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August 09, 2007

When The Going Gets Rough

We know that the Yankees offense can score a lot of runs. We've seen them go double-digits in runs scored for a game on more than one occasion this season - many more times than once. But, watching the Yankees against Roy Halladay last night got me wondering about what happens with the Yankees line-up when they face a really good starting pitcher? So, I picked a few good starters and looked at how they have done against the Yankees, this season to date:

Roy Halladay - 14 IP & a 3.21 ERA
Scott Kazmir - 17.2 IP & a 3.06 ERA
Mark Buehrle - 6 IP & a 7.50 ERA
Kelvim Escobar - 7 IP & a 1.29 ERA
Josh Beckett - 13 IP & a 5.54 ERA
John Lackey - 16 IP & a 1.69 ERA
Johan Santana - 7 IP & a 2.57 ERA
Erik Bedard - 14 IP & a 1.93 ERA
Danny Haren - 10.1 IP & a 6.97 ERA
Daisuke Matsuzaka - 13 IP & a 6.92 ERA

On the whole, this group of pitchers has held the Yankees, again, in a collective effort, in check. The combined ERA for the above (vs. New York) is 3.89 for this season (to date). Using that 3.89, and if you assume that a good pitcher like this is going to throw 6.1 IP in a game against the Yankees, it means the Yankees will scored 2.7 runs against them in a contest, by the seventh inning.

That's not a lot of runs - it's certainly not what you expect from a high-powered offense. Therefore, hitters or not, if the Yankees make the post-season this year, as always, it will be their pitching that decides how far they go...as New York is bound to face good pitching in October and not score tons of runs, like they are doing on most days now.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 9, 2007 11:02 AM


I just ran the numbers for the same pitchers, but against the Red Sox, and their ERA is 4.09, or about 0.2 higher than against the Yankees. However, the Red Sox haven't had to face Buerhle or Escobar, who have two of the lowest ERAs of the group (and obviously they haven't faced Beckett or Matsusaka). In total, the Sox have about half as many innings against these pitchers as the Yankees (61.2 vs 118). Overall, this tells me that the 0.2 difference in ERA probably isn't significant enough to really mean anything definitively.

For the record, the overall ERA of these pitchers is 3.23, or 0.66 lower than when they're against the Yankees.

The way I see it, these are the best pitchers in the league for a reason. It's not really reasonable to expect the Yankees (or any other team for that matter) to consistantly score a ton of runs off them. But it *would* be nice.

Posted by: Mike Z [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2007 12:34 PM

Thanks for the research Steve and Mike Z. To me, this data proves two things:

A. There is a tremendous disparity in quality between "good" pitchers and all other pitchers.


B. A 900-1000 run lineup might be able to bludgeon you into the playoffs but probably be nearly as futile as any other lineup against other teams' aces.

Posted by: brockdc [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2007 01:23 PM

Besides the small sample size disclaimer, I would think that it would be good to give some context on how well the Yankees were hitting when they faced the above pitchers.

Let me explain: we all know that Cano, Abreu, Melky, Damon and - to a lesser extent - Matsui, were very weak offensively earlier this year.

With the exception of Damon (who is doing a little better), they are all hitting VERY well of late.

Slumps happen, and they aren't necessarily the by-product of one specific good pitcher.

Posted by: JRVJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2007 02:10 PM

~I would think that it would be good to give some context on how well the Yankees were hitting when they faced the above pitchers.~

It's nice to think about but I don't think it's worthwhile. There's plenty of variables:

What about how well the pitcher was pitching when they faced?

Did the weather conditions come into play, etc.?

My suggestion is don't over-analyze it.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2007 03:05 PM

With all due respect, I think it is a very worthwhile observation.

The Yankees right now are a very different hitting team than earlier in the year, for reasons mentioned above.

To come to the conclusion that the Yankees won't hit against those pitchers they faced before for at most 17IP because they didn't hit while they were slumping is not particularly strong.

Posted by: JRVJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2007 07:26 PM

Steve, this is a good idea for a post but I might look at it a little differently. Obviously good pitchers do well against everyone (or they wouldn't be good pitchers), so the question is do they suppress the Yankee offense more than they suppress other offenses? I guess the way to look at that would be to do something like compare the Yankees' AVG/OBP/SLG against a group of what we'd call good pitchers to their regular AVG/OBP/SLG and then compare the AVG/OBP/SLG against of the good pitchers against league average and see if the Yankees fall off more than the league. Maybe I'll take a stab at that over the next couple of days if you don't beat me to it.

Posted by: SG [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2007 08:00 PM

Go for it SG! I doubt that I could run the numbers over the next couple of days.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2007 10:06 PM

I'm not a stat guy, but this is worth looking at, since all the buzz is about how the Yanks kill mediocre pitching. What jumps out here is which arms are on the ends of this curve - namely Beckett and DiceK, and to a lesser extent, Buehrle and Haren, who we have hit well. Our success against Beckett and DiceK could come in very handy. Then Bedard, Escobar, Lackey, and Santana. Bedard's been a monster this year. Santana we've beaten a few times, its the dang Angels that worry me, since they always seem to play us tough and their top two seem to get their game on for the Yanks.

Posted by: Exit9 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2007 11:40 AM