Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

July 24, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

SG wrote in yesterday's chatter:
Is it just me, or does Boston manhandle the teams they should beat, whereas the Yankees seem to struggle with those same teams? The Yankees have had a tough time with Tampa, and had a tough time with Detroit, but Boston killed them both.
Being the anal-retentive guy that I am, I decided to look a little deeper into this.

It's true. I took a look at the games the Yankees and Red Sox have played against cruddy teams so far this season:

Tampa Bay

I'm going by record here, so you might dispute some of the teams that are or are not on the list (the Orioles are only 3 games under .500). But against these teams, the Yankees are 23-13, while the Red Sox are 26-10, outscoring them by 43 runs while the Red Sox have outscored them by 80. Looking deeper, the Red Sox have had 13 "big wins" (more than 5 margin) against these teams, while the Yankees have had only eight. The Yanks have played 12 1-run games, the Red Sox 9 (both have won 2/3 of these games). Interestingly, though, while the Red Sox have lost big four times, the Yankees have been smacked around only once, when they lost to the Devil Rays 11-2 in the opening game of a doubleheader (ending the Mahnken Jinx Streak, or post no-hitter winning streak, which you'd call it if you're not cool).

What this says for the rest of the season is...well, it doesn't really say anything for the rest of the season. It's only a 36 game sample for each team. But the Yankees and Red Sox will each be playing 13 games against teams on this list in the last third of the season, or about 20% of their remaining games. If they win against these opponents at the same rate, Boston will win one more game than the Yankees, which could have an impact on the final standings.

More telling, though, is the mirror of these records. Against the cellar-dwellars, Boston has an advantage, but what about the playoff contenders? Here are the playoff contending teams that the Yankees and Red Sox have played so far:

Kansas City
Chicago White Sox
St. Louis
Chicago Cubs

Against these teams, the Yankees are 19-9 (a better record than against the bad teams!), outscoring them by 46 runs, while the Sox are 10-11, outscoring their opponents by 9 runs. Now, it's true that the Twins and Cubs are below .500, but if the Yankees hadn't swept the Twins they'd be doing much better, and the Cubs won 2 of 3 from the Yankees, so it's fair to leave them in, too. Besides, both are in playoff contention, so they meet the criteria.

(Drop those teams, and the Yanks are 11-7 and the Sox 8-7)

You shouldn't draw too much from these records, either, as it's an even smaller sample, but it shows that the Yankees have been playing well against playoff teams, while the Red Sox have been breaking even. The Yankees have won 6 games big (and lost 4) and only played 4 1-run games (3-1), while the Red Sox have had only two big wins (and 3 big losses), and played 8 1-run games (4-4), so their record could be better if they were luckier, but .500 is about right.

Now, which would you prefer: beating up on the weak teams and playing pretty even with the good teams, or struggling to beat the bad teams--but still winning over 60% of the games--and winning 2/3 of the games against good teams? I thought so.

* * *

The 100 game mark is a good time to check up on my masochistic gambling habit. Those of you who have a monitor that shows the left half of the screen are well aware of the "Alfonso Soriano Wager Watch" that I've been tracking since the first week of May (and the first week of this site). For those of you who are wondering what it is and never realized that you could click on the words "Alfonso Soriano Wager Watch" to find out what it was, it's basically this. Two guys who I work with, Rob Moses, who doesn't think that Derek Jeter's defense sucks, and Mark, who has my copy of "The Hidden Game of Baseball", I haven't seen in a couple of weeks, and whose last name I don't know (dude, email me and let me know you're not dead), disputed my assertions about Soriano's fate if he doesn't change his hacktastic ways, leading to three friendly wagers, each for a lunch costing no more than $10. The first two wagers are with Rob:

Alfonso Soriano will not hit 40 Home Runs
Alfonso Soriano's run production will drop at least 10% unless his walk rate doubles

To determine run production, we agreed to use the simple Runs Created formula, On Base Percentage x Total Bases. Accuracy isn't vital here, and it's easy for us to track (though, of course, if he trusts me, Rob doesn't have to track it himself now). If Rob loses on a technicality, such as his RC dropping more than 10%, but his EqR dropping less than 10%, or VORP dropping less than 10%, or whatever more accurate number you might find, and he complains, I'll let it go, and won't make him pay out. If I lose on a technicality, I'll pay out, because I'm whiny enough as it is. Walk rate, of course, is Bases on Balls divided by Plate Appearances. We didn't specify intentional or unintentional walks, but it's not likely to make a difference (his walk rate is in free-fall since early May).

The third wager was made with Mark:

Alfonso Soriano will not hit .300

I mistakenly believed that the walk rate provision applied to this (which it probably should have), but it didn't, but I'll let Mark off the hook if Soriano's walk rate doubles, too, and pay out if he hits .300 and doubles the rate. This isn't Vegas, people, these are friendly wagers, and I'd rather keep friends than get a free lunch.

So, am I going to lose my lunch?

Well, at the rate Soriano is currently at, he will finish the season batting .290, with 39 HRs, and 125.03 Runs Created (113.99 RC is a 10% drop), his walk rate is .055 (after being .031 last season), and dropping, so that clause seems like it's not going to come into play. Unless a huge slump is coming, it looks like a sure thing that Soriano will not suffer such a precipitous drop in his productivity as I (probably overzealously) predicted, though a drop has occured (his RC has dropped less than his OPS because the Yankees offense is better--he comes to bat more). He's on a pace to make that HR wager close, but his power has really dropped off since the early season, so I don't think he'll get to 40 HRs (though he's on a pace for another 40 SBs, with about half as many CS as last season). The Batting Average Wager was like taking candy from a baby. A red-hot April has kept Soriano's BA around .300, but since April 28th, his BA has been .255 (and his OBP .305!). That's almost 350 Plate Appearances...I think it's a decent sample. Soriano is paying for his impatience.

So, on balance, I've got a good chance of coming out ahead here, and a really long shot at winning all three. If Soriano doesn't reach 40 HRs, but doesn't suffer the 10% drop, the wagers with Rob cancel each other out, and I get a lunch from Mark, assuming he's not dead. Not that that would stop me from collecting.

As a player, it's obvious that Soriano needs to change his approach at the plate. Aside from hacking at everything, pitchers are starting to bust him inside. Sometimes he gets out front and drives that pitch into the left-field seats, sometimes he gets hit on the hand by Pedro and misses a couple of games, and today, on the last pitch of the game, he popped it up to the catcher. Had he been in the normal spot in the box, that would have been a perfect pitch to drive in the gap, or perhaps over the wall. His current spot in the box allows him to crush anything from the middle of the plate-out, and get around on breaking pitches before they break too much, but he's not getting as many pitches in the happy zone as he was, and getting an edge on the breaking ball isn't worth it.

And for God's sake, get him out of the leadoff spot!!! Watch Torre bat Johnson ninth again...

* * *

Sir Sidney Ponson (Calvin Maduro and Eugene Kingsdale are also Aruban knights...they just kinda give those away, don't they?) was very good against the Yankees today, and has been good all year, finally pitching like many thought he would in recent seasons. It's also his walk year, and the Orioles are entertaining offers for him before the deadline, while at the same time trying to ink him to an incentive-laden contract, not wanting to let him go, but not wanting to risk him reverting to his previous form with a fat contract.

As I watched him shut down the Yanks, I thought, "How many people are gonna call into Mike and the Mad Dog calling for the Yanks to trade Weaver for Ponson now?" My intitial thought was that this would be a ridiculous trade for the Yankees to make in the first place. Weaver is the same age as Ponson, has pitched better in the past (and really hasn't pitched that much worse than him this year), has a better injury history, is locked up past this season, and unlike Ponson, he isn't, um, pleasantly plump.

But I thought about it a little more. Ponson is pitching better than Weaver this season, and more consistently. He's a free agent, so when he leaves, it cuts the payroll a bit, helping the Yankees manage the Yankee, er, Luxury Tax. Best of all, he's a "Type-A" free agent, so if the Yankees offer him arbitration and he moves on, they get two first round picks. Assuming they were to trade for him, and they offered him and Benitez arbitration, they could have as many as 5 first round picks next season, which would do a lot towards rebuilding the farm system, if used wisely. Worst-case scenario is that they both accept, and the Yankees get a decent starter and good setup man for another year.

Would the O's accept Jeff Weaver straight up? Probably not. The advantages to having him are of course that he's been mostly good, he's healthy and he's locked up, but his contract does balloon in the coming years. Perhaps if the Yankees sent some cash along it could make the deal more palatable, but the Orioles are probably wary of Weaver's performance this season, so the Yankees should add a couple of B-level prospects, perhaps Erick Almonte and a pitcher not named Claussen.

If the Yankees made this move, they could bring back Wells next season, put Claussen and Contreras in the rotation, and offer Pettitte arbitration. He'd probably accept, because he'd get more from arbitration than on the market right now, but if he didn't, you get two more first rounders, and can sign or trade for a back of the rotation starter. It wouldn't be a great rotation, but it wouldn't be much worse than what they'd likely have if they kept Weaver.

Should the Yankees make a move like that? I don't know, I don't think it would hurt, and has good upside potential for the long term. I don't know if the Orioles would make a deal like that, either. It's probably moot, because the Yankees are not likely thinking along those lines. If they made the trade, I wouldn't complain, and would probably harp on about the draft picks. You know me, always the optimist. Oh wait, that's not right.