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July 6, 2005

Half-season Yankee report cards - Pitching
by SG

Today, I'll grade the Yankee pitching staff. The pitching staff has probably been the biggest problem on the team. I will grant that they are not helped by their defense, but that's not the only problem. The FIP that I reference here is a Fielding Independent Pitching metric developed by Tango Tiger similar to DIPS that is a better predictor of ERA going forward than current ERA. Eyeballing this # with the pitcher's actual ERA can tell you if a pitcher has been lucky or unlucky this year. VORP is value over replacment player. For starters, I will list SNVA, which is support neutral value added, and for relievers I will add WXR, a reliever's expected wins added. (Once again, thanks to Baseball Prospectus for these stats)

Mariano Rivera (4-2, 0.83)
VORP: 11.7
WXR: .853

He just may be immortal. At age 35 he's throwing better than ever. 6 of the 9 runs he's allowed this year are unearned, which makes his ERA deceptively low, but his K rate is higher than it's been since 2001, and after the early season struggles against Boston that had many proclaiming his demise, he's been lights out. I think a lot of it has to do with him not pitching as much this year, which allows him to be rested and at full strength when he does pitch, but hopefully he will get to pitch more in the second half and disprove that. There's been a noticeable change in his approach this year, with more 2-seamers and 4-seamers in different parts of the strike zone, as opposed to just using his cutter.

Grade: A+

Chien-Ming Wang (5-3, 3.87)

FIP: 4.23
VORP: 12
SNVA: 0.2

I love Wang. Not that kind of wang, but the pitcher. From a farm system that has been described as horrible by experts everywhere, Wang has emerged to be the Yankees' most consistent starter. His G/F ratio of 2.52 helps him keep the ball in the park. I am concerned about his low K rate going forward, but not overly so. His low K rate so far shouldn't discount what he has done to this point. His FIP is a bit higher than his ERA, but even if he approaches that for the rest of the year, he'd be solid. I also think his K rate will increase a bit, I just don't know how a guy who throws 96 mph doesn't miss more bats.

Grade: B+

Tom Gordon (2-3, 2.83)

FIP: 3.42
VORP: 13.2
WXR: .561

Gordon's been a bit shakier than last year, but to expect him to repeat 2004 is not fair. He's one of the top setup men in baseball, and a good thing for the Yankees to have. The idea of trading him for help in CF is still intriguing, but with the lack of depth in the Yankee pen it may be a risk not worth taking. Hopefully Torre will be more judicious in his use of him this year, as Gordon has had numerous injuries in the past and is getting up there in age.

Grade: B+

Tanyon Sturtze (2-1, 3.94)

FIP: 3.86
VORP: 6.9
WXR: .021

Sturtze 2.0™ as I like to call him. Putting aside his disappointing start against Baltimore where he just ran out of gas, Sturtze has defied his track record to be a key component in the bullpen. His FIP seems to match up to his performance, which tells me it's not as flukish as it may appear. I am concerned about him getting overworked, as Torre only trusts 3 of his 6 relievers, but the Yankees have to be very happy that they plucked him off the scrap heap.

Grade: B

Mike Mussina (8-5, 4.06)

FIP: 4.18
VORP: 16.1
SNVA: 0.1

Moose has not re-gained the consistent low 90s velocity on his fastball, but according to VORP he's been the Yankees' best starter (which is like being the tallest midget in the circus this year). His FIP says that he's not been particularly lucky or unlucky, so expect more of the same.

Grade: B

Edsel Groom (1-0, 4.29)

FIP: 4.39
VORP: 3.3
WXR: .419

I refuse to call a grown man 'Buddy.' Groom has actually not been a bad piece of the Yankee bullpen, considering he was an NRI and is now the token lefty. I expect the Wayne Franklin era to end very soon.

Grade: B-

Randy Johnson (7-6, 4.24)

FIP: 4.08
VORP: 13.4
SNVA: 0.2

The Big Useless? That's a little harsh, but Johnson has been a disappointment this year. Some falloff could certainly have been expected due to the league switch and his age, but he's really pitching no better than a third starter these days. I think there are nagging injuries here that are being downplayed, and that if he can get healthy he'll be better in the second half. The myth that the Yankee defense is hurting him is not accurate, his BABIP is reasonable. He's just giving up a lot more HRs than he did last year.

Grade: C-

Carl Pavano (4-6, 4.77)

FIP: 4.83
VORP: -2
SNVA: -1

I don't know what to make of Pavano. We knew that he was not a strikeout pitcher, although he certainly has good stuff. I was hoping for an Andy Pettitte type starter who would keep the ball down and get by. Pavano really struggles at home, and it's inexplicable. The shoulder issue he's having now could be looked at in two ways. A concern given his past injury history, or the potential reason for some of his struggles. He's serviceable as the 3rd or 4th starter if he can maintain a 4.00 ERA or so, but the Yankees look like they overpaid for him at this point. It's too soon to write him off as a bust though.

Grade: D

Felix Rodriguez (0-0, 5.40)

FIP: 5.08
VORP: .4
WXR: .009

Did the Yankees really need this guy more than a backup CF who's hitting (.361/.424/.452) this year? Rodriguez has been a big disappointment, despite a great fastball. I still hold out hope that he will contribute in the second half, and he is due to return soon.

Grade: D

Kevin Brown (4-6, 5.48)

FIP: 2.91
VORP: -2
SNVA: -1.1

Kevin Brown injured! In other news, the sun rises in the east. The number that really jumps out at me is Brown's FIP. His peripherals are really good, but he's getting hit and giving up runs. In theory that should balance out a bit over the course of the year, if he ever gets healthy again. I'd guess he won't make 10 more starts the rest of the year.

Grade: D-

Steve Karsay (0-0, 6.00)

FIP: 2.53
VORP: -1.2
WXR: -.047

Gone and forgotten. His fastball never came back.

Grade: D-

Scott Proctor (0-0, 7.71)

FIP: 7.06
VORP: -3.6
WXR: -.09

Proctor can throw a ball through a wall, and has a nice curve, but his control is awful. As a mopup guy he can do ok, but I don't trust him beyond that. That fastball is too straight and hittable, especially when you're always behind 3-1.

Grade: D-

Paul Quantrill (1-0, 6.75)

FIP: 5.20
VORP: -3.7
WXR: -.137

Quantrill was never a good fit for the Yankees although he gave them a solid half season last year. He may rebound a bit in San Diego with some more regular work, and in a good pitcher's park and with a better defense behind him. Darrell May and Tim Redding aren't likely to contribute much this year, but the fact that the Yankees got anything for him should be lauded.

Grade: F

Mike Stanton (1-2, 7.07)

FIP: 3.70
VORP: -2.1
WXR: -.388

Stanton's peripherals are not terrible, but he was never really a LOOGY type (this year's small sample size notwithstanding) and just did not have the stuff to put hitters away anymore. I wouldn't be shocked to see him latch on somewhere and pitch decently, but I'm not sad to see him go.

Grade: F

Jaret Wright (2-2, 9.15)

FIP: 7.21
VORP: -9.4
SNVA: -1

Wright has certainly been a bust. I think the Yankees should consider shifting him to the bullpen if he returns this year, as he was usually strong in his first few innings and they don't have any long relievers. It's not the optimum use of $7 million a year, but neither is starting every game in a 6-0 hole.

Grade: F

Jason Anderson (1-0, 2.45)
FIP: 6.71
VORP: 1.3
WXR: -.209

Anderson has been a bit shaky in his return to pinstripes, although he was pitching well in Columbus. I won't feel comfortable with him until he starts throwing consistent strikes, but he certainly has the arm to be an asset in middle relief.

Grade: Incomplete

Sean Henn (0-3, 11.12)

FIP: 9.04
VORP: -8.7
SNVA: -0.9

Henn's been good in the minors, and horrendous in the majors. I still think he's talented, but he's not ready for the majors, and won't be until he stops being afraid of throwing strikes. My guess is that he will be traded.

Grade: Incomplete

Colter Bean (0-0, 4.50)

FIP: 4.20
VORP: 0.3
WXR: .001

Can we give Bean a chance? He doesn't throw hard, but he throws strikes. As the misadventures of Scott Proctor and Jason Anderson have shown, what good is throwing 90+ if it's not over the plate.

Grade: Incomplete