Halladay out of the AL East a temporary relief

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Yanks sign Chan Ho Park

Over the past four seasons, Roy Halladay has started 18 games against the Yankees, including 12 over the past two. In those 124 innings he’s struck out 84 Yankees and walked just 20, allowing 13 home runs and 38 runs, 34 earned, overall. That gives him an ERA of 2.47 and a FIP of 3.69, against his four-year rates of a 3.11 ERA and 3.26 FIP. Clearly, the Yankees are glad to have Halladay out of the division. His numbers, however, appear to be a bit out of line.

Photo credit: AP/Bill Kostroun)

The Yankees have scored more runs than any other team in the AL over the past four years, leading the league three times. How is it, then, that Halladay has performed better against them than he has against the rest of the league? The difference is quite large, over a half run per nine innings. Over the same, admittedly small, 124-inning sample, he would have allowed 43 runs to the rest of the league, and keeping with the same earned-to-unearned run ratio he would have allowed 48.

The easy, abstract narrative is that Halladay rises to the occasion. When facing the Orioles and the Royals he’s merely among the league’s best pitchers. When facing the very best offensive team in the American League, Halladay turns into something greater, a man without peer. Or, if we want to turn the narrative to the Yankees’ hitters, we can say that they beat up on weak pitchers, but show their true colors when facing the best. Either way, there’s not much evidence to substantiate such claims.

The Red Sox have sported formidable lineups over the past four years, and have contended with the Yankees in each season. They haven’t scored quite as many runs, but they’re still near the top. As against the Yankees, Halladay started 18 games against the Red Sox, and lasted two more innings. Yet his ERA, 3.64, and FIP, 4.12, are substantially higher — not only higher than the Yankees, but higher than his performance against the league. That distribution makes sense. While Halladay ranks among the best, he still probably faces more trouble from better teams. But still, not the Yankees.

The claim of the Yankees faltering against stronger competition is true, but it’s no more true for the Yankees than with any other team. Again, we expect that they’ll beat up on the weaker competition and struggle against the stronger. As we saw in the 2009 breakdowns, the Yankees fare all over the place against the league’s best pitchers. We also know that these performances come in small samples, and can fluctuate greatly from year to year. For instances, we saw Jon Lester absolutely dominate the Yankees in 2008 before they tattooed him in 2009.

That’s not to say that neither of those factors play into the results we’ve seen. Maybe Halladay does come into starts against the Yankees a bit more focussed than normal. Maybe the Yankees are a bit intimidated by him and take swing of a slightly lesser quality. Combine that with the low predictive value of short sample size numbers, and it’s not as difficult to understand why the Yankees performed worse against Halladay.

Another consideration lies in the FIP/ERA discrepancies. There’s an enormous gap when Halladay faces the Yankees, about 1.22 runs. Over the much larger four-year sample, 7.5 times larger than the one against the Yankees, Halladay’s ERA and FIP are separated by just 0.25 runs. As Halladay pitches more and more innings against the Yankees, I’d expect that discrepancy to lessen, moving Halladay’s numbers against the Yankees more in line with his career, or at least recent, rates — perhaps even higher, because of the Yankees’ potent offense. Similarly, I’d expect his numbers against the Red Sox to fall, though perhaps not all the way to his recent rates because, again, the Sox sport a better than average offense.

The good news for the Yankees is that they’ll be facing pitchers of a lesser quality than Halladay in 2010. As Kevin Long said, “It became a joke. Sometimes it felt as if he was out there on one day’s rest just to face us.” Chances are the Blue Jays won’t deliberately line up Halladay’s replacement to pitch against the Yankees whenever possible. Instead, the workload will be spread normally across the entire rotation. It means more of lesser pitchers, and it should improve the Yankees’ performance against the Blue Jays in 2010.

From Toronto’s view, however, that’s just fine. They made the trade knowing what they were giving up when facing the best of the AL East. The idea, so they hope, is to eventually replace Halladay with Kyle Drabek while upgrading the rest of their rotation, while improving their offense with Brett Wallace. The balance of power might shift a few years down the road, but for 2010 the Yankees should see something of an improvement against the Jays.

Open Thread: Spring Training TV Schedule
Yanks sign Chan Ho Park
  • bexarama

    Great article. This was extremely annoying. How many times did the Yankees face the guy last year – five?! Now the absolute most we can see him during the regular season is once (we’ll worry about facing him in the 2010 World Series when the Yankees and the Phillies get back to the World Series, hmm?). I love Halladay, he’s one of my favorite non-Yankees, but I love the Yankees winning far more than I love Halladay and well, the Yankees didn’t do that a whole lot when they faced Halladay.

  • Rick B

    I wouldn’t read to much into it. Sometimes pitchers just match up well against a certain lineup.

    • whozat

      But it’s more interesting to investigate WHY that might be than to just write it off. Maybe there is no pattern, but it’s more interesting to look and see before just writing it off.

      • Rick B

        Yea thats fair. This article took a lot of things into consideration but left out what to me is the most obvious factor; maybe the yankee hitters just don’t pick up the ball well out of his hand and therefore don’t have a lot of success against him. As a hitter there are always some pitchers that just have you’re number. If thats the case with a couple of the important hitters in the lineup it explains the good ERA he has against them.

        • whozat

          That’s not the most obvious factor, that’s just saying “I dunno why” in different words.

          Why Yankee hitters? Especially when “Yankee hitters” change. Abreu has come and gone, Giambi was here, got replaced by Tex, Swisher showed up, Melky and Cano showed up…your analysis isn’t backed up by any data.

        • andrew

          really? that’s the most obvious factor? hm.

  • Ben

    they did hit him last season a bit beter than before, I belive there was two games they scored 5 runs against him.

    • Gor

      And another where he one-hit them

      • bexarama

        I love that the one hit was Ramiro Pena.

  • JGS

    They didn’t really tattoo Lester this year. He pitched against them four times and pitched three good to excellent outings and one awful one

    4/24–6.0IP, 7H, 2ER, 3BB, 7K (ND)
    5/4–7.0, 6, 3, 2, 10 (W)
    8/9–7.0, 5, 1, 0, 7 (ND)
    9/25–2.1, 8, 5, 3, 3 (L)

    One of these is not like the others

    • Tom Zig

      Props to Lester for being able to survive a line drive off his leg

      • JGS

        on his 78th pitch. With one out in the third. He wasn’t lasting that much longer that game anyway

        • Tom Zig

          Yeah he really didn’t have it that night.

  • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

    He had our number. He’s a beast. He killed us more often than not.

    Did I mention? He gone.

    Doc is one of the best pitchers we’ll ever see, if you want to look for reasons why he killed us, be my guest. I’m of the opinion that he’s just a freak, and he was better than us more often than not. No need for analysis, imo.

  • Salty Buggah

    “The easy, abstract narrative is that Halladay rises to the occasion.”

    That obviously can’t be true. Halladay gave up 3 runs (2 earned) in 2 innings at the 2009 All-Star Game. That’s as big a situation as he’s been in. He’s never even pitched in the playoffs!!! He couldn’t carry his team into the postseason.

    /SSS’d, jumping to conclusions’d, wrong’d

  • YankeesJunkie

    Maybe the Yankees don’t do as well versus the curveball and the cutter as they do against the fastball.

    Over the past three years Halladay’s best pitches have been the cutter and the curveball, as the cutter has been 16 runs above average at least for the last three years and after an average curveball in 07′ it was 22 and 11 runs above average in 08 and 09. However his fastball while keeping velocity has was only 2 runs above average this year and has not been more than 10 runs above average since 06′.

    In addition the Yankees have been below average hitters as a team against the cutter.

    • Salty Buggah

      Hmmm, that’s interesting. Is there any way to find out if that’s true. I know Robbie Cano struggled mightily against the cutter in 09 but that’s all.

      • YankeesJunkie

        I was just looking at team stats for the yankees on fangraphs on pitch value and looking for it on Roy Halladay for fangraphs as well.

        • Salty Buggah

          Yea, I just saw it. It doesn’t seem like they struggled against the cutter. Some players struggled while some excelled against it. Seems like a normal distribution to me.

          • Salty Buggah

            Also, it seems like they were fairly good against the curveball.

          • YankeesJunkie

            I did not see the player by player just the team and they were below average against the cutter two of the last three years. Obviously it was not very much, and I just throwing out something to explain the why Halladay has had so much success other than pinpoint control and great stuff.

            • Salty Buggah

              Ah, ok. It makes sense though.

  • Omar

    I’m glad he isn’t there anymore to own my Yankees or bend over against the Red Sox anymore.

    • bexarama

      bah, reply fail. See my comment below yours.

  • bexarama

    His last game of the season was a 3-hit CGSHO of the Red Sox. (Okay, it was the triple-A Red Sox because they’d clinched the night before. I just had to say that.) I wouldn’t really say he bent over for them. Was it annoying that I felt that any Yankee game vs. Halladay would lead to a loss and I didn’t feel that way for Boston? Yeah. But he didn’t really “bend over” for them. It’s not like he’s the Orioles ;)

    • Omar

      Meh…4.3 ERA against Boston, and 2.87 against the Yanks, yeah I’m stoked.

  • JeffG

    Good to see Halladay out of our hair for sure.

    Did anyone notice we signed Chan Ho Park? Not posted on MLBTR yet but it is on Yanks main site.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      I’d appreciate it if you kept other topics out of this thread. Thanks.

  • larryf

    Doc keeps his off speed stuff down and his fastball tails in after starting out at the knees of lefties. Tough combo which kept us off balanced for sure…

  • Bo

    So halladay leaving the jays will make the jays easier to beat/play? stating the obvious