It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again

Exactly one year ago, today, I wrote that I thought it was time for Joe Torre to lose his job as manager of the Yankees.  (Refresh your memory of that excellent piece of writing, here.)

What’s changed?  Not one damn thing.

Actually, that’s not true.  The names they are tossing around as a replacement have changed.  Now it’s Tony LaRussa.  I can’t tell you how scared I am that they might actually replace Torre with LaRussa.

There is one manager I would love to see, though: Bobby Valentine.  Bobby V can take this group of veterans and channel the energy of the young guys in the right way.

The Yankees take making the playoffs for granted, and sleep-walk through the regular season.  Even this year, when there was some urgency, ultimately, they made the playoffs easily (maybe that was a bad thing.  Maybe missing the playoffs would have shaken things up a bit).  Then come the playoffs, and the teams with energy and excitement that do things well and step it up, destroy them.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that for the last two years, the Yankees have scored the most runs in the American League in the regular season, and the done absolute jack-shit in getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs?  It’s not.  This team needs a motivator (as much as “professionals” shouldn’t need to be motivated, they do). The only reason they even made the playoffs is because of the young energy guys (and A-Rod).  They need someone who will allow those guys to control the destinty of this team.  Torre is not that guy.  He’s shown over and over that he’s fiercely loyal to his veterans.  Well, that’s what gets him into trouble.

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35 responses to “It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again

  1. Bobby V is a great manager. There is no way Torre deserves to get fired though. Explain how it is his fault that Wang stunk in game 1 (he was their 19-game winner for two straight years), Joba had his bug-related problems in game 2, Clemens spit the bit in game 3 (what was Torre supposed to do? Not play the guy they gave a $28 million, “we’re signing you basically so you perform for us in the playoffs,” contract to?), and that management’s choice of Wang was bad again in game 4 (while Torre’s choice, if you believe Bill Madden, was Mussina, who pitched pretty decently). Explain how it is Torre’s fault that Derek Jeter, who I think is the clutchest player I’ve ever seen, hit into double-play after double-play in clutch situations. Was Torre supposed to anticipate this and sit Derek Jeter?

    All Torre did this year was turn this team around from being 14.5 games out to nearly winning the division (they came as close as 1.5 games). They made the playoffs WITH EASE after looking deader than dead. For goodness sake, he’s probably going to win manager of the year! How does he deserve to get fired?

    If you think there is a better option out there, you’re probably wrong. Bobby V is a great baseball mind (in my opinion), but he won’t last three years on the Yankees. He’ll be fighting with the front office before spring training is over in his first season. And Girardi? He’s already clashed with one owner, how well do you really think he’s going to fit in with the Yankees?

    I don’t think Torre is such a great baseball man. I think he gets outmanaged. But he’s a good fit for the Yankees. If the Yankees bring in a smart baseball man but who has a different temperment, I think that manager will have less success than Torre did, and certainly end up losing his job much quicker.

  2. First of all, if you give Torre credit for the comeback, you have to hold it against him that they were in that “deader than dead” situation to begin with.

    Second, I didn’t say he should be fired. But do you think they should give him another contract and another raise? He was getting paid $7 million this year. That’s a ton of money for someone who has a marginal impact on the game.

    Third, I think the Yankees comeback had less to do with Torre than with the energy and enthusiasm that the team had on account of all the hungry, young players they brought it. Guys like Shelley Duncan and Joba Chamberlain who have an infectious energy, that energized the complacent older guys. That, and A-Rod.

    Finally, I don’t think Torre’s temperment is right for this team anymore. The fact is, they haven’t had energy and life in the playoffs for three straight years. Maybe somebody with a different temperment (even if only for three years) is exactly what they need. Besides, there isn’t much clash left in the owner anymore. Personality conflict isn’t so much an issue as it was in, say, 1996, when Torre was hired.

  3. And another thing – I don’t know how you can say that this year he was “fiercely loyal to his veterans.” He moved Damon to left field. He sat Giambi. He probably should have pitched Mussina but didn’t (if it’s true that he wanted to but that management told him he couldn’t, then he was correct for wanting to be loyal in this particular instance). He pitched Wang, he pitched Hughes, he pitched Joba. It’s doubtful that he had an option about whether or not to pitch the $28 million man. Who else was he too loyal to? Posada, who had the best year of his career? Jeter? A-Rod? Abreu? Matsui? I mean, you can make the argument that he shouldn’t have stuck so long with Matsui, but that’s basically it, and that’s not necessarily attributable to loyalty.

    In some cases, loyalty paid off. For example, in May nobody thought that Abreu should be in the lineup. But Torre stuck with him, he reverted back to the mean, and he finished with 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored.

    I really think that Yankee fans are misdirecting their anger. The fall guy should be Cashman. If anything, Torre saved this team by bringing in the young talent – he didn’t kill it by staying too loyal to the old talent.

  4. Noam, pitching killed the Yankees this postseason. Bad pitching lost game 1 and game 4, and nearly lost game 3. It’s true that they didn’t hit tremendously well, but you will never convince me that Derek Jeter performed poorly due to Torre not lighting enough of a fire under him.

  5. (He just played badly. It happens sometimes.)

  6. Pitching Farnsworth/Proctor/Villone as much as he did, instead of letting Edwar Ramirez develop is just one example.

    Second, I’m pretty sure Torre isn’t the one responsible for bringing up the young talent.

    What exactly would you be faulting Cashman for? Signing Clemens, who at the time was the only available method for improving the starting rotation? Resigning Mussina? After last year, with the money being thrown around to starting pitchers, everyone thought the Mussina deal was a good one.

    You’re right that the veteran issue wasn’t really at the core of the loss to the Indians, but I think it’s systematically a problem. And I think the general attitude the veterans have towards making the playoffs as a granted, and not being able to “turn it on” in time, is a fault of Torre’s.

  7. I don’t want to sound condescending, but… Edwar Ramirez? That’s all you’ve got? THAT’s the guy Torre should have played more!?!

    🙂

    Why are you so willing to blame Torre for using the players that Cashman brought in, but you aren’t willing to blame Cashman for bringing them in in the first place? Each and every one of the players who you think Torre shouldn’t have been so loyal to, you should be blaming Cashman for putting them on the team in the first place.

    And do we really need to go through the list of Cashman flops? Really? Pavano, Igawa… hell… Clemens, Mussina… Proctor, Farnsworth, Villone… there are many more to list, and you know it.

    Cashman signed Damon to a 4-year deal as a CFer, not Torre. But Torre moved him to LF.

    Cashman, not Torre, signed Giambi to a seven year deal, knowing full well that Giambi was on steroids. Torre sat him.

    Cashman signed Roger Clemens to a $28 million contract in the middle of the season, with the intention that he only play enough to be in mid-season form by October. Do you realize how much face the owner and the organization would have lost if Torre sat him? Torre’s hand was forced. He probably would have pitched Wang in game 3 at Yankee stadium if he wasn’t so afraid of pitching Clemens twice in the series, both on the road in cleveland. So that Cashman signing actually screwed up two players.

    And the Yankees hardly took the playoffs as a granted… I mean, they charged back from a near-record deficit! So I’m not really sure how you can say that they put it on cruise control, unless you’re going to count the last week of the season, which they’ve used to rest their players for every single year since Torre has been here, and it seemed to work out OK in the past.

    Torre did the best he could with the horses he was given. It’s like with the Mets this year – you can blame Randolph all you want for putting in Sosa, or Mota, or Schoenweis, or Heilman, or Smith, or Feliciano, or Wagner, but SOMEONE has to pitch! When he went to his bullpen, he had no choice but to put in someone who stinks. Torre also had no choice but to pitch Clemens. He had no choice but to try to get Farnsworth and Proctor on track in the beginning of the year. But he DID make the adjustments, and his team made the playoffs. So he got the job done! But, honestly, when Mr. Clutch (and I’m not saying that sarcastically) grounds into a million double-plays, and the rest of your veteran players who historically have produced in the playoffs, don’t produce, what is any manager to do?

  8. You know what? I can’t argue with any of your points. You’re absolutely right.

    Except for some things that I think you’re putting at Cashman’s feet that aren’t his fault. Like Giambi. I don’t think signing Giambi was Cashman’s error. I think that came from the “Tampa Group.”

    But anyway, you’re right. And yet, I can’t shake two feelings:

    1) I like the direction the team is headed in. I think after next year, when a lot of the dead weight comes off the roster, this will be a much better team (assuming they don’t blow it). I think Cashman deserves a shot to put that team together.

    2) I don’t think Torre is the guy to manage that team. This team is getting younger, and isn’t going to be a bunch of “classy professionals” like Tino, O’Neill, Jeter, Brosius and all the rest. This team is going to be young stars like Cano and (hopefully) Melky. Young pitching like Wang, Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy. The Yankees in two years will be a vastly different team. I think the Yankees need the foresight to anticipate that, and hire a manager now that can grow with this team, and so two years from now, have a cohesive unit that will be dominant again. That’s not Torre.

    Who is it? I think the Yanks need to take a cue from Florida: it’s Joe Girardi. Notwithstanding his clash with Florida ownership (which I think wasn’t so much about him, but the ownership), he’s the guy I want.

  9. Noyam,

    I agree that Torre is not the world’s best in-game manager, and if you’re going to fire him, that should be the reason, not because he doesn’t “light a fire under the vets.”

    The Yankees lost in first round the last three years because of bad luck (partly due to the lack of SO pitchers on the staff), mediocre starting pitching, and bad matchups. It has nothing to do with energy. Are you seriously arguing that the players on the New York Yankees (with all the reason in the world to try to win) are not trying their hardest in the playoffs?

    What does that even mean in baseball? They get up there and don’t try to hit? They just loft around in the outfield rather than chasing flyballs? Baseball isn’t football or basketball where players can take it easy from time to time because of lack of focus. Every single at bat or chance in the field is a discrete situation, and it’s hard to believe players don’t give it their all come playoff time or even during the regular season.

    The Yankees played like crap to start the season for a few reasons: injuries to the starters (forcing them to start such luminaries as Tyler Clippard, Matt DeSalvo, and Jeff Karstens), poor starts by a number of hitters, especially Cano, Abreu, and Melky and a overall inconsistency by the entire team (when the pitching was good, the hitting was off; when the hitting picked up, the bullpen pitched like crap). I don’t think it’s about energy as much as just plain bad luck. They didn’t turn it around because Shelley Duncan is a young, fun guy or because Joba pumps his fists after a strikeout. They turned it around because everyone started to hit, the pitching was decent (partly due to Joba’s performance), and their competition regressed to the mean.

  10. Let’s remember, the Yankees won’t be firing Torre. They’ll just be not signing him to a new contract. It’s a fine line, but one worth mentioning. Firing connotes that he did a bad job, and shouldn’t be doing it anymore. That’s not the case, as you’ve all pointed out very well, and I humbly accept and withdraw my complaints.

    Not signing him to a new contract means that going forward, we just don’t think he’s the right manager for this team. It’s why his contract was for three years and not for life. At some point it has to end. I think this is that point.

    As for all the “bad luck” arguments, I think that can only explain so much. The Yankees have had an awful lot of “bad luck.”

  11. “I can’t argue with any of your points. You’re absolutely right.”

    I’m seriously considering retiring from this blog.

    BTW, I heard that Girardi is an anti-Semite and that’s part of the reason he didn’t get along with Florida ownership. I can’t say where I heard that from but the source is in a position where he could know such things. Actually, the source told my father, and he pretty much believes it – so much so that he often says that he really hopes the Yankees don’t sign him, because he thinks he’ll stop liking the Yankees.

    If the Yankees sign Bobby V, I will be one crestfallen Mets fan.

    I don’t think you have to worry about LaRussa coming to the Yankees. I think he will want to stay in the NL.

    LETS GO ISLANDERS

  12. Torre also had no choice but to pitch Clemens. He had no choice but to try to get Farnsworth and Proctor on track in the beginning of the year. But he DID make the adjustments, and his team made the playoffs.

    I think Torre did a decent job, but his bullpen use was horrible. He pitched Farnsworth in way too many high leverage situations and it took him forever to realize that Farnsworth should never touch the 8th inning again. He overworked Vizciano, pitching him in a number of low leverage spots and killing his arm by September. He overworked Proctor (although Cashman made a great deal getting Betemit for him). The Joba rules were put into place because everyone knew Torre would overwork him if there were no restraints.

    And do we really need to go through the list of Cashman flops? Really? Pavano, Igawa… hell… Clemens, Mussina… Proctor, Farnsworth, Villone… there are many more to list, and you know it.

    Pavano, Igawa, and Farnsworth, sure. But Clemens? How was that a bad signing at the time? Do you remember who was pitching for the Yankees in May? I assume you’re talking about re-signing Mussina. But Mussina just came off a very good year and there was no reason to assume he’d just fall of the Earth like that. And how were Proctor and Villone bad signings? Neither made any money and both had a role in the pen. No one expected Villone to be the saving grace and Proctor was a decent middle reliever.

    And what’s the problem with the Giambi signing? For 4 of Giambi’s 6 seasons in pinstripes he was one of the best offensive players in baseball (in 06 he was better offensively than Jeter). How is that a bad signing?

  13. First of all, if you give Torre credit for the comeback, you have to hold it against him that they were in that “deader than dead” situation to begin with.

    But didn’t they get in the deader than dead situation primarily due to injuries? If so, you can absolutely give Torre credit for the comeback without necessarily assigning him the blame for what happened beforehand.

  14. It’s a fine line, but one worth mentioning. Firing connotes that he did a bad job, and shouldn’t be doing it anymore.

    I think you’re probably right that the team will be very different in two years, so it’s probably a good time for a change. I doubt Torre would want to sign a one year deal, so it’s probably best to cut the cord.

    As for all the “bad luck” arguments, I think that can only explain so much. The Yankees have had an awful lot of “bad luck.”

    It’s not just bad luck, but luck certainly played a role. It also mediocre starting pitching.

  15. Nephtuli, you must be joking.

    (A) They signed Giambi knowing he was on steroids. They signed him to a seven-year deal. For him to be breaking down in the sixth year is not something that should be surprising anyone.

    (B) Clemens was a bad signing because they paid him about $2 million per start and he stunk.

    (C) You want to argue that Villone and Proctor were decent signings? OK, fine. Their combined contracts are probably around $3 million. But do we really have to list all the Cashman flops in the past 5 years, or more? Should we start with Irabu and work our way from there?

  16. And I know that most people thought the Giambi signing was good at the time. But “most people” didn’t know as much as the yankees knew – the yankees took out the no-steroids provision out of his contract! So while the signing was popular at the time, it would have been less popular had the public known as much information as the team knew.

  17. “Wait a second, Wait a second…(a man has a right to change…)”

    Cashman did NOT sign Irabu. That was Bob Watson before the 1997 season. Cashman’s first as GM was 1998. In fact, he made some pretty brilliant moves before that season:

    “Cashman made many key acquisitions to improve the team, including third baseman Scott Brosius, second baseman and leadoff man Chuck Knoblauch, outfielder Darryl Strawberry and starting pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.” (Wikipedia)

  18. (A) I think the Giambi signing was good in retrospect. EQA of his 6 seasons in NY: .351, .327, .263, .347, .331, .284. Yes, he’s injury prone and missed major chunks of two seasons, but he was amazing for four seasons and decent this past year.

    (B) Clemens had a 104 ERA+ this year. That was much better than anyone else who would have filled that spot and was a move they needed to make, money be damned.

    (C) Not all Cashman flops were Cashman signings. Rumor has it he wanted Vlad but Steinbrenner overruled him. Cashman is best judged by his last two or three years, when George’s grip started to weaken. He has made some good moves and some bad ones, but he’s done a great job with the farm.

  19. I think I agree with whomever mentioned the lack of pitching. I’m not sure I understand the importance of the fact that the Yankees had the strongest offense.

  20. Wright, Vasquez, Brown, Karsay…

  21. I think I agree with whomever mentioned the lack of pitching. I’m not sure I understand the importance of the fact that the Yankees had the strongest offense.

    Because offense is half the game.

    Wright, Vasquez, Brown, Karsay…

    Wright was bad. Vasquez was a good move at the time considering they already had a first baseman. Brown, I would have to guess, was forced upon Cashman after Pettitte wasn’t re-signed and the Sox got Schilling. Karsay was a dumb move.

  22. Yes, half the game. And only half the game. Unfortunately, the other half matters – a lot. If it didn’t the Yankees might be playing the Red Sox in the ALCS.

    That being said, short of trading some of the star prospects for pitching early in the season, I’m not sure what pitching options the Yankees had (aside from Lilly or Meche – and who could have predicted either of those guys having the year that they had) that would have made them a better club in the ’07 playoffs.

  23. LaRussa strikes me as too independent to want to join the Yankees. Do you think he really wants to have to deal with Steinbrenner?

  24. Woah. LOTS of comments.

    From a quick skim, I’m with Mike and Nephtuli on the following:

    Torre is a poor in-game manager and should be canned for THAT. Not this series, which they were simply outplayed.

    I said last year, after both NY teams were knocked out, that I predicted the following: Neither team would improve their pitching, both teams would still have great seasons, and both would express their shock when come playoff time they get knocked out. I was right about the Yankees, and if you consider the last week close enough to playoff level, I was right about the Mets.

    I think that the biggest problem is both teams’ fan bases get completely caught up in bashing the GM/manager when individuals don’t hit… but SP’s only pitch every 5th day. Therefore, it makes more sense from a critical standpoint to fix one’s lineup with lots of stars than to build a great staff – it keeps the fans quiet for most of the year, then they’ll often make excuses as to why they lost a playoff series.

    One note about pitching – there IS a difference between pitchers, even among those who have similar overall numbers. Some are remarkably consistent, throwing 7+ giving up 2 or less almost every start. Others will have shutouts one day, give up 5 the next week. It’s why CC & Carmona are so key, and why they have a good shot against Boston this week.

  25. Yes, half the game. And only half the game. Unfortunately, the other half matters – a lot. If it didn’t the Yankees might be playing the Red Sox in the ALCS.

    But it’s just as important as the other half. Having a really good offense is just as good as having a really good pitching staff/defense.

    I said last year, after both NY teams were knocked out, that I predicted the following: Neither team would improve their pitching, both teams would still have great seasons, and both would express their shock when come playoff time they get knocked out. I was right about the Yankees, and if you consider the last week close enough to playoff level, I was right about the Mets.

    Ezzie, the Yankees lost two games with one of the top 10 starting pitchers on the mound. Improving the pitching wouldn’t have mattered, except maybe with the exception of Clemens who had something like a 190 ERA+ last season. The Yankees had a tremendous lineup with a solid defense and a decent staff. They lost to the Indians because A: the Indians played better over 4 games, B: the Indians got luckier, and C: their best pitcher was awful. And as Mike said, there wasn’t much the Yankees could have done to improve their staff, nor is there anything they should have done because the price was way too high.

    And given the dearth of pitching talent on the market, why shouldn’t a team look to fix its offense? Offense is half the game. If you can’t improve the pitching/defense, improve the offense. It has the same effect.

  26. “But it’s just as important as the other half. Having a really good offense is just as good as having a really good pitching staff/defense.”

    Exactly – and having really really good pitching didn’t help Toronto or San Diego. My point was about balance, which Boston and Cleveland have in greater excess than the Yankees.

    “the Yankees lost two games with one of the top 10 starting pitchers on the mound.”

    Is Wang really one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League? Certainly arguable – he definitely did not have one of the top 10 ERA+ in the AL but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Is he one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League on the road? VERY doubtful. His stats are so skewed towards Yankee Stadium that it’s not a big surprise that he performed poorly in Jacobs Field.

    “Improving the pitching wouldn’t have mattered, except maybe with the exception of Clemens who had something like a 190 ERA+ last season.”

    Yes, Clemens did not pan out. But Pettitte, for the most part, did. The Yankees made the right move in avoiding Schmidt and Zito and the wrong move in not signing Lilly and Meche. So give them a solid “C”.

    “The Yankees had a tremendous lineup with a solid defense and a decent staff.”

    And the Indians had a very very very good lineup with a good enough defense and a much better staff. They were more balanced.

    “They lost to the Indians because A: the Indians played better over 4 games, B: the Indians got luckier, and C: their best pitcher was awful.”

    I think point A pretty much negates point B here. And point C is that while Wang may have been the team’s best pitcher, he was the best of a “just OK” bunch of starters.

    “And given the dearth of pitching talent on the market, why shouldn’t a team look to fix its offense? Offense is half the game. If you can’t improve the pitching/defense, improve the offense. It has the same effect.”

    Not really sure what the Yankees need to do to “fix” the best offense in baseball. Short of resigning Abreu/Posada/A-Rod and trading a young guy like Cabrera (assuming there’s value there) to get a deeper rotation and then going out and signing an Andrew Jones-type outfielder as a replacement (and after Jones’ craptacular ’07, it’s not clear that this is even the best idea), there’s not much tinkering that needs/can be done. More of the same, really.

  27. I, for one, can’t take all this Torre talk anymore!!! Everywhere I turn it’s

    “should he be let go or should he be re-signed? What will A-Rod do if Torre leaves? Who will replace him? LaRusa? Girardi? Showalter? If they resign for how many years? 12 playoff years in a row but no WS in a while. Good w/ veterans but not inspiring his players – yada yada yada”

    Sports radio, blogs, newspapers, train discussions etc. I just can’t take the reptitiveness. Guys have been calling the fan the past few days repeating the sentiments that literally dozens of callers have already made. I think it’s an important topic for NY fans but I think we as sports fans have hashed it out and now must wait for the Steinbrenner decision(s). I think Mr. Steinbrenner is now fully aware of Johnny from Islip’s opinion and will take it into account. Please no more Torre talk. I think even he would agree.

  28. Exactly – and having really really good pitching didn’t help Toronto or San Diego. My point was about balance, which Boston and Cleveland have in greater excess than the Yankees.

    I’m not sure I understand why balance is so important. San Diego and Toronto might have been very good at one aspect of the game, but the Yankees were substantially better at offense than either of those teams were at pitching/defense.

    Is Wang really one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League? Certainly arguable – he definitely did not have one of the top 10 ERA+ in the AL but that doesn’t necessarily mean much.

    Right but he was in 06. It’s debatable.

    Is he one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League on the road? VERY doubtful. His stats are so skewed towards Yankee Stadium that it’s not a big surprise that he performed poorly in Jacobs Field.

    It’s definitely surprising that he was that bad. He might be a lot better at home, but he’s not 8 runs in 4 innings bad on the road.

    He had two bad starts. It happens.

    Yes, Clemens did not pan out. But Pettitte, for the most part, did. The Yankees made the right move in avoiding Schmidt and Zito and the wrong move in not signing Lilly and Meche. So give them a solid “C”.

    You yourself admitted no one could have expected Lilly and Meche to pitch as well as they did. And it certainly wasn’t worth signing them for the money they were asking for. So how could the Yankees be blamed?

    And the Indians had a very very very good lineup with a good enough defense and a much better staff. They were more balanced.

    So what? They were above average offensively (105 OPS+) and very good defensively (109 ERA+). The Yankees were, on the other hand, historically good offensively (123 OPS+, better than the 61 Yankees and as good as the 36 Yankee team that had DiMaggio, Dickey and Gehrig(!)) and a below average pitching/defese (96 ERA+). The Yankees couldn’t improve the pitching so they improved the defense (putting Melky in Center and Mientkiewicz at 1B) and hoped the offense could make up the difference. Over 162 games it did. In a 4 game stretch it didn’t, partly because of bad luck. These things happen.

    I think point A pretty much negates point B here. And point C is that while Wang may have been the team’s best pitcher, he was the best of a “just OK” bunch of starters.

    Not sure how A negates B. The Indians got on base more, which is strong evidence that they played better. They also got luckier, hitting close to 500 W/RISP and 2 outs and the midges bothering Joba (meaning the Yankees could have reasonably won if the Indians hit normally in those spots). And Wang is a very good pitcher, even if not in the top 10 in the League.

    Not really sure what the Yankees need to do to “fix” the best offense in baseball. Short of resigning Abreu/Posada/A-Rod and trading a young guy like Cabrera (assuming there’s value there) to get a deeper rotation and then going out and signing an Andrew Jones-type outfielder as a replacement (and after Jones’ craptacular ‘07, it’s not clear that this is even the best idea), there’s not much tinkering that needs/can be done. More of the same, really.

    I agree. With the exception of going after a serious first base candidate, the offense is set for this season. if they re-sign everyone. Their best bet is to look for bullpen help and hope the young pitching talent pitches as advertised. If the offense performs around the same way, they’ll have a very good shot of going all the way next year.

  29. I actually like the responses to you above by mike, Nephtuli. But to add a bit…

    I’m not sure I understand why balance is so important. San Diego and Toronto might have been very good at one aspect of the game, but the Yankees were substantially better at offense than either of those teams were at pitching/defense.

    …and none made the playoffs, with the pitching-heavy Padres coming the closest in a weaker league. If anything, it’s further proof why balance is more important than being hitting or pitching heavy.

    More importantly, with offense/defense each being 1/2 the game, a great pitcher has a larger impact than a great hitter. Moreover, for the already great Yankees’ lineup, chasing hitting only adds so much; better pitching would have had a larger impact on them as a team.

    It’s definitely surprising that he was that bad. He might be a lot better at home, but he’s not 8 runs in 4 innings bad on the road.

    No, but he’s bad enough that he’ll lose most of the time to an ace starter on another team. Wang makes for a good #2… and a weak #1. Think of the effect CC/Carmona will have in this coming series – they can steal games in Boston from the home-heavy Red Sox. They might even steal the first two! That ‘slight’ improvement from a guy like Wang to guys like CC is what really pushes a team over the top in the playoffs – guys who are going to at worst give up 5 walks and 3 runs over 5 innings.

  30. …and none made the playoffs, with the pitching-heavy Padres coming the closest in a weaker league. If anything, it’s further proof why balance is more important than being hitting or pitching heavy.

    I’m still not seeing how that is proof of anything. The Padres were a very good pitching team with a below average offense. The Yankees were a historically good hitting team with a below average pitching staff. Obviously balance is helpful when both a team’s offense or defense isn’t exceptional, but that simply wasn’t the case with New York. And the proof is they made the playoffs by a solid 6 games and finished with a superior run differential than everyone in the majors but Boston.

    To prove that balance is important, you need to show that historically teams that are balanced (meaning they are good at both aspects of the game but not great at either such as the Indians) do better than teams that are amazing at one aspect but mediocre at the other. I don’t see it. A team can win 8-6 just as easily as it can win 2-1.

    More importantly, with offense/defense each being 1/2 the game, a great pitcher has a larger impact than a great hitter. Moreover, for the already great Yankees’ lineup, chasing hitting only adds so much; better pitching would have had a larger impact on them as a team.

    Starting pitchers are clearly more valuable…. every fifth (or fourth) day. Hitters are generally more valuable overall because they can play all the time. That’s why the top hitters have a higher VORP and WARP3 than the top pitchers.

    And I don’t understand why you believe that adding pitching would have been more valuable. First of all, there were no pitchers to add. Second, the Yankees could definitely upgrade offensively at 1B and DH, and they would be a better offensive team. That in turn would make them better overall. If they were able to add a good pitcher, they might be better, depending on how good the pitcher is. I don’t think anyone can make a categorical statement that adding pitching would be more valuable at this point.

    No, but he’s bad enough that he’ll lose most of the time to an ace starter on another team. Wang makes for a good #2… and a weak #1.

    Sure, if all the lineups are the same. The Yankees lineup is far superior to the Indians offense, so they could have made up the difference if he just pitched decently.

    Think of the effect CC/Carmona will have in this coming series – they can steal games in Boston from the home-heavy Red Sox. They might even steal the first two!

    And the Yankees’ lineup could steal 4. So what?

    That ’slight’ improvement from a guy like Wang to guys like CC is what really pushes a team over the top in the playoffs – guys who are going to at worst give up 5 walks and 3 runs over 5 innings.

    If Wang pitched two decent games this series would have been decided on Wed night and the Yankees might have won. Wang didn’t need to pitch amazing to win or to be an ace. If he was just an average major league pitcher on either of those nights the Yankees might have won the series.

    You might say that goes to Wang’s consistency. But Wang has, for the most part, stayed away from poor games over the course of his career. His start in Game 1 was the second worst start of his career. And his start in Game 4 also makes the top 10. How often does a very good pitcher have two awful starts in one series?

    If Carmona would have pitched poorly in Game 2 (or if the Yankees would have hit normally) the Yankees might have won the series. Pitchers have bad starts, and Wang just happened to have two of them against the Indians.

  31. I’m still not seeing how that is proof of anything. The Padres were a very good pitching team with a below average offense. The Yankees were a historically good hitting team with a below average pitching staff. Obviously balance is helpful when both a team’s offense or defense isn’t exceptional, but that simply wasn’t the case with New York. And the proof is they made the playoffs by a solid 6 games and finished with a superior run differential than everyone in the majors but Boston.

    To prove that balance is important, you need to show that historically teams that are balanced (meaning they are good at both aspects of the game but not great at either such as the Indians) do better than teams that are amazing at one aspect but mediocre at the other. I don’t see it. A team can win 8-6 just as easily as it can win 2-1.

    I can’t do a statistical analysis, so I’m using logic. A team that can mash will score a ton of runs, particularly by beating up against bad teams – like the Yankees did. But against very good pitchers, they’ll still struggle, even if not as poorly as most other teams. Meanwhile, below-average pitching is fine when you’re scoring 8 runs a game, but not so fine when facing better playoff lineups and when you’re scoring 4. If you can, take a look at how the Yanks’ hitting did against “top” pitchers or staffs this year. If their runs go down a nice percentage, then their mediocre pitching comes back to haunt them.

    Basically, one of my arguments (unproven) is that hitting fluctuates more than pitching generally does, even if it is “half the game” [or at least that ‘good’ hitting fluctuates more than ‘good’ pitching, which should be easier to prove].

    {Possible way to prove it – very good pitchers rarely have starts that are “not quality”. Very good hitters often have games that are not all that great. When one goes up against the other, the consistency would seem to favor the pitcher.}

    Starting pitchers are clearly more valuable…. every fifth (or fourth) day. Hitters are generally more valuable overall because they can play all the time. That’s why the top hitters have a higher VORP and WARP3 than the top pitchers.

    Right, but we’re talking about playoffs. (Playoffs?! Who’s talking about Playoffs!?) In the playoffs, good pitchers are more valuable, particularly if you have two of them. They’re pitching in 3-4 of 5 games, or 4-5 of 7 games. That’s huge.

    And I don’t understand why you believe that adding pitching would have been more valuable. First of all, there were no pitchers to add. Second, the Yankees could definitely upgrade offensively at 1B and DH, and they would be a better offensive team. That in turn would make them better overall. If they were able to add a good pitcher, they might be better, depending on how good the pitcher is. I don’t think anyone can make a categorical statement that adding pitching would be more valuable at this point.

    I think that adding runs to their team doesn’t gain them much; sure, they’ll score more runs, but how many of those runs will make a difference in games won for them? They’d gain more by lowering their runs allowed, particularly in the games that are low-scoring.

    It’s part of why pitching is more important. You can score an average of 7 runs a game and still lose plenty. If you’re giving up 2 or less, you’re not losing many… and both of those are even more true in the playoffs.

    Sure, if all the lineups are the same. The Yankees lineup is far superior to the Indians offense, so they could have made up the difference if he just pitched decently.

    I don’t think that’s true. CC’s “bad” game meant he gave up 3 runs. If Wang gives up 3, I think the advantage is still the Indians. I also don’t think that they’re “far superior”, especially now that Hafner has been hitting and Sizemore getting on base. (I think they were a combined 19-41 in getting on base.)

    And the Yankees’ lineup could steal 4. So what?

    It’s easier for pitching to steal a game than hitting, I think.

    If Wang pitched two decent games this series would have been decided on Wed night and the Yankees might have won. Wang didn’t need to pitch amazing to win or to be an ace. If he was just an average major league pitcher on either of those nights the Yankees might have won the series.

    Not sure about that.

    You might say that goes to Wang’s consistency. But Wang has, for the most part, stayed away from poor games over the course of his career. His start in Game 1 was the second worst start of his career. And his start in Game 4 also makes the top 10. How often does a very good pitcher have two awful starts in one series?

    You’re more likely to have your bad starts against good teams in playoff games, particularly if you’re not a great pitcher.

    If Carmona would have pitched poorly in Game 2 (or if the Yankees would have hit normally) the Yankees might have won the series. Pitchers have bad starts, and Wang just happened to have two of them against the Indians.

    But isn’t that the point? A dominating pitching performance is just about a guaranteed win, unless you’re facing another dominating pitching performance. A great hitting team can still lose if their pitcher isn’t that great.

  32. thought about your comments a bit. of course, the strength of the yankees lineup (if you assume it’s repeatable, which is certainly debatable considering the career years out of guys like Posada and A-Rod) plus the weakness of the pitching exceeds the vast majority of other teams.

    so an “unbalanced” team should theoretically be able to slug or pitch its way to glory. and i generally ascribe to the idea of randomness during the playoffs, that the key is making it to the series and what happens from there is up in the air giving since the sample size of any series is so small.

    consider the following, though:

    the yankees 123 OPS+ lineup plus wang (a below-average pitcher on the road) comes up against a 105 OPS+ lineup plus sabbathia (a dominant pitcher at home and on the road). who should win that game?

    well, i think that the obvious answer is that it’s basically random, since the game is only 9 innings long and the stats referenced are the cumulative average of a much longer time period.

    but what if it’s not? (and i guess the response here is that it is). who is the “expected” winner of the game? under your logic of thinking, shouldn’t it be the indians? because while the yankee lineup is much more dominant (as measured by OPS+) than the indians pitching staff, the yankee lineup is going up against one starter (in this case sabbathia), who happens to be even more dominant than the starting yankee hitters are (on average).

    and then what happens if pretty much the same thing happens the next night, when carmona pitches? shouldnt we expect to see the same results?

    my point, i guess, when i refer to balance, is that it’s wrong to look at the sheer dominance of the yankees lineup and say “well, it doesn’t matter if the yankees pitching is crummy… they can win 11-10” because the amazing lineup is going to have to go up against an amazing pitcher at least two times per 7-game series. and if a team has two amazing pitchers (as the indians have), the amazing lineup will have to see these amazing pitchers 4 times in a 7-game series. and so forth.

    so while i agree with your point about balance being irrelevant to the extent that 130+90 is greater than 110+110, i disagree whether looking at this in the context of a short series is necessary relevant. if the yankees played the indians every day of the season, of course, it would be. but they dont. playoff series are 5 or 7 games long. and, over the course of these series, a great hitting team could see an amazing pitcher in every game. so if the yankees dont have an amazing pitcher to counteract the amazing pitcher, they lose. perhaps thats the beauty of the playoffs.

    and perhaps that’s what happened here. or it could be randomness. i dont know.

  33. oh, whoops! 130 + 90 is not greater than 110 + 110 – doing a million other things here. sorry. i think you get my point.

  34. and to respond to your specific comments:

    “It’s definitely surprising that (Wang) was that bad. He might be a lot better at home, but he’s not 8 runs in 4 innings bad on the road.”

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/psplit.cgi?n1=wangch01 – wang’s numbers on the road would indicate that he is that bad on the road… 4.91 ERA, 1.5 WHIP, crummier K/BB ratio, etc… dont know you, but you seem too intelligent to be surprised that he pitched poorly on the road.

    “You yourself admitted no one could have expected Lilly and Meche to pitch as well as they did. And it certainly wasn’t worth signing them for the money they were asking for. So how could the Yankees be blamed?”

    Yes, but if you’re lauding the Yankees for knowing enough to avoid Zito/Schmidt you have to be critical for not knowing enough to try to snag Lilly/Meche. That’s why I rated the decisions where I did. I admit it could be overly critical.

    I recall there being some talk that the Yankees were interested in Lilly but this could have been coming from the Lilly camp to try to get the Cubs/Jays to bid higher. If it’s the case that the Yankees bid high on Lilly and Lilly went to the Cubs for other reasons, I would rate them much higher.

    “Not sure how A negates B. The Indians got on base more, which is strong evidence that they played better. They also got luckier, hitting close to 500 W/RISP and 2 outs and the midges bothering Joba (meaning the Yankees could have reasonably won if the Indians hit normally in those spots). And Wang is a very good pitcher, even if not in the top 10 in the League.”

    Why is it OK to blame the bugs? Weren’t the same bugs irritating Carmona? And isn’t it possible that the Indians hit better with RISP because they were faced with weaker pitchers than the Yankees were?

    “I agree. With the exception of going after a serious first base candidate, the offense is set for this season. if they re-sign everyone. Their best bet is to look for bullpen help and hope the young pitching talent pitches as advertised. If the offense performs around the same way, they’ll have a very good shot of going all the way next year.”

    I think that they would be insane not to re-sign everyone. I also thought that the free agent pool at 1B is pretty weak.

  35. Pingback: “Joe, Joe, Girardio!” « The Noy G Show

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