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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Both sides of the ball: Yankees need lefty power AND lefty pitchers in the Stadium.

Both sides of the ball is a football expression meaning be concerned about both offense and defense.  This is often an alien concept for baseball people, especially for really basic stuff.

In 2014 there was a classic example: the shift.  It was all the rage for previously 100% unimaginative teams to suddenly embrace the latest conventional wisdom and brag about it.

Billy Beane, field managers should not be former players. Wake the heck up!  Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Today on WFAN radio in New York Fat Mike was interviewing Terry Francona.  They discussed the shift.  Francona said that Cleveland has data that shows they are saving runs by shifting against opposing batters.  Francona did not indicate how many runs or anything like that.  More importantly, neither Francona nor the interviewer addressed what should have been the obvious issue of whether Francona's team has achieved a net benefit from shifting against opponents but not having the basic common sense and fortitude to have their own batters combat the shift when it is deployed against Cleveland by hitting the other way or, preferably, bunting the other way.

This is the most basic example of the ever increasing disconnect between the rapidly evolving changes in the front office and what is actually happening on the field...

It's much worse with stuffy old fart teams like the Yankees who are in an inescapable downward spiral.
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The Yankees play their home games in a ball park with a very short home run distance in right field.  People, both baseball professionals and fans, concentrate on whether the Yankees have left handed power hitters to take advantage of their home right field.  This is actually a little silly since lefty power guys shouldn't need the advantage.  But the real point is that the Yankees need to negate the lefty power of visiting players in order to have a net benefit.  Otherwise, it's like the Mets bringing their fences closer for the second time in the brief history of their current home park.

As of 4:00 PM Friday the Yankees are reported to have signed 6'7" lefty reliever Andrew Miller: four years $36 million.  Before Yankee fans get too excited: born May 21, 1985, so Miller will be 30, 31, 32, 33.  The Yanks had also traded catcher Francisco Cervelli for another lefty reliever: Justin Wilson born August 18, 1987.

Innings:
Miller:
2013 30.66
2014 62.33

Wilson:
2013 73.66
2014 60

The Yankees can expect about 60 innings from each.  What has impact in Yankee Stadium is a lefty starter.  Let's take an anecdotal look at big name Yankee lefty starters:

Herb Pennock born Feb. 10, 1894; Yankees 1923-1933; Hall of Fame 1948
Lefty Gomez born November 26, 1908; Yankees 1930-1942; Hall of Fame 1972
Whitey Ford born Oct. 21, 1928; Yankees 1950, 1953-1967; Hall of Fame 1974
Ron Guidry born Aug. 28, 1950; Yankees 1975-1988
Andy Pettitte born June 15, 1972; Yankees 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013

The earlier in the history of the Yankee Stadiums, the more difficult it was for right handed batters to hit home runs.  Pennock joined the Yankees in their first year in Yankee Stadium.  He was 29 and had played for the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox 1912-1922.  Innings:
Yankees 2,203
Red Sox 1,089
Athletics 279

Pennock played the most for other teams.  Gomez played all but one 1943 Washington Senator game for the Yankees.  Gomez had two pitching triple crowns: leading in wins, strike outs and ERA: 1934 and 1937.  Ford and Guidry pitched their entire careers for the Yankees.  Pettittte pitched 2004-2006 for Houston: 520 innings; 2,796 innings for the Yankees.

Except for Pennock I'll just show career home/road splits.

Pennock 1922 with Boston:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home57.4173.821612271194.11044240229311024011.4103.01.07
Away510.3334.7616141800107.21256657545280054841.5792.30.62
Pennock had a better ERA at home in Fenway Park in his final season there.  The Red Sox would build a bullpen wall in right center after the 1939 rookie season of Ted Williams, which shortened the distance considerably.

Pennock with the Yankees:
1923:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home84.6673.2418141911119.11234443832451014961.2993.41.41
Away112.8463.03171341202119.01124240337501005011.2523.81.35
1924:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home115.6882.65221921531156.115452461030551016401.1773.21.83
Away104.7143.05181531012130.01525244334410135611.4312.81.21
1925:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home97.5632.33231651022147.01175138733480015821.0202.91.45
Away710.4123.77241561100129.01506654438402025611.4572.81.05
1926:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home133.8132.3919145903124.11174733420462025061.1023.32.30
Away108.5564.69211901010142.01778674723322046181.4082.01.39
1927:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home106.6253.4518143901104.11145240222281004371.3042.41.27
Away92.8182.5616124912105.11083730327231004441.2822.00.85
1928:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home83.7271.951411285297.0922321118180013811.1341.71.00
Away93.7503.08141311101114.01234839122340024801.2722.71.55
1929:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home53.6254.831311140172.2924839812241113221.4313.02.00
Away48.3334.681412141184.21135344317252113771.5352.71.47
In 1930 and 1931 Pennock's ERA was about even home/road.
1932: 3.38/5.33
1933 3.60/6.35

Herb Pennock generally had a lower ERA in Yankee Stadium during his Yankee years.

Photo of Lefty Gomez
Lefty Gomez:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home11245.7132.9018017051032021363.111645274396254718511202057231.2555.61.56
Away7757.5753.881881502670881138.21125564491765484617901949931.4694.91.13
Whitey Ford:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home12055.6862.5825523213872731696.014745624861015403110631243369161.1885.61.97
Away11651.6952.9424320622691881474.11292545482127546198961624261151.2475.51.64
Ron Guidry:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home9939.7172.9018916512591421268.111084444099731710978763051211.1246.93.09
Away7152.5773.7217915811361221123.2109050946512931614800622646731.2516.42.53
Andy Pettitte:
ISplitWLW-L%ERAGGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPSO9SO/W
Home13669.6633.69262258218201685.216977596921484782212603153670611.2906.72.64
Away12084.5884.0126926318201630.117518137261405532011882463370131.4136.62.15
They did substantially better at home.  In 2015 who will be the big Yankee southpaw?  CC Sabathia pitched only 46 innings in 2014 and will be 35 in July.  Jon Lester is the big lefty free agent pitcher.  He is probably second only to righty Max Scherzer among free agent starters; ESPN had an article that documented that Scherzer has thrown substantially fewer career pitches than Lester.  The Yankees need to sign at least one of them.  There are two reasons to sign Lester:
1. Prevent him from returning to Boston, which would be double trouble for the Yankees.
2. The Yankees need to play both sides of the ball and have at least one dominant lefty starting pitcher.

If Lester signs with a National Conference team, the Yanks are at least relieved of issue number one.  Signing Max Scherzer would then be compelling.

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