Jun
17

Blaming the stadium for the pitching woes

By

Over the last few days, we’ve tried to explore the problems with the Yankee pitching staff. Yesterday, we looked at both the starters’ issues with pitchers per plate appearance and Jorge Posada’s impact on the pitching staff. It made good fodder for conversation but offered up nothing conclusive.

Today, we have another culprit: New Yankee Stadium. As mentioned by George A. King in The Post yesterday and Michael Kay and John Flaherty during the My9 broadcast, a few Yankee pitchers are wary about throwing in the home run-happy new stadium. King has actual on-the-record quotes about this problem:

“They are pitching away from contact, mostly it is at home,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said yesterday. “For some guys, the ballpark has gotten in their heads a bit.”

Eiland refused to divulge which pitchers are worrying about the cozy confines, but he knows that when pitchers grouse about the $1.5 billion launching pad, the issue is live. “When you hear pitchers talk about it, you know they are thinking about it,” Eiland said.

It was noble but unnecessary of Eiland to refrain from naming names. Last month, Andy Pettitte flat-out told reporters he wasn’t a fan of the new Stadium. “If you leave a ball up and they hit it off the barrel, it’s a home run,” he said. “You can’t make a mistake up in the zone.”

Mariano, King of the Yankee pitching staff, expressed similar concerns. “You can’t give them a chance to put the ball in the air, he said. “It’s risky. You have to pitch to your strengths, but it’s risky. The ball definitely flies.”

And so into the home-road splits we go. Let’s start with Andy Pettitte, the new stadium critic. On the road, Pettitte is 3-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 31.1 innings and one home run allowed. At home, he is 3-2 with a 5.77 ERA. In 48.1 innings, he has surrendered nine Yankee Stadium home runs, and his walk rate is up as well. Score one for the stadium theory.

Next up is A.J. Burnett. On the road, he is 3-2 with a 5.19 ERA in 34.2 innings. He has given up five home runs, and opponents have a .785 OPS against him. At home, he is 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA and has allowed seven home runs in 46 innings. Opponents sport a .775 OPS against. Considering that two of his road starts were the disasters in Boston, this one is a wash.

Joba Chamberlain is another who has struggling at home, but his problems could be sample-size related. His ERA at home is 5.33 in 27 innings. On the road, it is 2.72 in 36.1 innings. His walk rate at home is 5.66 per 9 IP while on the road it is 3.96. Yet, opponents are slugging just .343 against him at Yankee Stadium but .412 on the road. His home run rate is the same.

After last night’s start, Sabathia’s home and road splits are nearly identical. He’s allowed four home runs at home in 49.2 IP and four on the road in 51 IP. His ERA at home is 3.99, and on the road, it’s 3.35. Opponents are hitting him the same at home as they are on the road.

So where does this leave us? Unfortunately for Stadium theorists, nowhere. The Yankees have created a stadium where some pitchers are not as successful or comfortable at home while others are. Some of the differences are due to the small sample sizes; it’s tough to judge anything in 35-40 innings.

Yet, there is a conclusion to draw as well. As with Jorge’s defense, this too is a matter of sports psychology. If Andy Pettitte and perhaps Joba Chamberlain don’t like pitching at home, the Yankees will have to address the home run issue. Considering Joba’s reluctance this past weekend to attack the zone with runners on base, this trend is definitely worth examining over the course of the season. We won’t, though, know whether it amounts to something definite for some time.

Categories : Pitching

100 Comments»

  1. A.D. says:

    I thought about this the other day, would the Yankees have a better or worse record this year if they were playing at the old stadium?

    22-12 is pretty good, so realistically don’t know how much that could be improved

  2. Doug says:

    One intersting stat I dug up: Joba’s P/PA is 4.29 at home vs. 3.64 on the road. Tends to support the theory of not attacking hitters in the zone, esp. in the friendly confines.

  3. Ed says:

    Hah, I called it yesterday. Had a feeling it might be new stadium related.

    To the people who say “who cares if the stadium is a hitter’s park?”, this is why you should care.

  4. gary busey's face says:

    boy the echo chamber is loud lately. lot of redundancies.

  5. Zach says:

    “If you leave a ball up and they hit it off the barrel, it’s a home run”

    If you leave a ball up and the hitter puts the barrel of the bat on it- isnt it a home run in ANY stadium?

  6. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    And just think, Andy wanted to stick around one more year for a chance to pitch in the New Yankee Stadium.

    http://www.sadtrombone.com

  7. It’s worth nothing that all of Andy’s shitty starts at home have all come against good hitting teams (though he had a decent game against the Phils on the 23rd of May):

    5/1 vs LAA
    5/7 vs TBR
    5/18 VS MIN, yeah he got the win but he gave up 12 hits and a walk, along w/a homer
    6/3 vs TEX (lots of walks, lots of Ks, 4 ER in 5 IP)
    6/13 vs NYM

  8. CountryClub says:

    Ben listed innings totals, so I’m guessing this isnt really off topic. CC has thrown 100 innings already this year. While it’s great that he’s pitching deep into games, is anyone else worried that he’s on pace to throw close to 250 innings? Last night was a perfect example of a situation where they could have saved an inning. His pitch count was low, so i understand him coming out for the 8th. But at the same time, maybe they should start saving an inning here and there…especially with Bruney back.

    • kunaldo says:

      i think what’s more important is the stress of those innings and the pitch count…it is concerning, but hopefully we build up a large enough lead in the east to rest him down the stretch!

      • It’s not really concerning per se. He threw 240 innings in 2007 and 250 innings in 2008. I don’t see the Yanks needing CC to make three starts on short rest at the end of September either. Something to watch, not worry about quite yet.

        • CountryClub says:

          I know he’s a big dude and that he’s been durable in his career. But 3 straight years of 240+ innings seems excessive. There’s no way to prove it, but i think part of his post season problem is that he’s been spent by the time the playoffs came around.

          You bring up a good point about Sept innings though. Hopefully they’ll be able to take the foot off the gas and give him and Pettitte some extra time off.

          • Doug says:

            i absolutely agree that his october troubles are due more to being worn down than not being a good playoff pitcher.

            • Zach says:

              well last september he was just abused.

              the year before that he did a great offensive Yankee team, and both CC and Carmona got beat up by Boston the next round

        • JP says:

          There have been lots of pitchers in history who after several years of high innings break down.

          I’m not concerned about the playoffs per se.

          What I worry about is whether he will break down at any point. Maybe he’s just a durable guy with a perfect pitching body. But as far as breakdowns occur, it sorta analagous to sawing a 2×6 in half. You can keep sawing and sawing, even 3/4 of the way, and the board stays pretty strong. When it finally breaks, it does so completely, and suddenly.

          The cool thing I notice about him is that he’s not throwing 120 pitches every time he goes 7-8. He’s pretty efficient. I don’t know if that’s representative of his career, but obviously if you are getting 8 innings out of 110 pitches, you are going to be able to log more innings than someone who comes out in the top of the 6th with 110 pitches.

          • Doug says:

            “What I worry about is whether he will break down at any point.”

            and, while i may be in the minority here, this is why i hope he opts out after 2011

    • But as you noted, if he’s throwing lots of innings because he’s being economical and throwing fewer pitches in those increased innings, they kind of cancel each other out, don’t they?

      • CountryClub says:

        I hope so.

        • FWIW, according to the B-R.com gamelogs, CC’s 14 starts, 100.2 IP, 409 total batters faced, and 1540 total pitches thrown extrapolates out to:

          2009: 34 starts, 245 IP, 993 batters faced, and 3741 total pitches thrown.

          All of those are above the pace he was on through 14 starts last year (222 IP, 938 TBF, 3558 pitches), but below where he actually ended up:

          2008: 35 starts, 253 IP, 1023 batters faced, and 3813 total pitches thrown.

          • Doing the math, that puts him on pace for an average of 110.029 pitches per game in ’09 (3741/34) whereas last year was 3813/35 = 108.943.

            With CLE: 1932 pitches/18 games = 107.3333333 per game
            With MIL: 110.647 per game

      • FWIW, CC is average 110 pitches per game this season. With the Brew Crew last year, he averaged 110.65

  9. crawdaddy says:

    It’s not innings I’m worry about, but the number of pitches he throws. I suspect that once the bullpen situation is settled down, Girardi will monitor his pitch count so that it doesn’t approach what the Brewers did with him last season.

  10. Chris says:

    So here are the possible culprits we’ve discussed for the poor pitching:

    – The New Yankee Stadium
    – Jorge Posada’s catching
    – Dave Eiland’s coaching

    The only thing we haven’t considered is the fact that maybe it’s the fault of the actual pitchers.

    Of course when you look at it, the only surprising performance from a starter is Wang who has been historically craptastic so far.

  11. Along the “pace” concept, Joba’s currently on pace for 34 starts and 179 innings. Which would be about 29 innings too many.

    Hughes being in the bullpen muddles it, but he’s on pace for 28 starts and 161 innings. Which would be about 19 innings too few.

    • Doug says:

      i take it that hughes is on a 180 inning limit (i can add, i know)? for some reason i though it was 150ish like joba

      • That’s been the topic of some debate around here.

        Some feel that his 2008 baseline of 100 IP means his limit is somewhere in the 130-150 IP range. I side with Verducci who says that his previous career high water mark of 146 IP from 2006 remains his baseline, which puts him in the 176-180 IP area.

        I think the team sides with Verducci and I.

  12. Couchy says:

    Guys,

    Here is a question for those a lot smarter that I.

    How do you feel this will effect ERA+ and at this stage do we think that Mo gets a career mark above 200?

    JC

  13. josh says:

    looks like joba and pettitte may have the new stadium in their heads on the mound. makes a little nit of sensesince pettittte stuff is understandably not what it was years ago and joba is young, his velocity appears to be down a little bit, and he is probably trying to gain confidence that he can throw all 4 pitches for strikes anyway. all we have to do is trade them to the mets for oliver perez and john maine and they will be great in citi field!

  14. putt says:

    My big concern with the NYS theory is how it will affect the Yanks in the free agent market in the future. It seems like they often have to pay a premium as it is to get players to come to NY and deal with everything that is involved with playing in the pressure cooker environment. Are pitchers really going to want to come to a place where the perception is that the park will negatively affect their numbers and possibly hurt them on future deals of their own?

    IIRC, this sort of happened in Colorado. I’d hate to see how much it would cost the Yanks. I guess this now puts even more of an emphasis on producing top-rate pitchers and drafting effectively.

    • Doug says:

      i share your opinion that playing in a bandbox will be a definite negative impact to pitchers coming here in free agency.

    • gxpanos says:

      Buster?

      • putt says:

        Nah, I just hate seeing how the Yanks have to overspend all the time or when GMs try to hold them up during trade talks. Specific examples are escaping me at the moment, but I’m sure someone here can name a situation or two where it’s happened.

        I know they can afford to overspend, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they have to. This will be just one more reason for players/agents to justify bigger deals from them and that just doesn’t sit well with me is all I’m saying.

    • SamVa says:

      And what about the teams building new stadiums, David Wright said something along the lines of “I wish that we had a stadium that was half way between Citi and Yankee Stadium.” In the future do you think teams, when building new stadiums are going to shade towards the “better home run park” or “better pitcher’s park” side of things? And how hard is it to find that happy medium? Will one side always be upset about something?

      • Doug says:

        imo, you’d want your park to be completely neutral. but, if you were going to side one particular way, it should be slightly pitcher-friendly

        • putt says:

          I agree, but as Greg Maddux once said, “Chicks dig the long ball.” HRs bring, in effect, fans and viewers which means more money. I know this theory doesn’t necessarily apply to the Yanks as they didn’t need to build a bandbox to attract fans, but there are teams out there, Florida I’m looking at you, whose parks inhibit scoring, homers, and lead to a generally less-exciting game for the average non-baseball buff. If you want to generate some headlines and put asses in seats, build a park where your star player can make a run at a homerun title or fans can go to a game and see a couple leave the yard.

          • SamVa says:

            I agree with you, but at the same time (yes I realize that there are as many away games as there are home) would you not consider someone who hits 80+ home runs in a definite hitters park an “illegitimate” person to break the record? Would you not rather see someone who has legitimate power to all fields? I am not saying that this wouldn’t happen, just that at least Bonds hit the ball hard instead of a bunch of 310 ft home runs…

            • JP says:

              SamVa–I would not consider any ballplayer who has been in baseball up to now an illegitimate record holder, for homeruns or anything else. If YS is a huge homer park and they elect not to change it, and someone hits 800 homers there blooping it down the RF line, I still think it’s legit.

              Baseball is about winning, and using whatever skills you have towards whatever opportunities are there.

              If you were asking a definite steroid question, as much as I think it’s lousy that these guys used, I don’t think it makes their records illegitimate. It would take too long for me to explain why, but that’s how I feel. Not saying I like it, but I think it’s what’s right.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

        halfway between YSIII and Citi…what is that, Manhattan? How expensive would that land be!!!

        That’s a stupid idea David, go back to hit the ball, catch the ball…

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside says:

          I’m pretty sure halfway between CitiField and YS3 is actually Rikers Island, which makes the joke all the more awesome.

  15. JP says:

    Stats aside–too few numbers to be sure at this point, on the pitchers’ splits, anyway–I would agree that if the pitching coach hears people talking about it, it’s probably a problem.

    I’ll be shocked if they don’t move the fences back a little this off season.

    Will the old stadium be razed before the end of this season?

  16. dkidd says:

    i have no doubt the yankees will do/spend whatever is necessary to get the stadium closer to neutral.

  17. Bo says:

    Does Dave Eiland blame everything under the sun besides himself? Would it kill him to say its his fault and not the stadiums just to keep it out of his pitchers heads? What kind of coach is he?

    • JP says:

      Can’t say Eiland doesn’t bear some responsibility, but between a) the pitchers, b) the catchers, c) the stadium, and d) the pitching coach, I’d guess the least blame for pitching problems go to d, the pitching coach. Once you’re at the professional level, coaches are like sounding boards…they help guide the player a little, or provide feedback, but if you don’t already know how to pitch, and to a good degree how to fix yourself and adjust, you probably aren’t going to make it to the MLB level.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside says:

        I like how doggedly you try to respond intelligently to Bo/Sal/Grant/Lanny’s crazy little pseudo-statements. It’s admirable.

        You’re a very brave man, JP.

  18. YankeeScribe says:

    They should raise the wall in right-field. Make it into a mini-Green Monster

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