Sunday Morning Thoughts

First, be sure to listen to Yankee Fan Club Radio this evening at 6 EDT. I don’t know who the guest will be, but I presume that Mike Sommer will make an appearance. Tune in tonight through the link on the right to their website.

Also, since I was gone for much of yesterday, then had the game to watch and write about and was then on the phone with Frank the Sage until very late, as Mike mentioned, two players in the trade with the Pirates have changed. Instead of trading Coke and Kontos, the Yankees traded pitchers Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen with Ohlendorf and Tabata. On Karstens, take him. I’ll always remember and respect his effort to pitch against Boston after getting hit with a line drive on what turned out to be a broken leg, but the guy was not ever going to be a successful Yankee. I just didn’t feel it and, especially after he, Rasner, and Igawa played hot potato with the job of potential long reliever this spring, his relegation to SWB for the long haul (spot duty aside) was assured. On McCutchen, he was very good at Trenton–4-3, 2.55 ERA, 52 K in 53 IP–and fairly good at SWB–4-6, 3.58 ERA, 58 K in 70 1/3 IP, 2 CG. Was he a top-flight prospect? No, though he had some potential. Plus, and I believe Mike Sommer pointed this out at The Sommer Frieze, he’s going to be 26 in September. Granted, players often get chances late and often develop later. But his age and progress is a fairly good indication of where he stood in the Yankees system and pecking order of pitchers. In sum, the Yankees still didn’t give up a ton, nor did they give up top prospects in a trade that, by all reports in national and mainstream media, has teams’ GMs seething. Why? Because the Yankees made a great trade for significant upgrades with very good players for little in return. I’d argue that it’s because the Yankees made that trade that has teams upset. They can’t be thrilled that the Yankees, having now won eight straight, have just improved themselves in the swap, while not minding the possibility that they themselves might not need to offer so much in exchange for veterans. Good.

Frank the Sage and I were touting the virtues of Girardi’s masterful ability to handle the bullpen, an aspect of Girardi’s managing that, by any sober account, is far better than Torre’s body of work with the Yankees’ bullpen. Just ask Scott Proctor. Check out this great article on his blog at The Star-Ledger:

http://www.nj.com/yankees/index.ssf/2008/07/ny_yankees_bullpen_plan_has_pa.html

The details within the piece of the information that pitching coach Dave Eiland and Girardi exchange every day, combined with the players’ reactions and embrace of Girardi’s approach, go well beyond what The Sage and I discussed last night–that Girardi has rotated the bullpen masterfully, that he hasn’t burnt out pitchers through overuse, that he’s developed depth and instilled confidence in the bullpen while they’ve gotten both better and younger, that he’s gotten a ton out of Nuke and Edwar, and that Marte will be a potent addition to an already deep, excellent mix. It’s impossible not to be thrilled at their work and Girardi’s superlative handling of the pen. That aspect of Girardi’s managing is an A+ in my opinion. It’s quite good; give it a read.

The Sage was touting Mariano’s outstanding work while expressing concern that K-Rod’s 43 saves and counting (he might have earned a couple as I wrote that last sentence) and Lee’s resurgence will woo the media (that Frank considers historically anti-Yankees on such matters) away from Mariano as Cy Young winner. We both know that, with just over two months remaining in the season, it’s early. But since writers often conduct first-half winners of awards, this shouldn’t be considered too early. K-Rod has had a terrific year, but let’s examine his and Lee’s stats and compare with Mariano’s.

K-Rod: 0-2, 2.33 ERA, 43 saves, 1.252 WHIP (largely through 28 BBs in 46 1/3 IP), 48 K/28 BB. Very good year but not nearly as good as Mariano’s in my opinion. The K/BB ratio is poor, less than 2/1, again from the high walks allowed. Nor is the ERA great for a closer, not terrible but not great. It’s the 43 saves that catches the eye. When Bobby Thigpen set the major-league record with 57 saves in 1990, he had a 1.038 WHIP, was 4-6, had a 1.83 ERA, 70 K/32 BB in 88 2/3. That is, in almost double the work, Thigpen had only four more walks than K-Rod, had a much better K/BB ratio, and a significant lower WHIP with a lower ERA. Of course, K-Rod has a couple months left and is by any estimation the guy I’d rather have closing if forced to choose between Thigpen and K-Rod. But Cy Young worthy? Not as of now. Thigpen, by the way, finished fourth in the CYA in 1990 behind Bob Welch (27-6, 2.95 ERA, 1.22 WHIP), Roger Clemens (21-6, 1.93 ERA, 1.08 WHIP), and Dave Stewart (22-11, 2.56 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). Granted, it’s a different era for baseball and how relievers are both used and valued. Yet I think this comparison with Thigpen shouldn’t be overlooked.

Mariano works well as a direct comparison here before examining Lee’s very good 2008. What Mariano is doing, especially at 38, is astounding. He’s 4-3 with a 1.17 ERA, .669 WHIP (through allowing only 4 BBs and 27 hits in 46 1/3 IP), 26 saves, 57 K/4 BB–over 14/1 K/BB ratio!. These are far better than Mariano’s usually great numbers in his tremendous and Hall-of-Fame career. A big difference between the two? Pitch efficiency. While Mariano has thrown 655 pitches in 46 1/3 IP, in the exact same number of innings, K-Rod has thrown 802, more than three an inning. Some of that relates to what stuff they have and use, but look no further than the walks for an explanation for K-Rod’s using more pitches. In sum, Mariano has been far better and far more efficient than K-Rod this year, to me.

Lee has been dynamite this year–14-2, 2.29 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, 120 K/20 BB in 141 2/3 IP, a microscopic 5 HR’s allowed. He’s been great on a poor team that many people not foolishly expected to win the Central. He’s more Cy Young worthy than K-Rod to me, and right now sets up the classic Cy Young debate of starter versus reliever. Lee will get a lot of consideration not only because he’s been great but also because he’s a starter. Yet Mariano’s sheer dominance is something to behold. He’s blowing people away with efficiency. The next two-plus months will be exciting to determine the winner but, to me, the front-runners are Mariano and Lee in that order.

Why does Frank consider the media anti-Yankees on such matters? 1978, 1986, and 2005. In 1978, Jim Rice won the MVP with 46 HRs, 139 RBIs, and a .315 AVG (.370 OBP from 58 BB) over Gator Guidry, who was 25-3, 1.74 ERA, 248 K in 273 2/3 IP, .946 WHIP with many not voting for Guidry because he was a pitcher and not an everyday player. Yet in 1986, Clemens won the MVP over Mattingly despite their amazing statistical parallels with the 1978 MVP front-runners: Clemens 24-4, 2.48 ERA, 238 K in 254 IP, .969 WHIP; Mattingly 31 HR, 113 RBI, .352 AVG/.394 OBP, 238 hits, only 35 K (compared to 126 for Rice in 1978–different types of hitters yes, but it matters). This is not to say that neither Rice nor Clemens deserved the MVP, just that the logic was inconsistently applied even though pitchers were considered a bit differently in the late 1980s than in the late 1970s. I’d argue that Guidry’s 1978 was better than Clemens’s 1986, but that Rice’s 1978–average aside–was better than Mattingly’s 1986, making for closer historical consideration and analysis as well as at that time. But The Sage has a point. Plus, there’s no disputing the 2005 Cy Young vote in my mind, nor Frank’s. Mariano: 7-4, 1.38 ERA, .868 WHIP, 80 K/18 BB in 78 1/3 IP lost out to Bart The Colon: 21-8, 3.48 ERA, 1.159 WHIP, 157 K/43 BB in 222 2/3 IP?  Mariano was 9th in the MVP vote to 23rd for The Colon, but lost the Cy Young to him? That’s a big pile of horse manure, and always will be.

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Published in: on July 27, 2008 at 10:00 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ok, I agree with you that Rivera is having a better season than KRod, and this is exactly why the “Save” stat is not the proper way to evaluate a reliever. KRod walks way too many batters to have his season be as good as Rivera’s, who has walked 4. Neither of them have blown a save, KRod just has just had more opportunities. KRod’s WHIP is double Rivera’s. It isn’t really close. So you didn’t even need to add “to me,” because it is more fact than opinion amongst people who know baseball (Baseball Tonight Crew aside :).

    Regarding the 2005 Cy, I feel that Johan should have won that, no contest. Colon obviously should not have. Johan was an absolute Ace throwing 231 innings striking out 238 and walking only 45, with a o.971 WHIP. And I will argue forever about a starter who throws that many innings, at that quality, being more valuable than a closer throwing 78 innings. So I would have to disagree on that one.

    On the Guidry/Clemens note…you would have made the right choice as well. Guidry’s ERA+ that season was 202, while Clemens’ was 169 in 86.’ The only argument one would have is that Clemens threw 254 innings in 1986. But oh wait…Guidry threw 273, which is ridiculous. Guidry wins that argument.

    http://statisticianmagician.mlblogs.com/

  2. I was then, and still am today, a bit upset that Gator wasn’t the 1978 MVP. It seems as a he got his award, and he got his type of vote. Even more upsetting was the disparity. While a unanimous CYA winner, Rice got 20 of the 28 votes for MVP and won 352-291. It should have been much closer.

    Just consider. If Guidry was 24-4 that year, that means Boston would have won the division in the 163rd game. If he was 23-4, there would have been no 163rd game. Boston would have won. What more needs saying?

  3. Sorry, messed up a little, meant to say…

    It seems as if it was a you got your award, and you got yours type of voting.

  4. Also should have said, While Guidry was a unanimous CYA winner, Rice…

    Need to wake up. LOL


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