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April 20, 2006

Good Moose
by SG

Anyone who's followed the Yankees closely over the last few seasons is aware of the Good Moose/Bad Moose phenomenon. A nagging elbow injury and the ravages of time have morphed one of the most consistent pitchers in the American League since 1992 into an inconsistent pitcher who will show flashes of brilliance mixed with meltdowns of Heredian proportion. So far this season, it's been all Good Moose.

He's pitched four games so far, and all four have been quality starts. Is there any cause for concern in his stats so far?

ERA: 2.67 ERA
ERA+: 185
FIP: 3.17
CERA: 3.23
xFIP: 3.88

ERA+ is a comparison to league, where league average is 100. The higher the number, the better the pitcher. FIP is his fielding independent pitching ERA, which uses hits HRs, BBs, and Ks to figure out how Mussina's done based on the things he has the most control over. CERA = component ERA , which tends to reflect more accurately how well a pitcher has pitched. xFIP is the least optimistic primarily because Mussina's allowed 44 fly balls compared to 41 ground balls, but only allowed 2 HRs, about half what a pitcher would typically give up (11% of fly balls are typically HRs).

Skipping the numbers, I've just been happy to see him attacking the strike zone more, and pitching at least 7 innings in 2 of his 4 starts, something he could only manage 23% of the time last season.

It's too early to declare that Moose is "back." In four starts, anyone can look really good or really bad. However, early returns are positive, and with Shawn Chacon struggling and Jaret Wright actually getting starts, it's been a big boost. Let's hope it continues. Last year whenever I wrote about a pitcher doing well, they started sucking. Therefore, I am going to declare that I expect Bad Moose to return soon.

On the team side, at some point, the "It's still early" excuse isn't going to cut it. Yeah, 14 games isn't that much, but it's almost 10% of the season. The Yankees are still hovering at .500. The upcoming homestand will be their chance to separate from that a bit, so how do the matchups look?

4/21 Vs. Baltimore: K. Benson (R) vs. C. Wang (R)
4/22 Vs. Baltimore: D. Cabrera (R) vs.S. Chacon (R)
4/23 Vs. Baltimore: B. Chen (L) vs.R. Johnson (L)

Baltimore's 9-7, but have played at about a .500 level. I think the Yankees should take 2 out of 3 here, as Wang and Johnson both pitched pretty well against Baltimore last year. Daniel Cabrera could walk 50 or pitch a no-hitter, and it's tough to say what Shawn Chacon will do, so a sweep is possible but probably not likely.

4/24 Off Day

4/25 Vs. Tampa: D. Waechter (R) vs. vs. M. Mussina (R)
4/26 Vs. Tampa: S. Kazmir (L) vs. C. Wang (R)
4/27 Vs. Tampa: S. McClung (R) vs. S. Chacon (R)

I'm scared to death of this series. Chacon may not get the start if he struggles in his game against Baltimore, in which case it'll be Jaret Wright, which is probably worse. I'll hope for 2 of 3, with Kazmir beating Wang in the middle.

4/28 Vs. Toronto: R. Halladay (R) vs. R. Johnson (L)
4/29 Vs. Toronto: J. Towers (R) vs. J. Wright(R)?
4/30 Vs. Toronto: G. Chacin (L) vs. M. Mussina (R)

It appears that Roy Halladay will be back for this one. We'll see if Johnson can recover from his dreadful outing against Toronto. I think 2 of 3 is another possiblity here.

If they win each series 3-2 2-1, they'll get to 13-10, which still doesn't seem that impressive. Perhaps they'll do a bit better than that.

Injury News
Tanyon Sturtze has a back injury, which is keeping him out of action. He may get DL'd when Aaron Small is ready, which is expected to be soon (two more rehab games). Octavio Dotel also made his first game appearance, throwing an inning in an extended spring training game. Swap Small for Sturtze, Dotel for Matt Smith, and possibly Carl Pavano for Jaret Wright by the end of May, and I'm going to like this pitching staff. Unfortunately, I don't see the Yankees dumping either Sturtze or Wright.