Monday, October 16, 2006

Glory Days

I ran across a ridiculous article on the Fox Sports website. A supposed "sports" writer named Roger Sackaroff thinks he has come up with all the answers to the Yankees problems. Before I start I would like to say that I do agree with a couple of things he said. I would like the Yankees to take a shot at signing Matsuzaka. Also I think bringing Mussina back at a reasonable price would probably be a good thing to do and Phillip Hughes should get a shot in spring training to prove himself. That's about it.

Let's start with his evaluation of the championship teams from the 90's:

"the Yankees relied on everyone pulling on the rope together to win big games. The home run leaders in 1996, '98, '99 and 2000 were Williams (29), Martinez (28), Martinez (28) and Williams (30). There was no single player relied on to step up and carry the team. Everyone had to chip in, and they did. Those teams struck out less, bunted better, moved over runners and stole bases."

Alright, where do I start? First of all the Yankees have so many good hitters in their current lineup, that it is clear, that no one player is relied on to carry the team. In fact a lot was made of that fact when Bobby Abreu came over from the Phillies and was much more comfortable in the lineup because he didn't have to carry the offense. Robison Cano hit .340 from the 9th spot. If there has been a better example of a lineup in which every single player could come through at any point, I'd like to see it. The lineups from '96-'00 were top to middle heavy. The exception being '98 when Brocious had 99 rbi's from the 9th slot. As far striking out less, the '06 team did strike out more than the championship teams, but the only one with a significant difference was the '96 team, which struck out 144 fewer times. The '98 team only struck out 28 fewer times. Stealing more bases? The '06 team stole more bases than each of the championship years except '98. Bunts? Only the '96 team is credited with more sacrifice hits. The on base percentage and slugging percentage was practically identical to the last three championship teams and on base percentage was significantly better than the '96 team. This is the kind of anecdotal bullshit that gives sports writers a bad name. Mr. Sackaroff could have easily looked up these numbers at Baseball Reference, but he instead decided to rely on his clearly faulty memory of previous yankee teams. I know that everything seemed like roses and candy back in those days, but if you look at the numbers, this years lineup was every bit as good as those and probably a little bit better. Keep up the good work Roger. Oh, but I am just getting started.

His take on the pitching from the "glory" years:

"The Yankees teams in the late 1990s had multiple pitchers who could have been aces on other teams."

The '06 yankees had Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Wang (who lead the majors in victories). It seems to me that those guys would qualify as pitchers who could have been aces on other teams. And why don't we take a closer look. The average ERA of the top 4 starters for the '06 team was 4.16. That seems pretty high until you compare it to the top 4 from each of the championship teams. The '98 team has the best ERA of 3.84. It goes up from there, with a low of 4.22 to a high of 4.87. These are the ERA's of the top 4 starters that the yankees took into the playoffs in each of the championship years. Only the '98 team had a better starters ERA than this years team. So clearly the pitching wasn't any better than it was this year. Roger Clemens, David Cone and Andy Pettitte all have career post season ERA's which are higher than either Mike Mussina's or Randy Johnson's. Did the pitchers in previous years have better performances in the playoffs than this years team? Undoubtedly some of them did, but that doesn't mean that there was anything particularly wrong with this years rotation. It had one Cy Young candidate (a far distance from Santana, but a candidate non the less), one first ballot hall of famer who still won more games than any pitcher in the National League and one potential hall of famer at the top of the rotation. Randy Johnson came up with a major back problem at the wrong time and the Tigers pitchers were just better in the series. That is the reason the yankee pitching looked bad, but on a whole they were no worse than what the Yankees took into the playoffs in each of their championship years.

Now that his premise has been proven to be absolutely wrong, let's take a look at his remedy for what ails the yanks. His first change is the obvious one that people who don't know anything about baseball are going to make: Trade Arod. This is just ridiculous. Would I trade Arod? Sure, for Johan Santana, but outside of that, there is no way to get equal value for him. Arod hit 35 home runs and drove in 120 IN AN OFF YEAR! Do you know how ridiculous it is to think that his production can be replaced. He has this to say about Arod:

"He is one year removed from an MVP and near Gold Glove year, and besides his issues in the field, wasn't bad at the plate this season either."

Then why in the hell would you want to trade him? This makes absolutely no sense. He must be blaming Arod for not carrying the team on his back, when clearly he has made the argument that the team is better with no one particular player carrying the load. He doesn't give a reason for trading Arod, he just thinks that it would be a good idea. Way to strike a blow for journalism, stupid.

His next idea is trading Giambi. He has this to say:

"Giambi has regained his health and his hitting stroke, but should not be a regular fielder."

I think everyone would agree with that, probably even Giambi. He goes on to say that Giambi will make too much noise in the clubhouse if he doesn't get to play first every day. By the way, Giambi played more games at DH this year than he did at 1B. He is clearly on his way to becoming a full time DH. Did anyone hear all the noise that Giambi was making this year for not playing first base all the time? Good, because neither did I. What the hell is he talking about? And if this is going to be an ongoing problem, why would another team want to assume that headache? Or Giambi's contract for that matter? This doesn't make any sense, but neither does his next point which is to trade Johnny Damon.

"Damon had a very good year at the plate for the Yankees. He played hurt and fit into the team seamlessly. However, his defensive shortcomings, most notably his poor throwing arm, cost the Yankees several games. It would make a lot of sense for both teams if the Yankees traded Damon back to the Red Sox for Mike Lowell, but it would never happen."

I didn't think that the Yankees needed Johnny Damon and I still think that Derek Jeter is a better lead off hitter than he is, but with all that said, he did have a pretty good year for the Yankees. Does he have a shitty arm? Yep, he sure does. But did his throwing arm cost the yankees "several" games. I don't think there is one statistical measurement which would show that Johnny Damon's arm cost the yankees several wins (I'm not even sure you could find one that showed that it cost the yankees one win). I would also argue that his glove saved more than a few runs and his legs and bat won a few games as well. Whatever shortcomings his arm creates, were more than made up for in other areas. The only way his arm could have cost the yankees "several" games was if he made a bunch of throwing errors which allowed runs to score and that just didn't happen. As far as trading him to the Red Sox for Mike Lowell???? I don't even know what to say about that except that at this point I think he's just writing the article as a comedy piece.

I'll just go through a couple of more of his suggestions. We should sign Andy Pettitte or Mark Mulder. Arm injuries waiting to happen. We should sign Soriano or Gary Matthews Jr. to play CF. We already have a CF'er and he's not going anywhere. In his final equation he would replace, Arod, Sheffield, Giambi and Damon with Andy Phillips, Mike Lowell, Melky Cabrera and Gary Matthews Jr. I guess that's what you call addition by subtraction. His idea is to take 120+ home runs and 400+ rbi's off the team and replace that with 50 home runs and 200 rbi's. That, my friends is sound thinking. It's the kind of thinking that made the betamax the great success story that it was.

So Mr. Sackaroff how is this supposed to work again? The yankees will be better because they'll have four fewer people in the lineup who can hit? Genius! I can't believe that your work has been limited to the Fox website. I'm sure the NY Times is going to come beating down your door any second now. Hey, keep up the shitty work.

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