Sunday, May 10, 2009

One Mo Thought

Mariano Rivera issued his first walk of the season today, and that might not be a bad thing. It was the only baserunner he allowed on his way to converting his sixth save of the season in a 5-3 victory over the Orioles. 

Given that Mo has been touched up pretty good recently, it might do him some good to work off the plate more often and get hitters to chase instead of just pounding the strike zone. With diminished velocity, he might have to change his approach a little, and not be afriad to issue a walk if it might diminsh the chance of surrendering a home run. 

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

Hey Aubrey Huff, didn't your mother ever tell you that?

Game 31: Hey Mama

I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine,
This little light of mine, and I'm gonna let it shine,
I'm fixin' to take y'all back to them better times,
I'm fixin' to talk about my mama if yall don't mind.
I feel bad for Joba Chamberlain today. In light of the recent legal troubles his mother has had, it's probably a tough day to take the mound. Based on the fact that he is still pitching despite a ruptured blood vessel in his thumb, it would have probably been harder for him not to.

If you haven't, you should read this profile of Joba's mom written last September in the Lincoln Journal Star. It's easy to be an asshole and make fun her mugshot, but reading that story might actually give you some understanding into her problems, and make you appreciate your relationship with your mom a little more. 

Like most of us, I think I have the best mom in the world. A quick example: Back in college, she came out to visit me and took my roommate Kevin and I out to dinner. All of Kev's cousins had gone on Semester at Sea, and he was planning on carrying out the tradition. As he was explaining what the trip entailed, my mom turned to me and said "So, why aren't you doing this?" I ended up going, and it was the best decision I've ever made. 

She's smart and thoughtful and she worries and nags (I mean, is nice enough to remind me of things), which probably makes her a lot like your mom. She stayed strong through some really tough times and even though everyone told me I would have to be the man of the house, I knew that wasn't the case. 

A long time ago we were talking about religion and life and she said "I believe in doing good things for the benefits they reap in this lifetime". Regardless of your beliefs, I think those are words that we can all live by.

So Happy Mothers Day, Mom (and also to the maximum of one or two other mothers who read this site). We appreciate you, even if we don't always act like it. 

Big Innings

Last night, as the runs started to pile up in the second inning, I'm pretty sure all Yankee fans were thinking essentially the same thing, "Here we go again". There was a mix of bad luck, bad pitching, bad defense, and lack of focus. I said bad luck first because Luke Scott's single to lead off the inning only got through because Cano was shifted towards first. Teixeira narrowly missed two balls hit at him. Aubrey Huff's homer was a good breaking ball at his shoelaces that he somehow awkwardly jerked over the right field scoreboard.

Regardless of how these big innings are coming to be, this is becoming a trend for this team. The Yankees have been outscored 167-190 this year and a major part of that is the fact that they have gotten tagged for a ton of train wreck innings, but have largely been unable to return the favor.

The Yanks have been outscored 81-37 in these sitauations, more than making up for their negative run differential.

What is causing this? I've identified some contributing factors:
  • Chien Ming Wang - Wang is responsible for four of these innings, which account for 22 runs. In relief of Wang against the Indians, Anthony Claggett allowed 6 more earned runs, bringing that total to 28.

  • Situational Hitting - With runners in scoring position, opponents are hitting .321, which is better than any team in the MLB. By contrast, the Yanks are hitting .245, 20th in the league. With two outs and RISP, the Yankees are at .238 with a .795 OPS, while allowing .289 & .904 to the opposition.

  • Walks - Yankee relievers are walking 4.5 men per nine innings pitched (starters 3.7), even though Mariano Rivera has pitched 11 innings and has given up none. Take Mo out of the equation and the average jumps to 5.1. The biggest culprits are Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez, who have pitched a combined 30 innings and walked 22. The bullpen is striking out almost one guy an inning, but it's not enough to neutralize all the walks.

  • + Hits - As a team they are also allowing more than a hit per inning, amounting to a WHIP of 1.526, fourth worst in the MLB. More baserunners prolong innings, and set the table for...

  • Home Runs - Pinstriped pitchers have allowed 43 long balls this year, second only to the Orioles with 49. Their Home Run/Fly Ball ratio is 10.6%, tied with the O's for the worst in the AL by a full two percent. Camden Yards is a notorious bandbox and it's certainly starting to look like the New Stadium is as well. I've been reluctant to jump on this bandwagon, but they have allowed four more dingers at home in four fewer games (1.84 per game to 1.17). Our buddy Simon recently took a closer look at some of the cheap homers from Thursday's game. Where there is smoke, there is fire.
Some of those factors project to improve over time. Chien Ming Wang has already taken a little "injury" hiatus. He will be back at some point and there's pretty much no chance he will be as bad as he was to begin the season. And if he is, he won't be around for long. Situational hitting, especially disparities that drastic, should regress to the mean as well.

However, the bullpen is starting to become a serious problem. I've been critical of Girardi's handling of it so far, saying he has been mixing and matching too much. The stats bear this out. The Yankees are second in the AL only to the Rays is number of appearances by pitchers totalling less than three outs, with 33. The difference is that the Rays have match-up specialists like Brian Shouse, and J.P. Howell who can, you know, actually get guys out. Their bullpen ERA is also over a run and a half lower, so whatever Joe Maddon is doing seems to be working. It's not all Girardi's fault, obviously, the pitchers should be doing a better job.

Right now, the Yankees have the worst ERA in baseball and getting A-Rod back isn't going to help that either.