Friday, August 28, 2009

Game 128: Late

The Yankees have lost two series since the All-Star break, the one that concluded last night against the Rangers and before that, one against the White Sox that spanned the end of July and the beginning of August. It was too late to salvage a halve in the series out in Chicago, but the Yanks avoided a sweep as CC Sabathia worked around one bad inning and the offense touched up Buehrle for 7 runs in 4 1/3.

The same lefty-lefty match up will be replicated in the Bronx. The big fella wasn't perfect his last time out against the Red Sox on Sunday Night baseball, but the 4 runs he allowed over 6 2/3 were good enough to get him the win. He's won his last five starts and is looking to go a perfect 6 for 6 in August with a victory tonight.

In his career, Buehrle hasn't had much luck against Sabathia or the Yankees. In 9 starts against the Bombers, the lefty is just 1-6 with a 6.84 ERA and CC has owned him, going 6-0 in 10 career head to head starts. These numbers make for decent storylines, but don't mean a whole lot. The Yankees have been in a continuous state of flux since Buehrle first faced them back in 2001 as El Duque started against him and the only two players who appeared in the game and are still on the team are Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Clearly the offenses involved have played a major factor in that 6-0 head-to-head record against Sabathia and those have changed quite a bit as well.

More relevantly, Buehrle hasn't been great as of late, either. Since his perfect game, he's gone 0-4 in six starts with a 6.16 ERA, even though one of those consisted of 8 innings of shutout ball against the Mariners. During that span, he's struck out just 12 in 38 innings and walked 7 while giving up 54 hits.

The weather in the NYC area this evening may not be conducive for a baseballing contest and as Ross from New Stadium Insider notes, there aren't many chances for make up dates with only a little more than month left in the season. Expect the Yanks to do all they can to get the games this weekend in, which could lead to a late one tonight.

I'll be late for that, I can't wait for that,
I think I was made for that,
So I'm comin' in when I feel like,
To turn this mo'fucka up only if it feels right.

What About Next Year?

Mike from River Ave. Blues took a look at the under-utilization of Phil Hughes in the past month or so. Mike issue is with the fact that he hasn't been called on as of late, but I would like to add that the decision not to pitch him echoes into next season as well.

Hughes has pitched 70 1/3 innings for far this year and has been nothing short of excellent since being transitioned from a starter to a reliever. He's thrown about 35 innings in each role so far, but had an ERA of 5.45 as a starter as opposed to 1.26 out of the bullpen. He has great strikeout rates in both, but whiffs almost 3 1/2 more batters per nine when he's used in relief.

It would seem that the transition to high leverage reliever was just what the doctor ordered, but the downside is that Hughes doesn't figure to collect much more than 100 innings this year (if that), including the postseason. So when next year rolls around, he's going to be in almost the exact same spot innings-wise that Joba Chamberlain was in this year. Roughly 100 IP with a cap of 150-160 as a member of the starting rotation.

This reality makes the fact that Girardi has only used Hughes for 8 innings this month all the more puzzling. It's one of the reasons we were hesitant to jump on board the "Hughes to the bullpen" train to begin with. Were he in Scranton or in the rotation, this probably would be a non-issue.

The Yankees will probably tell you they have a plan for Hughes, but I don't think using him for 8 or 10 innings over an entire month despite a clean bill of health was part of that grand scheme. Granted, the Yankees have been involved in a lot of lopsided games both for and against them, so there weren't a lot of obvious occasions for Hughes to be called upon.

However, as manager Joe Girardi should be cognizant of the amount of innings the Phranchise has(n't) thrown and what that is going to mean if he and Brian Cashman truly want to make him a starting pitcher next season. If this means putting him in for an inning or two when the game is out of hand, then so be it. The kid should be on the hill one way or another.

Pete Abe's Stealing Our Schtick

Just kidding. Pete appears to be every bit the music enthusiast we are, but I have to admit, he came up with one today that I had never heard of.

The whole Brill Building / Tin Pan Alley type stuff is sort of a forgotten part of American music history, but it was really the primary source of popular music between the first wave of rock and roll in the early to mid 1950s and the British Invasion led by the Beatles and the Stones in 1964.

In their farewell concert, The Last Waltz, The Band tried to pay tribute to all periods of their career, and by extension all facets of post-1950 popular music, by inviting guests to represent these different stages and genres. So even though he sticks out like a sore thumb in a game of "one of these things is not the like the others", that's why Neil Diamond is included amongst the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, and Muddy Waters.

Sorry for yet another music-centric post. I'm out of ideas at the moment and counting the minutes until the weekend gets here.

A Few Lines On Coke

I have to admit, it wasn't until all the Twitter feeds came pouring into yesterday's live chat that I realized just how bad Phil Coke has been of late: 17 ER over his last 15.1 IP. His ERA has ballooned from 2.97 to 5.05 in that stretch.

Some may want to blame this on his over-use, as his 59 appearances are the most on the team by a good margin (Rivera is next with 52), and his 51.2 IP in relief is third behind Alfredo Aceves (61) and Rivera (53). And maybe that has something to do with it, but not very much.

Most of what's happened to Coke over these last 20 outings is just good old statistical correction. As I've stated before, particularly when evaluating relievers, I prefer to look at Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) rather than ERA. As you may recall, FIP is dependent upon the three things pitchers can control: strikeouts, walks, and home runs, and is then is adjusted to an ERA-like scale.

Unfortunately, I can't find game-by-game logs of Coke's FIP, nor do I have the free time to calculate it at the moment. However, at every point this season that I looked at his numbers, his ERA was outperforming his FIP - by a lot. These past twenty outings have served to correct that gap, so much so that after yesterday, Coke's ERA (5.05) is now worse than his FIP (4.86).

So what's the good news/bad news here? The good news is that the numbers seem to indicate that Coke has at worst leveled off, at best is due for a small improvement. The bad news is that where those numbers stand right are not all that good. The good news is the Coke's strikeout (7.14 per 9) and walk (3.14 per 9) rates are slightly better than the league averages. The bad news is his home run rate (1.57 per 9) is a half home run worse than the league average, and that's what is killing both his FIP and his ERA.

Another number to look at is Coke's batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Evidence has shown that a pitcher has little control over balls in play (which is why FIP is a valuable statistic) and that most pitchers end up having a BABIP close to the league average. Currently, Coke is at .234, far better than the league average of .304. This could suggest that we haven't seen the bottom for Coke yet; if his BABIP regresses to the mean over the final five weeks he could be in for a few more rough outings.

However, given Coke's K and HR rates, I would expect his BABIP to be a bit low. His K rate is higher than the league average, meaning there are fewer balls in play against him. Furthermore, 6.1% of batted balls off Coke are home runs, as opposed to 4.0% for the league. As such, hitters are making contact less against him compared to the league, but when they do, the ball is traveling over the fence far more often. While the latter certainly isn't a good thing, I do think that indicates that Coke's BABIP likely won't get close to the league average by season's end. Besides, any BABIP regression to the mean may be a good thing for Coke, as it could indicate that his gigantic HR rate is dropping off a bit.

So what does it all mean? Phil Coke isn't as good as he appeared to be through most of the summer and isn't as bad as he appears to be right now. He gives up way too many home runs, and Yankee Stadium may have something to do with that (18.2 AB/HR at home, 25 on the road). If he can get his home runs down, his K and BB rates suggest he is a relatively effective pitcher.

Relievers are highly volatile due to the relatively small number of innings the pitch. One or two bad outings, like yesterday or Coke's 0.1 IP 6 ER disaster in Chicago on 8/1, can have a major impact on a reliever's statistics. Despite being a former starter with a decent arsenal of pitches, and despite his numbers being good against right handed batters for most of the season, Joe Girardi has insisted upon using Coke as a match-up lefty for most of the year, with 30 of his 59 appearances lasting less than an inning.

Coke has been pretty high up in the bullpen pecking order for most of the season. He'll need to show some improvement over these last five weeks to justify keeping that status in October. If he can keep the ball in the ballpark more often, he has a good chance at making those improvements.

A Cup Of Coffee And A Link Dump

Top of the morning to you, Fackers. I'm going to be tied up for the early part of the day, so I thought I'd brew up some links to keep you busy while I'm gone.

According to Buster Onley, the Yankees put a waiver claim on Brad Penny earlier this month and have interest in signing him now that he's asked for and recieved his release from the Red Sox. Hey, he's better than Sergio Mitre, right...?

Brendan as IIATM,S looks at Josh Willingham as a potential offseason trade target for the Yanks. He's having a a great year, but isn't the kind of player the Nationals are likely very attached to considering he's 31 and about to hit arbitration.

Great post from Mike at RAB looking at Joba's pitch selection, namely his reliance on the slider. When he first came up, hitters simply couldn't identify it, especially when contrasted with his 98MPH fastball. Now with his velocity sitting considerably lower and full scouting reports on his tendencies, the pitch is loosing its effectiveness.

With Derek Jeter climbing in the Yankee record books in seemingly every category, Jonah Keri takes a look at where he ranks among the greatest Pinstripers of all time.

Mr. Cashman makes life a little more difficult for the Red Sox. Matthew Pouliot looks at how it might harm the career of the player involved.

Did you know THIS is what Kate Smith looked like? If you were part of our live chat yesterday you did.

Another voice of reason from WEEI. However, I think Jim Rice could carry Derek Jeter's jock... very intimidatingly.

Last night, Nick Green did his best Nick Swisher impression.

So now it appears that the list of positive tests in 2003 never should have been seized the the government in the first place, which means that the names on it never would have been leaked. Our pal Craig reminds us that calling for all of the names on the list to come out is a fool's errand, and thinks that the names may continue to leak.

Lar from wezen-ball takes a deep (as in cavernously deep) look at walk-off wins over at The Baseball Analysts.

John Dewan takes a second shot at the ability of first basemen to scoop throws.

Another tough break for the Mets...

A list of the 12 best Mets quotes of all time. Amazingly, "He has lobby myself" didn't make the cut.

It's football, but take a look at the scrap heap.

More football... Another beat writer bites the dust. Damn you Gannett! /shakes fist at the sky.

A poisonous pitcher plant that eats rats? Bad. Ass. Now when are they going to start growing some in the NYC Subways?

More science... Are we descended from aquatic apes? Carl Everett certainly doesn't think so.

That's it for now. Matt will have some thoughts on Phil Coke shortly and we have some bigger stuff coming this afternoon, hopefully. Catch you later on.