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The headline is an obvious statement, but I had yet to see an actual number put on the gap between starting and relieving until now. Tom Tango said the following:

The replacement level pitcher as a starter has a .380 win%. Move that starter to relief, and his win% goes up by about .09, or .470 win%. That’s it.

The average starter has a win% of .490 and the average reliever has a win% of .520 (more or less, and by win% I mean based on his pythag component ERA). As you can see, the average reliever is not that much better than the replacement-level pitcher as reliever. That’s why we say relievers are a dime a dozen. So, the average starter is +.11 wins per 9 IP and he uses up two-third of the innings. The average reliever is +.05 wins per 9 IP and he uses up one-third of the innings. If you follow along, the average starter gives you twice the value, per inning, as the reliever, and he gives you twice the innings. That sets the value of the average reliever of 25% of the average starter (1/2 times 1/2). This number goes up a little when you add in the leverage impact of relievers.

When people bring up Joba Chamberlain and suggest he belongs in the bullpen, I frequently explain that starters are significantly more valuable than relievers, such that it makes sense to give him every chance to succeed out of the rotation. Even if Joba is a top reliever and simply an average starter, his value is almost certainly going to be greater taking the ball every five days. Unless he tanks entirely in that role, the “bull in a china shop mentality” and all of that psycho-babble garbage that gets spewed to support moving him to the pen should be viewed as largely irrelevant. The job of the team is to extract as much value as possible from Joba, and having him in the rotation is the best way to do so.

Here’s an interesting bit of text via Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record:

Yankee hitting instructor Kevin Long spoke for the franchise when he said, “We all want to see Robbie get to the next level. It’s definitely time, and he knows it.”

Cano seems ready for the challenge, showing up at 7 a.m. this week for infield drills with Alex Rodriguez. That’s a considerable lifestyle change for the historically easygoing Cano, whose friendship with Melky Cabrera may or may not have kept him from reaching superstar status.

Cano lamented his buddy’s off-season trade to the Braves, saying, “We used to go out and talk all the time. I’ve known him for 10 years.” But one member of the organization says Cano is better off on his own, spending more of his baseball-time with A-Rod.

This notion that the Melky-Cano relationship was a hindrance in terms of Cano’s overall development has been longstanding, although I’m not quite sure that I buy it. I guess it makes sense in that by having your best friend around, at all times, you choose to hang out with him throughout the season rather than other players such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, etc. In that sense, the loss of Melky could force Cano to spend time with other players – better players – and glean valuable knowledge from them. However, again, I think that might be overstated here in Klapisch’s article.

I guess we will have to wait and see how Melky’s absence affects Cano, but I figure any impact will be minimal.

Photo via Talk-Sports.net

Over the weekend, Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record compared Yankees second baseman, Robinson Cano, to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia. At one point in the text, Klapisch discusses the two in terms of fielding ability, and concludes that Cano is actually a better second baseman than Pedroia. “In this regard,” he writes, “Pedroia doesn’t come close to Cano – he can’t duplicate his rival’s range to his right and that signature ability to throw to first base while moving in the opposite direction.” However, it seems that Ultimate Zone Rating disagrees with Klapisch.

According to FanGraphs, which Klapisch later uses to discuss offense yet did not use to justify his defensive evaluation (for whatever reason), Robinson Cano’s career UZR is -26.8 and his career UZR per 150 defensive games is -5.4. On the other hand, Dustin Pedroia’s career UZR is +21.7 and his career UZR per 150 defensive games is 7.4. With regards to defense, there is a fairly large gulf, run-wise, between the two, with Pedroia reigning supreme. While I do think that UZR actually underrates Cano – a product, perhaps, of the way in which his “smooth” style of play is perceived, i.e., as not trying hard enough – to say that Pedroia “doesn’t come close to Cano” with a glove is quite a reach. Based on what I have seen, Cano has a better arm and range to his right, but Pedroia, with his speed and instincts, seems to react better and, as a result, can often cover more ground, overall (he was 7.5 range runs above average in 2009, and Cano was 2.5 runs below average). Would most fans agree with that assessment? I think so.

Cano has the potential to improve significantly, and become a better second baseman, but, as of right now, if I were building a defense-first team and were forced to choose between he and Pedroia, I would probably take the latter.

Photo by Reuters

In 2009, the Yankees won 15 games in their last at bat. That’s a lot of games that could’ve gone either way, but because of a few things, they went the Yankees’ way. A lot of it is the fact that the 2009 Yankees were an incredible hitting team and that allowed them to rarely feel like they were completely out of the game. Of course, luck was also a factor. When the game is so close that it must go down to the last at bat or extra innings, a team will almost always be lucky to win. How lucky were the 2009 Yankees when it came to walking off in 2010?

HUGE DISCLAIMER: I DID NOT DO VERY WELL IN STATS 101 MY SENIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE SO SOME OF THIS MATH MAY BE A LITTLE FUZZY. IF ANYONE OUT THERE WANTS/NEEDS TO CORRECT MY MATH IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE DO SO.

To try and figure this out, I went to the Yankees’ pages on Baseball Reference and looked at the last ten years results data. The Yankees had the following number(s) of walk off wins in the given years:
2009: 15
2008: 9
2007: 6
2006: 3
2005: 10
2004: 7
2003: 5
2002: 7
2001: 3
2000: 6

That’s a total of 71 walk off wins in the last ten years, so the average is 7.1 walk off wins per year. To see if the Yankees got a little lucky in 2009, I also calculated the standard deviation of this set of data. That came out to be about 3.4. According to the Empirical Rule, 99.7% of data lies within 3 standard deviations of the mean (average).

So, to see years in which the Yankees got lucky (or unlucky) let’s multiply our SD, 3.4, by three (10.2) and add it to our mean, 7.1.

7.1 + (3.4*3)= 17.30

What this tells us is that anything higher than 17.3 walk off wins would be a ridiculous outlier. It would seem, then, that the Yankees’ 15 walk off wins, no matter how gaudy and outlandish looking it was, were not too much of a statistical outlier.

Still, this sample is still relatively small, so I’m not sure exactly how reliable it is. Not only am I only using one team and not comparing these numbers to the broader league average, but the team has changed so much since 2000 that the teams are completely incomparable.

Going forward, this half-assed study doesn’t have any real predictive value, but it was fun to just crunch some numbers and remind myself of how awesome the Yankees were in walk-off situations last season. So, I leave you with a video of the two walk offs for which I was in attendance:

April 16th vs. Twins
July 20th vs. Baltmore


Mike Silva spoke to Chad Jennings last night, and Jennings suggested that the Chan-Ho Park addition could result in Alfredo Aceves beginning the year in the minors. Here’s how:

Rivera, Robertson, Marte, Joba/Hughes, and Park. I would put Aceves as a lock, but what if Melancon or Albaladejo have a great spring? Don’t forget Chad Gaudin who the Yankees brass likes. The Yankees rotation is going to give length on most nights and Park is someone that could go 2 innings plus, if necessary. Last year he was called on for two or more innings eleven times by Charlie Manuel.
Another thing going against Aceves is the fact that he has options. Gaudin will need to clear waivers if he is demoted. Knowing the state of pitching in the game it’s hard to imagine another team not claiming him if he has a good spring. Aceves might very well become a victim of the numbers game.

Basically, the idea is that Park might make carrying Aceves and Gaudin redundant, such that the club would be inclined to take a one inning type reliever such as Melancon rather than both Aceves and Gaudin. Being that Aceves has options and the others do not, he would be the odd man out.

The one thing that bothers me about this idea is that I’m not so sure Melancon or Albaladejo are better one inning relievers than Aceves at this point. If Aceves only provided flexibility over the one inning type options, I would understand giving that up for better performance due to the flexibility of the other Yankee relievers. But if the Yankees believe that Aceves is the better pitcher, he should not be sent down simply because his greatest attribute is something that the Yankees have plenty of. Hopefully, the Yankees take their seven best bullpen arms north.

What do you think? Is there a scenario under which you would send Aceves to AAA?

With the addition of Curtis Granderson and the loss of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, some pundits have claimed that if the 2010 Yanks will have one Achilles heel heading into next season, it will be facing the Lefty starter. But is that true? Off the top of my head I know that Nick Johnson is actually better against Lefties, and despite last year the switch-hitting Randy Winn has held his own from both sides of the plate.

To check to see if this is accurate, I’m going to make up a lineup with each player’s numbers facing lefthanders. I’ll use career OBP and OPS so the table setters and power guys are all represented fairly.  Don’t get too hung up on the lineup order, I’m just working around Girardi’s recent comments that 1, 3 and 4 are set and putting the power guys in order without paying much attention to going R/L.

1-Derek Jeter (R) .409 OBP .909 OPS

2-Nick Johnson (L) .424 OBP .863 OPS

3-Mark Teixeira (S) .394 OBP .931 OPS

4-Alex Rodriguez (R) .392 OBP .968 OPS

5-Jorge Posada (S) .381 OBP .877 OPS

6-Nick Swisher (S) .395 OBP .834 OPS

7-Robinson Cano (L) .341 OBP .794 OPS

8-Randy Winn (S) .332 OBP .758 OPS/Brett Gardner (L) .310 OBP .627 OPS

9-Curtis Granderson (L) .270 OBP .614 OPS

The bottom the the order clearly suffers, but last years most frequent #8 and #9 hitters were some combination of Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, and Jose Molina. So it’s tough to argue the drop off from the 2009 team will be very steep. To start the season, I think the Yanks will sit Gardner facing Lefties and look to give Winn some ABs until Brett proves that he can play everyday, which he hasn’t done yet. Jamie Hoffman is a possibility facing Lefties as well, but I have to think the more experienced Winn will get the nod.

Granderson will start games against Lefties, but will probably get lifted in late-inning situations with men on base. But otherwise, they’ll give him every chance to get past his struggles and see if Long can fix his approach. Who that pinch hitter will be is an interesting question. Winn starts facing Lefties, so it won’t be Brett Gardner. Hoffman? We’re not even sure he makes the team. My best guess is that Girardi will look to give Posada days off against Left handed pitching and will use him as a bat off the bench. That would mean Francisco Cervelli ([R] .345 OBP .724 OPS in just 30 PA) starts most games facing Lefties.

All totaled, here’s your likely starting lineup with a Lefthander on the mound:

1-Derek Jeter (R) .409 OBP .909 OPS

2-Nick Johnson (L) .424 OBP .863 OPS

3-Mark Teixeira (S) .394 OBP .931 OPS

4-Alex Rodriguez (R) .392 OBP .968 OPS

5-Nick Swisher (S) .395 OBP .834 OPS

6-Robinson Cano (L) .341 OBP .794 OPS

7-Randy Winn (S) .332 OBP .758 OPS

8-Francisco Cervelli [R] .345 OBP .724 OPS

9-Curtis Granderson (L) .270 OBP .614 OPS

With Posada getting a day off and available as a pinch hitter.

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