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Take it away, Bruce Wrigley:

Tuesday and Wednesday, the Yankees come in to Toronto for a short two-game series sandwiched between a couple of off days. (Note to Toronto-area fans: the Tuesday night game is a $2 Tuesday so do what you can to make it down to the park and make some noise for the good guys).

Like the Blue Jays, the Yankees have been inconsistent to begin the season and come into the game with a 6-6 record. Both teams are looking up at all three of their other AL East competitors so each will be hoping for at least a win to keep them in touch with the lead.

Over the weekend, the Yanks dropped two of three in the Metrodome, looking bad in a 5-1 loss to Scott Baker on Friday night but strong in a 9-3 win over Brad Radke on Sunday. Earlier, the Yanks had played their home opener in a three-game set with the Royals and pounded their way to a three-game sweep averaging ten runs a game.

On to the Advance Scout!

General: The Yankees' hitter-laden lineup is clicking to start the season, they are hitting .301/.385/.502 as a team.... It's a great offense top-to-bottom, with none of the regular starters hitting better than .344 or less than .263.... The Yanks lead the majors in runs scored with 80 despite only playing 12 games, and their 3.84 ERA is fourth in the majors. It's fair to say that reports of their demise are exaggerated.... Pythagorean Record is 8-4... Despite an old and creaky lineup, the Yankees have been mostly injury-free so far, with only pitchers Pavano, Small and Dotel on the disabled list.... The Yankees signed Carlos Pena to a minor league deal over the weekend. Pena is a natural fit for the Yankees and although there have been no comments from the team to back this up, look for him to replace Andy Phillips with the Yankees as soon as he shows he's healthy and the Yanks can slip someone through waivers back to the minors.... The Yankees' next target might be Minnesota CF Torii Hunter (in a better-organized league, stuff like this is considered tampering).... The Yankees have the best team DIPS ERA in the majors, so it looks like their old nemesis, indifferent defense, is rearing its head again. The Rogers Centre is a tough park to play defense in, so the Jays may be in luck.... Shawn Chacon was skipped in the rotation this weekend and may be available out of the pen, which would give the Yankees seven relievers instead of six.... I am still waiting on confirmation that Satan, Lord of Darkness, will be making a special appearance in the Yankee dugout this week.... The Yankees will use their top two starters against the Jays, but with the Jays' rotation already out of sync, the Jays will go with the two lefties instead.

Mariano Rivera: Because the Yankees have played a lot of blowouts, Mariano Rivera hasn't played a lot yet, only making three appearances and a total of 3.1 innings. Look for him to get work in Toronto even if the games aren't that close.

Jason Giambi: Wowed the crowd in Minnesota with two moon shots in Sunday's game.... Those homers gave him four in his past five games.... Is now hitting .344/.543/.781 but is just a combined 4-for-18 lifetime against Gustavo Chacin and Ted Lilly.... Has to be a leading candidate for the worst fielding first baseman in baseball and I can't believe Bernie Williams wouldn't be better out there.... Consistently underperforms his expected OPS based on his mix of walks, grounders, strikeouts, flyballs and line drives; probably due to having no speed and hitting a lot of warning track flyballs.

Randy Johnson: Has been Randy Johnson to start the season, with no walks and 16 strikeouts in 20 innings over three starts.... Consistently better in night games over the last couple of years, and will start the night game on Tuesday.... Don't let the 33-22 record over the past two years fool you, Randy is still one of the very best pitchers in the game and maybe the toughest to get a hit off.... Alex Rios, Reed Johnson, and Bengie Molina have all had good success in the past against the Big Unit.... Gave up one run in five innings against Kansas City in his last start.

Mike Mussina
: Unlike the Big Unit, Mussina is showing noticeable signs of slowing down.... Bill James's "Favorite Toy" tool estimates that Mussina how has a 0% chance of reaching 300 wins, but a 78% chance of reaching 250.... All three starts this year have been on the road.... Looked pretty good against Minnesota, allowed six hits in 6.2 innings but all six were singles. Reported after the game that "I did what I wanted to do with the ball most of the time... used all my pitches in almost any count".... Lefthanders tend to have trouble with Moose's knuckle-curve but find his other pitches more to their linking.... A much better pitcher in day games than at night over the last two years, and is starting the day game on Wednesday.

Bernie Williams
: Got his first start of the year in centerfield on Sunday versus the Twins.... Currently is the only Yankees starter not hitting, which should take some of the pressure off.... Hitting just .160 against major league (i.e. non-Kansas City) pitching this season.... Has essentially been a DH in centerfield for a couple of years now, so poor hitting shouldn't be blamed on the position switch.

Johnny Damon: Usually struggles versus lefthanders, but had no trouble against them last season.... Says he would gladly cede the centerfield job to Torii Hunter, much as Maestro Bob Cobb would no doubt gladly yield his baton to Herbert von Karajan.... Is a goofball who should be tarred and feathered, but what are ya gonna do.

Alex Rodriguez
: Broke out of a mini-slump with a single, double, and homer on Sunday.... Gustavo Chacin gives him fits, but is 11-for-35 with four homers in his career against Ted Lilly.... Has never had a hit in his career against B.J. Ryan.... Don't load the bases for him, he has a .694 slugging percentage in his career with 12 grand slams.

Gary Sheffield
: Eats lefthanded pitchers for breakfast, spits out the bones, then jumps on them. Power, walks and average all get a boost.... Has already stolen two bases this season; despite the lack of straightline speed, he is still a good percentage baserunner.

Robinson Cano
: The Hardball Times's rankings of Yankees baserunners had Cano at the top, and it wasn't even close .... Still looks shaky on turning the double play with Jeter, who doesn't deliver the ball that quick.... Is still looking for his first walk of the season. Cano, Craig Monroe, Rondell White and Aaron Hill are the only AL batting qualifiers still walk-less.

Kyle Farnsworth: Are you familiar with The Dugout? If not, do yourself a favor and head over there.... Farnsworth spent Easter gunning his lats, which should be good news for his control; he has given up four walks in 4.1 innings.

Pinch Hit Advance Scout: Yankees, April 18-19 | 26 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Tuesday, April 18 2006 @ 04:16 PM EDT (#145394) #

Far be it from me to try to aid the Yanks, but would not the club be better with Pena at first base and Giambi DHing against right-handed pitching?

They're not going to be at .500 for long...

Chuck - Tuesday, April 18 2006 @ 04:17 PM EDT (#145395) #
Nice write-up.

Given the existence of Damon, I wonder if Torii Hunter would be that high a priority. While I could see the appeal of adding an outfielder to allow Sheffield to slide to DH, I'm wondering if they might not prefer adding a first baseman (Pena?) to allow Giambi to become the DH. There's no scenario whereby I can envision that plan A is to continue allowing Williams to gobble up the DH AB's. I'm thinking that 4th outfielder is perhaps even a stretch for him at this point in his career.

Gitz - Tuesday, April 18 2006 @ 08:15 PM EDT (#145411) #
Giambi as a DH the last three years: .217/.384/.414, 27 HRs in 517 at-bats.

Giambi as a first baseman the last three years: .274./.427/.563, 56 HRs in  691 at-bats.
greenfrog - Tuesday, April 18 2006 @ 10:45 PM EDT (#145424) #
More Joe Sheehan on the Baseball Prospectus website:

"As expected, the Toronto Blue Jays are scuffling, playing .500 ball through two weeks and hanging around at the bottom of a deep AL East. Their $100 million investment in pitching has yielded just ten innings of work so far, as A.J. Burnett has made only one start while B.J. Ryan pitches about as often as a modern closer does. The back end of the rotation has suffered from the winterís defensive downgrades, especially Josh Towers, whoís allowed 25 hits in 12 2/3 innings. The offense is averaging six runs a game, but thatís not sustainable--theyíre not going to hit .321 all year. Look for the Blue Jays to stay within a handful of games of .500 throughout the season, and be disappointed by their final record."

For some reason (I can't imagine why) this guy really bugs me. There are a zillion ways I could respond, but here are a few:

- First, the pendulum swings dramatically at this time of year. We've been 3-3, 6-4, 6-6, now 7-6. We're only 13 games into the season! Besides, 6-6 (now 7-6, thank you very much) isn't too shabby when you've missed three starts from your 1-2 pitchers and all but three of your games have come against Minnesota, Boston, Chicago, and New York.

- Hanging around the bottom of the AL East? We're tied for second, 2.5 games back!

- AJ and BJ have only pitched ten innings because AJ missed two starts for precautionary reasons. Here Sheehan's pouring it on reminds me of the "old" Richard Griffin. If nothing else, AJ's first start showed that he was healthy. And BJ just pitched *another* scoreless inning. A real disappointment, that BJ.

- That "$100 million investment" (aren't guys like Sheehan getting tired of that phrase?) may start looking even better than it already does. According to the NY Post, some top players that could have been free agents over the next two years have signed extensions: Contreras, Garland, Lee, Ortiz, Halladay,  Dunn, to name a few. The upcoming free agent classes are getting weaker, which just makes Ryan, Burnett, and Glaus that much more valuable.

- The "defensive downgrades". Apart from a few muffs by Adams and Hill, I think the defense is looking fine. Wells, a more experienced Rios, and Cat/Johnson makes for a pretty snazzy outfield. Glaus has been solid at third, from the handful of games I've watched. Hill is showing a lot of promise. I just don't see a big downgrade overall. I think the biggest concern is Adams, and we haven't made any changes at SS from last year.

- Yes, Josh Towers has been pretty awful in his three starts. But that has less to do with the Jays defense than with Towers's batting-practice pitches. Besides, singling out Towers is sort of like analyzing Boston's performance and commenting that David Wells has been terrible, and look at A-Gon, hitting just .205. Isn't Boston just rife with mediocrity?

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 08:04 AM EDT (#145434) #
The back end of the rotation has suffered from the winterís defensive downgrades, especially Josh Towers,

Does he support that with anything?  Like, for instance,  an analysis of how the defence has let Towers down?

Because, I dunno, I had the impression that Towers was giving up home runs and line drives, not muffed grounders or fly balls that weren't caught.  Has Towers been victimized by unturned double plays?

Or is this a case of "I predicted it, so it must be that way"?
Craig B - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 08:35 AM EDT (#145435) #

I don't like to talk about THT's competition (a no-win situation) so I won't.  I know it's tough writing a column every day.

Picking on the Jays, in general, is choosing a very easy target and I understand why people do it.  They're in a division with easily the two highest-spending teams in baseball.  As a result, they start the year more likely than any other competitive team to miss the postseason, so if you pick on them, when they eventually miss the playoffs you can pat yourself on the head and point to how clever you are.  Fish, barrel, blam.

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 08:40 AM EDT (#145436) #
So, I just went and read the lead into the article.  Greenfrog -- come on.  Here's what comes next:

The two paragraphs above are factually accurate, deceptively analyticalÖand a load of crap.

Iím a bit dogmatic on the idea of not drawing conclusions off of small sample sizes. The statistical reason is that baseball performance, by both teams and players, can vary widely over the course of the season. Two weeks of play simply isnít enough time for the underlying ability to shine through the variance, rendering the data essentially unusable.

The stickier problem, though, is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the very human tendency to assign importance to the data that fits our hypothesis, and dismiss the data that undermines it.

In other words, the paragraph Greenfrog quoted was a deliberate example of poor reporting.  And quoting it out of context is even worse.

Craig B - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 08:57 AM EDT (#145439) #

I've been had!  Argh!

greenfrog - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 10:46 AM EDT (#145463) # bad. I didn't read far enough into Sheehan's article.
Mike D - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 11:10 AM EDT (#145472) #

Greenfrog, it's a somewhat understandable mistake.  Sheehan certainly sells the analysis (that he later debunks) pretty hard off the top.  Anyway, it's a great article, and an excellent cautionary tale, by Sheehan and I encourage folks to subscribe to BP.

I do have one nit with the piece (and again, I encourage you all to subscribe as I post this small fragment of it).  Sheehan writes

 Bonds is hitting .192/.488/.269 with no home runs in 26 at-bats, amidst a media circus and with knee and elbow problems.  (Worth noting:  Bonds has a .305 EqA, even with the low BA and no power; OBP is life, life is OBP.)

Life isn't, in my view, OBP with respect to Bonds and the Giants.  Barry's OBP is often the least efficient in all of baseball in terms of converting it into runs for the Giants, since his light-hitting teammates struggle to cash him in, he can't drive himself in unless he homers, and he's gotten slow with age and injuries.  Consider:  Thus far, Bonds has collected 6 hits and 15 walks, and scored his 5th run last night.  In contrast, Jhonny Peralta, who's off to a struggling start for a good offensive club, has 15 hits and 3 walks, and has scored 13 runs.

Yes, this analysis I just used has sample size and confirmation bias issues.  But it's been pretty consistently the case that Barry's walks, given the dearth of even offensively competent teammates, are not easily turned into runs, so I don't expect Bonds' run totals to soar unless he's more productive.  And yes, I do have Barry Bonds on my fantasy team.

I'll only add that it is a bit curious, in an article about confirmation bias, Sheehan uses a proprietary metric designed to reward OBP as his evidentiary support for his argument that a player's OBP is valuable.  Then again, maybe that parenthetical itself was designed to be another illustration of confirmation bias.  Damn you, Joe Sheehan!

Mike Green - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 11:38 AM EDT (#145475) #

Those Bonds' numbers are just funny, although I doubt that they will look anything like that when the curtain falls on the season.  For now, he's a puffed up Lance Blankenship. 

And yes, as Mike D points out,  there is more to life than OBP. Bonds' lack of speed matters, as it diminishes to a significant degree the value of his ability to reach first base.  Rickey Henderson was a better leadoff hitter than Wade Boggs in the 80s for this reason.


Craig B - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 02:15 PM EDT (#145483) #

 Barry's OBP is often the least efficient in all of baseball in terms of converting it into runs for the Giants, since his light-hitting teammates struggle to cash him in, he can't drive himself in unless he homers, and he's gotten slow with age and injuries. 

I'd have to say that unless he's someone who can steal 50+ bags a year, any 8th-place hitter in the NL would have less efficient OBP, with the 9-1 hitters coming up after him, given the structure of a typical NL offense.  But Barry is certainly extreme because the of the Giants' popgun offense.

Leigh - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 03:36 PM EDT (#145486) #
<P>Popgun offence?&nbsp; The Giants are not entirely pushovers without Bonds in the lineup, at least to no greater extent than the average NL team.</P>
<P>Bonds' PECOTA weighted mean EqA projection is .367, and the average of the nine hitters in the Giants lineup with Bonds(ascribing an estimated .150 EqA to the pitcher's slot) is .260 (using those same projections).&nbsp; Without Bonds, the average of the remaining eight lineup spots&nbsp;is .247.&nbsp; A big difference, to be sure, but the .247 is not so terrible for a team without&nbsp;its&nbsp;best&nbsp;hitter.</P>
<P>Here are the NL teams, without their best hitters:&nbsp; Arizona without Gonzalez, .246; Atlanta without Chipper, .258; Chicago without Lee, .248; Cincinnati without Dunn, .255; Rockies without Helton, .241; Florida without Cabrera, .238; Houston without Berkman, .246; Los Angeles without Drew, .252; Milwaukee without Lee, .252; New York without Beltran, .256; Philadelphia without Howard, .254; Pittsburgh without Bay, .242; San Diego without Giles, .246; St. Louis without Pujols, .243; Washington without Johnson, .247.</P>
<P>So, of the fifteen NL offences, each considered without their best hitter, seven are better than SF minus Bonds, seven are worse, and one is the same.&nbsp; That's pretty average.&nbsp;</P>
Leigh - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 03:39 PM EDT (#145487) #
Okay, I admit.  I know nothing about computers, especially HTML.  Whatever the hell that is.
Mike D - Wednesday, April 19 2006 @ 04:12 PM EDT (#145488) #

I guess I'm basing my opinion on 2004, Barry's last full season and the one in which his walks reached unheard-of proportions.  Of his teammates, Snow and Durham were both solid but sidelined with injuries for significant periods; the rest were pretty crummy.  Hence the absurd number of walks (including 120 IBB!) for Barry.

Consider the ratio of runs to number of times on base for the ML runs leaders in '04:

133 R:  Albert Pujols (196 H, 84 BB, 7 HBP)

129 R:  Barry Bonds (135 H, 232 BB, 9 HBP)

124 R:  Vladimir Guerrero (206 H, 52 BB, 8 HBP)

123 R:  Johnny Damon (189 H, 76 BB, 2 HBP)

119 R:  Jimmy Rollins (190 H, 57 BB, 3 HBP)

118 R:  Bobby Abreu (173 H, 127 BB, 5 HBP)

118 R:  J.D. Drew (158 H, 118 BB, 5 HBP)

117 R:  Gary Sheffield (166 H, 92 BB, 11 HBP)

Yes, speed matters in converting times on base to runs scored.  But not nearly as much, I would guess, as does supporting cast.  Barry's too-low position in the batting order might also have mattered.

Pinch Hit Advance Scout: Yankees, April 18-19 | 26 comments | Create New Account
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