25 April 2007

A-Rod’s Homer Surge Explained (no, really!)

I had an epiphany today.

Not to discredit Alex Rodriguez for his remarkable exploits with the bat this month, but maybe there's a reason he's done so well. Maybe the Yankees have just faced lousy teams and/or lousy pitchers, and so his incredible outburst isn't quite as incredible as we think. Fortunately, STATS, Inc and their customers keep batter-vs-pitcher stats for everybody in the game, so I could easily look up his numbers against various pitchers this season and see how he, and the pitchers, have done.

I found that there were 13 pitchers who served up his 14 homers (Curt Schilling gave up two), five relievers and eight starters. The five relievers were, in the order that you should know their names:

Chris Ray, Joe Borowski, Al "Gamma" Reyes, Tom "I Wanna Do the" Mastny, and "Good King" Juan Salas.

The Starters were Curt Schilling (2), Jake Westbrook, Casey "Playing" Fossum, Steve Trachsel, Boof Bonser, Joe Blanton, Eric Bedard and Sidney Ponson.

Sorry for the Bermanisms. I couldn't help myself.

Last year, those relievers combined to pitch 224 innings. They went a combined 11-10 with 77 saves (69 of those by Ray and Borowski), a 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Pretty decent numbers. This year, in 46 innings, they're 4-3 with 21 saves, and a 4.50 ERA, a considerable drop off. Most of that, however, is fueled by Borowski's apparently desperate efforts to lose his job as the Cleveland Closer, allowing 10 runs in 9 innings. The rest of them have allowed only 13 runs in 35 innings, pretty respectable.

But the real story is the starters. Those eight guys combined for a 4.54 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP last year in almost 1300 total innings. Five of them "won" at least 15 games last year, but Trachsel (15-7) and Blanton (16-12) were below-average innings munchers (BAIM?) in 2006, with ERAs of almost 5.00.

This year, most of that group has dropped off considerably. They're now just 11-10 with a 6.06 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 180 innings. And in this case, unlike Borowski and the relievers, it's not just one guy skewing the sample. Bedard and Bonser both have ERAs over 6.00, Fossum's is almost 7.00, and Ponson and Westbrook have both allowed more than nine runs per nine innings! No wonder A-Rod can hit these guys...so can everyone else.

Lumping all 13 pitchers together, they've got a 5.74 ERA in 226 innings, which is plenty ugly, though skewed by A-Rod's abuse of them. But even if you remove his contributions, you've still got a 4.64 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 215 innings or so, not very good, especially considering that the AL composite ERA is 4.37.

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