As The Rotation Turns: Leveraging the situation

Fan Confidence Poll: June 14th, 2010
2010 Draft: Priority Signs

Throughout most of the mid- to late-00s we grew used to the Yankees having mediocre pitching staffs. Some of those staffs had promise — 2007 comes to mind, when we dreamed of a rotation that included Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Phil Hughes. That year, as was the case for all years from 2004 through 2008, the hopes never manifested. Something always went wrong, as we should have expected given the pitchers on the staff. That changed in 2009 with the additions of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The Yankees ranked third in the AL in ERA and fourth in FIP. Finally, a pitching staff we could be proud of.

The rotation seems to be even better this year. The Yanks are still third in ERA (though they are sixth in FIP), but this time it feels different. It feels like that one poor stretch in mid-May has put a dent in the record. Outside that blip, the staff has kept the score close for an offense that has, at times, sputtered. That’s the biggest difference, at least as I can remember, between this year and last. The staff seems a bit more dominant, and I think that will really show up in the numbers once we get closer to season’s end.

The last two turns through the rotation have put this on display. The Yankees are 7-3 in that stretch and the rotation, outside a couple of iffy starts from A.J. Burnett, has been stellar. One particular aspect I noticed these times around: the offense and the starters have kept the high-leverage situations away from the middle relievers. In fact, during this stretch only Joba, Mo, and the starter has faced a Leverage Index of above 2.00 — in regulation, that is. That’s not good bullpen management. That’s the starter pitching deep into games and the offense keeping the pressure off.

6/3 vs. Baltimore: CC Sabathia – 7 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

The Leverage Index got above 2.00 just twice. Both came in the ninth inning when Mo allowed the first two batters to reach safely. The Orioles then got three chances with the tying run at the plate, but couldn’t bring anyone home.

Credit this one to the offense, which scored five runs by the third. Combined with a solid effort from Sabathia, the Yanks never let this turn into a high-leverage affair.

6/4 @ Toronto: A.J. Burnett – 6 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 K

Burnett got off to a poor start, surrendering a pair of homers to Jose Bautista and one to Edwin Encarnacion. The Jays were up 3-0 in the fourth and 4-0 in the fifth, so we didn’t see many high leverage situations. The only one above 2.00 came during A-Rod‘s at-bat in the fourth. The Jays were up only 1-0, and the Yanks had first and second with none out. A-Rod grounded into a double play, which was the illustrative moment of this game.

6/5 @ Toronto: Andy Pettitte – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 10 K

Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Darren Calabrese

Andy was great, the offense was not. They somehow gave him a 2-1 lead, but he allowed a home run late which put the game into extra innings. That meant there were plenty of high-leverage situations. This is the only time during this stretch in which a middle reliever pitched in a high leverage situation. During regulation, however, the only pitchers who faced situations with a LI over 2.00 were Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain. Chan Ho Park faced the highest leverage situation overall. That came in the 13th, when the Jays had runners on first and second with two outs. He got John Buck to ground out to shortstop.

6/6 @ Toronto: Javy Vazquez – 7 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 9 K

As we knew he could do, Javy carved up the Jays’ heavy swinging offense, using a mix of breaking and off-speed pitches to keep them from turning on an inside fastball. The game was close, thanks to another poor offensive performance, so we saw a few LI situations above 2.00. The only Yankees pitchers to face these situations were Joba and Mo. Joba allowed the only run there, but on the next hitter he induced a double play. That brought the LI down to 1.27, which made Tony Pena‘s decision to go with Damaso Marte over Mo a bit more justifiable.

6/8 @ Baltimore: Phil Hughes – 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

Photo credit: Gail Burton/AP

Hughes had a bit of trouble facing the Orioles for the third time this season, though it came mostly on dinks and dunks that found holes. The Yanks offense came alive for this one, scoring 12 runs. There were only two situations where the LI rose above 2.00. The first came in the second inning, when the Orioles were down 2-0 but had runners on first and second with one out. Phil Hughes induced an inning-ending double play. All those singles came when there wasn’t much at stake. The zero walks was also encouraging.

The other? That came in the third, when Curtis Granderson came up with the bases loaded and two outs. That situation ended just a bit differently than Hughes’s just a half inning before.

6/9 @ Baltimore: CC Sabathia – 7 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

Once again the Orioles got hits, but they didn’t hit for many extra bases and they didn’t bring around many to score. The offense wasn’t quite as good in this one, scoring just four runs, which means a few higher leverage situations. Sabathia himself faced five batters with the LI above 2.00, but he allowed no runs in those situations. In the highest leverage situation, when the Orioles had bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Sabathia delivered by striking out Luke Scott. Joba and Mo each faced LI situations above 2.00 as well.

6/10 @ Baltimore: A.J. Burnett – 6.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Photo credit: Rob Carr/AP

A decent but not great, or even really good, start by A.J. Burnett, in which he was wild early, settled down, but couldn’t finish the job in the seventh. He faced just one situation with the LI over 2.00, and that came in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled to put the O’s ahead.

Orioles pitchers faced nine situations with the LI above 2.00 and three with it above 3.00. They recorded seven outs and two walks, one intentional.

6/11 vs. Houston: Andy Pettitte – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

It is unbelievable how good Pettitte has been this year. The Yanks needed him in this one, as the offense scored just four runs. He faced two situations with the LI above 2.00 and pretty much succeeded both times. With a runner on first and no outs in the eighth he induced a double play ball that Derek Jeter botched. The next hitter, Michael Bourn, sacrificed, which Pettitte couldn’t do much about. Joba came in and faced two high leverage situations, above 3.00, and recorded outs in both. Mo also faced two high leverage situations in the ninth, retiring the hitter both times.

6/12 vs. Houston: Javy Vazquez – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

Other than a couple of home runs, both solo shots, this was an excellent outing for Javy. He’s really come around lately. He pitched so well, and the offense picked up so many runs so early, that there were no situations where the LI crept above 2.00. There was one situation where it hit 1.99. Jorge Posada, however, is a high-leverage kinda guy.

6/13 vs. Houston: Phil Hughes – 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Maybe he tired down the stretch — he was over the 100 pitch mark and he’s been at or above that for plenty of starts this season. Remember, too, that in 2006 Hughes rarely pitched more than five innings, and he didn’t throw too many innings in any of the following years. So fatigue is a concern. That’s a topic for another post, though.

Hughes faced two situations where the LI got above 2.00, and he recorded outs in both, a strikeout and a fielder’s choice groundout. Again, score this one for the offense, which scored enough runs to cover for almost anything, including Hughes’s sixth-inning meltdown.

Fan Confidence Poll: June 14th, 2010
2010 Draft: Priority Signs
  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    As The Rotation Turns: Leveraging the situation
    By Joseph Pawlikowski

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Other than a couple of home runs, both solo shots, this was an excellent outing for Javy. He’s really come around lately.

    In his 5 starts since he made that quirky bullpen appearance vultured win on May 17th, Javy’s gone 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA, 30 K, 10 BB, and is holding opponents to a .179/.248/.384 (.632), basically turning everyone into Jeremy Hermida.

    He’s also pitched 7 complete innings all of the last three turns through the rotation, against the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Astros. During those 21 innings pitched, he’s an even more impressive 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA, 22/5 K/BB, and .151/.215/.342 (.558) against (similar to Jeff Clement).

    Tommie: very aroused.

    • Pete

      Vazquez is turning into the feel good story of the year. As most fans and writers have properly diagnosed, given their intimate knowledge of Javier along with a great deal of evidence, he came into this season with crippling can’t-handle-new-york-itis, but with the help of (presumably) TrueYankees Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and probably Joe Torre, he has somehow managed to overcome this psychological disorder. I can’t even believe what I am seeing. Usually, if a guy has some bad starts in New York, especially in some post-season games, it definitively means he can’t handle the pressure. What’s amazing is that Javy is starting to pitch the way he has usually pitched when not in New York. It’s not every day that you see players play at their career levels outside of New York, in New York.


      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        If given the chance, I would love to attempt to shake some sense into WallyMatt. He needs it.

      • bexarama

        WallMatt wouldn’t ever write anything that positive.

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      i stand by and have stood by my prediction that he would be the second best starter on the team overall by the end of the year

      • Jammy Jammers

        I said the same thing, but that was really based on the following (instead of his skill)…
        – AJ stinks often and has a history of injuries
        – Pettitte being too old
        – Hughes is too young/innings limit
        – CC is enormous and bound to be injured sometime soon

        • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

          yeah, except that it IS based on his skill

        • bexarama

          Yay for optimism.

        • Mike HC

          Just goes to show you that even with a rotation full of Cy Young’s, all stars and World Champions, there will always be a way to criticize.

        • Jammy Jammers

          Wow. Lots of literal/humorless fools here.

          I guess I should just stick to ‘Andy Pettitte is hot’, ‘Phil Hughes for Cy Young Award’ and ‘Mo is God’ comments.

          • Joseph Pawlikowski

            In their defense, there wasn’t any humor in your comment.

          • bexarama

            Didn’t realize it was supposed to be funny.

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      do you think he will ever get his fb up over 89-91 again? if he could he could be even BETTER

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        It would be nice.

        FWIW, while his regular four-seamer seems to be down about 2-3 mph or so, his cutter velocity has actually gone up this year:

        Also, according to FG/PitchFx, he’s throwing the cutter more than ever before and the four-seamer less than ever before. Go figure.

        Source: the internet

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Derrr… typing “cutter”, thinking “curveball”. All that above is now gobbeldygook.

          (pours self a Pinstripe DFA IPA, goes back to sleep)

    • bexarama

      In his 5 starts since he made that quirky bullpen appearance vultured win on May 17th, Javy’s gone 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA,

      And that’s COUNTING the bad start against Minnesota. Damn.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


        He’s not Robbie Cano/Roger Clemens’s balls hot, but he’s at least Brett Gardner hot.

        • poster

          Oooh, Brett Gardner-and everybody knows Brett Gardner is only one step away from Roger Clemens’ balls.

          /You read correctly’d

    • Captain Jack

      against the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Astros

      The baseball boner’s version of the cold shower.


      In all seriousness though he’s essentially here to eat innings and be the fourth/fifth starter. Meaning, beat the bad teams and go deep into games. They don’t need him to be 2009 Javy, while we would all love that…that just simply isn’t happening. I would, however, love to see him get redemption. For a pitcher so talented he’s really had an awful career. In the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract they had an award “can I try this career over again?” For the this decade it’d have to be Javier Vazquez, three fan bases that absolutely loathe him excellent peripheral stats but a rather pedestrian ERA, and he seems to get blamed for pretty much everything bad. He’s a great guy and a very talented pitcher, he deserves more than this. Hopefully him and Eiland work on a way to get around LHH powerhitters and he’ll experience the success that he deserves.

  • Steve H

    We always hear about the Yankees circular lineup. They certianly have a circular rotation now.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      WARNING: NOT SAFE FOR WORK; OBJECTIONABLE LANGUAGE IN AUDIBLE VOLUME (I wanted to really bold that shit to keep anyone from getting in trouble)

      • Dela G

        hahahahahahahaha i actually saw him perform this in los angeles a few years back. fucking hilarious

  • bexarama

    Take out Pettitte’s really bad start against Tampa and his ERA this season is 1.91. I know ERA isn’t the greatest stat but that’s good right? O_O

    • vin

      This has to be the best 3-4-5 starters in baseball. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other trio giving their team more quality innings in such a pressure cooker.

      Of course, a HUGE part of why these guys have been so good is because there hasn’t been any injuries (for the most part)- subtracting guys from the rotation, bumping guys up in the pecking order, forcing the Mitres, Novas and Gaudins of the world into regular action, etc.

      If the rotation can remain reasonably healthy, then I’d be completely shocked if this team doesn’t win 100 games.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I expect our second half to be so good that some of our wins actually count double as negative losses and we finish the year with a final record of 146-0.

        • poster

          I could see that.

          In all seriousness, I think our second half is going to be completely batshit insane. I’m tlaking even better than last year. Like, a 1998 type of second half.

          • Captain Jack

            Probably need a new DH for that to happen…there’s three other legit teams in the AL: The Twins, The Sox, and The Rays….probably not going on a 1998 type of run with competition like that.

          • Carcillo

            The Yankees went 52-22 in the 2nd half of the 2009 season.

            That’s pretty batshit insane.

  • vin

    I wonder how much of Hughes’ 6th inning meltdown had to do with the constant squeezing by the home plate ump. I know he was awful for both teams, but as far as Phil’s performance goes, the ambiguous strike zone caused him to have to throw extra pitches.

    I hope he’s able to start getting the curve over for strikes. That’ll be a nice little adjustment for him since everyone knows the hard stuff is coming.

    • bexarama

      I think it was more the very, very long at-bat to Manzella (I think?) that messed him up. He got squeezed TERRIBLY when he walked Cash in the fifth (again, I think) and then Tex made that error, and got out of it unscathed. I thought that was really impressive that he didn’t get flustered.

      • vin

        Yeah, who’da thunk that Manzella would’ve been such a pest in the series. Played a mean SS, tough ABs. His ABs kind of reminded me of Jeff Mathis’ during the ALCS last year. You know he’s an awful hitter, but he just can’t do any wrong at the plate.

        Phil was good yesterday. As I mentioned above, I’d love to see him start throwing the curveball some more, but it’s not like hitters are really squaring up the FB or Cutter. Phil has only given up 16 extra base hits among all MLB starters who have thrown at least 65 innings this year – 4th best in the game. 2 of the guys ahead of him are in the NL.

        • Not Tank the Frank

          YES! He needs to really hone that curveball. He is no doubt at his best when he can drop it over the outside corner for a strike and put one in the dirt for a swing and miss. I’ve seen that cutter just float up in the strikezone too much lately. When Kevin Cash can put one in the seats it’s time to re-think your strategy.

      • Greg G.

        I also wonder the effect that the LONG bottom of the 5th had on him.

        • bexarama

          Yeah, he had quite a few long layovers between innings yesterday. Was thinking that might have had something to do with it as well.

  • Mike Nitabach

    What’s been so great about the rotation lately is that they have all hung in there even without their best stuff and kept the score manageable.

    • theyankeewarrior


      Rest the pen. Don’t test the pen.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Rest the pen. Don’t test the pen.

        If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

  • Frittoman626

    How many games will Hughes win this season, i think he wins 15-20 games if healthy :)