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Archive for the ‘Red Sox’ Category

When the Yankees’ beat the Orioles on Monday night, Robinson Cano was batting in the cleanup spot. Then, in the team’s victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday, Dustin Pedroia was batting fourth in the opposition lineup. Why is that significant? Because of the position both men play.

Since 1919, only 7,096 lineups have featured a second baseman in the cleanup slot (or just above 2%). However, this year, that ratio has tripled, which signals the relative level of strength throughout the position in the current game.

Cleanup Hitters by Position, Since 1919 and Current Year (click to enlarge)

Note: Due to database errors, the position count differs from total games played by about 1%.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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For the final time at Fenway Park during the regular season, the Yankees and Red Sox renew hostilities in a three-game series that begins tonight. If the Bronx Bombers hope to finally get the better of their rival, winning game one will be paramount. In the opener, the pitching matchup of CC Sabathia vs. John Lackey favors the Yankees, but in the subsequent games, the Red Sox enjoy a decided advantage. With Boston’s pair of aces, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, facing New York’s struggling tandem, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, the onus is on Sabathia to get the Yankees off on the right foot.

Can Sabathia wipe away his earlier season struggles against Boston (Photo: AP)?

Of course, the Red Sox might not look at game one as much of a mismatch. Despite compiling a 17-3 record with a 2.40 ERA against the rest of the league, Sabathia has been unable to beat Boston. In his four starts against the Red Sox, the Yankees’ ace lefty is 0-4 with an ERA of 7.20, so you can’t blame the Boston lineup if it enters tonight’s game with supreme confidence.

Considering how well he has pitched against every other team, it stands to reason that Sabathia will eventually turn in a strong outing against the Red Sox. At the very least, history should be on his side. Since 1919, only eight Yankees’ starters (in nine seasons) have lost five games against one team in a single season, and only three have done it without recording a victory. So, not only is Sabathia pitching to keep the Yankees alive in the divisional race, he is also trying to avoid making an ignominious mark on franchise history.

Yankees’ Starters with Five Losses Against One Team, Since 1919

Pitcher Year Opp GS IP W L ERA WHIP
Red Ruffing 1931 CLE 6 30.1 0 5 9.20 2.18
Bill Zuber 1945 DET 5 33.1 0 5 5.13 1.77
Bill Bevens 1947 CHW 5 27.2 0 5 4.88 1.70
Lefty Gomez 1935 DET 6 47 1 5 4.60 1.43
Sad Sam Jones 1925 MIN 7 51 2 5 4.41 1.55
Catfish Hunter 1976 BAL 6 43.1 1 5 4.15 1.08
Bob Turley 1955 CHW 6 35.1 1 5 4.08 1.78
Sad Sam Jones 1922 MIN 10 88.2 5 5 3.45 1.32
Tiny Bonham 1945 CLE 6 48.1 1 5 3.35 1.16

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

All season long, the Yankees and Red Sox have engaged in a seesaw battle for control of the American League East. Since May 13, the two teams have been separated by no more than three games. If not for the wild card, the rivalry could be headed for one of its most heated pennant races, but instead of a riveting final six weeks, Joe Girardi and Terry Francona could wind up worrying more about preparing for the post season than finishing in first place.

A.L. East Division Race, Game-by-Game Progression  (click to enlarge)

Note: Negative numbers represent games out of first place; positive numbers represent games ahead.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Even though the wild card has diluted the meaning of first place, it is still an important benchmark. So, the Yankees have to feel pretty good about being in first place after game 120, especially considering the injuries the team has endured and its 2-10 head-to-head record against the Red Sox.

The Yankees have been in first place as late as game 120 in 54 of the franchise’s 109 full seasons (the strike years of 1981 and 1994 not included). Of that total, the team has failed to cross the finish line in first place in only nine seasons, including last year, when they made it as far as game 161 before ceding the top spot to the Rays.

Latest Date the Yankees Have Spent in First Place, 1901-2011  (click to enlarge)

Note: Green dots represent seasons in which the Yankees finished the year in first. Red dots represent seasons in which no games were spent in first place. No entry has been made for the strike seasons of 1981 and 1994.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

If the Yankees were hoping to deliver a message to the Red Sox this past weekend, it didn’t reach the intended destination. In fact, it was returned to sender. Not only did Boston win another series, but the team beat CC Sabathia for the fourth time and then, for good measure, added a blown save to Mariano Rivera’s record. Message received…loud and clear.

The 1983 NLCS looked like a mismatch in favor of the Dodgers, but the Phillies won despite going 1-11 against Los Angeles during the regular season.

For the second time in the last three years, the Yankees started off the season series against the Red Sox by losing eight of the first nine. Unlike 2009, however, the Yankees won’t be able to turn the tables and tie the series. With a 10-2 record (.833 winning percentage) over the first 12 games, Boston has already clinched victory in its private war with the Yankees, so, from a rivalry standpoint, the remaining six games will simply determine the level of the Red Sox’ head-to-head dominance.

Despite performing so poorly against their chief rival, the Yankees are still in good position to win the division. However, with both teams well ahead in the wild card race, the urgency to claim first place could be greatly diminished. Although that fallback position mitigates concern about the Yankees’ inability to beat Boston, should the two teams meet again in October, the Bronx Bombers will be in the unfamiliar position of being a decided underdog.

When the postseason begins, the old cliché says you can throw the regular season out the window, especially regarding head-to-head performance. But, should that advice apply to the level of dominance that the Red Sox have exhibited over the Yankees in 2011?

Regular Season Head-to-Head Records by Playoff Series Winning Teams, Since 1969

W L PCT
American League 415 367 0.531
National League 366 359 0.505
Total 781 726 0.518

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Since the advent of division play in 1969, there have been 150 intra-league playoff series. In those post season matchups, the combined regular season record of the winning team against the losing team is .518 (.531 in the American League and .505 in the National League), which suggests that head-to-head regular season play might have at least a small amount of predictive value, particularly in the junior circuit.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

By most objective standards, the Yankees have the best pitching staff in the American League. And yet, according to some, Brian Cashman’s inability to acquire another pitcher has branded the team as a “trade deadline loser”.  So much for perspective.

American League Pitching Staffs, Ranked by Average WAR*

Team bWAR fWAR AvgWAR ERA+
Yankees 18.5 16.6 17.6 121
White Sox 15.7 17.4 16.6 111
Angels 14.8 15.4 15.1 111
Athletics 17.7 12 14.9 118
Mariners 13.7 13.3 13.5 103
Rangers 13.9 10.8 12.4 115
Red Sox 11.8 12.6 12.2 106
Blue Jays 12.0 9.5 10.8 97
Tigers 8.6 11.3 10.0 92
Rays 7.2 9.2 8.2 97
Indians 6.4 9.4 7.9 96
Royals 8.0 6.9 7.5 88
Twins 4.0 7.8 5.9 90
Orioles 7.3 4.2 5.8 82

Note: AvgWAR = bWAR + fWAR/2
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

Let’s be honest. The reason so few people seem to believe in the Yankees’ rotation is because the team’s second and third best starters were looked upon as veteran retreads less than four months ago. No matter how well Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon continue to pitch, that stigma will remain until they come up big in October. Based on the injury history of each veteran, it’s hard to criticize that perception. After all, if the Yankees were completely confident in the pair, Cashman probably wouldn’t have even entertained some of the discussions he reportedly had with other general managers.

‘I think they’re in trouble,’ said one scout. ‘I look at their rotation, and there’s CC [Sabathia]. And then there’s CC.'” – anonymous scout quoted by Jayson Stark, July 31, 2011

The second part of the above statement is a reasonable one. In fact, I’ve probably uttered it myself on occasion.  However, just because the Yankees do not have another pitcher on Sabathia’s level (very few in the entire league are), does that really mean the Yankees are in trouble? Even though Garcia and Colon remain legitimate question marks, is every other American League contender that much stronger in terms of rotation reliability? Let’s take a look.

Comparing the Rotation Depth of Main A.L. Contenders, Based on Average WAR* (click to enlarge)

*Note: AvgWAR = bWAR + fWAR/2
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

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Whenever a team is forced to play a doubleheader, the manager will usually express a universal lament about how difficult it is to win both games. No manager has been more vocal about this perceived dynamic than Joe Girardi, but is it really true?

Since the Yankees joined the American League as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, the team has played 1,746 doubleheaders, although a vast majority took place before the modern expansion era. Nonetheless, of that total, the Yankees wound up splitting (including games ending in a tie) or being swept in 1,150 (66%), which seems to lend credence to the age-old concern. Or does it?

Yankees Performance in Doubleheaders, 1901 to 2011

Source: Baseball-reference.com

On the surface, earning a sweep in only one of every three doubleheaders seems like a disadvantage, but how often do the Yankees win two games in a row anyway? One way to answer that question is to compare the Yankees’ franchise record in doubleheaders to the winning percentage compiled in single games. (more…)

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

As July draws to a close, gradual separation in the American League East has begun to emerge. After beginning the month three games behind the Yankees, the Red Sox have turned the tables on their rival by going 16-3 and taking a three game lead of their own. At the other end of the spectrum, the Rays have stumbled to an 8-11 record, which has pushed them 10 games behind in the loss column. Meanwhile, the Yankees have taken the middle road, compiling an 11-9 record that has helped solidify its hold on a playoff slot by two games, despite ceding six games in the standings to the Red Sox.

A.L. East Division Race, Game-by-Game Progression (click to enlarge)

Note: Negative numbers represent games behind; positive numbers represent games ahead.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

With the trade deadline nearing, all three teams have been involved in rumors regarding impact players. For the Yankees and Red Sox, the whispers have hinted at key acquisitions, like Carlos Beltran and Ubaldo Jimenez, however, for the Rays, most of the “unnamed sources” present the team as a seller. James Shields, B.J. Upton, and Kyle Farnsworth have all been rumored to be available, which, on the surface, seems like a premature white flag. Then again, judging by the strength of the Rays’ farm system, as exemplified by the very early impact of Desmond Jennings and Alex Cobb, Tampa might actually improve its post season chances by shedding veteran players.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

With the trade deadline looming, the next 10 days could determine which teams will enter the stretch drive in the best position. For some clubs, however, the biggest impact could come from their upcoming schedule, not a potential acquisition.

After a disappointing 4-4 road trip following the All Star Break, the Yankees return to the Bronx looking to gain some ground on the division leading Red Sox. Luckily, the upcoming 10-game home stand, which includes three of the league’s worst teams, seems ideally suited for that purpose. Not only have the Yankees compiled a 10-2 record against the Athletics, Mariners, and Orioles, but those three teams have a combined winning percentage of .350 (49-91) on the road. Sometimes Yankees’ fans can be accused of being greedy, but in this case, expecting at least eight wins doesn’t seem that outlandish.

If the Yankees’ offense was firing on all cylinders, it wouldn’t be a stretch to envision them steamrolling through the next 10 games. However, the Yankees wOBA of .306 over the past 14 days ranks even lower than the rates posted by the Athletics and Orioles. The arrival of these weaker opponents could be viewed as being just what the doctor ordered, but if the Yankees can’t score enough to take advantage of the schedule, the lull could wind up being a lost opportunity.

Unfortunately, the next 10 games might not be about making hay because the Red Sox also have a very easy schedule over the same span. Although not as favorable as the Yankees’ upcoming slate, the Red Sox’ next three series are against teams that have a combined road (Mariners and Royals)/home (White Sox) winning percentage of .390 (53-83). With Boston’s offense performing at peak levels, it’s hard to imagine them losing too many games over the next 10 days, so the Yankees can’t afford any slipups.

A.L. East Contenders’ Schedule Breakdown (click to enlarge)

Note: Composite winning percentage based on the current home/road record multiplied by the number of related games remaining.
Source: MLB.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

The Yankees offense currently ranks second among American League teams in just about every meaningful category, including wOBA, OPS+ and runs per game. However, the lineup has seemed to lack consistency as well as a definitive positive trend. As a result, the aggregate numbers look good, but to the naked eye, something seems to be missing.

Most recently, that “something” has been Alex Rodriguez. In the eight games played during his absence, the Yankees has posted a line of .244/.307/.333 along with a wOBA of .294 and per game output of four runs. Thankfully, the pitching staff, namely C.C. Sabathia, has been good enough to give the team a 5-3 record in that span, but if the bats don’t pick up, the Yankees may not be able to keep up with the division leading Red Sox.

Top-10 Offenses Compared to League (R/G Basis), 1901-2010 (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Red Sox have been able to pull ahead in the American League East because of the prolific production by their lineup. Granted, the Red Sox have taken considerable advantage of FenwayPark (wOBA of .376 versus .333 on the road), but nonetheless, the bats have been booming in Beantown.  In terms of runs/game versus the league average, the 2011 Red Sox not only rank second in franchise history to the 1950 squad, but also compare favorably to some of the best offenses of all time. Currently, Boston has outscored the league average by 27%, a rate that, if maintained, would rank eleventh among all teams since 1901.

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As the trade deadline nears, the Yankees will probably be linked to every impact player available on the market. If the team gets shutout, have no fear, Carlos Beltran is on the way. Or, if Bartolo Colon stumbles again, there’s still no reason to fret. Ubaldo Jimenez is being measured for pinstripes. Whatever the Yankees’ need, the next two weeks will provide a rumor to fill it. Of course, much of the rampant speculation will likely be news to even Brian Cashman.

Although it’s fun to identify acquisition candidates based on marquee value, it’s sometimes more constructive to examine the relationships between general managers. For example, if the Red Sox need reinforcements, there’s a good chance Theo Epstein will turn to the San Diego Padres. Not only is Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer a former Red Sox’ executive, but the two teams have made 11 trades since Epstein took the reins in Boston.

Brian Cashman’s Most Common Trade Partners (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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