Saturday, September 02, 2006

Pitching and Defense

Pitching and defense are said to be keys to the playoffs. Looking at the teams who have gone far in the postseason - the 2005 White Sox, the 2004 Red Sox, the dynasty Yankees, and the 2002 Angels - it's hard to refute that. I have a bad habit of listening to sports talk radio, and all I hear is the constant "The Yankees have no pitching" bull. Let's take a look at the numbers.

First, defense. The Yankees did not expect this to be a strong point entering the season. At all. An outfield with Matsui and Sheffield, an infield with Jason Giambi, and the poor 2005s of Rodriguez, Jeter (despite the gold glove) and Cano gave the Yankees the 3rd worst defense in the league entering this season (The Reds and Devil Rays being behind them).

Well, with Melky Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, and huge improvements from Cano, Jeter, Posada, and a decent season (despite the errors) from Alex Rodriguez, the tides sure have turned. It also doesn't hurt that Giambi has been pushed away from the field recently. The Yankees are 6th in the majors (2nd in the AL behind Detroit) in the ultimate defensive statistic - Defensive Efficiency Rating. The Yankee defense has converted .7120% of balls in play into outs.

Now pitching. The Yankees boast a 4.38 ERA - good for 5th in the AL. But the question is begged - what have Yankee additions and subtractions done to the team's pitching prowless?

Many innings of Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon, Scott Erickson, Tanyon Sturtze, Sidney Ponson, and T.J. Beam have thrown off the overall Yankee pitching numbers. Right now, going into the playoffs, the Yankees will likely throw Wang, Mussina, Johnson, and Lidle at the opposing team. These three have combined for 693 innings and given up 321 runs, for a 4.18 ERA.

That mark would give us the 4th best in the AL, behind Detroit, Oakland, and Minnesota.

What about our bullpen? We'll be going into the postseason with Mariano, Farnsworth, Proctor, Villone, Myers, Dotel, Bruney, and Wright. Those guys have combined for 439 innings and 179 runs for a 3.66 ERA. Eliminate Wright and they combine for a 3.32 ERA, easily matching the storied bullpens of Minnesota and Detroit.

Add all this to the league-best Yankee offense, and we're looking at a serious postseason threat.

And to best honest... does the American League look that scary? I wouldn't want to face Johan Santana twice in a 5 game series... but besides that do Detroit and Oakland scare you? Chicago? It's good to have Boston and Anaheim out of the race.