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January 20, 2007

If The Yanks Have Pitching, Bet On Them In October

Some like to believe that the team with the best pitching wins, or should win, a post-season match-up. I can understand this position. But, does it always happen?

I decided to look at every Yankees post-season series since 1995 and compare the Yankees pitching staff against the team they played - using Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA) as a measuring stick of each team's pitching in the series. This is what I found:

YanksPostSeasonRSAA.jpg

Looking at the results in this chart, it brings the following thoughts to mind:

+ The 1995 Yanks-M's ALDS, pitching-wise, really was a toss-up.
+ The 1996 Braves should have beat the Yankees in the World Series.
+ The 1997 Yankees should have beaten the Indians in the ALDS.
+ The 1998 Yankees did what they were supposed to do in the post-season.
+ The 1999 Red Sox and Braves should have done better against the Yankees in the post-season.
+ The 2000 Yankees were better than anyone they faced in the post-season that year.
+ It really was a miracle that the 2001 Yankees made it to the World Series, much less making it to Game 7 of the World Series.
+ The 2002, 2005, and 2006 Yankees were all out-armed in their ALDS match-ups - and because of this they probably deserved to lose them.
+ The 2003 Yankees should have won the World Series - and losing it was a major letdown by New York.
+ The 2004 Yankees were lucky to beat the Twins in the ALDS, based on the pitching match-ups, and they were totally out-armed in the 2004 ALCS as well.

In total, in the last 25 post-season series that the Yankees played in, they had the RSAA edge on their opponent 12 times - and won 10 of those 12 times (where they only lost to Cleveland in '97 and the Marlins in '03). That's a success rate of 83%.

On the flip side, in the last 25 post-season series that the Yankees played in, they did not have the RSAA edge on their opponent 13 times - and they lost 6 of those 13 times. Based on this, New York's post-season odds are about 50-50 when they don't have the pitching edge.

Where New York beat the pitching odds: The 1996 ALDS & WS, 1999 ALCS & WS, 2001 ALDS & ALCS, and the 2004 ALDS.

Imagine if the Yankees had lost the 1996 World Series, 2001 ALDS, and 2004 ALDS? Losing just these three post-season series would have re-written modern-day Yankees history in a huge way.

Without a win in 1996, maybe there's no letdown in 1997. With no crushing 1997 ALDS loss, maybe the drive during the 1998 season is different?

But, if they lose the 2001 ALDS, then Games 4, 5 & 7 of the 2001 World Series never happen. And, of course, if they lose the 2004 ALDS, then the 2004 ALCS never happens.

This leads to another interesting question: As a Yankees fan, would you trade in the rings of 1996 and 1998 to avoid the pain of 2001 and 2004? Is that a wash? Is it better to have loved, and lost, than never to have loved at all?

If asked, I would take the rings. I'd rather have good memories and bad memories than no memories at all.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at January 20, 2007 11:16 PM

Comments

Steve, not for anything in the world. 1996 and 1998 were two of the most fun seasons in my Yankee life and I'd be happy to do it all over again in 2001 and 2004 just knowing that '96 and '98 happened. I cried like a little girl when Charlie Hayes caught the final out of the 1996 WS because I had never experienced the joy of watching my team win a WS before. I'd never give that up.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 08:42 AM

My uncle called me from California to congratulate me.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 10:01 AM

Steve, just out of curiosity, when calculating RSAA for an entire pitching staff, does having one dominant pitcher skew it? Because while Santana and Pedro had incredible years in '04 and '99, the rest of those staffs weren't exactly great (Radke and Silva for Minnesota and Mercker, Pedro's bro Ramon and Saberhagen for the Sox). While the '04 Yanks only had Lieber, Vazquez and an injured Brown behind Moose, the '99 Yanks had El Duque, Cone, Clemens and Pettitte -- our true "championship" staff -- so is it possible the Red Sox had a better staff? It seems hard to believe.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 10:46 AM

During that period, I believe the Sox had better pitching, but the Yanks had a better offense.

As for 2004;

RSAA (Team RSAA)
JS: 54 (114)

So it's possible that a dominant player can skew the numbers.

YANKEES (-41)
Tom Gordon 22
Mariano Rivera 22
Orlando Hernandez 11
Kevin Brown 5
Jon Lieber 2
Steve Karsay 1
Sam Marsonek 1
Juan Padilla 1
Jorge DePaula -1
Bret Prinz -2
Mike Mussina -3
Scott Proctor -3
Paul Quantrill -3
C.J. Nitkowski -5
Donovan Osborne -5
Brad Halsey -7
Felix Heredia -8
Alex Graman -9
Tanyon Sturtze -9
Gabe White -9
Javier Vazquez -10
Jose Contreras -13
Esteban Loaiza -19

REDSOX (118)
Curt Schilling 42
Keith Foulke 25
Pedro Martinez 24
Bronson Arroyo 18
Scott Williamson 12
Mike Timlin 7
Alan Embree 5
Ramiro Mendoza 5
Curtis Leskanic 4
Lenny DiNardo 2
Phil Seibel 2
Frank Castillo 1
Mark Malaska 1
Dave McCarty 1
Mike Myers 1
Tim Wakefield 1
Bobby M. Jones 0
Jimmy Anderson -1
Jamie Brown -1
Abe Alvarez -2
Terry Adams -3
Byung-Hyun Kim -3
Anastacio Martinez -4
Joe Nelson -4
Pedro Astacio -5
Derek Lowe -10

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 12:01 PM

Thanks for doing this research, Steve. It tells us a lot I think. Basically, it says that the Yankees' recent troubles grow out of a failure to successfully rebuild the pitching staff following 2003. Because of the weakness of the farm season, they had to go outside of the organization and trade for aging starting pitching (Brown, Johnson), trade for or sign enigmas (Vazquez, Weaver, Contreras) or sign free agents like Wright and Pavano. This strategy is a high risk strategy that probably can never work out in the long-run.

This is probably the analysis that Cashman accepts if we look at what he has done this off-season especially.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 01:35 PM

There's some nice work here but I don't think it's relevant in your comparison.

RSAA is a cumulative number so a pitcher doing well (Francisco Liriano) or poorly (Sir Sidney)affect the RSAA totals but wouldn't be taking part in the playoff series you're tracking.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 01:42 PM

There's some nice work here but I don't think it's relevant in your comparison.

RSAA is a cumulative number so a pitcher doing well (Francisco Liriano) or poorly (Sir Sidney)affect the RSAA totals but wouldn't be taking part in the playoff series you're tracking.
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And even so, if it were all about SP, the Braves would've won a lot more than they actually have.

It's a crapshoot, folks; just about anything can happen in a short series...

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 02:19 PM

~~It's a crapshoot, folks; just about anything can happen in a short series...~~

I sort of think that too, Raf, but does that make it irrational of us to complain about what has happened to the Yankees since 2000? These Yankee teams have been good enough to win the AL East every year.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 04:16 PM

Yeah, there's really no more underlying fact than 'anything can happen in a short series.' This offseason saw Kenny Rogers, Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver be dominant? Are you kidding me? I guess the point to be taken from your post is that you're giving yourself the best chance to win if you've got good pitching, but anything can happen, including the other teams has-been pitchers showing up to play.

Posted by: j [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 05:33 PM

~~~Basically, it says that the Yankees' recent troubles grow out of a failure to successfully rebuild the pitching staff following 2003. ~~~

No doubt about it, IMHO.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 07:11 PM

~~~Steve, just out of curiosity, when calculating RSAA for an entire pitching staff, does having one dominant pitcher skew it? ~~~

Possible. Just as one crappy pitcher can lower the team total too. See the 2000 Yanks and Cone.

A pitcher would have to be god-like 'tho to make a good pitching team look like a great one - or a bad pitching team appear good.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 07:13 PM

~~~These Yankee teams have been good enough to win the AL East every year. ~~~

Yeah, but, for the most part, it's a two-team race only in the AL East - most seasons.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 07:16 PM

~~~It's a crapshoot, folks; just about anything can happen in a short series...~~~

Luck is the residue of design.

When the Yanks have better pitching, they win 83% of the series. With bad pitching, it's 50-50.

With better pitching, it takes out a lot of the luck, or need for it.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 07:19 PM

I sort of think that too, Raf, but does that make it irrational of us to complain about what has happened to the Yankees since 2000?
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No, of course not. But it may be an exercise in futility to try to pinpoint a reason a team fails in the postseason.

If it were all about starting pitching, or pitching in general, the Braves would've won a lot more than they have.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 07:36 PM

"I sort of think that too, Raf, but does that make it irrational of us to complain about what has happened to the Yankees since 2000?
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No, of course not. But it may be an exercise in futility to try to pinpoint a reason a team fails in the postseason."

I actually think that is is sort of irrational to complain about the performance of the team that has won 15 more games than any other team in the 00s and a team that has won the division every year.

However, even though it isn't always "all about starting pitching," it is clear that the only major weakness of the Yankees in the 00s has been pitching (and, to a lesser extent, defense). (Once the offense starts to slip this could change, of course.)

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2007 08:12 PM

In the deciding Game 4 of the 2004 ALDS (Yanks-Twins), Johan Santana apparently took himself out of the game after 5 IP, Twins leading 5-1. The game was finally won in 11 innings by Mariano Rivera with 2 scoreless, hitless, BB-less IP. The Twins had 2 CS in that game, and A-rod had the 2 Yankee SB's.

Posted by: susanmullen [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 03:13 PM