caliber was only logical. The snag in this plan: he was 41 years old at the time of the acquisition, so it was/is only a matter of time until he is physically unable to sustain his streak of dominance.

Dominant he wasn’t in 2005, or at least not consistently dominant. We all saw flashes of his brilliance sporadically throughout the season: Opening Night against the Red Sox, a June 11th blanking of the Cardinals to slow a losing streak, out-dueling Tim Wakefield in a 1-0 win vs. Boston in September, and back-to-back trouncing of the Orioles to finish the season. But mixed in there were wholly disastrous outings – remember 7 runs against Tampa Bay?

This is quite an issue, since no one else on the staff looks capable of being a No. 1 starter. Randy is 42 now, and we all know the story about muscles degenerating over time, especially beginning in your 30s. His back isn’t getting any more sturdy, and I think it’s safe to assume he’s not working it out a whole ton this off-season.

As I said, I’m not exactly qualified to comment on the state of Randy’s back. However, I did notice that he has only spent significant time on the DL twice in his career, missing most of the 1996 season with – surprise, surprise – a back injury, and then again in 2003, missing several weeks, but this time it was the knee. The 1996 back injury shouldn’t be of much concern, because he’s done little but dominate since that incident. The 2003 knee injury was a sprain and merely required arthroscopic surgery. Not like it’s a chronic problem or anything.

I don’t think anyone (reading this site) can say with any degree of certainty whether Randy’s back will or will not hold up in 2006. So I guess the question should be geared more towards his performance in 2006, barring injury. Let’s look at some trends from 2002, 2004, and 2005 (we’re leaving out his uncharacteristic and injury-riddled 2003 season).


Doesn’t look too pretty, does it? Of course, many will attribute Randy’s decline in 2005 to his constantly nagging back, but that doesn’t make me feel better one bit. As I said plenty of times before, we can’t prove that his back will be any different in 2006. Three noticeable observations:

  • Strikeout rates are expected to decline in a move from the NL to the AL, but losing two strikeouts per nine is a bit excessive. Pitchers may whiff their share, but I don’t think Randy consistently struck out two of them per nine innings.
  • His walk totals, on the other hand, have been rather impressive. He’s never been regarded as finesse, but declining walk rates cannot be ignored.
  • That 1.28 homers per nine rate hurts. It hurts a lot. The only saving grace is that after surrendering four homers in one inning to the White Sox in August, he only allowed three more for the rest of the season – and one of those was off the bat of Manny Ramirez, which is forgivable.

All of this analysis and attempted prognosis of Randy’s back has reminded me of one indisputable fact: I’m just a fan. You’re just a fan. Everyone not on the payroll of a Major League Baseball team is just a fan. As fans, we’re all prone to bias and subjectivity, and when it comes to a situation like Randy’s, that bias is only intensified. We all want to believe that Randy will be the pitcher that won five Cy Young awards, that he’ll provide the dominance the Yankees have needed for so long at the top of the rotation. But when scrutinizing the numbers, this seems a much more remote possibility than most of us are willing to admit. I’m not trying to be the guy who says, “I told you so!” when Randy falters early on. In fact, I want to be wrong on this issue.

The problem here is that I don’t know Randy. I’ve never sat down and interviewed him, so I can’t speak to his character. The media portrays him in a certain light, but that can’t be trusted because the media paints a character as they see fit. What I do know is that in order for Randy to be Randy, he’s going to need the passion and fury that he possessed in Seattle and Arizona. He has the psyche to pitch in New York; that much we learned last year. Maybe not early on, when he routinely made excuses for his woes, but later on when he bore down and threw his heart out. I’ll even go so far as to say that his September 16th ejection against Toronto was evidence of this passion and fury. Now he’ll have to exorcise those intangibles throughout the 2006 season.

Because let’s face it. If Randy isn’t Randy in 2006, the Yanks aren’t going to live up to the expectations we as fans place on them.