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.