Our week long series of ranking every position in the AL East with the starting pitchers continues.
Starting Pitcher #1
1. C.C. Sabathia, NYY
2. Jon Lester, BOS
3. David Price, TB
4. Ricky Romero, TOR
5. Zach Britton, BAL
Sabathia gets the edge over Lester due to being an absolute workhorse. Sabathia has averaged 226 innings per year compared to 211 for Lester over a much longer career. Sabathia has also outperformed Lester the last two years, with Lester being a big reason for Boston’s collapse last season. Last season, Sabathia had a 7.1 WAR and Lester had a 3.7 WAR. Price had a bit of a down year last year going 12-13, with a 3.49 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP. However, with his outstanding fastball and slider he should bounce back fine. Romero had a fabulous season last year going 15-11, with a 2.92 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP. Despite having a lesser year I will take Price in the long run over Romero. Britton came out firing for the O’s but fell off drastically. The Orioles at #5 on these pitching lists will be a pattern. Read the rest of this entry
Tomorrow, the AL Cy Young Award will be announced. Justin Verlander is the clear favorite in everyone’s eyes, but let’s see how the overall perception of his candidacy matches up with a purely statistical evaluation of the candidates.
First, I created 8 different categories with 2-3 stats per category:
Each category was worth a certain percent out of the total 100. Command, stuff, and durability were valued the highest, which was 15% each. The outcome of all these categories was added up for each pitcher, giving each a score. Scores were given based on the percent above average, for each pitcher’s stat. The 5 main candidates are C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett, and James Shields. Here are their point values (percent above/below average) for each stat:
As you can see above, those are the point values by stat. Below, are the averaged scores for each category:
Since this is a Yankee blog, we’ll trace Sabathia closely throughout the evaluation.
As far as command goes, Justin Verlander had the best. His K/BB and BB/9 numbers were simply outstanding, outshining the second-best, Jered Weaver by 1.6 points, which is a lot. Sabathia was right behind Weaver, but still slightly above the average of the five starting pitchers.
According to the statistics, C.C. Sabathia in fact had the best stuff this season. So any time analysts talk about Justin Verlander’s tremendous stuff, we know that statistically speaking, C.C. Sabathia had the better stuff. Although his K/9 wasn’t the greatest, he manufactured plenty of ground balls, which is also a sign of “stuff”. In addition, he surprisingly got more swing-and-misses than Verlander. James Shields was close behind Sabathia’s 5% above average, for Swing-Miss%, at 4%.
Although “winning” has become significantly less important in statistics, it still has significance. To please the sabemetricists, I added WPA, win-probability-added to the stat pool for “winning”. Leading this category, of course, was Verlander with 1.9 points. The competition wasn’t even close; Jered Weaver scored 1.5 points lower at 0.4. Despite Sabathia’s 19 wins, his number of losses, along with his lower WPA, resulted in a below-average “winning” score.
Now we’ll move to an un-organized category I called Run Allowance. This was basically to find a spot for ERA and FIP, two very important stats. Verlander and Weaver were the front-runners here with 1.0 and 0.6, respectively. CC was right-on average with a score of 0.0. His stats were quite skewed, as his FIP was the same above average, as his ERA was below average. Maybe xFIP should have been added to the mix, but I’m sure the end result would be similar.
Another example of this “skewed-ness” is CC’s batted-ball category. His BABIP was quite a bit sub-par, while his HR/9 was the best of the five pitchers. This gave him a mere 0.1 points, possibly because of some bad BABIP luck. I find it ironic that the #2 of this category, Justin Verlander, had a worse HR/9 than Sabathia, when the first was pitching in Comerica Park, and the latter at tiny Yankee Stadium. Angels’ pitcher, Jered Weaver led the category with his solid performances in both BABIP and HR/9.
The next category I used was “Pitching Quality”. This enveloped the stats- Quality Starts Percentage, WHIP, and Average Game Score (devised by Bill James). Sabathia did not fare too well here at all, with -1.4 points. He was by 0.8 points, the worst in this category, especially in QS% and WHIP. Like usual, Verlander led this category, with 1.2 points followed by Jered Weaver and James Shields. Beckett remained in between Shields and Sabathia with -0.6 points.
In “Value”, which encompasses WAR (wins-above-replacement) and RAR (runs-above-replacement), CC really came back into the race. He tied Justin Verlander for first in the category, with 2.4 points. The two out-valued the others by at least 2 points, which was substantial.
The last category, Durability, essential for an ace, was much closer. For the first time, Rays’ #1 James Shields led, with 1 point. Close behind were Verlander with 0.8, and Sabathia with 0.2 points. Beckett was the least durable, and really, the least horse-like, at 3 points behind the leader of the category.
TIME FOR THE FINAL RESULTS:
These are completely according to the statistical evaluation:
1st Place ~ Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers | 10 points
2nd Place ~ C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees | 2 points
3rd Place ~ Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | 0.6 points
4th Place ~ James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays | -2.5 points
5th Place ~ Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox | -10.6 points
The much maligned 2011 New York Yankees starting rotation exceeded all expectations. It was the reason most prognosticators picked the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East. However, nobody expected a rookie of the year campaign for Ivan Nova, or renaissance years from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. The Yankees finished a very respectable 4th in the AL in team ERA, with a 3.73 team ERA. The starting rotation also pitched well in October, with the notable exception of CC Sabathia, and once again was not the reason the Yankees went home early. Yet, Brian Cashman has gone into this offseason, like last offseason, looking to improve the starting rotation.
In my opinion, I think we can expect a pretty similar rotation to last year’s. This year’s crop of free agents is extremely weak. The Yankees already got their main job done by extending CC Sabathia’s contract. Sabathia did the Yankees a favor by not going to free agency, and potentially getting a 7 year offer that Cashman would have been hesitant to match. Sabathia vowed to come to spring training in better shape, so he does not falter down the stretch again. Ivan Nova stepped up and proved to be a capable number two starter. Nova had a sparkling rookie year going 16-4, with a 3.70 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP. The development of Nova’s slider as a put away pitch catapulted him down the stretch. However, in a perfect world, the Yankees would find a starter to slide in between Sabathia and Nova. That pitcher is not a free agent right now, unless the Yankees see Japanese star Yu Darvish as that guy. However, that guy may be available at the trade deadline, or in next year’s free agency class. Cole Hamels and Matt Cain are ideal candidates. Dan Haren and James Shields would also make great candidates if their team options are not picked up.
Now that we have dealt with the top of the rotation we will move onto the bottom. This is where you will probably see the Yankees add a starting pitcher. The Yankees have been linked to Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, and Hiroki Kuroda already, but it is was too early to get a sense of what Cashman will do. The Yankees and Freddy Garcia also seem to have a mutual interest in putting a deal together to resign Garcia for next year. I would have no issue with Garcia returning as a back of the rotation pitcher. Garcia can get by on his smarts and guile alone, especially against young and free swinging teams. It is when he faces the patient teams that will make him throw strikes, is when you are worried. If Garcia could repeat his year of 12-8, with a 3.62 ERA, and a 1.34 WHIP the Yankees would love it. Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are two Yankees who can help the rotation if they can pitch to their capabilities. Hughes will have to earn his spot in spring training, especially since the Yankees will probably bring in at least one pitcher via free agency or trade, other than Freddy Garcia. Hughes struggled with injuries, fastball velocity, and putting hitters away in 2011. However, he did have his best stuff in the playoffs. so perhaps that can carry over. Like it or not, A.J. Burnett will more than likely have a spot in next year’s rotation based on his contract. Burnett’s last two years have been brutal, posting ERA’s over 5.00 in each of them, and walking what seems like a village per start. Burnett does have two shining moments in his Yankees career. He did pitch the biggest game in the 2009 World Series by getting the Yankees a split at home. If he stinks up the joint there, the Yankees are probably still searching for their first title since 2000. Also, Burnett came through big time by extending the Yankees’ season in game 4 of the ALDS last year. One can only hope that will give him some confidence going into next year, but unfortunately that is probably wishful thinking.
Again, I do not see any huge changes with the Yankees starting staff heading into the year. I see Sabathia and Nova as obvious locks and Burnett is pretty close to one. Another spot I see going to a new pitcher, and the last one going to Hughes, or a resigned Freddy Garcia. I would also expect the Yankees to add that number two starter to place in between Sabathia and Nova at the trade deadline, or next year in free agency. If the starting rotation can repeat what they did last year the Yankees would almost surely sign for it. They boast the one of the league’s top offenses and one of the top bullpens to help take the burden off the rotation. The Yankees will rely on the continued growth of their rotation to have success in the 2012 season.
The Yankees concluded their 2011 season in a way that is all too familiar to us. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the sting of yet another brutal first round exit from the playoffs. This one hurts a lot because it was all lined up so perfectly. We had Mariano Rivera and David Robertson available for two innings each, and we were coming home with momentum. All we needed was one big hit and we could not get it. That is the main difference between the Yankees dynasty of the 90s and the last decade. Those teams had players like Bernie, Brosius, Tino, O’Neill, and Jeter who raised their game from the regular season to the playoffs. The teams of the last decade have had better regular seasons than postseasons. However, another disappointing playoff series does not mean that this team should make radical changes this off-season.
Brian Cashman has always said you cannot make decisions based solely on the postseason. He is absolutely correct. The sample size is way too small to be considered worth more than the regular season. Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez obviously were the main goats of this postseason and. The only one of those three you could do anything with is Swisher. Let’s say hypothetically, you do not pick up Swisher’s option, and you replace him with Michael Cuddyer. You cannot guarantee me Cuddyer, or any other replacement, would hit in the playoffs. There is no possible way of knowing. However, I do know that Swisher will produce better in the regular season based on a larger sample size. Plus his 10 million dollar option is cheap and you can go out and find somebody else next year. As for Teixeira and Rodriguez you have to hope they dedicate themselves this off-season to get better. Teixiera needs to improve his mechanics from the left side as his line of .218/.327/.462/.788 suggests. Rodriguez needs to develop an exercise routine that can help him stay on the field. Signing Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder to big bucks is not the answer with all money they have tied into Teixiera and Rodriguez. Texeira and Rodriguez improving is the only option.
This is also not the off-season for radical change because of the big free agent class next year. Matt Kemp is an elite outfielder who could potentially replace Swisher. He is a five tool player and is only 27. He makes much more sense than Pujols or Fielder would. Stud pitchers also will be available like Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Grienke, John Danks, Shaun Marcum, and potentially Dan Haren and James Shields. Some of these guys may also be available at next year’s trade deadline. This is why the Yankees should not blow their money on C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish this off-season. Sure they will need to sign or trade for a pitcher or two, but it does not have to be for major money. It is also why the Yankees do not have to go completely all out to extend CC Sabathia. I say 6 years at 150 million is a good meeting point. If Sabathia is dead set on 7 years letting him walk is probably the better option. The long term risk of a man who is close to 300 pounds is scary. All those innings will have to take its toll at some point right? Th St.Louis Cardinals are proved you do not need outstanding starting pitch to win a championship. You can win with clutch hitting and an outstanding bullpen. The Texas Rangers also got to the World Series without great starting pitching. So I would defiantly try to extend Sabathia, but it is not a necessity.
This Yankee team needs fine tuning this off-season and not a major overhaul. Winning 97 games in the AL East this year was a major accomplishment and should not be taken lightly. That is the sample size that you should trust more. The postseason is a complete crap shoot that can never be predicted. However, if next year we have similar results in the postseason, we can consider more major moves because there will be elite players out there. The outlook for the Yankees next year is bright and winning the World Series should be within our reach.
Phil Hughes (1-2, 8.44) vs. Trevor Cahill (8-8, 3.16)
Some rumor notes:
- The Yanks have reportedly checked in on Joakim Soria, the Royals closer. Can’t imagine it being anything more than due dilligence, as it wouldn’t make sense to give up a top prospect (or two) for an extra closer.
- This isn’t a very surprising piece, but Jon Heyman says the Yankees are looking for a starting pitcher, a left-handed relief pitcher, and a right-handed bat. Looks like the Marcus Thames signing is that right-handed bat.
- According to Buster Olney, the Yankees have asked the Rays about James Shields’ availability, and the Rays said no. This is at least for the Rays’ division rivals: Boston and New York. Mike Axisa of RAB wrote a very detailed profile on James Shields and whether or not he’d be a fit.
Enjoy the game. And don’t forget, if you didn’t check out Ricky’s series preview podcast, here it is: Athletics-Yankees Podcast Preview
- Joe Girardi said that it is “definitely possible” that Eric Chavez and Rafael Soriano return during this 10-game homestand.
- Lineup is posted.
|Nunez, E, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.260|
Game Review from MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez:
ST. PETERSBURG — James Shields has done many remarkable things throughout this impressive bounce-back season he’s having. But on Thursday night, he did something that has seemed virtually impossible over the last couple of months.
He beat CC Sabathia.
It took a herculean effort and a fight to the finish, but with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball, Shields did it. He handed the Yankees a 2-1 defeat at Tropicana Field, and he snapped Sabathia’s seven-game winning streak on the ace left-hander’s 31st birthday.
From MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
ST. PETERSBURG — It had been a week since the Yankees were able to gather in the infield and shake hands, so they were going to enjoy this one for all it was worth.
Alex Rodriguez hit a pair of homers and David Robertson pinned the bases loaded in a big spot, allowing the Yankees to finally exhale with a 6-2 victory over the Rays, snapping their six-game losing streak.
“It was huge. It was desperation,” Rodriguez said. “We definitely needed to win the game; we haven’t won in a while. Hopefully, that’s the start of something good.”
Rodriguez’s second home run off James Shields was a sixth-inning laser that cleared the center-field fence, providing a slim lead, but there could be no guarantees during a stretch when nothing seemed to have gone right.
“It just felt like we needed to win this game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I don’t want to say must-win, but this was as close as you can get to a must-win in the month of May.”
Frustration has seeped into the Bombers’ DNA of late, and sure enough, the Rays threatened to extend the misery in the sixth, about the time Ivan Nova was slamming his glove into the dugout bench.
Opening the inning by allowing a walk to Ben Zobrist and a single to Johnny Damon, Nova recorded an out and then loaded the bases intentionally for Robertson, who was asked to perform another of his Houdini acts.
He escaped again, striking out B.J. Upton swinging and Casey Kotchman looking with four-seam fastballs that registered 95 and 96 mph, respectively.
“Big situation,” Robertson said. “I had to get two outs right there with the bases loaded. I can’t let anyone score because we need a win bad. I just gave it everything I had.”
“Robertson is a good pitcher,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That was pretty much the turning point in tonight’s game, I thought.”
Robertson pumped his fist several times and screamed as he bounded off the mound, perhaps the most emotion Robertson has ever shown on a big league ballfield.
“I was a little excited tonight,” Robertson said with a grin. “I’ll try to keep it inside from now on.”
That froze Nova’s line at one run in 5 1/3 innings, having been touched only by Elliot Johnson’s third-inning homer. Nova walked two and struck out four.
“I won the game and it’s important, but my command out there, I don’t feel too good about that,” Nova said. “I know I can do better than what I showed today.”
Rodriguez, meanwhile, has been waiting for his own chance to break out, owning only one previous home run in May — and that one came last Thursday after enduring a 65 at-bat homerless stretch.
But A-Rod got the Yankees on the board in the fourth, belting a 2-2 Shields pitch into the left-field seats — proof positive that his time with hitting coach Kevin Long has been worth it.
“Kevin and I have been working over the last week or so to really focus on my bottom half,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just having some synergy with the whole body. Today was much better.”
Rodriguez added an exclamation mark his next time up with his eighth homer of the season, clapping his hands and flipping them skyward as he rounded first base.
“Sometimes it’s just timing,” Girardi said. “It seems like he has come off [the ball] a little bit lately. He has been trying to fight through it.”
Shields was a tough customer, striking out nine in seven innings, but the Yankees extended their lead in the seventh with two important runs — one unearned.
Back in the lineup after a loud public fiasco, Jorge Posada ripped a double to right that capped a 2-for-3 night, and Brett Gardner laid down a beautiful bunt single.
Recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Chris Dickerson looped a run-scoring single into center field that made it 3-1.
“It’s just one of those days that’s a blur,” Dickerson said. “It ended up working out very well. It felt a little bit like my first Major League hit.”
Derek Jeter followed with a fielder’s-choice grounder that second baseman Ben Zobrist threw away for an error, allowing Gardner to scamper home.
Robertson needed a little help of his own, leaving a two-on, two-out jam for Joba Chamberlain in the seventh, but Damon bounced out to end the inning.
New York added a pair of runs in the ninth off Brandon Gomes, coming on run-scoring hits by Gardner and Jeter, and with victory so close, the Yankees needed to close it out.
Amauri Sanit got a chance to get there in the ninth, but Zobrist’s two-out RBI double was the last straw. Girardi went to Mariano Rivera in a non-save situation for the 27th out, putting an end to a miserable week.
As they whooped it up in the center of the field, Gardner yelled repeatedly, “We won!” as though this May game had implications of a much later date. And there did seem to be an awful lot at stake.
“I think if we had lost today, we’d probably have had to take the bus all the way up to Baltimore tonight,” Gardner said.
|Rodriguez, A, 3B||4||2||2||2||0||0||2||.250|
|1-Nunez, E, PR-DH||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||.304|
|Robertson, D(H, 8)||1.1||0||0||0||2||3||0||1.62|