Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Steinbrenner Horse Crap and Why HR's Are Bad [Aaron DeRosa]

"I think the most important thing is whoever we hire, give 'em a chance because he's not getting the '96 Yankees. He's getting an even younger team or for the most part a team in transition. Give him a little while,'' Hank Steinbrenner said, "We want to win the World Series every year. We're not stupid enough to think we can do it. Of course, we'd love to win the World Series next year.''

While I buy the sentiment that New York is a bit impatient, let's call it like it is. The 2007 Yankees are, on paper, a better team than the 1996 Yankees. Just a look at the basic numbers:
  • 1996 Team Stats: .288 / 162HR / 830RBIs / 871 Runs
  • 2007 Team Stats: .290 / 201HR / 929RBIs / 968 Runs
So, a more potent offense. But surely the pitching isn't as good:
  • 1996 Team Stats: 4.65 ERA
  • 2007 Team Stats: 4.50 ERA
Younger? Actually, the average age of the 1996 Yankees was 29.7 or so, while the 2007 Yankees was about 31.

Perhaps it's because there is more talent in the league nowadays that the Yankees can't compete? It's gotta be that there's just so many homerun hitters and so much strong pitching, they're just out-matched. Wrong again.
  • 1996 Ranks: 2nd (BA) / 12th (HRs) / 9th (Runs) / 5th (ERA)
  • 2007 Ranks: 1st (BA) / 1st (HRs) / 1st (Runs) / 7th (ERA)
It's not even a matter of small-ball or money-ball tactics. Both teams had comparable OBP% and similar stolen base and sacrifice hit #s.

Maybe it is the management. Maybe it's player attitude. There's no "right answer." I think, however, one telling statistic is this: In 1996, Yankees batters were issued 56 intentional walks and only 32 in 2007. If you think that you only offer an IBB if there are runners on base with threatening hitters coming up, this suggests that the 07-Yanks simply aren't loading the bases up for their heavier hitters. This neutralizes the threat of the homerun (you only lose one run if there's no one on base) and emboldens pitchers to attack those hitters.

We might take this a step further and say that the more homerun hitters on your team, the more you weaken your offense. If we agree that in the NL, a pitcher is effectively an out every 3 rd inning, or a "rally-killer" (even a pinch hitter doesn't produce like a regular hitter), I think it's safe to assume that there are greater routs in the AL than in the NL. I'm not sure how one would test this theory, but that just seems logical. There is no interruption to the flow of a rally because you've constantly got full-time hitters at the plate.

Now apply this same logic to HRs. A homerun would actually seem to favor the pitcher rather than the hitter. For every HR that's hit, the bases are cleared. This affords a few things: the pitcher can wipe the slate clean and "start the inning over" in his mind, using his full wind-up, etc. Psychologically speaking, a pitcher can settle down from a 2-run homerun easier than 3 doubles in a row that plates two runs. On the hitter's side, not only are you facing a (potentially) calmer pitcher, but there's no longer pressure on the fielders who can play the field to your weaknesses rather than the runners on base (think of Ellsbury's steal of second base that brought Cabrera back to the bag in the 7 th, which allowed a hit and runners at the corners in Game 7). And psychologically I'd imagine it's more difficult for a hitter to hit when there's nobody on as opposed to having men on base.

Of course, my limited resources hinder me in the quest for this knowledge, but I think they're all fairly logical claims. So lay it on me.

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