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May 21, 2005

This is not what we paid for
by SG

The cost to acquire Randy Johnson was huge, but the expected payoff seemed to be worth it. The Yankees gave up Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and $8-9 million in cash for the the best pitcher in the National League last year. They then extended his contract for another two years and $32 million. This move was made with one thing in mind, that when the Yankees started the playoffs they'd have a dominant starter to throw out there. Unfortunately, with the way the season has started, a playoff spot is not a sure thing.

It's pretty safe to say that so far, the trade has been a disappointment. Vazquez and Halsey have been very good for Arizona. With Jorge Posada showing signs that he's probably beginning his decline phase, not having Navarro around is also a concern.

After a solid start in the season opener against Boston, Johnson has been decent but not great. After giving up a total of 18 HRs last season, he's on pace to give up 30 this year. His K/BF ratio is also down significantly from last year. I prefer to look at the number of batters a pitcher Ks per batters faced, as opposed per 9 innings, as I think it cuts down a lot of the noise in the numbers.

Last year, 30.1% of the batters that Johnson faced struck out. This year, it's down to 23.6%. There are certainly league factors skewing this somewhat, but it's still a bit of a concern. I also noticed that his ground ball/fly ball ratio this year is 1.51, which is much higher than his career ratio of 1.20 (last year he was at 1.18). I don't know if this indicative of a change in approach, or just sample size and/or random fluctuation.

When I watch Johnson, I see a pitcher who's throwing two pitches. A 90-94 mph fastball and an 84-86 mph slider. He has busted out a splitter on occasion, a pitch I'd like to see him use some more. I don't see that mid to high 90s gas that he was throwing last year or throughout his whole career. His control is good, but he seems to sometimes have trouble putting hitters away that he didn't have prior. I think we can still hold out hope that he will regain some velocity as the season goes on, and there may still be some issues with a groin strain he suffered earlier. However, we must also be aware that he has had a pretty major knee problem and is now 41 years old, and this may be what we get for the rest of the year.

If you project Johnson for the rest of the year based on his performance so far, you'd get a final line of: 241 innings, 226 hits, 30 HRs, 45 BB, 207 K, a 15-11 record, and a 3.94 ERA. Certainly respectable, but not the numbers most Yankee fans were hoping for.

Moving on to something completely different, TVerik asked if anyone had the numbers for the Yankees prior to and post the big shakeup, where they benched Bernie Williams, called up Robinson Cano, and moved Tony Womack to LF and Hideki Matsui to CF. I decided to pull them together:

Actual W-L: 11-15
Pythag W-L: 12.6-13.4
RF: 135
RA: 139
RF/G: 5.2
RA/G: 5.3

Actual W-L: 11-5
Pythag W-L: 10.5-5.5
RF: 105
RA: 76
RF/G: 6.6
RA/G: 4.8

These were the numbers prior to the fiasco today at that dump in Flushing. The Yankees' improvement seems to be keyed far more by an offense that's scoring 1.4 more runs a game, and not as much by a pitching staff and defense that's allowing .5 runs fewer per game. These numbers are probably not very meaningful yet, since the bulk of the Post-shakeup stats were compiled against Oakland and Seattle. It may be worth revisiting later on.

With today's loss the Yankee drop back down to one game over .500 and face the Mets' best starter tomorrow, our old friend Pedro. It would be nice to take the series and beat him in the process. Let's hope Carl Pavano doesn't show any ill effects from throwing 133 pitches in his last start.