Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekend Roundup

- This is the third time I've discussed Joe Girardi's bullpen over-management in the last few weeks, and the funny thing is I'm not even discussing it every time it happens. We're just going to have to have a code word that serves to sum up this entire analysis so I don't feel the need to go through it every time. Like "Girardi'd" or something. Anyway, Saturday was a new low for the 2010 season in this regard so it's worth mentioning briefly. Yankees up 6-5 in the Top of the 7th, 2 outs, runner on 2nd, Carlos Quentin - who entered Saturday's game batting .182 - at the plate. Robertson falls behind 2-0. So Girardi decide's to IBB Quentin. Walking a .182 hitter in the form of the go-ahead run? Is that serious? If you pitch to him, he needs to homer to take the lead. And remember he's batting .182. If you walk him, a homer, triple, or double gives the White Sox the lead. Sure enough, the next batter, A.J. Pierzynski, doubles in both runs. Girardi had the righty/righty, and walked a guy to get to the lefty/lefty. He surely had some reason in his little binder to do this. Whatever it was not only shouldn't overide the simple baseball adage that you don't put the go-ahead run on base, but is an example of over-managing and over-complicating things. You pitch to .182 hitters. You don't walk them as the go-ahead run intentionally. There is really no stat in any binder anywhere that should make it any more difficult than that. It was not dumb. It was asinine.

- Of all of the things I've seen from both the Yankees and Red Sox thus far this season, no two players have impressed me more than Phil Hughes and Clay Buchholz. Robinson Cano would be close but it is slightly more expected coming from him at this more established point in his career. Phil Hughes is 3-1 with a 1.44 ERA, allowing only 10 hits in his 25 innings pitched, striking out 24 to 12 walks. You'd like to see the walks go down, but if he's going to give up less than a hit every two innings you really don't mind. All of this is good for an ERA+ of 279 (it's early, but that isn't a typo), and he's absolutely attacking every batter and dominating. (Before tonight's start) Clay Buccholz is 2-2 with a 2.19 ERA, allowing 23 hits in 24.2 innings pitched, striking out 22 to 9 walks. Same thing as Hughes with the walks, although his is a less concerning total but with more hits, pretty much negating this situation as compared to Hughes. He's been good for an even ERA+ of 200 (it's early, but that also isn't a typo), and he's on the bump tonight in a huge start as he tries to play stopper and start a week that the Red Sox need to play well in off on the right foot.

- The Yankees need to skip Javier Vazquez on Friday night in Boston. The off day Thursday allows them to do it and he is really struggling right now. Toss his NL numbers out, and let's just focus on his career AL numbers so that we can take the AL/NL argument out of the equation. In four AL seasons he averaged 206 IP, a 4.54 ERA, 13 wins, 9 hits per 9, 1.2 homers per 9, 2 walks per 9, and a 3/1 K/BB. What you think about those numbers may vary, as The Gunn and I discussed in the comments last week. But those are the numbers, and unless you think something suddenly happened to make him as bad as he's been this first month, those are at least the numbers he's proven he's capable of in the AL. So far this year he has a 9.78 ERA, is giving up 12.5 hits per 9, 3.1 homers per 9, 5.9 walks per 9, and has a 1.33/1 K/BB. The only thing that has been close to his former AL averages is his K/9 at 7.8, down from around 8 in the AL previously. So he's basically been about twice as bad as bad as he was across 4 seasons and 800+ innings, which is no small sample. Because of the sample, it's doubtful that this is an ability thing, we're all of a sudden he's this much worse than he was just a few years ago in the same league. More likely is that it's a mental thing. Fans are largely going to flip out and say he stinks, can't pitch in the AL, and can't pitch in New York. The Yankees don't have time for that, and are surely not thinking that way. They just need to figure out a way to get him pitching to his career AL levels, because that's what they got him for. That means getting his confidence and mentality in the right place.

Starting him in Boston on Friday is throwing him to the dogs, and is not going to get the job done for what the Yankees and Vazquez need. It's a primetime game against a rival in a hitters park. Continuing to run him out there right now, while maybe a vote of confidence, is basically hoping that at some point something is just going to suddenly click and he's going to start pitching well. That isn't proactive enough for me. Personally, I think it's a classic case of pressing. He wants to prove that he's better than he showed in 2004, and he wants to prove he can pitch in the AL similar to the NL. If he tries to pitch to the numbers he put up in the NL he's going to end up making it worse, and I think that's the case right now. He's trying to be perfect and when you do that you end up pitching without complete confidence, nibbling, and getting lit up. He has to go out and do what he can do, which is pitch 200 innings at around league average, and there's nothing wrong with that. The way Phil Hughes is going, the Yankees would be thrilled with that out of Vazquez. He's better than what he's show this first month, and he's proven that to be the case. Running him out there repeatedly isn't going to help him stop pressing in my opinion. You need to give him some time to try to reset mentally and get some extra work in on the side physically. I think running him out there on Friday, in a ballpark that plays like a circus against a team that smells fear, especially in their home park, and especially against the Yankees, is risking losing him mentally. That's the concern here for me, his mentality and confidence, not his ability. He's better than the Sidney Ponson's of the world talent-wise, it's just a matter of getting it out of him.

I also think running him out there Friday is not what's best for the team. Even if you think that is what's best for Vazquez because you think doing otherwise is a blow to his confidence, it's difficult to argue that it is what's best for the Yankees. The Red Sox have four tough games with the Angles, and no off days, before Friday. They are currently 5.5 behind the Yankees and 7 behind Tampa. With the kind of saturation at the top of this division, the Yankees might have a chance, depending on what happens this week, to put Boston in an early season hole. Not a season-ending kind of thing, because it's too early for anybody to do that to anybody else. But if they take 2 out of 3, that's 4 out of 6 against Boston with 9 of their remaining 12 head-to-head games at Yankee Stadium, and the Sox likely separated from the Yankees and Rays in the standings for the time being. Giving them Vazquez in his current state on Friday night is taking your foot of the pedal, and I don't think that's what you want to do with a team like Boston. Things are so crowded at the top of this division, every game counts, especially the ones played between New York/Boston/Tampa because they count double. So instead of Vazquez/Beckett, Hughes/Buchholz, Sabathia/Lester, which likely favors Boston mostly because of the Friday night game, it's Hughes/Beckett, Sabathia/Buccholz, and Burnett/Lester, which likely favors the Yankees. Of course, I'll just be rooting for the Yankees not to get swept, get out of Boston without giving too much back, and be on their way. That's what I always root for in any Boston series, especially the ones in Fenway. But they could be in position to do some damage in terms of the division standings and that's not the time nor the place for Vazquez to try to figure it out. If you can get Boston playing catch up early, you should, because they are going to start charging at some point. The more ground they have to cover the better, especially with Tampa looking like they are around to stay, and you hope the Yankees are too.

UPDATE: As I wrote this, it was announced that Vazquez will be skipped. Smart move, and one I pretty much figured was coming. It's difficult to see any reason why they wouldn't do this. He gets bumped back three days and starts in spacious Detroit in what could generously be described as a more conducive environment to work through things. He also gets an extra bullpen, and some time to get a "breather" as Joe Girardi termed it, both of which seem completely necessary. Good spot by the Yankees here.

- The Curtis Granderson injury is really unfortunate. Hopefully he can get back in close to the month it's thought he'll be out. In the meantime, nice to see Randy Winn get a huge knock tonight in his first start in Granderson's absence. Three-run downtown that was the game winner. The way Marcus Thames is crushing lefties - which is what he was largely brought in to do - if Randy Winn can provide average total production against righties it should help ease the blow of lowing Granderson to some extent.

- C.C. Sabathia is incredible. Just a pleasure to watch and have on the team you root for. One of the best players I have ever watched play this game.

20 comments:

PF said...

timc-

hopefully you see this here. i believe i saw analysis in recent years actual win pct. vs. pythag. win pct. where the impacts of baserunning and the ability to win one run games were considered. idea obviously being good baserunning = outperforming and bad baserunning = underperforming. ditto on winning and losing one run games.

great individual and team stats are ops+ and era+ because they are position, park, and league adjusted i believe. so you're really trying to level the playing field for comparative purposes. instead of the gm making a joke about looking at one stat we'll just acknowledge that we know he's going to.

from the bronx said...

i also think javy is pressing a bit, but i think his biggest problems stem from his being an inferior pitcher incapable of pitching in new york city. we should skip him on friday, but we should also skip him for the rest of his starts this season.

the gm at work said...

Pat,

On the analysis you saw on the Pythagorean, that is intuitive. In other words, duh. Other factors that will make you outperform this stat total would be having a good closer or bullpen.

And the real joke is the fact that people, yourself not really included, actually do just go by those two stats.

I would have started Javy. As Boston scored 17 last night, the team won't score a run for a week. I don't want to compare this Angels game to the last three.

Anonymous said...

PF

You might not write as many posts as DV, but when you write a post, you don't cheat anybody. I bet there are more words in this bad boy than there were in most of your history finals.

That in mind, agreed about Vazquez. All you really need to know is this: if Red Sox fans are bummed to find out he's being skipped, it's probably a good idea to have him miss a start...or eight.

Also, from where you're sitting, there are a lot of positive things to think about when it comes to the Yankees. Everyone is really playing well or pitching well, with the exception of Vazquez (who you weren't expecting the world from anyway), and Teixeira. And ARod hasn't been bad, but he hasn't gotten it going yet. Both of those guys are going to get hot and it will happen soon and when it does that whole team is going to be very, very dangerous, unless guys like Pettitte start to act their age or Burnett implodes psychologically (hey, it could happen).

Also, a few things on the Sox. We routinely kill JD Drew in this space, perhaps rightly, perhaps not. But even I, who am most guilty of JD Drew-bashing have to point out that he has been awesome lately. He really has. He had a huge two-out hit last night to give the Sox some breathing room after the Angels got it to 5-3 and he did it against a lefty, no less. He's been hitting for pop. He's been hitting in important situations. And he's been using the entire field. If he keeps this up for a bulk of this season he's going to be incredibly valuable.

In the same vein, we always crush Manny Delcarmen. He's probably been their best reliever this year. I actually feel somewhat confident with him out there now in big spots (look at his WHIP and ERA--it's impressive stuff). I know it's early and I know he's 28, but perhaps he was a little bit of a late-bloomer and can really become the guy that the front office envisioned him being from the beginning.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

PF,

Thanks for the ideas. In fact, good catch on your part to see it where I posted it. ERA+ and OPS+ look pretty good; statistically, it looks like OPS+ predicts runs scored about as well as combinations of others stats like a weighted SLG and OPS equation or linear weights while ERA+ does about the same as home runs, walks, and strikeouts. Any thoughts on a cutoff number for ERA+ and OPS+ to use when defining an elite individual player?

As for skipping Vazquez, good move on the Yankees part but bad timing for Boston. The Red Sox have probably already played themselves out of the playoffs and the timing of the Yankees series could not be much worse. I also need to repeat the point that a team built around pitching and defense should have at least one catcher who can throw out a base stealer.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

gunn -

i have lots of thoughts, and when i get the train started it's tough to stop, even when i tell myself i'm going to.

nick johnson has also been terrible despite leading the majors in walks.

bronx/gunn -

even if we take javier vazquez's worst al season, he was 14-10 with a 4.91 in 198.0 innings. and he had 3 better seasons than that. again, everyone decide for themselves what that constitutes. but even at that absolute worst line, is that really a guy who is incapable and needs to skip 8 starts (tongue in cheek or not)? haven't we all had multiple starters in our rotations at times that have done worse than that and been given the ball 30 times because it was more expected of them? but because more would be expected of javy he needs to be removed from the rotation forever? at the end of the season we can look at about about 90% of 4/5 starters in baseball who have numbers worse than that. he's well below those numbers right now, as are about a million players in baseball including two on the yankees (tex and nick johnson). but because he gave up one grand slam to johnny damon (with all three runners' on base being kevin brown's), it is predetermined that he can't turn it around and pitch to his career levels while everyone else can. that doesn't make any sense to me. the amount of venom this guy gets for throwing one pitch in his third career bullpen appearance is disproportionate to the blame he actually deserves, and certainly is far overstated when it comes to evaluating the player six years later. i understand he plays for the yankees and that immediately holds him to different standards than everyone else in terms of evaluation, but by all accounts he's a nice guy who is just putting together an average (AL) to above average (NL) career, and for some reason everybody has it out for him. it's very perplexing.

gm -

good point on the closer/bullpen. i actually had that written and re-wrote the sentence and didn't include it. my bad.

timc -

depends on what you're looking for in terms "elite". if you mean elite as in the top 10 hitters/pitchers in the game, you're talking 140-150 range. if you mean elite as in general all-star caliber i'd say around 120. those are pretty rough numbers but should give you a sense. let me know if you want to talk more, because there are certainly other stats like VORP and WAR that could be helpful to you. also, wOBA (for hitters) and FIP/xFIP (for pitchers) are slightly more advanced metrics growing in popularity thought to even more accurately reflect the production of hitters and pitchers.

Anonymous said...

PF

Come on now--you know that comment about missing eight starts was sarcastic. If you keep this defense of Javier Vazquez up you're going to enter similar territory once ruled by DV in his crusade for Coco Crisp. We don't need to belabor the Javier Vazquez point any further other than to say this: People had a perception of the guy as an NL pitcher who couldn't cut it in the AL. Whether it was a fair perception or not, the guy has been absolutely horrible this year and you can't really defend what he's done thus far. If you want to keep trotting him out there because you think he's going to revert to being a serviceable pitcher, then that's fine. But to so vehemently defend a guy who is neither going to make or break your rotation against light-hearted chiding seems a little excessive.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

The difference between my co-author's Vazquez crusade and mine for #10 in your programs #1 in your hearts is that I knew how ridiculous I was being and Pat does not know how ridiculous he is being.

Vazquez has not chiefly been judged unfavorably because of that one pitch. I think on average, Yankee fans were pretty excited about Vazquez's second round with the club, especially in the reduced role. When he reverted to the pitcher who threw that one pitch...and the pitcher who delivered multiple underwhelming seasons previously...that's when they got on his back. Not because of the one pitch six years ago.

Patrick said...

gunn/gm -

i think we're having a little difficulty getting on the same page here. gunn, i knew you were totally kidding. the issue is there are those out there that aren't. they are seriously ready to give up on a guy after 5 starts, never mind that there is nothing on his ledger to suggest he is this bad. the upside of the vazquez trade for me is and always was this: even if he pitches as he did in his worst career season (with the yankees in 2004, which takes both the can't pitch in ny and can't pitch in the AL arguments out of it), which was 198 innings, 4.91 era, 14 wins, that's going to benefit the yankees in terms of having a stabilized back end of the rotation. if he gives you better than that, even pitching to his career averages, it's gravy. it's not that i'm defending him vehemently (i'm not on any sort of crusade to prove that he is or is not something, i don't have any strong feelings one way or another on vazquez the player or person) as much as i'm asserting that despite all of 5 starts i still think it's reasonable he will pitch at least as well as the worst level he's ever pitched in his career, and that level of production will benefit the yankees. i don't really think i'm going out on a limb here, because anyone's track record indicates they are capable of playing at least as well as the worst they've ever played.

the only element that bothers me is the reactionary element. this pertains to gm (and not gunn), who was asking me after this 3rd or 4th start when i was going to write a rip job about vazquez. there's plenty of time for that in july if it's not working out, not after a few starts. what if i judged teixeira's season last year or this year after 100 at bats? there was nothing about his april last year or this that was any more or less horrendous than vazquez's april this year. people say teixeira is elite and a slow starter, so he's a lock to bounce back, vazquez isn't. correct. but we're asking teixeira to go from being a 1 to being a 9 or 10, and he does that, despite the poor april. why can't vazquez go from being a 1 to a 4 or 5? i'm not defending vazquez the player. i'm defending giving him (and nick johnson, and mark teixeira, and randy winn, and anyone else on the yankees who struggled early) a chance. i'd love for gm to explain to me how that is being ridiculous.

Patrick said...

and if it seems like we've been talking a lot about a guy who is at this stage the 5th starter for a team, it's because we have. but i'm a big believer in the importance of a reliable back-end of the rotation. i thought vazquez was going to be a guy who could provide a lot of innings at average production at the back of the rotation, because he's never been worse than that. so far this year he has been far worse. if he can't right the ship, i think it's a problem for the yankees. as it is they've lost 4 of his 5 starts, and those 4 losses represent 50% of their season total. if it's this noticeable when a lot of things are going well, it's certainly going to be when things aren't. so as other people regress, the hope has to be that vazquez (and rodriguez, teixeira, johnson, robertson, and marte) make a positive movement towards their career levels. in a tough division you really need that to happen.

TimC said...

I'm prepared to enter the Coco Crisp Zone with my defense of Dice in the coming weeks. That said, Dice does not really have Vazquez's career of work. The Yankees should give Vazquez another month, maybe two, to see if he can sort himself out. Plus, with the way the team is playing now, they can afford to.

Gunn, let's not start voting Drew to the all-star team just yet. He's been hot before, he'll get hot again. But I think it is the most likely that he'll hit .200 for another six week stretch this year.

PF, thanks again for your input. One last question to both PF and the blog; regarding fielders and fielding, baseball reference has "total fielding runs above average". Do you think this will work as a proxy to measure a team's defensive ability?

from the bronx said...

gm, i was unhappy with the javy trade because the guy is a bum and i (correctly, so far) predicted he would be abysmal pitching for the NYY in the AL East. not even the prospect of ridding the yankees of melky cabrera forever made this trade appealing to me.

but what is worse is that, after spending the last three seasons executing a "plan" to make joba chamberlain a starter, we are now giving joba's starts to a loser making 8-figures to win games for the opposing team. terrible planning - short term and long term - by cashman. terrible.

jason said...

i havent had time to read the post or all comments yet so dont laugh if i repeat something. i was wondering what everyones opinion is about the upcoming series this weekend, is there a feeling that if the yankees sweep the sox then its close to season over for them? its strange brining this up so early in the season, but its definitely a thought in the back of my mind

Patrick said...

timmy -

defensive metrics are tough. as long as you use any of the popular ones (the one you mentioned being an example) and keep it consistent i think you'll get a fair idea.

bronx -

it's usually pretty easy to just ignore your ramblings where you skew facts to promote the players you like and detract from those you don't in an attempt to push all of the various agendas/topics you do here at all costs despite the fact that about 6 people read this blog and 2 of them are the authors. but when you get up on your high horse and do so by being inconsistent it's worth quickly pointing it out.

you have been whining for over a year about joba's attitude and physical condition. it may come as a surprise to you, but it is possible that an organization coming off a 103 win season and their 27th world series has the very same concerns. so despite their best effort to make him a starter by executing their plan, they felt it irresponsible handing him a rotation spot in 2010, especially in light of hughes likely having another one. that meant going out and getting another starter. you can talk all you want about which starter they went out and got, and you were vocal from the beginning you did not think vazquez was a good choice. but to act now as if the obvious decision was to give those innings to joba either runs counter to your previous criticisms of joba or means you don't have an understanding of what level a starting pitcher needs to be at to pitch for the yankees, because no general manager in their right mind is going to speak about joba the way you have and then give that kind of player a rotation spot. it's fun to be a fan and live in a world where there are no consequences for our opinion, and we can constantly change our positions to fit the argument we are presently trying to make. i'm guilty of it myself. general managers have no such luxury because they have to make actual decisions.

the gm at work said...

Jason,

It's over anyway.

Gunn,

I agree with you on Drew. When you are as talented as the guy is, you should be using all fields. That's why it's so damn perplexing to see the guy take strikes down the middle and so often spray the ball specifically between the pitcher, first baseman, and second baseman. He would really be a good baseball player if he could do this on a consistent basis. Maybe now that there's light at the end of the tunnel (he's retiring in 17 months), he'll start to actually do something.

Pat,

Is it a post World Series thing to just take a JD on negativity for the first three months of the season? Well damn, I could have been so much of a better runner if I had just slept during the first half of 2008 instead of staying up all night writing on HYD Baseball. I wish you would have given me that memo back then.

And our readership is way, way more than six. Do you think WasWatching and RLYW linked us because Bandi or From the Bronx told them about us? No. It's called a reputation.

Going to have to check the market rate on sponsoring Coco Crisp's baseball-reference.com page tomorrow.

the gm said...

*up all night writing negative things.

I'm also not at work anymore. I asked out of the game today despite the fact that we have a pitcher pinch running.

PF said...

Gm -

Nice job just making up a reason for my lack of criticism. Please show me where I was critical of either mark teixeira or cc sabathia last year, both of whom had sub-par aprils. That was coming off a playoff miss. Winning the world series has nothing to do with it, how I choose to be has everything to do with it. We are different in this regard, and that's why its fine you did things your way in 2008. Now I'm doing things my way, and I choose to show some modicum of patience. We certaintly don't have to aspire to any collective norms, not only because our readership is so small as I mentioned, but also because it continues to get smaller.

from the bronx said...

pat, nothing inconsistent about my criticism at all. we are talking about two separate issues. on the one hand, we have the issue of joba as a starter or a reliever and which he is suited better for. the yankees - by virtue of their three year plan and all the joba rules, etc - have always seemed to believe he was a starter, and i agreed with that. on the other hand, you have the issue of joba's attitude, his work ethic and his off-the-field problems. those need to be straightened out regardless of whether he is starting, relieving or scrubbing the toilets inside the locker room after everyone goes home for the night. if the yankees don't think his life is in order, then they should send him back to AAA to get his head straight. the same problems/temptations that would effect him as a big league starter would effect him as a big league reliever.

there are two reasons i keep harping about javy taking joba's innings as a starter. the first is because if joba is mature enough to be on a big league roster, then he should be starting. period. the yankees spent the last three years getting him ready for that responsibility, and now is his time to fail. the other reason i keep harping on that is because if you are going to send javy out there, you might as well send anyone out there because you've basically conceded the game the minute you hand the lineup card to the home plate umpire. you might as well have nick swisher pitch. and if you're going to take the attitude of just sending someone out to get shelled, you may as well send joba out because he's with the team for the long-haul and he might get better.

anyway, another great night for brett gardner. 1-3, BB, 2R, SB. he's now hitting .346/.427/.436, which is good for the 5th highest BA and the 4th highest OBP in the AL, and he's also leading the league in SB with 12. most importantly, he's tied for 6th in the AL for runs scored with 21. if he doesn't make the American League All Star team, there is no justice in the world (assuming cashman doesn't deal him to the braves for melky cabrera).

from the bronx said...

"joba's time to fail" meaning his opportunity to do it or not do it.