• Boorstein On Yanks Pen Woes

    Posted by on May 23rd, 2009 · Comments (8)

    Tom Boorstein, over at SNY.tv, takes a look at the Yankees bullpen, among other things, in his latest feature (on the state of the Yankees pitching). Here’s a snip:

    Brian Bruney, just off the disabled list, has more elbow pain. Phil Coke has had back problems and a propensity to go from bad to good and back in the blink of an eye. Mariano Rivera has already allowed more home runs (five) than he has in any season since 2001, when he also allowed five. Damaso Marte is on the DL with a shoulder injury and is a distant memory.

    Gone from the Opening Day bullpen are Edwar Ramirez and Jonathan Albaladejo, both sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Steven Jackson (designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Pirates) didn’t even pitch for the team despite being on the roster for a week. David Roberston has been up and down, as has Anthony Claggett. The Yankees have even been desperate enough to call up — and keep (!) — Brett Tomko.

    Some of the worst bullpens in Yankees history include the squads from 2004, 2005 and 2008.

    Yes, I know that many liked last year’s pen. However, LaTroy Hawkins, David Robertson, Damaso Marte and Ross Ohlendorf were all sore spots, to an extent last season. (In 2004, Felix Heredia, Tanyon Sturtze, Scott Proctor and Gabe White were the warts of the Yanks’ pen. And, in 2005, Felix Rodriguez, Scott Proctor, Mike Stanton, Alan Embree and Paul Quantrill were not pretty.)

    So, when you factor in the mess of this year’s bullpen, that’s four of the last six seasons where Brian Cashman has had issues putting together an effective and deep pen.

    And, for the record, the Yankees starting staffs in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 were a mess too. See:

    Carl Pavano, Al Leiter, Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright in 2005.
    Randy Johnson, Shawn Chacon, Cory Lidle and Sidney Ponson in 2006.
    Mike Mussina, Kei Igawa, Matt DeSalvo and Tyler Clippard in 2007.
    Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Ian Kennedy, Philip Hughes and Carl Pavano in 2008.

    Last time I checked, being able to put together a solid pitching staff was something you wanted out of your G.M., no?

    Comments on Boorstein On Yanks Pen Woes

    1. JeremyM
      May 23rd, 2009 | 10:50 am

      Steve, this is all well and good but can you quantify “some of the worst bullpens in Yankees history.” As far as your starting rotation analysis, how can you count guys like Clippard and DeSalvo, who started a handful of games? I agree with your general point, but the method is very objective. I could pick on the 1998 Yankees using the same method: see, Todd Erdos, Mike Jerzembeck, Willie Banks, and Ryan Bradley.

    2. May 23rd, 2009 | 11:11 am

      JeremyM wrote:

      Steve, this is all well and good but can you quantify “some of the worst bullpens in Yankees history.”

      Via B-R.com’s PI:

      Playing for the NYY, For single seasons, From 1901 to 2009, (requiring ERAp< =90, At least 60% games in relief and At least 20 Games), sorted by greatest number of players matching criteria The 2004, 2005 and 2008 Yanks are the worst here. http://www.bb-ref.com/play-index/shareit/gCrv

    3. Evan3457

      Better watch out with that set of criteria, Steve. Teams have gone from keeping 9-10-11 pitchers on the staff at one time to 12, and even 13. Running that same search for the Red Sox shows the 2005 Sox pen to be the 2nd worst in team history, the 2008 pen to be the 8th worst, and the 2003 Sox’ pen to be the 9th worst.

      That’s not a great record for Theo Epstein, is it? 3 years out of the 6 he’s been in charge, all in the top 10…yet he’s won two titles, anyway…

      Note that two of those seasons came right after the Sox won those titles. There are many possible explanations, but here’s two…1) When you win a title, you get lucky, in that players, including otherwise ordinary relievers, play over their heads for that season. This also happened to the Phillies’ pen last year in winning their title. 2) When you win a title, you tend to look at an average reliever, or player for that matter, and say, “Oh well, he pitched good last year, and we won the title with him, so he’ll be OK” rather than say “He’s not really that good, and we need to be thinking about unloading him before everyone figures that out”.

      In any event, I bet that a lot of teams have multiple seasons in the top ten over the last 10 years as pitching staffs have gone from carrying 10-11 men regularly to 12, and even 13.

    4. Pat F
      May 23rd, 2009 | 11:49 am

      “yes, i know that many liked last year’s pen.”

      it’s not a matter of liking or not liking. they had the 6th best bullpen era in baseball and lead the league in strikeouts. clearly, there is no chance that being a top bullpen in baseball in 2008 (as the yankees were) can be one of the worst bullpens in team history, unless the yankees have had nothing but top 5 bullpens for their entirety. as evan pointed out, there is probably something very flawed with the search you ran.

    5. Evan3457
      May 23rd, 2009 | 12:35 pm

      Also, there’s the steroid era to consider. If you have lousy pitchers at the back end of your pen, they’re much more likely to get annihilated in 1999, or 2004, then they are in say, 1968, or 1972, or 1918.

      Well, as long as we’re doing this, let’s check all teams together:

      There are 3 teams in baseball history with 7 teams meeting your critieria. On is the 2005 Yankees. The other 2 are the 2007 Rays, and the 2004 Reds.

      Of the 12 teams with 6 such relievers, 9 of them pitched in the steroid era, 3 in the years you covered (2004-8).

      Of the 42 teams with 5 such relievers, 9 of them were in 2004-8 and 24 in the steroid era.

      Of the 51 teams with 4 such relievers, 16 of them were in 2004-8 and 35 in the steroid era.

      (For the purpose of this discussion, I set the cutoff of the ‘steroid era’ to be beginning in 1995, though I realize full well that one could start it earler; say, the late 1980’s. It was the McGwire/Sosa HR chase that set it off, and I moved the clock back a couple of seasons to the post-strike year, because, allegedly, owners allowed the use of steroids because they wanted big offensive numbers and stars to help the game recover with the fans.)

      Anyway, of these 112 teams/bullpens, 31 (28%) were in the last 5 years, and 71 (63%) are in the steroid era.

    6. May 23rd, 2009 | 1:21 pm

      Pat F wrote:

      “yes, i know that many liked last year’s pen.”
      it’s not a matter of liking or not liking. they had the 6th best bullpen era in baseball and lead the league in strikeouts. clearly

      Take Mo’s stats away from the group and how does it look then?

    7. Raf
      May 23rd, 2009 | 1:34 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Take Mo’s stats away from the group and how does it look then?

      Doesn’t work that way, you can’t arbitrarily add/delete players and their performances

    8. Pat F
      May 23rd, 2009 | 3:31 pm

      agree with raf that you can’t add/delete good/bad performances. but even if we did:

      veras – 3.59
      edwar – 3.90
      bruney – 1.83
      farnsworth – 3.65
      giese – 3.53
      ohlendorf – 6.52
      robertson – 5.34

      those are all the relievers who pitched 20 innings or more out of the pen. looks decent enough to me, especially relative to “one of the worst in yankee history.” when you have the 6th lowest bullpen era in baseball, even taking away the best of the bunch (mo) isn’t going to have a dramatic affect on the numbers. and of course, since you can’t do that, and they get credit for having a pitcher as terriffic as mo, this bullpen was very good.

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