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September 11, 2006

Keys To The Yankees 2006 Post-Season Success

There's a study in "Baseball Between The Numbers" that finds three "fundamental and direct relationship" variables for post-season success.

ESPN.com Page 2 has the complete study on-line. It's recommended reading. The three variables for post-season success stated in the study are:

• Closer's performance
• Pitcher strikeout rate
• Defense

So, how do the Yankees rate in each of these variables this year?

"Closer" should be the easy one to discuss. Mariano Rivera is the best. But, can he perform this October with his current injury? This is a key issue for the Yankees in this post-season, without question.

How about strikeouts? Well, if you look at the team pitching stats for the A.L., as of this morning, via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, this is what we see:


This is not good news for the Yankees, in terms of the post-season this year, with respect to the study we're discussing here. Unless, I suppose, if they are facing the A's or White Sox, who also suffer in this relative pitching strikeout stat.

Lastly, we have "fielding." If you look at the "Defensive Efficiency" stats at Baseball Prospectus this morning, this is what you see:


Even with A-Rod's issues at third this year, and the legacy of Jeter being a bad shortstop, the Yankees have the 2nd best fielding team (according to this stat) in the A.L. (so far) this year.

I suppose we should say "Thank you Tony Pena (for helping Posada), Melky Cabrera, and Johnny Damon" for a big part of this great news. Also, note how that "great" Boston Red Sox defense ranks in this stat.

Bringing this all together, I would say that the Yankees keys to this post-season are as follows:

1. Have a healthy and effective Mariano Rivera.
2. Avoid playing the Twins who can just over-power you with their strikeout aces and good closer.

In New York hits the mark on these two points, they should be favored (once post-season play begins this year) to return to the World Series for the first time since 2003.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at September 11, 2006 10:17 AM


Steve, absolutely great study, and I love seeing "Baseball Between the Numbers" being mentioned, it's one of my favorite books, and I see it's one of yours too...

If you can, in a future post, can you comment on Big Papi's "whining" about the MVP award (the link is here: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2582790)? It just seems a bit childish for a grown man to whine about a useless award such as the MVP...

Posted by: B(rent) [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:14 PM

I'll have someone up on Ortiz later today.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:35 PM

Interesting stuff but I'm always leery using full year stats in comparisons because the player usage and roster is different than what's used during the playoffs. Why should Sturze' (for example) strikeout rate be taken into consideration for how the playoffs might come out?

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:36 PM

I've read that study as well.
I think there ia a caveat to using regular season pitcher SOs to predict post-season success, because didn't the study use post-season data? Given the smaller pitching staffs in October, the Yankees would expect to give the bulk of their innings to Mussina, Wang, and Johnson, along with Proctor, Farnsworth and Rivera. 4 of these 6 pitchers have good SO rates, the exceptions being Rivera (who is known to have higher SO rates in the post-season) and Wang. And of course, Wang has already been proven to be a fairly unique pitching commodity, whose SO rates over the past 2 seasons do not seem correlated with his success. So maybe there should be a qualifier about expectations for the Yankees this post-season.
What do you think?

Posted by: Joe in NYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:37 PM

I guess it must have been in another chapter, but wasn't there also a study of correlations between various offensive/defensive metrics and their Playoff Success Points? If I remember correctly, the only positive correlation they found was between PSP and runs allowed, to the tune of barely significant r=.22. All other metrics (runs scored, OPS, EQA, ZR, defensive efficiency) were found to have almost no correlation. "We might as well tie post season success with average jersey numbers," was their quip. What it told me is that in the playoffs, especially in a short series... "Luck" is what matters, followed by pitching. And when you look at the numbers for Runs Allowed, I think the Yankees have a much stronger standing.

Posted by: mehmattski [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:46 PM

Joe in NYC - I think you have a good point there. Better news for NY too, maybe.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:58 PM

mehmattski - Not sure, I have to check the book.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:59 PM

Just as a quick aside, Chris Dial over at The Baseball Thin Factory does a defensive positional analysis. He uses different stats than the prospectus site but it should give a decent idea of why the Sox are so low.

The last one was Aug. 27 so a new one might be coming in soon:

Posted by: James Varghese [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 12:59 PM

Turning this one around for a minute....It also means that A-Rod must absolutely cut down on his freaking strike outs. He's struck out in 25.3% of his AB's. Abreu (26.9%) and Giambi (23.9%)are also high, but they both offest this with huge numbers of walks and correspondingly high OBP's. Jeter (16.5%), Damon (13.5%), Melky (11.8%!) and Cano (10.9%!) look like latent post season stars using this metric. With all these guys, the stats compare favorable with what our guts and experience indicate. The surprise I had was Bernie, who strikes out only 12.6% of the time. Still don't want the game on the line and the bat in his hands against a right hander (.255 BA and .296 OBP). Strike outs on the 4 hole are killers when you got such good OBP's at the top of the line up (though Damon's dropped off some in the second half of the season).

Posted by: #15 [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 02:42 PM