The Day After

Blowout Incoming....

Personally, a good blowout always gave me confidence. When you look at a team that absolutely goes to town on another team, it brings to mind the messiest intangible: momentum. In a sport where play goes uninterrupted during a game, like hockey or basketball, momentum makes a little more sense. But in baseball, pauses are routine, and what we may think of as momentum still has a lots of empty space. Even in a quicker sport, it’s hard to think momentum might work when a day goes by in between one game and the next.

When the Yankees gave the Tigers a proper whooping in game 4, there was a good feeling: the bats were alive. The hitters had their eyes on the ball. AJ Burnett had actually pitched a pretty decent game against a relatively decent lineup! The bullpen had done pretty well! How could anything go wrong? But then, a small part of me crept into my brain, thinking about a blowout the Yankees had given to Oakland, where they’d hit a record three grand slams. The next day was a seven-run loss to Baltimore. This got me thinking: was there a hangover effect involved in these blowout games? The Yankees have always been a heavy-slugging team, but maybe their collective arms (and bats) got tired after all those runs in one night. As I’d feared, the Yankees’ bats got quiet, and then went without much of a run-related peep into the dark night of the offseason.

For this experiment, we’ll assume that a “blowout” entails winning by 7+ runs. I’m using 7+ as my measure over Baseball Reference’s 5+, just because I feel like saying the Yankees blow the team out almost 20% of the time is a little absurd. I’ll ratchet up the amount of runs needed for a blowout to see if there is a certain amount of good pitching and hitting that makes a team tired for the next day. If you don’t like it, feel free to talk about how much you hate me in the comments.

Anyway, by the 7+ measure, the Yankees had 17 blowouts, the biggest being the Grand Slamorama against the A’s (22-9) and the smallest being an August game against Minnesota (8-1). After a blowout, the Yankees went 11-6, which says that even when the Yankees weren’t scoring a lot of runs, the pitchers were at least helping out. In the blowout games, the Yankees banged out 216 runs (average of 12.7 R/G), but in the game-afters, they only managed 84. I don’t think this is because they were tired, actually, but rather that it’s just really hard to score a lot of runs, even against a crappy team. The Yankees only managed to score 10+ runs in back-to-back games once, and both were blowouts. It was against the (sigh) AL Champion Texas Rangers on June 14th and 15th. Curiously enough, 84 runs over 17 games is about 4.8 runs/game, and Yankees averaged about 5.4 runs/game, and Yankees averaged about 5.5 runs/game over the 162 game season, so it is a little under, but not by much. On the hitting side, over an 162 game season, the Yankees had a 3.63 ERA (which is good for fourth in the AL, by the way). During blowouts, the pitching staff’s ERA actually went down (3.23), so there wasn’t any pitching to the score going on, at least in this sample. The hangover-over blowout effect looks just like another great example of confirmation bias and selective memory. We remember unusual events even if they’re uncommon, like blowing a team out and losing the next day, which the Yankees only did six times in an 162 game season.

Let’s bump it up. Let’s say it that you have to score 8 runs to have a blowout. In this case, the Yankees only had eleven blowouts. They scored 159 runs over these 11 games, bumping their average R/G up to 14.4 (!). After blowouts of 8 R+, they went 7-4, an almost identical win percentage to 7+. The Yankees pitching picked up a 3.81 ERA (all the runs were earned), slightly higher than their season norm. We’ll bump it up just one more, to 9+ runs equaling a blowout. This lowers the sample to seven games, and the Yankees scored 114 runs and averaged 16.2 runs per game, which is pretty awesome (even if it’s only a seven game sample). The pitching staff held opponents with a 4.71 ERA, which is significantly higher. Although you could argue there’s a pitching-to-the-score argument here with these two consecutive raises, I don’t think it’s that the score caused the bad pitching, I think it’s because you have to score a lot of runs to have that high an ERA and still lose. In other words, the bad score doesn’t cause the pitching, but the massive offense causes the bad pitching to be included in the winning numbers.

To keep the sample marginally sized, we’ll return to blowout = 7+ and throw down some more stats from that. The Yankees had all 17 of their 7+ run blowouts verses 10 teams, six of which were under .500 (MIN, SEA, CWS, BAL, OAK, and CLE). The Indians, Mariners, Twins and Rays were blown out by only 7 runs and were all blown out once. Not surprisingly, they had the most blowouts verses Baltimore (4) and (amusingly) the second-most vs Texas (3). The Yankees also blew out 3 other playoff teams (TBR, MIL, & TEX), and, to put the icing on the cake, Boston.

In conclusion, the Yankees score a lot of runs. I think we had a really good offensive club here, guys.

Mailbag: Joe Saunders

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Shaun asks: I see on MLBTR that Arizona might non-tender Joe Saunders. Do you guys like him? Would you trade anything to get him before they let him go to keep him off the market? This is all hypothetical of course! Thanks!

To answer the second question first, no I would not trade something for Saunders to keep him from hitting the market. MLBTR projects his 2012 salary at close to $9M his third time through arbitration, and that’s just not happening. Saunders isn’t good enough to give up something of value for the right to pay him that much. I’d wait until Arizona non-tenders him before even considering him for a spot on the Yankees.

Saunders had a nice year in 2008, but he’s been consistently below-average ever since. He did manage a 4.57 FIP in 203.1 IP in 2010, but that stands out compared to a 5.17 FIP in 2009 and a 4.78 FIP this season. Like Jon Garland, Saunders has managed to get the reputation of being a ground ball guy even though he doesn’t actually get a ton of ground balls (44.5% in 2011, 45.5% career). He does have the “doesn’t miss bats” part down pat though (4.58 K/9 and 6.2% swings and misses in 2011, 5.02 and 6.7% career, respectively). His walk rate is probably his best attribute (2.84 BB/9 in 2011, 2.87 career).

I think we have enough info here to say Saunders is back-end starter at best, we’re talking more than 600 IP in the generally weak AL West and NL West since he was last league average (in terms of FIP) in 2008. I worry about the inability to miss bats and the general lack of ground balls, especially moving into the AL East. I’m sure the Yankees would love to add a southpaw to the rotation to help counteract Yankee Stadium‘s short right field porch, but I don’t think Saunders is a guy they can count on to consistently do that.

There is another angle worth considering here, and that’s a relief role. Saunders completely shut down lefties this season, holding them to a .212/.240/.341 batting line with 40 strikeouts and six walks in 181 plate appearances this season. His career split isn’t nearly as good, so I could just be a one-year fluke. It is worth noting that Saunders did throw his curveball less frequently in 2011 while beefing up the usage of his slider, which could certainly explain the improvement against lefties. It’s something to keep in mind, but I’d prefer to wait until he’s actually on the market before digging deeper into his validity as a reliever.

I wouldn’t have any interest in Saunders as a starting pitcher, unless he was willing to come absolutely dirt cheap (like, a million bucks or so), but he’s somewhat interesting as a lefty reliever. If there’s one thing we know about the Yankees, it’s that they place a high value on left-handed bullpen arms. I suspect that Saunders won’t have any trouble finding work as a starter this winter, maybe not at $8-9M, but I’m sure some team like the Pirates, Marlins, or Padres would be willing to guarantee him a rotation spot. I’m just not sure I see a fit for him in New York at a reasonable price.

Nova makes Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team

Baseball America announced their rookie awards yesterday, giving their Rookie of the Year honors to Jeremy Hellickson. Ivan Nova earned one of the five starting pitcher spots on their All-Rookie Team (no subs. req’d), joining Brandon Beachy, Michael Pineda, Vance Worley, and Hellickson. “Viewed as rotation insurance at the outset of the season, Nova ascended to No. 2 starter status behind C.C. Sabathia by the time the playoffs rolled around,” said BA. “He led all rookies with 16 wins during the regular season—New York supported him with 6.7 runs per nine innings—then added one more against the Tigers in the AL Division Series.”

The BBWAA will announce the AL and NL Rookie of their Year awards on November 14th, so still another three weeks away. Nova will undoubtedly get some first place votes, though I’m not sure if he’ll win. He’s definitely a candidate though, the Yankees best since Robinson Cano finished second behind Huston Street in 2005.

Open Thread: Travelin’

(Robb Carr/Getty)

I can’t imagine Arlington to St. Louis is that far of a trip, but the Rangers and Cardinals have the night off anyway. Google Maps says it’s only 650 miles, so that’s what … a two-hour flight at most? Whatever, there’s no World Series game tonight whether you like it or not. The Devils are the only local hockey team in action, so there’s really not much going on when it comes to New York sports. Supposedly it’s against the unwritten laws of blogging to push traffic away from your site, but I highly recommending going out tonight. It’s Friday, the weather’s nice enough, no baseball to miss, go out and live a little. That’s what I plan to do. Use this thread however you see fit.

Unpublished photos from 1961

You might have seen this already, but I’m a little behind the times here. LIFE Magazine published a never before seen collection of photos from the 1961 Yankees yesterday, Mickey Mantle’s 80th birthday. Here’s more from the mag…

In 1961, during spring training, LIFE gave 25-year-old Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek a camera and asked him to photograph his teammates: Mantle, Berra, Maris, Ford, and the rest of the players on what would, in time, be seen as one of the greatest teams in baseball history. The resulting photos were never published…

You can click through the gallery above, or see it at LIFE’s site. That’s some pretty awesome stuff.

The RAB Radio Show: October 21, 2011

After a week off we’re back with a nice, long podcast for your Friday afternoon listening pleasure. Topics covered:

  • The World Series: how they got there, how it’s going. Honestly, this has been a greatly enjoyable series through two games.
  • Yankees housekeeping: not much going on right now, other than a few minor roster moves. But two Yanks execs have been interviewed for Anaheim’s GM gig.
  • We play a little game that brings to the fore a number of weird hypotheticals.
  • Plus our standard brand of miscellany.

Podcast run time 50:48

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

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