The Yankees’ offense by inning

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the Yankees have done a lot of scoring early in games this season, but not so much later in the game. They’ve put 65 runs on the board in innings 1-3 through the first 26 games of the year, but just 79 runs in innings 4+ (including extra innings). Given the team’s modus operandi of “work the starter then go to town on the bullpen,” you’d expect that to be a little more balanced out.

The graph above (which you can click for a larger view) shows two things in relation to each other. The first vertical axis (the blue line with dashed trendline) is the team’s wOBA while the second (the red line with dashed trendline) is the team’s left-on-base percentage, both by inning. I left extra innings out of it because the Yankees just haven’t played many of those, thankfully. The peaks and valleys in the wOBA line have to do with the batting order; the peaks are when Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano are typically at the plate, the valleys are basically everyone else. I’m not sure why it drops off so much in the 8th and 9th innings, but a .350-ish wOBA is still well-above average. The Yankees are still producing with the bats in the late innings, there’s no doubt about that.

It makes sense that the LOB% line would be the opposite of the wOBA line, the more offense the team is producing, the fewer runners they’ll strand. So that should be down when the wOBA is up, and vice versa. But at the end of the game, from the sixth inning on, the strand rate has plateaued at more than 80% for some mysterious reason. The league average strand rate is 72.1% and has been right around that number for the last few years, so the Yankees are running into some bad luck here. Stranding runners is not a repeatable skill (unless you have a pitcher with a 1.0 batters faced-to-strikeout ratio), so this is something that should even out as the season progresses. More late inning rallies are the way … at some point.

Miguel Cabrera, Yankee Killer

Bet you'll never guess where that ball landed. (Kathy Willens/AP)

When Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate with a runner on second and two outs in the third inning last night, we all knew he was going to get a hit and drive in the run. Maybe some were in denial, rationalizing that Colon had been money and would retire him. But deep down in our bones we all knew it. That’s just what Miguel does. Since he arrived in the AL for the 2008 season he has the second highest wOBA in the league, .405, just five points behind Kevin Youkilis. It seems like he’s that much better against the Yankees.

Even when Cabrera wasn’t killing the Yankees, he was still killing the Yankees. While he was just 5 for 24 in the 2003 World Series, his one extra base hit put the Yanks in a hole. They had everything set up. Up two games to one, they had Roger Clemens on the mound to set up the Marlins for defeat. But Cabrera hit a two-out, two-run homer that sent the Marlins to an early lead. While the Yanks did come back, they lost in extra innings, and didn’t win a game the rest of the series. While we all remember that game for Alex Gonzalez’s 11th inning homer, it might have been Cabrera’s that turned the series.

Because he played in the NL, Cabrera didn’t get many chances to wreak havoc on the Yankees from 2004 through 2007. The Yanks and Marlins did do battle in 2006, though, and in that series Cabrera went 5 for 10 with a double, a homer, and two walks. No one was sad to see he and the Marlins leave Yankee Stadium that June, but the possibility still hung out there. The Marlins, renown for their cheapness, would find Cabrera’s salary unpalatable at some point. There was a decent chance he would be AL bound.

In fact, there was something of a chance that he would be headed to the Yankees. After the 2007 season it became clear that the Marlins would deal Cabrera during the off-season. For the previous two seasons he had been the Marlins third baseman, and the Yankees suddenly had an opening at the position. Alex Rodriguez had opted out of his contract, and Brian Cashman had been on record saying that the Yankees would not re-sign their superstar. With Wilson Betemit as the only in-house option, the connection to Cabrera was immediate. But the Yankees had bigger problems — pitching problems — and probably weren’t going to meet the Marlins asking price. It’s doubtful that they could have matched Detroit’s package of Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, two of the top prospects in the game.

In the first two years of his Detroit tenure Cabrera caused the Yankees headaches. He went 15 for 46 with a triple, two homers, and three walks, good for a .326/.380/.500 line. Of course, Cabrera hit .308/.373/.542 during that span, so while he nicked a few more singles he didn’t unleash his full fury. That didn’t start until last year, when he went 10 for 27 with three doubles and five homers. That has continued into this year, when he’s gone 8 for 15 with a double and two homers. In his 49 PA against the Yankees during the last two seasons, his total line is .429/.490/1.024. A Yankee killer he has been.

Thankfully, the rest of the Detroit team has taken mercy on the Yankees in the past two years. Without Cabrera they’ve hit .233/.279/.369 in 391 PA against the Yankees. But every time Miguel steps to the plate, it induces fear in my heart. I know that even if he’s not going to get a hit, he’s going to hit it hard somewhere. That fits the bill for a Yankee killer. Welcome to the club, Miguel.

The RAB Radio Show: May 3, 2011

Everyone seems to be piling on Derek Jeter today — with reason, of course, but things have started to get out of hand. Mike and I talk the Captain and his struggles. But we brighten the mood with some guys who started slow and have turned it around. I want to say that Jeter isn’t far behind, but it’s tough to see a difference in his at-bats between Opening Day and now.

Plus, Phil Hughes, and what his clean bill of health means for him and the team.

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He’s back! Yankees sign Brad Halsey

Via the AP, the Yankees have signed left-hander Brad Halsey to a minor league contract. He’s in Extended Spring Training working out for the time being. You probably remember Brad Halsey for starting this game (he dives into the stands!), but believe it or not he only appeared in eight games (seven starts) for the Yankees. I thought it was more than that.

Anyway, Halsey went to the Diamondbacks in the Randy Johnson trade and he eventually wound up in Oakland. He had a bit of a falling out with the A’s, blasting the organization for calling up Dallas Braden over him when Rich Harden got hurt in 2007. He then suffered a torn labrum later that year, and won a grievance against the team after claiming they misdiagnosed the injury. Halsey has spent the last two years in independent leagues, but obviously this is more minor league filler than anything. But hey, he’s left-handed, who knows.

Is Bartolo Colon throwing too many fastballs?

One thing has been clear since Spring Training: Bartolo Colon is going to live and die with his fastball. Luckily for him it’s come back to life at age-38 and after some major shoulder troubles, sitting comfortably in the low-90’s and topping out as high as 96 against the Blue Jays a week ago. It’s actually two fastballs, the straight four-seamer that’s more pure velocity and the darting two-seamer that’s all about movement. To say Colon uses those two pitches heavily would be an understatement. He’s thrown the four-seamer more than 45% of the time and the two-seamer more than 41% of the time in his 33 innings of work. That means he’s throwing one or two non-fastballs per inning, give or take.

The table above, courtesy of Texas Leaguers, shows the full breakdown of his pitches, including strike rates and swing-and-miss rates, the whole nine. I guess what really caught my attention are the whiff rates of his change and slider. He’s thrown 24 changeups (all but five to lefties, so almost four out of every five) and batters have swung and missed at six of them. When you’re that fastball heavy, taking a little something off will definitely result in some funny hacks. The slider, meanwhile, has been thrown primarily to righties (25 of 38, almost exactly two-thirds), and they’ve come up empty on one out of every ten swings. Those are some gaudy percentages.

Unlike Ivan Nova, who’s still young and developing, the Yankees shouldn’t screw around with Colon. He is what he is and it’s working, so don’t change it unnecessarily. Could he stand to mix in a few more changeups against lefties and sliders against righties? Sure, but it’s not broke right now, so don’t fix it. He is leading the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio after all. Perhaps that’s stage two of the Bartolo revival. Once the league adjusts to the heat, he’ll break out the offspeed stuff in earnest. That would be sweet.