Yankees hitters against ground ball pitchers

Fan Confidence Poll: February 1st, 2010
Andy Pettitte and stolen base attempts

We all know the baseball cliché that good pitching beats good hitting. The Yankees experienced it in the mid-00s, pairing a powerhouse offense with mediocre pitching. Over a 162-game season, often facing mediocre pitching, that worked out well. But in the playoffs, with the weak teams eliminated, good pitching shut down the Yankees. It comes as no surprise, then, that the year the front office focused on the pitching staff was the year that the team returned to the World Series for the first time since 2003.

On his blog at WEEI, Lou Merloni notes that the top starters in the AL did a good job of holding down the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Nos. 1 and 3 offenses in the American League. Again, this comes as no surprise. It did make me wonder, though, how the Yankees hitters fared against different types of pitchers. Was there a certain type that caused them fits? Today we’ll look at the best ground ball pitchers in the AL and see how they fared against the 2009 Yankees.

Only five American League pitchers recorded a ground ball rate of 50 percent or higher: Rick Porcello, Ricky Romero, Felix Hernandez, Brett Anderson, and Roy Halladay. Another eight had a ground ball rate of 45 percent or higher: Trevor Cahill, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Joe Saunders, Scott Feldman, Nick Blackburn, Mark Buehrle, and John Lackey. Here’s how they fared:

In general, the Yankees killed ground ball pitchers. The exceptions are, for the most part, the best pitchers in the game. There’s no shame in getting shut down by Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. Scott Feldman also stands out, but like many pitchers on this list his sample against the Yankees includes just one start. That’s the real trouble with making any determinations from this chart. Anything can happen in a single game. The Yankees especially beat up on the rookies — Romero, Porcello, and Anderson — which further skews the sample.

The further problem with looking at ground ball pitchers is that other traits might better define the pitcher. Jon Lester, for example, recorded the second highest strikeout rate in the AL in 2009. Beckett, Hernandez, Halladay, and Anderson were all in the top 10. Halladay, Blackburn, Buehrle, Anderson, and Beckett all ranked in the top 10 in walk rate (with Lackey finishing 11th). In order to get a better grasp of what pitcher type the Yankees hit better, we’ll probably need to account for these other factors. Digging back further, we should probably also examine how individual hitters on the Yankees hit these pitchers in previous years.

Still, on the whole, the pitchers who induced the most ground balls in 2009 did not fare well against the Yankees. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that they hit ground ball pitchers especially well, it does give us an idea of what to look for when evaluating the Yankees vs. pitchers. We’ll see soon how they fare against fly ball, high-strikeout, low-walk, and low-HR pitchers.

Fan Confidence Poll: February 1st, 2010
Andy Pettitte and stolen base attempts
  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Well they had Felix beat until that chock artist, Mariano, gave up the HR to Ichiro.

    *dodges lightning strike*

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      And by chock, I mean choke.

      *Dodges lightning again*

      • pat

        Watch out or you’re gonna have to change your handle to Andy in Plague Ridden Daytona

        • Mr.Jigginz

          Or perhaps “The Disgruntled Ghost of Andy in Plague Ridden Daytona.”

    • JobaWockeeZ


      I mean seriously Mo is the best reliever of all time, I think he can handle Ichiro.

    • bexarama

      Now that we won the World Series and Mariano was the only closer in the postseason not to blow a save or take a loss, all I can say that that was HILARIOUS. Seriously, check Mo’s face if you ever see it again, he looks both offended and terribly confused, it’s great.

    • Tom Zig

      I don’t remember who it was on here that posted about how someone told the poster that they thought Mariano blew the save for AJ on purpose because Mo wanted to demonstrate that pies in the face were not the Yankee way.

      • Rick in Boston

        I just re-read the recap thread from that game. All sorts of awful.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          Oh my Mo, what a needless bitchfest that was.


          The fun starts right around the 12:48 am mark, with my man Mouch “Half Man Half Couch”‘s comment of

          This will set the tone for the rst of the west coast series….Mark my words.

          Some of my favorite exchanges:

          The “Girardi’s bad managing will cost us in October” convo:

          The “this is a playoff preview, you Polyanna” convo:

          And, in summation, one last good BANGWAGON on our overreacting “playoff preview” boy Andy:

          Andy says:
          No one answers it but y was he pitched to? Single ties it anyway. U don’t pitch to the guy hitting 350

          Jack says:
          Mariano Rivera.

          tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside says:
          202 career ERA+

          Jack says:
          522 saves.

          Jersey says:
          Favorite Actor: Robert DeNiro

          Jack says:
          268+ this year.

          The Artist says:
          Which is the best career mark in the history of baseball, and by a WIDE margin.

          ranger11 says:
          Damn! I knew this internet thing was going to fuck up the educational system!

          Mike Pop says:
          and the minds of many.


          • bexarama

            heh, I remember everyone was in a panic because the Sox had won like 12 of 15 and the Yankees went 3-5 against the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Mariners, and they were going to Anaheim, where they lost the first game, and a lot of Sox fans were starting to go “WELL WHAT IF we sweep the Yankees this weekend…”

            and then the Yankees won that series in Anaheim and the Sox lost two of four to the Royals and all went pretty well after that.

          • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

            The good ol days. You remember Brazilian Yankee in the post-season? Oh boy.

            • bexarama

              the worst of all is Bill Simmons’ “Yankee fan” friend Jack-O. He’s got a Twitter but I don’t suggest following it unless you like facepalming, a lot.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

    Only five American League pitchers recorded a ground ball rate of 50 percent or higher: Rick Porcello, Ricky Romero, Felix Hernandez, Brett Anderson, and Roy Halladay.

    Ricky Romero: The best kept secret in the league. Dude is good, but utterly unknown.

    • Thomas

      The problem with Romero is he walks a ton of batters and has at every stop in the minors, which when coupled with his high hit rate could spell death in the AL East.

      • Steve H

        That 1.52 WHIP is scary.

        • Thomas

          1.47 WHIP in the minors as well.

        • Jose

          His tRA for last year was 5.07. The last half of the year was especially bad for him. 1.769 WHIP in 91.0 IP. Ouch.

  • Zack

    Doc pitched 40 IP against the Yankees, that’s 1/6 of his season. So glad he’s out of the AL East.

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

      All sorts of THIS.

    • Steve H

      That’s 5 starts that will be “replaced” by some schlub. Nice.

      • JGS

        what is Toronto’s rotation next year?

        Romero, Tallet, Richmond, Cecil, Rzepczynski?

        I haven’t heard anything about McGowan, is he healthy? either way, it’s going to be a loooooong season in Toronto

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

          Marcum is their opening day starter. I’d say Tallet’s back in the bullpen.

          • JGS

            Forgot about Marcum. Either way, he is coming off TJ and McGowan is coming off knee and shoulder surgeries. I’m thinking Toronto will finish fifth this year

          • Tom Zig

            Tallet is a goofy looking dude

    • vin

      Not sure how they managed to hit 6 hr’s off him, too.

      • Thomas

        Three were in the CG 5 runs allowed game and the other three were his second start of the DL when he wasn’t yet at form.

    • UWS

      I’m willing to bet that of the three games Yanks play against Philly in June, Doc will manage to pitch in one. They’re that lucky.

  • Mike HC

    Interesting analysis. On the whole, that is a pretty damn good list of AL pitchers. If the Yanks can hit those guys that well, in 187.1 innings, that is quite good. And now that Roy Halladay is gone, finally, it should be even better. Of course, things are different every year, so who knows.

  • JGS

    The thing about Lester is that he pitched two good games (6 innings 2 runs, 7 innings 3 runs), one very good game (7 innings 1 run), and one game where the Yankees lit him up before knocking him out in the third inning, so that 4.43 RA is badly skewed by that

  • A.D.

    Most of the success comes off the non-power guys in this list (though if you’re a power & ground-ball guy, then you’re probably pretty elite i.e. Felix, Lester, Halladay) Which makes sense that a vet lineup known to work the count can lay of some of their junk and easy ground-balls.

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