Jays vs Yankees: A Mediocre April, For Starters

Monday, May 01 2006 @ 09:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Rob

The Jays have 12 wins and 11 losses, which is more or less the same record they had when April 2005 came to a close. Too much is made of early-season struggles a similar month from any of these players would be relatively unnoticed in June or July and since the AL East still looks screwy to me (three games separating first from last?), there's not much to analyze there.

But what's up with the Blue Jays' rotation?

Let's start at the top with the big guy himself. They say April has never been his best month:

Month IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
April 225.1 6.4 2.4 1.2
May 201.2 6.2 2.4 0.6
June 195.2 6.5 2.3 0.7
July 173.1 6.5 2.8 0.8
August 148.0 6.6 2.6 0.9
September 175.0 8.3 2.4 0.7

Well, isn't that interesting. It appears the main reason Doc struggles in April is with the long ball, as his HR rate is cut in half in the second month of the season and stays at that level.

Who does he face in April, though? Do those team hit home runs more often than others?

Roy Halladay in April, 2002-2006
Team # Starts
Red Sox
Twins 3
Devil Rays
Rangers 2
Orioles 2
Tigers 2
Royals 1

More interesting results. Exactly half his April starts have been against the Yankees and Red Sox, and that doesn't count his Opening Day 2003 start against New York. Of his 160 starts from April to September, only 38 have been NYY or BOS -- in other words, 24%. So he faces the big beasts of the AL East more often in April than over his career.

Not surprisingly, those two teams are near the top in HR over the last few years.

So maybe Roy Halladay's struggles aren't struggles after all -- they're just a result of the scheduling. The first table above certainly supports that conclusion; his strikeout and walk rates for April are right in line with the rest of the year. And for all this talk, he's still pitched better this year than any other starter on the Jays. He could stand to miss a few bats, though -- only 13 K's in 25.1 IP is dangerously close to the Michalak Line.

A.J. Burnett's poor start is easily explained -- he's hurt. And his replacement is a rookie. Carry on.

Gustavo Chacin has had a strange start to the season. Consider the following list of numbers: 3, 3, 5, 3, 2. Those are his runs allowed this year in each start. It follows, naturally, that the start in which he was the best -- and he was very good yesterday -- is the one he loses. As I've said many times, W-L records for pitchers are beyond meaningless. His 9 walks and 15 strikeouts in 27.1 innings are not indicators of a 4-0 pitcher. In fact, take a look at 3.0 BB/9 and 4.9 K/9 -- those are right in line with his pre-2006 MLB totals of 3.0 and 5.3.

Has he done anything different so far than his career would suggest? He's averaging 93 pitches per start...and his career average is 95.5. The only real difference I can find is the same as Halladay -- his homeruns are up.

How about Ted Lilly?
Game Score Frequency, 2004-2006
GS Lilly Doc Diff
10-19 2% 0% 2
20-29 8% 7% 1
30-39 20% 19% 1
40-49 24% 12% 12
50-59 19% 14% 5
60-69 15% 21% -6
70-79 8% 19% -11
80-89 2% 5% -3
90-99 2% 2% 0

The 40-49 and 70-79 rows say it all, I think. If you want to go from Lilly to Halladay, simply remove a bunch of bad starts and insert a bunch of good ones.

If I had more time, I would figure out the standard deviation in Lilly's starts compared to the Jays as a whole, but I don't, and my memory tells me when I did that about a year ago, Halladay was way ahead of everyone and the other four were pretty much tied for second. So we'll have to be content with a subjective label of "Ted The Tease" for now.

And as for Josh Towers...well...I can't add anything you don't already know.

So, bottom line?

Roy Halladay will get better. A.J. Burnett will be hurt for a while. Gustavo Chacin will keep on doing what Gustavo Chacin does. Ted Lilly will roll a die to figure out how well he should pitch on any given day. Josh Towers can only get better....right?