Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Junkees' Achilles Heel From '04 Still Remains

After the Yanks' historic collapse last fall, the conventional wisdom was to blame the loss on the pitching. After all, Brown and Vazquez were awful, Mike Mussina was inconsistent, and the fact that Jon Lieber came out of nowhere to become the #2 starter just shows how the Yanks were desperate and lacked depth.

So Steinbrenner went out there and decided to get some pitching. After all, what better way to fix the rotation than by getting Pavano, Wright, and Randy Johnson? With almost half a year gone by and over $30 million invested for this year, the results are not much better than last year. Let's have a look:

- The Junkees' starters have a 4.64 ERA this year, fourth-worst in the league. The only three teams below the Junkees? Seattle (1 point below, at 4.65), KC, and Tampa Bay (with a Coors-esque 6.04 mark), teams that are long gone from the pennant race. Not good company.

- The Junkees' starters batting average allowed? A startling .292, worst in the AL (even the D-Rays are slightly better at .288). When you give out hits like hot cakes, you won't win too many games. The only teams worse are the Reds (.302) and Rockies (.296). But last I checked, Yankee Stadium was not known to be the kind of hitters' park those two play in.

- With an OPS allowed of .779, the Junkees trail only Tampa Bay and KC in that department.

- With a little help from RJ and Pavano, the Yanks' starters have surrendered 51 HR, fourth-worst in the league.

How does these numbers compare to the Junkees' '04 performance?

- The Junkees' starters ERA was 4.82, which actually was 6th-best in the league.

- The BAA of .274 wasn't great, but ranked the Junkees in middle of the league (7th best to be exact).

- Last year's Junkees were also homer-happy: their 133 HR allowed tied Texas for 3rd-worst in the league.

- They also had a 1.36 WHIP (walks+ hits/ IP), third-best in the league. In '05, their 1.42 WHIP is 5th-worst in the AL.

Basically, the Junkees last year had a decent, though not a great staff. But for the playoffs, you need more than just a decent staff. This year's team has an awful starting staff, ranking with the likes of KC and TB in many categories. And though some of the numbers look better this year (like the ERA), keep in mind that run-scoring is down in this post-juiced ball era.

Looking at the individual performances: Pavano has just been awful, reverting to his pre-'03 form. You gotta be able to mow down the Rays, the way the Junkees did in '04. Johnson did well against a couple of NL teams, but struggled bigtime against the Rays the other night. So much for the John Flaherty experiment. Mussina is okay, but hardly the dominator many expected him to be when signed after '00. And if Wang keeps pitching well, Jaret Wright will be the next Sterling Hitchcock after he comes off the DL: a $7 million mop-up man.

And when you consider that a) ex-Yankees Lieber, Vazquez, and Halsey are doing pretty well this year, and b) Clement and Pedro, other free-agents from this past winter (whom the Yankees easily could've had), are doing very well for their new teams, it looks like Cashman has made things worse since '04. And the fact that even after dishing out millions to RJ, Pavano, and Wright he still might have to spend a lot more on Clemens is simply ridiculous.

But the way things are going for the Yankees right now, they probably wish it was '04, warts and all.

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