• Who Is Yanks Whiff Kings Worst Enemy?

    Posted by on December 27th, 2006 · Comments (27)

    WasWatching.com reader “DonnieDosTresBaseball” made an interesting comment on this blog recently. Their statement included:

    “…SO [strike out] pitchers do not fare well with the Yankees, because of umpire calls and better at-bats put forth by the opposition.”

    This notion got me wondering, so I turned to the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia for some help.

    First, I decided to use the “Mariano Rivera Era” (1995-2006) for my study group – because I thought it was important to take a recent snapshot to test this claim, but, I also wanted to get Mo’s full career in there as well. Then, I asked to see the Top 25 (for the Yanks) in SO/9 IP vs. the League Average for the Mo Era – along with their relative pitching performance results. To see the data, click on the thumbnail below:

    Let’s use Rivera as the “Mendoza Line” here. This tells us that the Yankees, since 1995, have had 13 legit “strike out” pitchers: Farnsworth, Wetteland, Nelson, Gordon, Cone, Osuna, Clemens, Contreras, Stanton, Boehringer, Watson, Johnson and Rivera. And, only 7 of those 13 (roughly half) have been effective (meaning better than league average in their pitching results) while pitching for the Yankees.

    Now, at first blush, I want to say that “command” in terms of SO/BB ratio might be the difference here – meaning that those in the Top 13 who did well in this study had better command than those who did not. Is that true? Click on the following thumbnail for more on that:

    This is interesting. Jose Contreras has the same command, thereabouts, as Jeff Nelson. Yet, Nelson did better in New York. Randy Johnson has roughly the same command as Mariano Rivera. Yet, Mo pitched better for the Yanks than the Big Unit. See Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Stanton. And, see Antonio Osuna and David Cone.

    What’s going on with here with Jose Contreras, Randy Johnson, Kyle Farnsworth, Antonio Osuna and the other “strike out” pitchers who have not faired all that well in New York?

    Well, getting away from the objective and more towards the subjective, aren’t those names – the Contreras, Johnson, Farnsworth guys – the ones that you hear as not having the personality to “make it” in the New York media zoo?

    So, when a “strike out” pitcher fails to do well for the Yankees, maybe it’s more in his head than in the heads of the umpires? I’m not saying this is a “for sure” finding – but, based on what’s been presented here, in this quick study, it’s not a totally empty suggestion.

    Comments on Who Is Yanks Whiff Kings Worst Enemy?

    1. Raf
      December 27th, 2006 | 10:33 am

      It’s an empty suggestion.

      For every pitcher that is successful because he has a ___________ you’ll find a pitcher that failed despite having the same or better ___________.

    2. baileywalk
      December 27th, 2006 | 10:46 am

      The thing that Contreras, Johnson and Farnsworth have in common is that Yankee fans hate them. So the perception of how they performed is probably skewed.

      Contreras melted down on occasion — I was there when he couldn’t get out of the first inning of a game — but his numbers as a Yankee aren’t horrible. Johnson’s first year with the Yankees was pretty good. Farnsworth’s ERA blew up because of a couple of bad games, but his BB/K in the second half was incredible.

      So sometimes I think “perception” gets in the way of stats when you’re talking about guys the fans don’t like — and they get labeled “unable to handle New York.” I would say that was actually true of Jose, but not Randy and Kyle.

      Clemens is thought to have thrived in New York, but despite that one Cy Young (which was a pretty good year), Clemens had one of his worst stretches in his career while here. He was coming off two of the best years in the history of baseball in Toronto (against the same competition) and then when he left he had another historic few years in Houston. His career from the Blue Jays to the Yankees to the Astros takes a very weird trip, numbers-wise.

    3. baileywalk
      December 27th, 2006 | 11:19 am

      Steve, sorry to hijack this post with something off-topic, but Jon Heyman was pimping for Scott Boras again in “SI” (basically saying the Yankees HAVE to get Zito because their pitching sucks otherwise and Zito is PERRRRRRRFECT for New York — yeah, it was pretty transparent) and he mentioned the following stat that I found pretty interesting:

      “[Zito] is a major winner when given reasonable support. When the Oakland A’s have scored four or more runs for Zito, he is an astounding 85-4.”

      It would seem to me that most better-than-average pitchers would have good numbers when their teams score them four or more runs.

      Since you love numbers, I thought it would be interesting to hear what the numbers are for the current Yankee pitching staff (including Johnson, Pettitte and Pavano) and how the numbers change (for Zito, too) when you reduce the number to 3, 2 and 1.

    4. DonnieDosTresBaseball
      December 27th, 2006 | 11:23 am

      I will respond in length later when I have more time, but for now, I will say,

      My whole point thrives on the basis of Roger Clemens and exactly what baileywalk just stated. Though Clemens performed above league average with us, he did not perform above or equal to Roger Clemens’ average.

    5. December 27th, 2006 | 11:24 am

      ~~~The thing that Contreras, Johnson and Farnsworth have in common is that Yankee fans hate them. So the perception of how they performed is probably skewed.~~~

      There’s no perception when you look at stats like RSAA, NW, etc. The numbers don’t lie.

    6. December 27th, 2006 | 11:25 am

      As far as the Zito thing, I’ll probably work on him tonight. Gotta run now. Duty calls.

    7. Raf
      December 27th, 2006 | 11:40 am

      There’s no perception when you look at stats like RSAA, NW, etc. The numbers don’t lie.
      Contreras: one good year, one bad year
      Johnson: one good year, one bad year
      Farnsworth: an “eh” year, but one in line with his career

    8. MJ
      December 27th, 2006 | 11:43 am

      Can someone explain to me what

      “…SO [strike out] pitchers do not fare well with the Yankees, because of umpire calls and better at-bats put forth by the opposition.”

      even means?

      Why would SO pitchers fare any better or worse for the Yanks than they do in any other market? What do umps calls and better AB’s have to do with it?

    9. Raf
      December 27th, 2006 | 11:49 am

      MJ: Probably has something to do with the premise that everyone’s out to get the “Big Bad Yankees.”

    10. Chewbacca
      December 27th, 2006 | 2:47 pm


      What do umpire calls have to do with strikeout pitchers? HELLO? ANYBODY HOME? Umpires call the balls and strikes and have a direct effect on strikeout pitchers.

    11. RICH
      December 27th, 2006 | 2:49 pm

      Looks like you’ve arrived at a conclusion and now you’re trying to prove it.

      Maybe the conclusion “the ones that you hear as not having the personality to “make it” in the New York media zoo” has been made AFTER they’ve faltered, thus ‘proving’ the statement?

      It’s gotta be the umps. I know the umps tossed out Richie Phillips as their boss only because he told the umps to cool it and allow the Yanks to win at least one game every 4 series. The umps objected and tossed Phillips.

      I know the umps were ready to call for a ‘do-over’ if Sheffield and Crosby didn’t collide.

      Thanks for endorsing the only reason the Yankees have ever lost a game.

      Of course, you could have looked at how OPPOSING pitchers fared against the Yankees compared to other opponents to see how every opposing pitcher against the Yanks gets favored by the umps every single game.

      It’s gotta be the umps.

      It’s gotta be the umps.

    12. Chewbacca
      December 27th, 2006 | 2:51 pm

      In addition, when a starting pitcher goes out on the mound before a start, he asks who the HP umpire is. This happens because baseball players understand that each umpire has a different strike zone. Maybe you don’t know too much about baseball Raf/MJ!!

    13. Raf
      December 27th, 2006 | 3:43 pm

      Given some of your inane postings here, it’s probably safe to say I’ve forgotten more about baseball than you’ll ever know.

    14. DonnieDosTresBaseball
      December 27th, 2006 | 3:46 pm

      You are partially correct in how the umpires affect SO Pitchers but what you fail to realize is that not only does the strike zone differ from umpire to umpire as is generally recognized in baseball even though the strike zone has a clear definition in the rule book and therefore should be the same for every umpire, but also the strike zone differs within the game for the same umpire. Umpire call the game differently against the Yankees than they do for the opposition. That is why SO pitchers do not fare well with the Yankees.

      Better at-bats put forth by the opposition means this….I dont know how many of you do this but I switch back and forth between the Yankees games and Red Sox games to see if the Red Sox are losing. And I marvel at the differences in at bats during the games that are put on each team. The opposition of the Red Sox on an 0-2 count, the opposing hitter is swinging at a pitch low and outside in the dirt happy to take his seat on the bench while against the yanks on an 0-2 count, the batter is fighting off tough pitches, taking close pitches that could be called strikes but the umps screw our pitcher and eventually blooping a ball in or taking a walk. This doesnt happen every single at bat but it happens enough times that I started to notice it more often then not.

      Also my main point in mentioning that SO pitchers do worse with us is that these SO pitchers do better with other teams before they came to us and after they left us. This is shown by the prime example of Roger Clemens. Clemens is possibly the greatest pitcher of all time and yet he had his 5 of his 7 worst seasons with the Yankees. Before he came to the Yankees he won 5 CY Young awards and immediately previous to joining the Yanks in a trade he had won the pitching Triple Crown (wins, K’s and ERA) 2 years in a row and 2 straight CY Youngs. When he arrived in NY he pitched terribly the first season, decently the second season, and he won a CY Young the third which he didnt even deserve because he had the 7th best ERA in the AL that year. Now this all might be attributed to a decline in performance due to age but…..then he went to the Astros and immediately returned to Pre-NY Roger Clemens winning another CY young which he did deserve and being one of the 3 or 4 best pitchers in the NL in the next two years.

      What needs to be compared is how the SO pitchers performed before they came to the Yanks, when they were with the Yanks and what they did after they left the Yanks. People like Kevin Brown and Javy Vazquez had K/9 of 7 before they came to the Yanks and they had K/9 of 5 when they were with the Yanks. How do explain losing 2 K’s per 9 innings just by changing leagues. Curt Schilling didnt lose anything off of his K/9 when he went from Arz to Boston but Randy Johnson lost 5 MPH off his fastball and became a loser a mere 9 months after pitching a dominating perfect game for the D-backs. Osuna and Boehringer are losers who shouldnt even be mentioned as Yankees while Stanton and Nelson cant be compared to starting pitchers in strikeouts because K/9 are skewed for relievers but I would like to know how their performaces differed between when they were with us and when they with other teams. Also look at how dominant Contreras was for a full calendar year for the White Sox when his signature pitch Senior Splittee was called a strike or swung through far more often than it ever was with us. Finally, Mariano Rivera has never pitched for another team and hopefully we will never discover this but I truly believe that Mariano would have infinitely better stats with any other team than us. The fact that he was so dominant in spite of all the screw jobs that are given to the Yankees makes him the greatest pitcher of all time in my mind.

      The fact is, all of this talk about not being able to handle the pressure of NY is just a media created idea to distract people from the real reason free agent pitchers fail with the Yanks, which is that they cannot handle how the strike zone shrinks for them in key situations, how pitches that they used to get called for strike 3 are ignored by umpire and how the pitchers get the best effort of the hitters at every at bat.

    15. Raf
      December 27th, 2006 | 4:12 pm

      Brown & Vazquez were hurt. Contreras had one good year, one bad year. And the reason why Senior Splittee was effective was because he was throwing strikes, something he didn’t do in ’04 for both the Yanks and the WSox. Even now, he isn’t striking anyone out; his k/9 ratio has been declining.

      Looking at RSAA, Clemens posted the same RSAA his first season as an Astro that he did his 2nd year as a Yankee. FWIW, his k/9 ratio as an Astro has been similar to his time as a Yankee.

      As for league switches (staggered a year; Schilling was traded to the AL a year before RJ was; this is the last year in AZ, first couple of years in the AL)
      CS: 10.39 -> 8.06 -> 8.39
      RJ: 10.62 -> 8.42 -> 7.55

    16. JohnnyC
      December 27th, 2006 | 8:39 pm

      There IS something to the hypothesis that umpires call strikes differently in Yankees games but that may almost entirely be because Yankee Stadium is a Questec stadium and the umpires have demonstrated a great deal of self-consciousness in this regard. Yes, the strike zone tends to be tighter and throughout the game (traditionally, umpires relaxed the zone in the latter innings…to quicken the game mostly). Yes, everyone and even a few umpires DO hate the Yankees but I wouldn’t use that as a crutch for guys who just didn’t perform in pinstripes.

    17. DonnieDosTresBaseball
      December 27th, 2006 | 9:37 pm

      JohnnyC–I appreciate your acknowledgement of the hatred of the Yankees. However, I use the umpires as only one of the crutches. Bad luck and bad defense account for a part of the failure.

      If Yankee Stadium is a Questec stadium and “the umpires have demonstrated a great deal of self-consciousness in this regard” then PLEASE EXPLAIN to me the call (This is not the only one, I’ve got thousands more where this came from. I am trying to bring one up that everyone SHOULD remember.) against Hideki Matsui to end the game against Chris Ray with a tie game on the line. If the umpires were so worried about Questec, then it would have 100% been called a ball, because beyond all doubt, it was a ball. The umpire made a conscious decision to screw us out of the game, and what made me sicker, was that Chris Ray ran off the mound pumping his fist like he was good. All the guy had to do in his post-game news-conf. was say that he was pleased the umpire screwed the Yankees and he was benefited because of the Yankees’ hatred. But no, he thought he was good.

    18. Raf
      December 27th, 2006 | 10:14 pm

      With the way the umps have been screwing us out of games, it’s a miracle the Yanks have won the division for 9 straight years…

    19. Chewbacca
      December 28th, 2006 | 12:41 am

      It angers me that no matter how I try to explain to some of the half-wits on here, you simply cannot understand that…

      YES YES & YES

      We are the BIG BAD YANKEES because we’re better than everyone else.

      It is a MIRACLE we keep winning the division IN SPITE OF (ever heard of those 3 words “Raf the Red Sox apologist”) getting screwed repeatedly.
      The umps are partially, if not mostly, responsible for our failure.

      I am SO GLAD that there is at least one other person in the world (& on WW) that sees what I see. I read on here a week ago about “the romance of baseball” crap. Simply put, THERE IS NO ROMANCE OF BASEBALL because baseball is unfair. Most people turn to sports to get away from reality and those same people refuse to see the unfairness involved in sports because they want to keep believing that sports are fair. But, any Yankees fan that thinks we get treated fairly should not be allowed to call themselves Yankees fans. *cough cough* Raf… I know you are a poor old Red Sox fan whose got nothing better to do with his life than parade around on Yankee sites pretending to be a Yankee fan for the sole purpose of revelling in our misery as you watch your team get handed everything and still find a way to fail. 🙂 Why dont you go meet Schill for brunch; he likes to get his A** sucked clean by an apologist like you…and he gives a nice brown-tongue cleaning himself.

    20. RICH
      December 28th, 2006 | 5:50 am

      This is so funny.

      JohnnyC: “Yes, everyone and even a few umpires DO hate the Yankees but I wouldn’t use that as a crutch for guys who just didn’t perform in pinstripes”

      There’s sure a lot of merchandise being sold since everyone hates the Yankees.

      If it’s the Questec thing I’m relieved. Now the Yankees will only get screwed at Yankee Stadium.

      But why would Questec matter since you’ve said everyone and some umpires (Isn’t all umpires a better subset of everyone?) hates the Yankees.

      Are the umpires so inept that they’ve allowed the Yankees to win more than a couple of games a year?

      And what about the vacation umps? Are they taught this in the minors or do they have an initiation ceremony at a certain point?

      Do they do something with the flourine in all of the ballparks? Preserve the bodily fluids

      Do they actually play the games. Maybe the games are simulations like they’ve done to fool people into thinking we landed on the moon.

      I knew there had to be a reason this team for the last 103 years or so had been scored upon. I thought all of the problems were because Jeter and Arod aren’t best friends forever. It was the umps who created that schism.

    21. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 8:31 am

      chewy: When you get a minute, could I get a list of words that trigger these fits? Or at the very least, get some of that good stuff you’re smoking?

    22. Garcia
      December 28th, 2006 | 8:47 am

      I’m so glad RICH chimed in because I can’t believe people actually believe some of the crap being thrown around here.

      I love how “DonnieDosTresBaseball” has convinced himself that even the oppositon doesn’t try as hard against the Yanks vs. the Sawx. This is some of the most absurd shit I’ve ever read.

      If some of you ever wonder off to other blogs, you know…where people are writing against the Yanks, then you’ll see that they think that commisioner’s office is helping the Yankees win.

      BTW, I just saw sasquatch running through my living room. Call the authorities.

    23. DonnieDosTresBaseball
      December 28th, 2006 | 10:40 am

      Raf–If he is “smoking” what I am “smoking,” then I don’t think you want it.

      After watching the Yankees/Giants/Rangers/Knicks and Red Sox/Patriots/Bruins/Celtics for the last 20-odd years, I see things for what they are. I don’t bury my head in the sand and refuse to see the unjust treatment of my teams. And I do not shy away when people say “the Yankees have 26 W.S. titles,” because at the rate we’re going, that’s the number we’ll have 100 years from now.

      Although I never said that our losses are solely the umpires’/referees’ fault, I said that they play a hugely negative role in the outcome of our seasons. After being screwed every game for 162/16/82/82 games, do you not think that it takes a toll on our team mentally. How can it not when it takes its toll on me to where I’m eaten away inside.

      Tim Thomas (basketball player), after being with the New York Knicks for only THREE weeks a couple years ago, said it best when he said “We are playing 5 on 8,” with the extra 3 being the referees. He knew it after ONLY THREE weeks. How can none of you even acknowledge that it is a mere possibility.

      Alex Rodriguez is the loser that he is because of the umpires, therefore, I will never hate A-Rod, for he has done nothing wrong. Alex is so driven by Yankee-bred-class and his desperation for everyone’s love that he will never blame the umpires like Tim Thomas did. Finally, if he put on that Sox uniform 3 years back, he without a doubt would be called today the GREATEST BASEBALL PLAYER IN HISTORY. The big stage of New York has not made this man fail, the umpires have.

    24. Garcia
      December 28th, 2006 | 10:58 am

      At least we like the same teams, DonnieDosTres. I remember Thomas’ comment but I just don’t buy into it. Do you remember Larry Johnson’s so called foul against the Pacers? Where he hit the three and was fouled by a Pacer in the semi-finals of the Atlantic Division? That got the Knicks into the championship vs. the Spurs. The one game they won vs. the Spurs, the Spurs were complaining about the refs helping them out so televison can make some more money.

      I also remember the Charles Smith game, yeah he was “probably” fouled but I’m glad they didn’t make a call because it wasn’t an obvious foul. I also remember that the Knicks were the butchers of the NBA at the time, too. They benefited from a lot of non-calls. I think it all balances out in the end.

      We can go back and look at so many questionable calls that went the Yankees way and reverse those and then we can reverse the ones’ you are talking about or peeved about, and I gurantee you we are left in the same boat – 26 championships.

      If I had to vote, I’d say the New York Football Giants have been robbed more than any other NY sports team. At least as far as refs are concerned.

    25. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 11:14 am

      How can none of you even acknowledge that it is a mere possibility.
      In my case, I don’t do whining or self-pity. Sorry.

      As for ARod, he had a season that was better than his first season here, but worse than his MVP season. Don’t know from where you get the idea that he has “failed.”

    26. Chewbacca
      December 28th, 2006 | 12:57 pm

      Acknowledgement is a lot different from whining and self-pity. Your lack of acknowledgement equates with ignorance.

      Alex Rodriguez performed to the best of his abilities in the postseason with the Mariners, and coincidentally, he performed his best against us. With us in the postseason, however, his performance was not much but failure.

      DonnieB & Garcia, I like the same teams. You may be able to point to a couple of instances, Garcia, but the screwjobs that have been bestowed upon us far outweigh the few calls that we benefited from.

    27. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 2:28 pm

      Acknowledgement is a lot different from whining and self-pity.
      How ’bout I acknowledge that your “acknowledgement” sounds an awful lot like whining?

      waah waah, the umpires don’t like us
      waah waah, we’re getting screwed
      waah waah, why aren’t the yankees spending money; we can buy every player on the market
      waah waah, why don’t other teams roll over to us; we’re the *BIG BAD YANKEES*!!11!11!

      Yep, sounds like whining to me. Stop making excuses. Shut up and play ball.

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