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Yankees Maple Press

Yankees Maple Press

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Published by David Golebiewski

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Published by: David Golebiewski on Dec 18, 2011
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Maple Street Press|45
 The 2010 Yankees rotationby the numbers
he lasting image most Yankees ans will have o the team’s2010 starting rotation is manager Joe Girardi slowly  walking to the mound in Game 6 o the American LeagueChampionship Series, tapping his right orearm to signal thebullpen, and taking the ball rom Phil Hughes, who bowedhis head and went back to the dugout with the somber body language o someone walking the Green Mile. It was the endo a playo run during which New York starters posted acollective 5.23 ERA, and it marked the end o Dave Eiland’stenure as the club’s pitching coach.2010 certainly wasn’t all bad or Yankees starters, as CCSabathia topped 20 wins, Andy Pettitte pitched well whenhealthy, and Phil Hughes established himsel. But mediocreseasons rom A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez dragged downthe starters’ overall perormance: The Yankees ranked10th in the American League in ERA and 12th in feldingindependent ERA (FIP), a more skill-based metric thanregular ERA that evaluates pitchers on strikeouts, walks, andhome runs allowed. It’s hard to say that a 95-win team had areal weakness, but the Yankees starting rotation was a sot spotor an oensive juggernaut.
 Amid all the chaos, CC Sabathia just kept taking the balland putting the Yankees in a position to win. The 6-oot-7,290-pound lety tossed 237.2 innings, third in the majors, while compiling a 3.18 ERA and 3.54 FIP. Sabathia wasn’tquite as dominant in 2010 as in recent seasons; his 7.5 whisper nine innings pitched and 2.8 walks-per-nine were his worst fgures since 2005. His FIP was also the highest its beensince the middle o the decade. But even so, Sabathia was oneo the best starters in the game, and he compensated or ewer
by David Golebiewski 
46|www.maplestreetpress.comTHE 2011 NEW YORK YANKEES
 whis and more walks with an uptick in his ground ball rate.Sabathia didn’t miss as much lumber as usual. Accordingto
he got a swinging strike on 9.4% o the pitcheshe threw. That’s comortably above the 8.5% major leagueaverage, but alls short o his 10.7% average since 2002 (thefrst season or which
has data). But CC’s ground-ball rate spiked. During the course o his career, Sabathiahas been neutral in terms o grounders—his ground ballrate going back to 2002 is 45%, one percentage point abovethe major league average. In 2010, though, Sabathia burned worms 50.7% o the time.How did he get those extra ground balls? Table 1 showsSabathia’s ground ball rates by pitch type over the past threeseasons, courtesy o PITCH/x data rom Joe Lekowitz’s website and pitch type averages rom Harry Pavlidis o the
 Hardball Times.
Sabathia induced more ground balls this year on all threeo his main pitches—astball, slider and change-up. Groundballs are a positive or a pitcher—it’s pretty hard or a batterto get an extra-base hit on a Baltimore Chop, and runnersthat do get on base might be eliminated by another grounder.Sabathia’s double play rate (the percentage o the time he gota twin-killing with a runner on frst base and less than twoouts) was 16% last season, the highest mark o his career and well above the major league average o 11%.
Lethander Andy Pettitte turned 38 last season, though you wouldn’t have known it by watching him on the mound. Samepiercing stare toward home plate, eyes just over his glove.Same wicked pick-o move. About the only thing indicatinghis graybeard status was the pulled groin and elbow inam-mation that limited him to 129 innings pitched.Pettitte posted a 3.28 ERA in 2010, his lowest fguresince his Astros days, and punched out 7.05 batters per nineinnings pitched, while showing solid control by walking ewerthan hal as many (2.86 per nine innings). He didn’t blowhitters away, getting swinging strikes just 7.6% o the time,but Pettitte pounded the strike zone. New York’s 22nd-roundpick two decades ago got a frst pitch strike 63.3% o the time,handily outpacing the 58.8% major league average. Pettittepeppered home plate with his astball, cutter, and curveball. The astball and curve got a whi about as oten as Nick Swisher rowned, but the cutter was a dierent story. Table 2shows the strike and whi rates on Pettitte’s pitches, based onPITCH/x data rom the
Texas Leaguers 
website. While Pettitte was eective yet again in 2010, he gota little help rom his riends and beneftted rom someHoudini-like escapes with runners on base, as witnessed by his ERA being ar better than his 3.85 FIP.Pettitte’s .295 batting average on balls in play was 20points lower than his career average. This is at least partially due to the Yankees’ excellent deense: New York rankedsecond in the majors in Deensive Efciency, the percentageo balls put into play that are converted into outs. He alsostranded 77.3% o the base runners he allowed, considerably better than the 70–72% major league average and his careermark o 71.6%. While better pitchers do strand more runners,Pettitte’s 2010 strand rate was very high and is likely to drop.
Ever since the Yankees selected him in the frst round o the 2004 amateur drat, ans have closely ollowed Hughes’scareer as he has gone rom top prospect, to young big leaguercutting his teeth in the rotation, to dominant reliever, andnow to starter once again. New York shited Hughes back 
   U   p   p   e   r   p   h   o   t   o   o   n   p   r   e  v   i   o  u   s   p   a   g   e  :   S   t   e   p   h   e   n   D  u   n   n   /   G   e   t   t  y   I   m   a   g   e   s   P   h   o   t   o   t   h   i   s   p   a   g   e  :   A   l   B   e   l   l   o   /   G   e   t   t  y   I   m   a   g   e   s
 Table 1: CC Sabathia Ground Ball Rate by Pitch Type
2008 45.7 48.4 502009 41.5 40.2 51.92010 48.8 52.8 52.6MLB Avg. 42.0 45.0 50.0
 Table 2: Andy Pettitte 2010 Pitching 
PitchStrike %MLB Avg.Whiff %*MLB Avg.
Fastball 64.8 60-64 2.6 5-6Cutter 65.8 68.3 22.9 8.8Curveball 67.0 58.0 6.1 10.5Change-up 52.8 60.9 9.7 12.1
*Whiff % is calculated from total pitches thrown, not just pitches swung at.
 Andy Pettitte’s pick-off move is as devastating today as  it was in his rookie year, 1995.
Maple Street Press | 47 Hit Or Miss
to the rotation in 2010, and the results were promising. He wasn’t as lights-out as his 18 wins would suggest—Hughesreceived by ar the highest run support o any qualifed start-ing pitcher in the majors, 9.7 runs per nine innings. But it wasa solid season nonetheless or the 24-year-old.In 176.1 innings pitched, Hughes averaged 7.5 strikeoutsand 3.0 walks per nine while posting a 4.19 ERA. Opponentsoten loted the ball against Hughes (36.1% ground ball rate), which resulted in his giving up 1.3 homers per nine innings,and his 4.25 FIP matched up quite nicely with his actualmark. Hughes didn’t manhandle hitters, with an 8.8% swing-ing strike rate, but he rarely got behind them. The 6-oot-5righty threw a frst pitch strike 63% o the time, and located49.9% o his pitches within the strike zone overall, better thanthe big league average o 46.5%.Hughes doesn’t have much o a change-up at this point,and his mid-70s curveball is erratic, but his low-90s astball andupper-80s cutter get strikes and whis, as shown in Table 3.Don’t let the win total ool you—Hughes hasn’t becomean instant ace. But with some work, he has the talent toapproach that level one day.
 When the Yankees inked A.J. Burnett to a fve-year, $82.5million deal prior to the 2009 season, some baseball punditsquestioned whether the ormer Marlin and Blue Jay wouldbe able to hold up physically into his mid-thirties. So ar, thathasn’t been a problem. But ater a so-so frst year in pinstripesin 2009, Burnett bombed in 2010. In 186.2 innings, Burnettposted a 5.26 ERA. Some o that Boeing-level ERA is likely due to bad luck—his .319 batting average on balls in play  was 22 points above his career average, and his 68.8% rate o stranding runners was about 3% below his career mark. Thathelps explain why Burnett’s FIP (4.83) was lower than hisactual ERA.But Burnett isn’t getting Ks like he used to, and hisusually stellar curveball got creamed. During his big leaguecareer, Burnett has struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings,but he saw that number all to just 7.0 in 2010. Since 2002,
shows that Burnett has gotten a swinging strike on10.1% o his pitches. Last year? 7.9%.Burnett’s low-80s curveball is the biggest culprit or hisstruggles. According to PITCH/x data rom
Texas Leaguers,
Burnett’s deuce got a whi 16.6% o the time in 2008 and16.7% in 2009. In 2010, that rate ell to 14.1%. That mightnot sound so bad, considering the major league average is11.6%, but those extra curveballs that batters put in play werehit. Hard.Based on PITCH/x data rom Lekowitz’s website andPavlidis’s pitch type averages, Table 4 shows Burnett’s op-ponent slugging percentages on curveballs put into the feldo play over the past three seasons.Can Burnett re-discover his curveball? That’s the $50million question or Brian Cashman and the Yankees.
 The frst time Javier Vazquez passed through the Bronxback in 2004, he didn’t exactly endear himsel to Yankeesans while putting up an ERA near fve. That ollowingoseason, Vazquez was sent packing to Arizona as part o adeal or Randy Johnson. But in December o 2009, New York re-acquired him (along with Boone Logan) rom the AtlantaBraves in exchange or outfelder Melky Cabrera, let-handedreliever Mike Dunn, and pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino.Cabrera disappointed his new club and was released aterthe season, but Dunn’s erratic mid-90s heat showed somepromise and Vizcaino dominated in Single A beore coming
 Table 3: Phil Hughes 2010 Pitching 
PitchStrike %Whiff %
Fastball 68.2 9.1Cutter 73.0 11.8Curveball 53.9 5.8
 Table 4: A.J. Burnett Curveballs In Play 
 YearOpp Slugging Percentage
2008 .4642009 .3812010 .533MLB Avg. .512
 A.J. Burnett raises his arms in disbelief after Bengie  Molina takes him deep in the ALCS.
   P   h   o   t   o   t   h   i   s   p   a   g   e  :   J   i   m    M   c   I   s   a   a   c   /   G   e   t   t  y   I   m   a   g   e   s

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