Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010 in review: Sox vs. Yanks pitching

In the spirit of my previous post comparing the 2010 pitching staffs of the Red Sox and the Rays, what about adding in the New York Yankees?

Let’s jump right in with the rotations:

El rayo verde: Edición Kindle
(click for full-size image).

If CC Sabathia wins the Cy Young this year, it will be a travesty of monumental proportions and plenty of us out here in Fanland will be …displeased. He simply wasn’t the best pitcher in his own division this year, let alone in the league (that honor belongs to Felix Hernandez, despite his team’s offense making a giant sucking sound every time he took the hill). But hey, wins are gaudy, and if your team scores 18 gajillion runs every time you’re up, you’re golden.

No, I am not bitter, TYVM.

The big picture here is that Boston’s rotation, despite sustaining injuries and ineffectiveness at numerous times throughout the season, was about two wins better than New York’s. A.J. Burnett has been a significant drag on their success this year, and is going to be *very* expensive over the next three seasons. Vazquez has been a fairly expensive innings sponge, but Hughes’ effectiveness and cheapness have made up for that.

How about the bullpens?

Joe Girardi has used a significantly higher number of relievers this year thanks to spare parts being swammed in and out frequently. He’s also gotten pretty good performances from the squad, totalling 7.7 WXRL from this group (there were other relievers, but these are the guys who have gotten the most innings as of Wednesday). What’s most striking is his management of the crown jewel, Mariano Rivera — 60 appearances, but only 37 of them in save situations, and yet Rivera generated more than 3.5 WXRL. Dave Robertson has just as many appearances, but in lower-leverage situations, and even mid-season acquisition Kerry Wood has provided good value in fewer appearances. All this stuff tells this Sox fan that (/bile rising) Joe Girardi has managed his bullpen quite a bit more effectively than Terry Francona has his in 2010. Getting one’s best reliever into the game in the highest-leverage situations is how to win games — chasing saves and letting Hideki Okajima out of the bullpen in uniform is not.

Despite all that, there’s only about a win’s difference between the bullpens’ production values — so where’s the difference in overall team performance? Well, the offense, duh. The Yankees scored considerably more runs this year than either the Red Sox or the Rays, and that’s how they’re in the playoffs and the Sox are getting ready for the golf season.

Bottom line: the 2010 AL East is a study in contrasts. The Yankees spent big money as usual to get pretty good pitching and a monster offense; the Rays developed great young players and made a few strategic signings and trades to build a great pitching staff and a pretty good offense. The Red Sox got a pretty good pitching performance from their staff, which is a blend of both approaches, but it wasn’t quite as good as the Rays’ pitchers. Similarly, they got great years from David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre, and two thirds of a good season from Kevin Youkilis, but the injuries were too much for them to keep up with the Yankees at the plate.

The good news is that Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Cameron should all be ready for Spring Training 2011 — one can only hope that the rash of freak injuries they sustained this year won’t carry over into next season, and the offense should be fine (re-sign Beltre? Get a 1B masher and move Youk back to 3B? Not intractable problems to have). As I noted in my previous post, the real problem is going to be addressing the team’s issues on the mound — getting the most from its strong relievers, and replacing the bad with better options from within and outside the organization.

posted by Joe at 6:28 am  

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