The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Walking the Line

Through thick and thin over the past few years, even as their pitching and middle relief has gotten shakier, the one thing you could always rely upon was the Yankee offense. During the Joe Torre era, the team averaged 896 runs per year, 5.53 per game, with last year's 968 (5.98 per game) topping them all. Lately? not so much. As I wrote in Friday's Prospectus Hit List:
This Is How the Other Half Lives? Last year the Yankees claimed four of the league's top 20 hitters according to VORP, but with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada sidelined and Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano struggling, things just aren't the same; since the first two went on the DL, the team is scoring just 4.22 runs per game. Jeter (.301/.331/.374) has yet to homer and has walked just four times in 131 PA, while Cano (.172/.226/.297) has been mired below the Mendoza Line all season long, as has Jason Giambi (.163/.324/.419).
Jeter finally homered on Saturday in the Yankees 38th game of the year, the longest he's gone without a dinger to start the year save for 2003, when he injured himself on Opening Day and missed 36 games. In 2001, he also hit his first homer on May 10, but that was in the Yanks' 35th game. Giambi homered on Friday night and doubled on Saturday; he dug himself an early hole but since I took a look at his performance a few weeks back he's actually hitting .255/.383/.660. I have to admit, that's better than I thought.

Anyway, one recurrent theme in this week's Hit List, which was titled "Walking a Fine Line," was pitcher strikeout to walk ratios. I needn't remind you of Cliff Lee, who shut down the Yanks last week and now has a 39/2 K/BB ratio which suggests the dude is, well, In the Zone. Fausto Carmona, whom the Yanks dinged the night before, only to lose when Joba Chamberlain surrendered a three-run, pinch-homer to David Friggin' Dellucci (a game I attended and found little reason to discuss here, such was my disgust), has a 15/31 K/BB ratio, more than twice as many walks as strikeouts. Elsewhere around the league, pitchers as diverse as Scott Olson, Gavin Floyd, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Justin Verlander and Saturday's Yankee victim Jeremy Bonderman (3 K, 4 BB to run his line to 25/29 for the year) are having similar issues, some of them succeeding in spite of those strike zone woes, others (particularly those Tigers) not so much.

As much as statheads harp on K/BB ratios for pitchers, not all ugly ratios are created equal, some are the symptoms of wildness or bad mechanics, others may be a byproduct of good situational pitching -- combined with some extra luck in the Batting Average on Balls in Play department -- over a small sample size. Anyway, the topic was one I spent a good portion of Friday's XM Radio appearance on the Rotowire Fantasy Sports Hour discussing with Chris Liss. You can hear the conversation here.

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