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Archive for April, 2011

Last night the Yankees were shut down, and nearly no hit, by former Mets’ prospect Philip Humber. Because it was the first time the Bronx Bombers faced the 28-year old right hander, the unexpected domination inspired the usual lament about the Yankees being unable to handle pitchers whom they’ve never seen before.

Last August, after Bryan Bullington and Max Scherzer shutdown the Yankees on consecutive days, I did some investigating into this widely perceived notion and discovered that it was, in fact, a myth. Judging by the reaction to Humber’s gem, however, it seems as if word hasn’t yet gotten around. So, provided below is updated data to help quell the latest round of misinformation.

Record of Pitchers Facing the Yankees for the First Time*

Span
W L IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA Avg GSc
2011 1 0 7 1 0 0 2 5 0 0.00 78
2010 7 4 62 /23 44 23 23 17 41 4 3.30 56.7
2008-2010 31 39 377 1/3 377 201 188 151 235 44 4.48 48.3
2000-2010 94 141 1251 2/3 1392 800 747 563 833 194 5.37 44.9

*Based on first appearance against the Yankees within the first 60 starts of a pitcher’s career. Pitchers facing the Yankees for the first time after 60 career starts were not included in this analysis.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Best and Worst Games By Pitchers Facing the Yankees for the First Time 

Pitcher Date Team GSc
Billy Traber 7/8/2003 CLE 90
Jon Lester 7/3/2008 BOS 83
Bryan Bullington 8/15/2010 KCR 82
4/25/2011 CHW 78
Blake Stein 8/2/2000 KCR 73
       
Pitcher Date Team GSc
Mark Mulder 8/10/2000 OAK -4
Doug Davis 8/15/2000 TEX 9
Nick Bierbrodt 8/8/2001 TBD 9
Mark Hendrickson 4/2/2003 TOR 9
Alay Soler 7/2/2006 NYM 9

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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At first glance, Robinson Cano seems as if he has picked up exactly where he left off in 2010. His batting average, slugging percentage, wOBA, OPS+, and runs created per plate appearance are all in line with or even better than his near MVP season. However, there is one glaring indicator that has failed to keep pace: on base percentage.

When Cano first entered the league, he was a notorious free swinger, but the second baseman gradually increased his walk rate to a respectable 8.2% in 2010. In an admittedly small sample of only 18 games, however, Cano has only walked one time in 78 plate appearances this season. Is this the reversal of a trend, or a momentary set back?

Robinson Cano: 2010 vs. 2011

  BA OBP SLG OPS+ wOBA wRC+ BB% K%
2010 0.319 0.381 0.534 142 0.389 142 8% 12%
2011 0.316 0.321 0.566 141 0.384 146 1% 17%

Source: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com

A look inside Cano’s plate discipline percentages doesn’t really reveal anything amiss. Although he has been swinging at more pitches, most of those cuts have come at balls thrown in the zone. There have been a few extra swings at pitches out of the zone, but for the most part, Cano has continued a trend that has seen him eschew taking strikes in favor of swinging at them. This finding contradicts the conventional wisdom that Cano has evolved from a free swinger into a more patient hitter. Instead, it seems as if he has just become better at picking out a good pitch to hit…and doing more damage when he does. In other words, Cano’s increasing walk rate is more about respect than discipline (in fact, 14 of his 57 walks in 2010 were intentional).

Cano’s Strike Breakdown

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Derek Jeter is a human being. That seems to be the lesson derived from the New York Post’s preview of Ian O’Connor’s forthcoming book about Jeter, which will focus on the Captain’s relationship with Alex Rodriguez.

Arod’s unflattering comments about Jeter in the March 2001 issue of Esquire led to a cooling off period in their friendship.

Weaving Arod into the narrative has almost become a prerequisite for publishing a baseball book, so it’s not surprising that O’Connor would go that route. What is difficult to understand, however, is why so many people seem to be regarding the excerpts as groundbreaking news.

Just about anyone who has followed the Yankees over the past 10 years is well aware of the icy relationship that existed between the two superstars for most of the past decade, so O’Connor’s initial revelations hardly qualify as news. Although the quotes attributed to Brian Cashman aren’t part of the record, most of the other details have been widely reported and discussed.

A common reaction to the New York Post’s predictably sensational presentation of the excerpts has gone something like this: “You see…Jeter isn’t perfect. What’s more, he has been a bad leader all along.” Considering the piling on that the Captain has endured since showing the first signs of succumbing to age, that reaction has pretty much been par for the course. However, that doesn’t give the book’s author, or its readers, a license for hypocrisy.

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In last night’s 15-3 drubbing of the Baltimore Orioles, Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig for one record and moved to within a nose of the Iron Horse for another.

During the Yankees seven run outburst in the eighth inning, Alex Rodriguez capped off the scoring with a grand slam. The bases loaded clout was the 22nd of Arod’s career, bringing him within one of the record held by Gehrig.

Grandslam Leader Board

  Grand Slams
Lou Gehrig 23
Alex Rodriguez 22
Manny Ramirez 21
Eddie Murray 19
Willie McCovey 18
Robin Ventura 18
Jimmie Foxx 17
Ted Williams 17
Hank Aaron 16
Dave Kingman 16

Source: Baseball-almanac.com

In the inning, which represented the first time the Yankees had scored more than three runs in a single frame (the last team in baseball to accomplish the feat), Rodriguez also increased his RBI total in the game to six. It was the 14th game in which Arod knocked in at least six runs, tying Gehrig for the most ever.

Most Games with 6 or More RBIs

  G HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
Lou Gehrig 14 26 96 0.694 0.732 2.129
Alex Rodriguez 14 24 92 0.662 0.667 1.789
Babe Ruth 12 25 76 0.691 0.712 2.218
Joe DiMaggio 12 20 79 0.712 0.742 1.966
Dave Kingman 11 25 73 0.561 0.583 1.947
Ted Williams 10 17 67 0.638 0.702 1.830
Al Simmons 10 15 61 0.632 0.644 1.596
Jimmie Foxx 9 17 63 0.689 0.725 2.044
Mel Ott 8 16 50 0.658 0.690 2.053
Jack Clark 8 14 50 0.600 0.619 1.829

Source: Baseball-reference.com

With several more productive seasons left in his career, Alex Rodriguez will have the chance to rewrite a good portion of the record book. For obvious reasons, some people might bristle at that possibility. Others might simply lament the slow eradication of names like Gehrig from atop many all-time lists. However, that last concern really isn’t warranted. The great chain of baseball history links together the game’s best players; it doesn’t break them apart.

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vs. Jake Arrieta PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 9 0.375 0.444 0.500 0 1
Curtis Granderson CF 8 0.143 0.250 0.429 0 1
Mark Teixeira 1B 9 0.333 0.333 0.556 0 1
Alex Rodriguez 3B 3 1.000 0.667 2.000 0 1
Robinson Cano 2B 9 0.375 0.444 0.625 0 2
Nick Swisher RF 8 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 1
Jorge Posada DH 8 0.143 0.250 0.286 0 1
Russell Martin C 2 0.500 0.500 0.500 0 0
Brett Gardner LF 6 0.167 0.167 0.167 0 0
Total 62 0.255 0.328 0.418 0 8
             
vs. Freddy Garcia PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Brian Roberts 2B 24 0.476 0.542 0.952 2 5
Nick Markakis RF 6 0.750 0.667 0.750 0 2
Derek Lee 1B 12 0.273 0.333 0.273 0 1
Vladimir Guerrero DH 27 0.222 0.222 0.481 1 6
Luke Scott LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Adam Jones CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Reynolds 3B 4 0.333 0.500 0.667 0 0
Matt Wieters C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Cesar Izturis SS 3 1.000 1.000 1.333 0 0
Total 76 0.377 0.429 0.652 3 14

 

Yankees vs. Orioles    
Season: 2011 Season: 2010 Season: 2009 All-Time
NYY: 3-0 NYY: 13-5 NYY: 13-5 NYY: 1238-843
       
  Last 10 Away vs. RHP
Yankees 7-3 3-3 8-4
  Last 10 Home vs. RHP
Orioles 2-8 5-6 7-7

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vs. Brad Bergesen PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 9 0.000 0.222 0.000 0 0
Curtis Granderson CF 7 0.500 0.571 0.667 0 3
Mark Teixeira 1B 9 0.000 0.111 0.000 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 9 0.333 0.333 0.667 1 2
Robinson Cano 2B 9 0.375 0.444 0.375 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 9 0.250 0.333 0.375 0 2
Jorge Posada DH 2 0.000 0.500 0.000 0 0
Russell Martin C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner LF 5 0.400 0.400 0.800 0 1
Total 59 0.250 0.339 0.385 1 8
             
vs. CC Sabathia PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Brian Roberts 2B 45 0.231 0.333 0.256 0 1
Nick Markakis RF 41 0.263 0.268 0.421 1 5
Derek Lee 1B 12 0.333 0.333 0.417 0 3
Vladimir Guerrero DH 30 0.179 0.200 0.357 1 3
Adam Jones CF 30 0.333 0.400 0.519 1 6
Mark Reynolds 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Matt Wieters C 16 0.133 0.188 0.333 1 1
Jake Fox LF 6 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Robert Andino SS 8 0.375 0.375 0.875 1 1
Total 188 0.243 0.298 0.387 5 20

 

Yankees vs. Orioles    
Season: 2011 Season: 2010 Season: 2009 All-Time
NYY: 2-0 NYY: 13-5 NYY: 13-5 NYY: 1237-843
       
  Last 10 Away vs. RHP
Yankees 6-4 2-3 7-4
  Last 10 Home vs. LHP
Orioles 2-8 5-5 1-3

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In addition to seven no hitters, Nolan Ryan also threw 12 one hitters.

Anibal Sanchez came within three outs of pitching his second no hitter, but his attempt at history was thwarted by Dexter Fowler’s leadoff single in the ninth inning.

Had Sanchez been able to seal the deal in the final frame, he would have become only the 24th pitcher in major league history to record multiple no-hitters.  All was not lost, however. By completing the game without surrendering another safety, Sanchez became only the 77th pitcher since 1919 to surrender no more than one hit in at least three complete games (and of that group, only 46 pitchers, including Sanchez, have thrown a no hitter). Although not exactly exclusive, the Marlins’ right hander still finds himself in rather select company.

When it comes to multiple no hitters, Nolan Ryan is usually the first name that comes to mind. In his long career, the Ryan Express threw an astounding seven hitless games, including at least one in three different decades and for three different teams. What almost seems more impressive, however, is he also had 12 near misses. In total, Ryan threw 19 complete games in which he surrendered one hit or less. Only Bob Feller, who had 14 such games, is within earshot of that remarkable accomplishment.

A lot of great pitchers have never thrown a no hitter (or even a one hitter for that matter), but of that group, no one came closer more often than Steve Carlton. During his career, Lefty had six one hitters, a total surpassed by only three other pitchers since 1919. At least Carlton was spared too much anguish in those games because on all six occasions, he never carried a no hitter past one out into the seventh inning.

Low Hit Leaders, Since 1919

Player Total 1 hitter No hitter
Nolan Ryan 19 12 7
Bob Feller 14 11 3
Jim Maloney 7 5 2
Virgil Trucks 6 4 2
Dave Stieb 6 5 1
Tom Seaver 6 5 1
Jim Palmer 6 5 1
Sandy Koufax 6 2 4
Randy Johnson 6 4 2
Steve Carlton 6 6 0
Bert Blyleven 6 5 1

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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The McCourts in happier times.

Move aside Barry Bonds. Fred McCourt is one of the most vile, reprehensible men in the history of baseball. At least that seems to be the popular sentiment expressed in the wake of Bud Selig’s decision to wrestle away control of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It’s impossible to deny, not to mention excuse, the abuses that have pervaded McCourt’s tenure as owner of the one baseball’s flagship franchises. It seems likely that the organization and the city of Los Angeles will be much better off under someone else’s guidance, but that reality shouldn’t be exaggerated by fiction. Although McCourt may not be the best option to lead the Dodgers in the future, his past actions weren’t all bad for the franchise.

Before Frank McCourt purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers early in 2004, the team had passed from the longtime stewardship of the O’Malley family to the cold claws of News Corp. Even though there were some early reservations about having an out-of-towner take over the team in a highly levered acquisition, McCourt’s purchase was also seen as rescuing the Dodgers from corporate ownership.

The sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to Frank and Jamie McCourt heralds the beginning of a new era of family ownership for one of the game’s most storied franchises. This transaction meets all of Baseball’s debt service rules and financial requirements in every way. We at Major League Baseball are confident that Mr. McCourt, as a rabid and knowledgeable fan and successful businessman, will devote the time and energy necessary to make the franchise a great success.” – Commissioner Bud Selig, quoted by MLB.com, January 29, 2004

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Scenes like the one above have been more common this April.

Sparsely attended ballparks have been a relatively common sight at the start of this baseball season, which has inevitably led to the obligatory round of articles lamenting the sport’s decline.

Instead of jumping to a knee jerk conclusion, CNBC’s Darren Rovell actually took a look at the early season attendance figures and reported only a small 1% decline. According to more recent data from Baseball-reference.com, the drop stands at 2.5%, but still nothing indicative of a major negative trend.

Although any decline shouldn’t be dismissed, such a low percentage can easily be explained by a variety of variables, especially when the sample size is only two weeks. For example, there have already been 12 rainouts, as noted by Maury Brown, and that doesn’t even take into account the unseasonably cold weather that has plagued much of the country.

Before the season started, Commissioner Bud Selig expressed optimism about baseball breaking its current attendance record of 79.5 million, which was set in 2007. Since then, however, the number of fans filling the seats has slowly declined. The slumping U.S. economy has likely played a significant role in this gradual pullback, but it seems as if another development over that time period may also be to blame.

Major League Baseball Attendance, 1901-1910

Source: http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com

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April was usually a frustrating time for Mattingly.

Don Mattingly turned 50 today, which for any Yankee fan growing up in the 1980s is a little startling. Although the team suffered through one of its longest championship droughts during Mattingly’s tenure, Donnie Baseball was still able to capture the hearts of an entire generation, so it’s hard to think of him as being a relic from an another era.

During his playing career, Mattingly’s birthday was always easy to remember because it seemed as if he never quite got going until after it passed. Long before Mark Teixeira became famous for his early season struggles, Mattingly turned slow starts into an art form. Whether he was in his prime or toward the end of his career, April was usually a frustrating time for Mattingly.

If it seems as if the Yankees have been through this before with Mattingly, it’s because they have. Everyone knows what to expect now, a plodding start followed by a fast summer. If it’s cold, so is Mattingly. Even in his magic years, Mattingly was no better than an ordinary April hitter.” – John Heyman, Newsday, April 19, 1994

Mattingly, Month by Month

Split PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
April/March 1001 124 11 122 0.266 0.338 0.381 0.719
May 1248 172 41 185 0.325 0.380 0.502 0.882
June 1290 163 34 173 0.307 0.351 0.449 0.800
July 1349 189 42 195 0.324 0.367 0.508 0.875
August 1341 176 45 199 0.309 0.358 0.487 0.845
Sept/Oct 1492 183 49 225 0.305 0.352 0.477 0.829

Source:  Baseball-reference.com

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