Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Lefty Question

So the Yankees are 8-2 since the All-Star break. They're cruising. No worries, eh? Well, maybe.

Take a look at the two losses. Who'd they lose to? Gio Gonzalez and Scott Kazmir. Notice any similarities? Yeah, they're both lefties. Worse than that, they were lefties who were getting shelled until they met the Yankees. Then suddenly they both pitch like aces. Kazmir who has been a shell of his former self this season, pitched a 7-inning, 1 run gem. And Gonzalez, who's ERA had been hovering around 8.00, pitched 6.2 innings in Yankee Stadium and gave up only 1 run. Take a further look and ask yourself who got the RBIs in both of those games against these lefty starters. Gardner and Matsui, both lefties.

Where are the righty bats?

Now, to retract the gloom just a little bit. The Yankees did obliterate Rich Hill, another lefty. And yes, the Yankees splits this season against lefties is as good or better than against righties. So what's the problem?

The problem is the Yankees should pound Rich Hill and all the terrible lefties out there. And there are terrible lefties out there. Teams are so hungry for lefty pitching that they use guys who obviously aren't major league worthy/ready. Traditionally lefties' pitching stats are worse than righties. Why? Again, because teams are desperate for lefties and try to plug some of them in when they clearly are not major league caliber.

And this year is no different. Across the stats, lefties—even with all the terrible ones out there—have worse stats than righties.

On June 17th, John Lannan, a lefty for the epically bad Washington Nationals defeated the Yankees 3-2. He held the superpowerful best-that-money-can-buy lineup to just 2 runs in 8.1 innings. And again, the only RBI were by Damon and Cano, both lefties.

So what does this all mean? The Yankees overall have great stats against lefty pitching, right?

What it means, is that against the myriad of terrible lefty pitching out there, the Yankees can pound the ball. But when the Yankees face a powerful, above-average lefty, they have a hole.

On May 24th, Cole Hamels held the Yankees to 2 runs in 6 innings. Teammate J.A. Happ gave up 2 runs in 6 innings. On the Opening Day of the new Yankee Stadium, Cliff Lee pitched 6 innings on one0run ball. Scott Kazmir beat the Yankees in April as well, giving up 3 runs in 6 innings—the last run a result of leaving an obvious tired Kazmir in too long. Jon Lester has a total ERA of 3.46 ERA against the Yankees this year. David Price, erratic this year to say the least, pitched 5.2 innings against the Yankees and gave up only 1 run.

Again, this isn't to say that any lefty can shut down the Yankees. Above is a list of talented lefties; Hamels, Lee, Kazmir (who even as bad as he has looked this year had 2 quality starts against the Yankees), Lester, even talented but not quite ready Gio Gonzalez. There shouldn’t be—in normal cases, any shame in losing to those guys. However, these are the Yankees. The team that shelled out hundreds of millions to win this year. The team the Yankees have right now are built to win the World Series. And this fact—that quality lefty pitching gives them fits and can beat them—could be a significant problem. Any team they meet in the playoffs, with quality lefties on their staff, may be able to shut down the juggernaut that is the 2009 Yankees. Say, for instance, old friend Joe Torre's team, the Dodgers, with Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf. Or the aforementioned Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ on the Phillies....and if they get Cliff Lee......well, stay tuned.


blmeanie said...

stats tend to level out and good pitchers beat good hitters more often, cliches? Yep, probably correct in this case though.

Just read Lee went to Philly, at least the Yankees won't have to face him again this year :)

Phaeton said...

Nonetheless, interesting bit of analysis P-Cat.

You think there's much of a chance the Yankees will face Lee again this year - that is, that it'll be a New York/Philly World Series? I'm with blmeanie thinking it's not very likely.

P-Cat said...

Right now. Seems that the Phillies have the bats and now, the pitching to win the NL pennant. Beginning of the year, I said the Vubs, but right now, I think the Phillies make it out. So yes, I can def see a Phillies-Yankees WS.