Yanks pitching a big part of second half success


At the tail end of last night’s discussion regarding Andy Pettitte’s brilliant start, I marveled at the Yankees second half record, 32-11. That’s 3.5 games better than the next-best AL team, the Anaheim Angels at 29-15. The next closest team after that is Texas at 24-19. The Yanks are, as the saying goes, firing on all cylinders. But perhaps no cylinder is no more important than the pitching one.

Since the All-Star Break, Yankees pitchers have posted a 3.88 ERA, best in the American League. It’s 0.23 better than the next lowest, Texas, though Texas’ number got decimated last night when they wouldn’t let the Blue Jays stop scoring. Then again, the Yanks number is skewed itself. It contains two absolute stinkers by A.J. Burnett, a rough series opener against the Sox last time out in which they allowed 11 runs in a win, and all of Sergio Mitre‘s starts. Despite this they’ve been able to keep their team ERA under 4.00, which is a remarkable feat in this year’s American League. In fact, no other team currently has a sub-4.00 ERA in the second half.

How is the staff doing it? Part of it is keeping people off the basepaths — they have a .245 BAA, best in the AL — but a lot of that is preventing balls from entering the field of play — their 364 team strikeouts leads the AL by 35. At the same time, they’re keeping their walks in check relative to those strikeouts. While three teams have walked fewer batters (Rays, Indians, Twins — and the Jays have the same total), none of those come close to the Yanks in K/BB. The Rays are at 2.6, the Indians are at 1.9, and the Jays and Twins are at 2.3. The Yanks are up at 2.8.

(Also note that while the Indians and Rays have considerably fewer walks than the Yanks, they’ve pitched about 20 fewer innings in the second half, so there’s plenty of time for them to make up those numbers.)

They say pitching wins championships, and to that end the Yankees are obviously doing great. Even better, their two biggest playoff rivals, the Angels and the Red Sox, have been pitching horribly in the second half. The Sox rank 10th in the AL with a 4.71 ERA, and the Angels are 11th with a 4.84 ERA. With those types of numbers and the Yankees offense, how can anyone be afraid to face them in a playoff series?

Speaking of that offense, it’s contributed just as much as the pitching to this incredible run. They’re far off the top mark in second-half runs — that mark goes solidly to the Angels. But still, the numbers don’t bear out such a large difference, 34 runs. The Yanks are second in the league in batting average, .291 to Anaheim’s .302. They’re second in OBP to the Angels, but this time it’s a gap of one-thousandth of a point (.363 to .362). The next closest team, the Indians, is at .347. The Yanks lead the league with a .500 SLG in the second half, and that’s not particularly close. The Angels, second highest, are at .476. So while the Angels are out in front by a lot in runs, I wouldn’t expect that to last for long.

We’re used to the offense. Over the past few years, save for 2008, the Yankees have had one of the top offenses in the league. It’s the pitching that’s making the difference this year. The offense is back on top, and expectedly so. The pitching, though, has greatly improved from the past few years, and the Yankees are noticing it in the wins column. They’ve set themselves a nice cushion, allowing them to give their stellar staff ample rest heading into the playoffs. At this point, is there any team that should really scare the Yanks? I’d say not.

Categories : Pitching


  1. At this point, is there any team that should really scare the Yanks? I’d say not.


  2. KayGee says:

    I wouldn’t use the word “scare”, but the angels are a very dangerous team and come as close to scaring me as a team possibly can…while Kazmir has had an overall brutal, hes a career yankee/boston killer and has beaten them twice already this year, the latest effort at the end of july a pretty impressive one…a good addition for the angels for the playoff run

    That being said, I’d still take the Yanks in a 5 or 7 game series…but it sure would be a battle

  3. ColoYank says:

    Good post, Joe. Pitching is indeed the difference.

    PeteAbe has a post on the postseason roster, dealing mainly with the bullpen, and I found out something interesting (not from his commenters).

    To be eligible for a team’s playoff roster a player must be on either a)the 25 man active roster, b)the disabled list, c)the bereavement list, d)the suspended list as of August 31st at midnight. If, however, a player is injured and cannot play (Wang, Nady), the player may be replaced by anyone in the organization, regardless of roster status. Of course, to be activated, the player would have to be placed on the 40-man roster, but this opens the postseason to someone like Melancon, Edwar Ramirez, or even Dunn.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      I don’t think they’ll need another pitcher. The really can go into the playoffs with an 11-man staff, probably even a 10-man staff. Are they really going to need both Mitre and Gaudin? No, one would be fine (take Gaudin, he misses bats).

      If they go with a Molina, Hairston, Hinske, Pena, Gardbrera bench, they have plenty of flexibility. Having Shelley available as a RHB pinch hitter wouldn’t the worst thing in the world either.

      • Tom Zig says:

        That’s a very solid bench. But you really think Shelley Duncan should be included?

      • Hmm, so a 5 man bench (since all 5 of those guys are solid options) and an 11-man staff?

        But if the 11th man is Gaudin, that means no Phil Coke, and only one lefty in the pen. Can’t see us doing that.

        If it’s an 11 man staff, both Gaudin and Mitre are out and Coke is in.

        • Or you could go 4 man bench (no Pena) and include Gaudin and Coke?

          • That’s what I was anticipating.

            It will probably be a hybrid between my proposal and Axisa’s: There are currently 24 spots nailed down for the postseason roster, barring sudden injury or ineffectiveness:

            9 everyday starters:
            Posada, Tex, Cano, Jeter, Nails Krzyzewski, Damon, Melky, Swisher, Matsui

            4 backups
            Molina, Hairston, Hinske, Gardner

            4 starting pitchers
            CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba

            7 releivers
            Mo, Hughes, Aceves, Bruney, Robertson, Marte, Coke (gotta have two lefties, he’s in)

            That leaves one spot for either an 8th bullpen arm/12th pitcher (between Gaudin, Mitre, Melancon, and Albaladejo) or a 5th backup position player/14th hitter (Peña or Shelley).

            Whomever has the best September amongst those 6 players gets it.

            • jsbrendog says:

              yeah but coke hasn’t exactly been great. he has given up 6 hr to lefties, the most of a left handed reliever, and he is tied for hr given up with mahay (the recently dfa’d mahay)…….

        • Mike Axisa says:

          I was thinking:

          1. CC
          2. AJ
          3. Andy
          4. Joba
          5. Mo
          6. Hughes
          7. Marte
          8. Aceves
          9. Coke
          10. D-Rob
          11. Gaudin

          Sorry, Bruney.

          • Bruney needs probably one or two big blowups in September to get knocked out of consideration, IMO. If he’s decent-to-good, he’s got a spot.

            However, I will grant you that Joe seems to have him on a really short leash. The fact that he went to Mo the second it became a save situation last night was a little maddening.

            It’s a 5-1 lead. Sure, Bruney put two men on, but he didn’t look horrible, and he already had the one out. He should have been given the opportunity to work his way out of that quasi-jam.

    • Chris says:

      I believe they changed the rule a few years ago so that players that are injured need to be replaced by someone on the 40-man roster. If there are no players left on the 40-man, then anyone in the organization can be added to the playoff roster.

      Back in 2002, the rule was that pitchers needed to be replaced with pitchers and position players with position players. Once you ran out of suitable replacements, then you could add anyone from the organization. The Angels had a lot of pitchers go down in September and burned through their 40-man roster of pitcher, so this is how K-Rod was eligible for the post season.

  4. Frank says:

    I like a starting 3 of CC, Burnett and Pettitte in the PS. My concern is the BP, specifically, Bruney and Coke. At least one of those two needs to get on track. Right now, however, I don’t trust either of them in a close game. Heck, Bruney couldn’t get 3 outs last night with a 4 run lead without Mo having to save his ass.

    • Drew says:

      Luckily they have a month to figure it out.

      Even if they continue to be hot and cold, I’m cool with Ace, Philly and Mo. That’s not including D-Rob and Marte. The pen will work itself out here down the stretch. I wouldn’t be too concerned.

    • mason says:

      it would be nice to see melancon and dunn come up and pitch well in september.. not necessarily to get on the post-season roster, but just to audition for a spot on next years bullpen as possible replacements for either bruney or coke (unless bruney starts throwing strikes and coke stops giving up homeruns)

    • Little Bill says:

      I still like the bullpen. Aceves, Mo, and Hughes are going to be the main guys and get the bulk of the work. If the starters are on and going deep into games, these 3 will be very effective. Coke or Marte would only pitch to the big lefties. Robertson and Bruney would be the only other two to probably see action. I think restrictions would come off Hughes and he would go 2 innings more often in the playoffs. The bullpen should be fine.

  5. Makavelli says:

    Joba has been absolutely horrendous in August though. 8.22 ERA. 31 hits and 15 BB in 23 innings?

    Talk about stinkers…

    AJ may have had only 2 really horrible outings that MAY skew the numbers…but Joba has been outright horrible the majority, if not all, of August…and there is no sign of him rounding the bend…

    • Little Bill says:

      A few starts before that he was really good though. Maybe pitching on regular rest will help him to turn things around. Remember, he’s still way better as a #4 starter in the playoffs than Mitre or Gaudin.

      • Makavelli says:

        Yeah, if the regular rest with similar pitches throw continue. Throwing grass in the wind and hoping for the best isn’t exactly anything to build confidence on. In August, Joba Chamberlain makes Sergio Mitre look like Sergeant Mitre. He needs to be fixed. If Joba is back to normal…there will be no stopping our team. Sabathia, AJ, Pettitte, and a healthy Joba? Are you kidding me?

    • Mike HC says:

      The bottom line is that the Yanks just want to get him through the entire season healthy. They are not trying to maximize his effectiveness this year. The Yanks will accept a decrease in performance for a single year in exchange for long term health.

  6. Tank Foster says:

    I live in a perpetual state of baseball fear. No, no team is really “scary” stacked up next to the Yankees, but the fact is things can change so rapidly with injuries. Rivera is being handled very carefully…this might just be an age thing, but you have to sort of figure his shoulder is bothering him. If ARod pops that hip for good and lands on the D/L…

    Yeah, it can happen to any team, I know. But having been raised by depression-era parents, I’m conditioned to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

    I want a WS win this year more than any year I can remember, because I want Matsui to get a WS ring.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      I want a WS win this year more than any year I can remember, because I want Matsui to get a WS ring.
      Amen to that.
      But thanks to the lead the Yanks have they can rest their players so they can lessen the chance of injury risks. But they shouldn’t get too carried away with resting.

    • Kiko Jones says:

      I want a WS win this year more than any year I can remember, because I want Matsui to get a WS ring.

      For about a month now, my war cry has been “Send Matsui home with a ring,” because of talk of him going back to Japan after this season if the Yankees don’t sign him. (I hope they do re-sign him; Johnny Damon, too.)

      Much love and respect for the championship teams of the ’90s and everything they achieved, But this current group is the first Yankee team that I’ve identified with since the ’77, ’78 bunch. Perhaps because this is a no-stick-up-their-ass collection of guys who are also talented and hard-working. It’s not just that everyone is contributing but the loose vibe is awesome: AJ Burnett’s pie in the face after walk-off wins; Melky, Swisher, and Cano dancing in the dugout, celebrating a big play or hit; etc etc etc. (Also, it’s very cool to see the rest of the starting rotation on the bench when its their day off.)

      Right now, if they go 17-14 during the rest of the season, they win 100 games. That would be pretty sweet.

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Life’s a risky proposition. You can’t not cross the street because a drunk may come speeding around the corner.

      I feel sorry for Yankees fans who can’t enjoy, indeed revel in, this run. Because if you can’t enjoy this, there is probably no enjoyment in your sports future.

  7. “Since the All-Star Break, Yankees pitchers have posted a 3.88 ERA, best in the American League. “

    Nary a hat-tip for ol’ Tommie…

  8. nathan says:

    IS it fair to think how many runs teams score without HRs. If we assume that there will be more strikeout-GB pitchers in the playoffs are the Yanks capable of scoring without the longball. In that way it would be cool to know how the Angels, Rangers, Yanks, Sox rank in terms of scoring runs without the longballs and how these teams fare with RISP and also what % of leadoff walks and steals they convert to runs. My fear is simple, if CC loses game 1 can AJ step up in game 2, his last 2 starts scare me on that front.

  9. Complete Moron says:

    Just wondering if anyone found a reason 2 keep Girardi, they’re winning on their own, he just gets in the way. Vs Bosox, y play Jorge Fri nite/Sat day, when shoulda played vs Beckett rested? The guy is an idiot, and to be honest I think players know that. As good as he is, and the awesome plays he makes, someone needs to sit Cano down and explain he doesn’t play the game right. That is GIRARDI’S JOB. He rarely runs out a groundball, and to be honest, he probably takes after A-Rod, who is the worst example on team.

  10. steve s says:

    The Yanks should be very scared of Verlander in Game 1 of first round and going back to Detroit 1-1 as in 2006. Give me Minn first round. If Yanks get to 2nd round then Bos or LA do not scare me in 7 game series with home field advantage. Phillies in WS are pretty scary too. Pressure in beating Torre/Dodgers would be scary as well.

    • The Yanks should be very scared of Verlander in Game 1 of first round and going back to Detroit 1-1 as in 2006.

      Hmm… no.

      Here’s the list of teams that scare me this year, teams I think could beat us:

      1) The 1998 New York Yankees

      [end of list]

      • Tank Foster says:

        That’s overconfidence, and ya oughtta have your ears slapped back fer it!

        Seriously, any team can get hot in a short series. Maybe “scare” is too strong a word, but if anyone thinks it’s in the bag or even a major Yankee advantage, just look at the record against Boston/Detroit/Anaheim: Yankees are 13-14 against these teams this season.

        Yeah, it’s a “small sample size.” But so are the playoffs.

        • Tom Zig says:

          Detroit’s offense sucks.

          We won’t play Boston in the ALDS

          Definitely don’t want to play Anaheim in a short series.

        • That’s overconfidence, and ya oughtta have your ears slapped back fer it!

          This amp goes to 11.

        • Tampa Yankee says:

          The Yanks are not the same team that went 0-8 vs Boston to start the year, the 3 game sweep in LA was a bad series and again, is not indicative of how the team is currently playing.

          Yes, I know anything can happen in a short series if a team gets hot but no one is playing better ball then the Yanks are.

          And if Verlander comes in and shuts the Yanks down in game one, are you really scared of Jackson and Washburn for games 2 and 3? I’m not.

          • Tank Foster says:

            Yeah, well, woulda coulda shoulda….as you say it comes down to how they’re playing.

            I don’t think we disagree, we’re just looking at the question differently.

            I think a team should act and play with confidence, but that doesn’t mean you talk about winning games and series that are a month away…just my bias. I like to talk up the other team, say “one game at a time” and all that other crap. Don’t give the opposition anything to aim at.

      • Sweet Dick Willie says:

        Here’s the list of teams that scare me this year, teams I think could beat us:

        1) The 1998 New York Yankees

        [end of list]

        That’s a shot at the ’27 Yankees.

        • The 1998 Yankees had Bernie Williams, the most feared player in the history of baseball, as well as in the history of all other sports and the history of horror movies.


          • Makavelli says:

            Bernie Williams > Gerald Williams (in baseball)

            Bernie Taupin > Bernie Williams (in song-writing)

            Bernie Madoff > Bernie Williams (in destroying lives)

            Bernie Mac > Bernie Williams (in being funny)

            Or you could also look at it like this…

            Bernie Williams > Bernie Taupin > Bernie Mac > Gerald Williams > Satan > Bernie Madoff

    • Tom Zig says:

      unless they invent a 3rd or 4th wild card, Minnesota is not making the playoffs.

  11. AndrewYF says:

    The only thing we have to fear is the roll-of-the-dice nature of a short series itself.

  12. Sam says:

    So, as long as we win the division there’s really no chance we play the Angels in the division series, right?

    • Tank Foster says:

      Probably, but not definitely. As it stands now, yes. But if Yankees finished with the best record, and somehow Detroit ended up with the second best record, and Boston won the WC, the Yankees would play the AL West division winner in round 1, which will be Anaheim. But the chances of Detroit finishing with a better record than Anaheim are slim.

      • Jersey says:

        Conversely, even if Anaheim bests our record, they’d still get Boston in the first round. It would take a series of unlikely events happening for us to end up with Anaheim in the ALDS.

  13. Charles Groden says:

    Our pitching in the 2nd half is almost as good as my smash-hit movie, Beethoven.

  14. Bo says:

    Great starting pitching leads to winning??? Who’d have thunk it??

    Bout time Cashman realized that instead of wasting money on retreads like Wright, soft throwers like Pavano, over the hill guys like Johnson, and assorted Ponson-Igawa types

    • Tom Zig says:

      Jaret Wright was 28 years old, coming off of a career year. As was Pavano. Although Jaret Wright never had been healthy ever.

      Johnson was still doing well when we traded for him.

      Ponson – Emergency filler both times we acquired him.

      Igawa – just ugh.

    • Cashman says:

      I, uh, have always recognized the importance of starting pitching. Pavano got hurt…what can you do. Johnson was a good pitcher. Not great, but very good.

      Every year, we look at what’s available, and do everything we can to improve the team.

      If you look at the last few years, the availability of good starters wasn’t what it was this past off season.

      Sorry, but sometimes you go to the store and they don’t have your size. Thankfully, this year, they did, and we had room on the credit card.

    • jsbrendog says:

      oh MY GOD!!! you knew?? and didn’t share with all us peons and cashman??

      way to go you jagg-on.

  15. Mike HC says:

    I think the Yanks have the ability to really dominate the postseason like no other team does right now. That does not mean they actually will dominate, but no other team has the healthy talent the Yanks currently have.

    • Cashman says:

      I agree. Opposing teams in the playoffs are certainly good enough to win a short series, but I can tell you opposing pitchers are going to have very little margin for error when they face the New York Yankees in the 2009 playoffs.

  16. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Ace, Philly and Mo. That’s not including D-Rob and Marte.

    There’s ur pen right there. You want one more guy for situational swaps? pick one, as long as his name doesnt rhyme with dwar amirez.

    Oh, +101, i would love to see Godzilla and Andy get rings because they may not be back…

  17. netter says:

    To put this great year in perspective, this team would be 12 games back of the ’98 team at this exact point in the schedule. And the ’98 Yanks lost only 48 games through the entire regular season! Final record (through playoffs)? 125 – 50, 75 games over .500.

  18. Omar says:

    Way to jynx the staff.

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