Saturday, October 07, 2006

Hate...You...Guys

Can you believe it? Kenny Rogers pitched more scoreless postseason innings tonight than he had in his career to this point.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Kenny Rogers' Postseason History


Year Round Tm Opp WLser G GS ERA W-L SV CG SHO IP H ER BB SO
+------------------+-----+--+--+------+-----+--+--+---+-----+---+---+---+---+
1996 ALDS NYY TEX W 2 1 9.00 0-0 0 0 0 2.0 5 2 2 1
ALCS NYY BAL W 1 1 12.00 0-0 0 0 0 3.0 5 4 2 3
WS NYY ATL W 1 1 22.50 0-0 0 0 0 2.0 5 5 2 0
1999 NLDS NYM ARI W 1 1 8.31 0-1 0 0 0 4.3 5 4 2 6
NLCS NYM ATL L 3 1 5.87 0-2 0 0 0 7.7 11 5 7 2
2003 ALDS MIN NYY L 1 0 0.00 0-0 0 0 0 1.3 1 0 1 3
+------------------+-----+--+--+------+-----+--+--+---+-----+---+---+---+---+
3 Lg Div Series 2-1 4 2 7.04 0-1 0 0 0 7.7 11 6 5 10
2 Lg Champ Series 1-1 4 2 7.59 0-2 0 0 0 10.7 16 9 9 5
6 Postseason Ser 4-2 9 5 8.85 0-3 0 0 0 20.3 32 20 16 15
+------------------+-----+--+--+------+-----+--+--+---+-----+---+---+---+---+


Only five runs over seven and two-thirds innings in his last postseason start! It's a marked improvement. The best part of this table is the very first line: two games, one of which was a start in the 1996 ALDS, pitching a total of two innings. Muy ridiculoso. How is Jim Leyland allowing him to start tonight? Isn't there a guy named Jeremy Bonderman on this team? I'd much rather throw the dice with an inexperienced playoff pitcher (hey, it worked for Verlander) than trot out Kenny Rogers. His last postseason start:

New York Mets IP H R ER BB SO HR
Rogers L(0-1) 5.1 9 4 4 3 1 2


Though, the worst of the worst:

New York Yankees IP H R ER BB SO HR
Rogers 2 5 5 5 2 0 1


You can take one guess as to what game that was. I'll give you a hint: a pitcher's career was ruined that night, but unfortunately, it wasn't Rogers'.

Just to take up space, here's our guy:

Year Round Tm Opp WLser G GS ERA W-L SV CG SHO IP H ER BB SO
+------------------+-----+--+--+------+-----+--+--+---+-----+---+---+---+---+
1995 ALDS SEA NYY W 2 1 2.70 2-0 0 0 0 10.0 5 3 6 16
ALCS SEA CLE L 2 2 2.35 0-1 0 0 0 15.3 12 4 2 13
1997 ALDS SEA BAL L 2 2 5.54 0-2 0 1 0 13.0 14 8 6 16
1998 NLDS HOU SDP L 2 2 1.93 0-2 0 0 0 14.0 12 3 2 17
1999 NLDS ARI NYM L 1 1 7.56 0-1 0 0 0 8.3 8 7 3 11
2001 NLDS ARI STL W 1 1 3.38 0-1 0 0 0 8.0 6 3 2 9
NLCS ARI ATL W 2 2 1.12 2-0 0 1 1 16.0 10 2 3 19
WS ARI NYY W 3 2 1.04 3-0 0 1 1 17.3 9 2 3 19
2002 NLDS ARI STL L 1 1 7.50 0-1 0 0 0 6.0 10 5 2 4
2005 ALDS NYY LAA L 2 1 6.14 0-0 0 0 7.3 12 5 1 4
+------------------+-----+--+--+------+-----+--+--+---+-----+---+---+---+---+
7 Lg Div Series 2-5 11 9 4.59 2-7 0 1 0 66.7 67 34 22 77
2 Lg Champ Series 1-1 4 4 1.72 2-1 0 1 1 31.3 22 6 5 32
10 Postseason Ser 4-6 18 15 3.28 7-8 0 3 2 115.3 98 42 30 128
+------------------+-----+--+--+------+-----+--+--+---+-----+---+---+---+---+


But, more importantly:

IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
6.0 2 0 0 3 4 0 91-59 5.37
8.0 4 4 4 1 8 3 106-76 4.94


And you all remember that two of the runs in the second game came in the ninth. All things considered, I don't think there's a chance Randy Johnson pitches the ninth today, barring a no-no.

So how confident are you about tonight?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Amped Up for Some Day Baseball

Maybe the Tigers are bitter about losing home-field advantage. It seemed that way yesterday, as the newspaper stories this morning mentioned how the Tigers were miffed that they were not informed of the “certainty” of a postponement. Maybe if they had won a single game against the Royals, they wouldn’t have been in this predicament. It’s home-field advantage, guys, and it’s not just advantageous because the crowd is screaming for you.

So we move the game to 1:00 today, which miffs me a bit because, like most of you, I’m at work and in front of a desk all day. Thankfully, MLB.tv will have the archive waiting for me when I get home. The question, though, is if I can avoid any baseball banter at work.

Here’s the thing with today’s game: both pitchers have to mentally prepare for the game again, which is probably detrimental to the fragile psyche of a pitcher. Gotta give the advantage to the Yanks here for two reasons. First, Mussina supposedly knew about the impending postponement, meaning he was able to relax earlier than Verlander, who was throwing warm-ups during the delay. Compounding this issue is Verlander’s inexperience. The second advantage is that if pitchers are truly bruised by having to mentally prepare for a game twice (and we don’t know how true that is), the Yankees lineup can surely outslug the Tigers. That is, the Yankees would likely score more runs off a loopy Verlander than the Tigers would against a loopy Mussina.

In other LDS news:

The A’s took a swift 2-0 series lead against the home-field Twins, with the series headed back to Oakland. I’ve seen Oakland take 2-0 series leads on the road in the past, and I have one bit of advice for them: SLIDE, YOU STUPID FUCKING RUNNER, SLIDE!

The Mets, despite Billy Wagner’s efforts to blow the game, took a 1-0 lead over the Dodgers. The worst part of it all: the commentators began comparing Carlos Delgado to Derek Jeter. Do I even need to begin telling them how far off-base and sensationalist they’re being? Or would a thwap to the head with a frying pan serve them better?

Is there really anything to say about the Cards/Pads series beyond the obvious? The winner is rewarded by a pounding by the Mets or Dodgers.

In other, non-sports news:

I got both the new Killers and new Beck albums. I’ve listened to them once each, and have the following assessments:

Killers—I, uh, really don’t dig this. Maybe it’s because they set the bar so high with the first album. Then again, I wasn’t a big fan of “One Way Ticket to Hell and Back” by the Darkness when it came out, ostensibly for the same reason. So, while “Sam’s Town” gets a negative from me in the beginning, it surely will get another listen or two before I banish it to the land of CDs I no longer listen to.

Beck—It’s Beck, through and through. If you liked “Mellow Gold,” “Odelay,” and “Guero,” this one is right up your alley (though, my favorite album by him remains “Midnite Vultures”). The only difference I see among these albums is that “The Information” is a bit more upbeat. Not that the other albums aren’t; but there are less mellow tracks strewn throughout his latest offering.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Yankees Lead Series, 1-0

We all watched last night—or have read the newspaper recap—so I’ll spare you the play-by-play. There isn’t too much to say for the game because it went exactly as expected. The Yanks mashed Robertson, benefited from a solid starting pitching performance, and labored through the bullpen to get to Rivera. All in all, a productive if not predictable Game One. I have a gripe, however, and I’m sure many of you share it.

In the top of the seventh, with two outs recorded and no base runners allowed that inning, Joe Torre decided to make a pitching change. Jigga-what? It’s not like Wang had thrown a ton of pitches (it was 96) or was showing signs of wearing down. The Tigers leadoff hitter, Curtis Granderson, was due up, and apparently Torre though this was the perfect time for a lefty-lefty match-up. Nevermind that Wang had settled down since allowing three runs in the fifth, recording two strikeouts and four groundouts since Sean Casey’s run-scoring double. This is exactly what I was thinking when this happened:

Strawberry: You're pinch-hitting for me?
Burns: Yes. You see, you're a left-hander and so is the pitcher. If I send up a right-handed batter it's called playing the percentages. It's what smart managers do to win ballgames.
Strawberry: But I hit nine home runs today.
Burns: You should be very proud of yourself.

This was a classic case of overmanagement. Some may call it hindsight and second-guessing the manager, but this hardly the case. My girlfriend (who routinely asks questions about the rules of the game) was aghast when Wang left the game (her: “You know what he’s thinking now, right? ‘Stupid Americans, won’t let me finish my game. You’re ruining it for me! Ruining it!!!’”).

What I least understand is the necessity to bring in a lefty specialist for Curtis Granderson. Yes, he’s a good player who poses multiple threats. But he’s no David Ortiz, Travis Hafner, Justin Morneau, or Jim Thome. Those are the guys for whom you bring in a lefty specialist. The Tigers, sadly, lack an overly threatening lefty. In fact, it may have been the smart move to leave Myers off the ALDS roster for that reason. And should the Yanks face the Athletics in the ALCS, he should be left off there as well. I hear a lot of complaints about his taking up a roster spot in general, and that’s magnified when his services aren’t really needed.

So yeah, anyway, the plan totally backfired on Torre, who was forced to go to Proctor to finish the frame. It took him a while to settle in, but he didn’t seem overly nervous, even after he had allowed two baserunners. With Farnsworth’s “I’m a pussy” treatment, Proctor will likely be the eighth inning guy tonight, should a setup man be necessary in that spot. I’m not overly confident in him at this point, but the Yanks have trotted out lesser arms in that spot in the recent past.

And what can we say about the Farns? The leadoff walk inspired my ire like none other, since that’s the first sign of an ineffective Farnsworth. When Pudge popped out to left, I thought he got all of it. Thankfully, he juuuuuust missed, and Farnsworth was able to fend off the next two hitters dutifully. My biggest gripe with Farns is that he’s had the same problems all year, and he seemingly refuses to correct them. The first is the overuse of his slider. His fastball is devastating and sliders hang. If the other team is going to beat you, have it be on a 98 m.p.h. heater rather than a hanging slider—unless your idol is Mark Wohlers.

On a closing note, here’s a big FUCK YOU to Chris Russo. I distinctly remember an exchange between he and Francessa back in late May or early June regarding Bobby Abreu. He said something to the effect of Bobby never coming up in a big spot—failing to note that Abreu had never been to the playoffs in a major capacity (yeah yeah, Houston in 1997). They may not have been the biggest of spots last night, but his four RBI kinda won the Yanks the game. Also take note that yesterday, Mr. Russo called Alex a weakness in the Yankees lineup. I’m hoping to shove that down his throat as well.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Some Infrequently Used Data

Just for fun, let’s play with one of my favorite stats, Pitcher’s Quality of Batters Faced. It’s quite simple: you take the averages of every better a pitcher has faced, just like the name indicates. The question remains how we should interpret this data, but for now I’m going with the most basic use: comparing this to the hitters said pitcher will be facing.

Note: I’m going to use some more advanced pitching stats. For definitions, see The Hardball Times Stats Glossary.

ERA: 3.84
FIP: 4.81
xFIP: 4.63
DER: .723
LOB%: 76.1

What we can glean from this information is that Robertson pitched considerably above his head this year. The defensive efficiency behind him is quality, which aids his cause. But it seems to me that he puts guys on base at a decent clip and works out of jams. His left on base percentage somewhat justifies that claim. Both of these qualities work against him when facing the Yankees.

Quality of Batters Faced:
Avg: .272
OBP: .340
Slg: .432
OPS: .772

As we move forward, we’re keeping in mind that he put up the first set of numbers against a hitter that averages .272/.340/.432. Let’s look at the Yankees lineup:

Johnny Damon: .285/.359/.482
Derek Jeter: .343/.417/.483
Bobby Abreu: .330/.419/.507
Gary Sheffield: .298/.355/.450
Jason Giambi: .253/.413/.558
Alex Rodriguez: .290/.392/.523
Hideki Matsui: .302/.393/.494
Jorge Posada: .277/.374/.492
Robinson Cano: .342/.365/.525

(Aside: they say you can’t hit your way to a title, but have “they” ever seen a lineup quite like this? I have to go with the negative, since I don’t believe such a lineup ever existed.)

And there you have it. Only one Yankee came in below any of Robertson’s QBF categories, and that’s Jason Giambi’s average. However, I think that his .073 advantage in OBP and .126 advantage in Slugging negate Robertson’s .019 advantage in batting average.

So what are we to conclude from this? Well, since I haven’t really seen studies performed as to a pitcher’s performance against a lineup that is far better than the average he’s faced this year, I would say the results are inconclusive at best, misleading at worst. I’m just trying to put this match up in the best possible perspective, and these “Quality of” stats are rarely used.

Originally, I intended to post each Yankee’s Quality of Pitchers faced, until I realized that the numbers are more or less the same. The idea here is just the same as batters: the higher the numbers, the worse the pitcher. For the Yankees, this bodes well:

.260/.340/.415

Over the course of the year, the average pitcher they faced had a .260 BAA, .340 OBPA, and a .415 SLGA. Those are pretty decent numbers for a pitcher. Robertson’s line against:

.259/.320/.424

Once again, we run into an issue of interpretation. Against guys hitting .272/.340/.432, Robertson posted a line of .259/.320/.424, meaning he outpitched his opponents. On the other hand, the every Yankee (except Giambi in the batting average department) outhit the pitchers they faced.

What does all this mean? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I’m trying to process the data, but since it’s relatively new and not frequently analyzed, I’m a bit stuck. Anecdotally, I fully expect the Yanks to light up Robertson tonight. He’s an average pitcher who ostensibly pitched above his head this year, and is facing hands down the best lineup in baseball. Statistically, though, it appears that Robertson may have just enough to keep the Yanks in check. Lucky for the Yanks, the undisciplined Tigers are facing ground ball machine Chien-Ming Wang. They might not even need more than two runs.

But I think I’m getting ahead of myself…

Monday, October 02, 2006

Your 2006 Yanksblog.com Fantasy Baseball Champs

I stole Big Papi with the eighth overall pick (seriously, are there eight better hitters in the league, fantasy-wise, than Ortiz????), nabbed Roy Oswalt on the way back, and took Joe Mauer with my third pick. From there, it was all pitching that won me the 2006 Yanksblog.com fantasy baseball league. Thanks to all who participated, especially Mike from In George We Trust/Baby Bombers/Pending Pinstripes, who wrote me off at the beginning of August.

Not that anyone cares, but this is how I won the league:

1) PITCHING! I drafted Oswalt and Zito, but beyond them, my pitching was just okay. Jeremy Bonderman was a sleeper, skyrocketing my strikeout totals. My bullpen was in shambles all season, with Huston Street and Derrick Turnbow anchoring the crew. Turnbow worked out for half the season, but nearly killed my playoff chances in July. Scot Shields and Clay Hensley were decent stopgaps, though. I believe Joe Blanton was my only remaining starter from the draft.

Over the course of the season, I was able to expose the lack of knee-jerk reactions by the rest of the league by picking up Bronson Arroyo, Jered Weaver, and Cole Hamels. Combined with Zito, Oswalt, Bonderman, and Blanton, this was probably the best staff in the league, closers be damned.

2) Hitting where it counts. Ortiz was always solid, and Mauer was great from June on. How I got away with Lance Berkman is beyond me, but his 48 homers certainly had something to do with my winning. Another thanks goes to Nick Swisher for rocking, and yet another to David DeJesus for vindicating my decision to keep him through his injury.

Bill Hall and Placido Polanco were great at the beginning, though slipped a bit at the end. Jorge Cantu was a monumental disappointment, as was Jhonny Peralta, who didn't last more than two months. My biggest thanks go to the teams who dropped Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. With an infield of Mauer, Ortiz, Uggla, Ramirez, and Hall, I was pretty set there. The outfield of Swisher, DeJesus, and Berkman worked well, too. I just wish I had a decent utility guy -- Trot Nixon and Kevin Youkilis were worthless in September, and by that time I had already given up on Milton Bradley.

So yeah, this is the first time I've ever won a fantasy baseball league. And, for the record, 1) I didn't make ANY roster moves in April. I didn't even switch out my starting pitchers or sub for off-days. 2) I didn't know the championship went for two weeks, and as such didn't make any roster moves last week. On Monday, I was down 9-1.

Let the Season Begin

What a dang surprise. Just about everyone was preparing for a Yanks-Twins ALDS, what with the Tigers leading by a game and holding the tiebreaker with four to play. And although the Twins won just one of their last three, they managed to overcome the Tigers, currently embroiled in a five-game losing streak, including the final three to the Royals.

I have to say that this bodes considerably well for the Yankees. All the hoopla this week was about how the Yanks stood the worst chance in a short series against the Twins, who have the only truly dominant starter of 2006. This scenario works out even better if the Yanks can knock off the Tigers in three (completely feasible, considering the only two losses to the Tigers this season came in the ninth inning while Mariano Rivera was unavailable—and that whole messy business of them being swept by the 100-loss Royals). The A’s and the Twins look to have at least a four-gamer on their hands, and for them to go to a fifth game would mean Johan Santana would only be available for one game in the ALCS, unless they’re willing to start him twice on three days rest.

When facing the Tigers, let’s make sure not to make the mistake of thinking they’re the Tigers from season’s beginning. Those Tigers are not these Tigers. On July 1, they were at 55-26; on August 1 they were 71-35 and 7.5 games up on the second-place White Sox. And on October 2, they finished the season 95-67. Yes, that means they went 24-22 over the last two months, and 40-41 over the last three. To reiterate: 55-26 in the first 81 games, 40-41 in the final 81 games. In contrast, the Yankees were at 46-35 on July 4th, when they hit 81 games. They finished the season 97-65, meaning they went 51-30 in the second half.

For my opinion of the Tigers, I’ll refer to the bit I wrote for Was Watching:

Justin Verlander is a rookie and already in uncharted innings pitched territory. Kenny Rogers is Kenny Rogers, which means he folds at even the slightest hint of pressure. Nate Robertson is largely unproven. That leaves Jeremy Bonderman, whose near 4.00 ERA doesn't really put him at a dominating level.


That isn’t to say that the Tigers pitching staff will flop. Rather, it’s to highlight their shortcoming and prove that they’re not going to run through the playoffs with the same pitching effectiveness as they did the regular season. That problem becomes compounded when you look at their offense.

Now, their total run production wasn’t bad, but in the all-important stat, on-base percentage, the Tigers ranked 12th in the AL with a .329 mark. Translation: the Tigers make outs at an extraordinary rate, which is detrimental in the playoffs, when the impetus of each game is to make outs as infrequently as possible. When you have a finite number of outs, they become much more valuable. In a battle to avoid making the 81st out of the series, the team with the .363 OBP should outlast the team with the .329 OBP.

The only strike against the Yankees at this point is the questionable nature of the pitching staff. Chien-Ming Wang isn’t exactly playoff-proven, and he’s the ace going in. Following him is Mike Mussina, who should be reliable, but is always susceptible to a mid-game meltdown. Randy Johnson is far from a certainty. His balky back (a great term, if not overused) has his Game Three start in question, but the indication now is that he’ll start. Even then, we can gander back to the 2005 ALDS, when Randy’s abysmal performance really killed the Yanks. And then comes Jaret Wright, who, if there is a God, won’t start in the ALDS. Though, when you get to the LCS, the need for a fourth starter will certainly arise, and it looks like (to paraphrase Randy Quaid) Torre will be Old Mother Hubbard, with only Wright in the cupboard.

Still, the Yankees are the team to beat this year. The LDS, while obviously not a shoe-in, shouldn’t pose a huge problem, barring a pitching meltdown. The LCS, however, could be troublesome, with the pitching-heavy A’s or the Santana-ful (I made that up) Twins at hand. But, we’ll worry about that in a week.