B+ is the new A+

Jeff Pearlman uses a curious example to support his (and seemingly everybody's) theory about which type of team is best designed for post-season success:

But, once again, I don’t think Brian Cashman has built a team made for the playoffs. Mainly, the problem is pitching. Starting pitching. As the Atlanta Braves showed us throughout the 1990s, having a load of B+ starting pitchers is fantastic for 90-plus regular season wins … but doesn’t really work so well in the post-season. Generally speaking, the teams in the best shape have two ass-kicking starters with rubber arms and angry demeanors (think Johnson-Schilling, ‘01)

This is a daring formulation since it touches upon one of the most obvious anomolies of the "pitching wins championships" era. The  '90s Atlanta Braves, it could be argued, had the best top 3 of any pitching rotation of the last 4 billion years. Or at least, as long as I have been following the sport. Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz in their primes. Pearlman was a Mets fan growing up, which suggests to me that his B+ grading for Atlanta pitching is based on the type of flawed insight (unconscious stupidity) that comes from too closely searching for weaknesses in your enemy. It's why I call Josh Beckett overrated.  So why didn't the Braves win more in the post-season? Generally speaking, Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine weren't kick ass enough (where "kick ass" means something other than "amazing"), didn't have rubber arms (except their innings totals suggest they did), and didn't have angry demeanors. I cannot refute this last point. Call it the Pearlman Rule. Post-season success is the result of angry pitcher faces.

Pearlman's point about the Yanks' pitching has been analyzed to death in Yankee fans' recent nightmares. I have yet to talk to a YF who isn't worried about the starting pitching, especially AJ and Joba (it seems a little ironic that they are the most likely to fit the Pearlman Rule's demeanor profile). But I suggest this is a neurotic self-defeating thought that needs to end now. The truth is that the Yankees are probably the best team in baseball this season. While that doesn't mean they are going to be the eventual champs, it means they are better positioned than just about any other team going into October. That counts for something, I'd think, just as having the best starting rotation maybe ever should have counted for something for Atlanta. What is it they say about the best-laid plans? 

Call this anti-intellectualism if you want or a conscious choice to put my head in the sand, but really, how much thought is there in these articles declaring the Yanks poorly designed for the off-season? They strike me as the desperate and panicked rants of Yankee haters and lovers alike, all of whom bought into Steinbrenner's Win-Everything-Or-Else! bullcrap. It's probably better to enjoy the silence these days than articles like Pearlman's. But worry if you must.

34 comments… add one

  • In fact, this season, using the ‘secret sauce’ the Yankees are the team that is BEST built for the postseason. Of course Pearlman has to create a new metric, the old ones are too complimentary.
    The fact is as you say: Pearlman is a horrifically bitter Mets fan. That’s pretty much all we need to know.

    AndrewYF September 22, 2009, 3:15 pm
  • You know what other team didn’t have enough skull-tat bearing muthafuckaz? The 1889 Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who won the American Association but lost the series to the New York Giants, winners of ten fewer games during the regular season. Why was this? Forty game winner (yes, that’s right – FORTY FUCKING GAME WINNER) Bob Caruthers (seriously, “Bob Caruthers”? That’s the name of an air conditioning salesman, not a knuckle-dragging neanderthal fireballer) couldn’t get the job done, nor could Adonis Terry (who only won 22 games that year, slacker). What could have happened? Well, Terry was a notorious fop who insisted on wearing a top hat on the mound instead of the prescribed Bridegrooms wool piece. He also wore a monocle, hence his nickname of “Mr. Peanut”.
    Pearlman may be on to something.

    SF September 22, 2009, 3:43 pm
  • best. comment. ever.

    YF September 22, 2009, 3:49 pm
  • “They strike me as the desperate and panicked rants of Yankee haters and lovers alike, all of whom bought into Steinbrenner’s Win-Everything-Or-Else! bullcrap.”
    Stop making me feel bad Nick…jeez. ;)
    ” It’s probably better to enjoy the silence these days than articles like Pearlman’s. But worry if you must.”
    I wish I didn’t have to worry! I can’t help it!

    krueg reincarnate September 22, 2009, 4:12 pm
  • Hilarious, SF.

    stuck working September 22, 2009, 4:15 pm
  • Thanks guys, but Nick put up the top post, which is a fantastic setup, he deserves the credit.

    SF September 22, 2009, 4:18 pm
  • I’m proud that my post is associated with that comment:)
    Truly brilliant SF

    Nick-YF September 22, 2009, 4:27 pm
  • Dude, why are you awake!?

    SF September 22, 2009, 4:41 pm
  • The Yankees have the best record because they have the best offense and at 20% better than league average we’re talking almost as good as the 27 team (28% better) and better than the 98 team (16% better). The difference with the 27 team is they had two hitters with a 220 OPS+.
    YF inclinations, including mine, have very much to do with the feeling of having seen this movie before. All of the clubs from 2002-2007 were structured similarly with offenses ranging from 11% to 16% better than the league. The problem for those teams came down to the starters.
    So it’s not as if we’re ignoring the success of the season. We’re projecting that template of success onto past seasons. If they pull it off that template will die. If they don’t that template will live on and metastasize.
    Of course, the other problem is how the front office squandered the pieces they have and now we could be looking at Chad Gaudin starting a playoff game. That is truly inexcusable and should raise the ire of any YF. They’ve squandered an open rotation slot for the entire season. Why? So they could see what Mitre or Gaudin had in case Pettitte went down with an injury? That makes sense…

    Rob September 22, 2009, 5:29 pm
  • FYI: Yankee Stadium 2.0 slightly favors pitchers.
    And, yes, Fenway is still an extreme hitter’s park.

    Rob September 22, 2009, 5:59 pm
  • Let’s try that again:
    Yankee Stadium 2.0 is a slight pitcher’s park.

    Rob September 22, 2009, 6:01 pm
  • Stop telling us we should be mad. If you want to be mad, knock yourself out. How many times and how many different ways do you need to say the SAME thing. We get it: You A, want Hughes to start. B, think AJ is drastically overpaid and does not perform to the level at which he’s paid. C, don’t think the rotation as currently constituted can win in the playoffs. My ire is not raised, I like this team. Please stop telling me/Yankee fans how to feel.

    John -YF September 22, 2009, 9:29 pm
  • You can feel any way you want to, but it sounds like you’re overly worried about your mind being changed. Perish the thought.
    The bottom line is you’re attacking me rather than my arguments. I suppose that means you agree with me. I mean, I’d love to see rational arguments that say:
    a) Hughes in the 8th (5 IP if we’re lucky) is more important than Chad Gaudin starting one game (5 – 7 IP).
    b) AJ isn’t drastically overpaid (good luck there)
    c) the rotation can win in the post-season (one above average starter, two average starters, one below average starter)
    See, I’m not afraid of anyone changing my mind with a decent argument. Problem is I have yet to see those arguments from all the very intelligent people here. That leads me to believe, strongly, there aren’t any.

    Rob September 22, 2009, 10:00 pm
  • And yet you keep coming back…and the only thing I’m afraid of is having to read those same points another time. Your points or their validity are not in question, it’s the sledge hammer you use to try and pound them home. It’s not personal, don’t make it so.

    John -YF September 22, 2009, 10:25 pm
  • There’s a very simple test to see if one has made an argument personal. Look for the “you” pronoun. Hmmm, we’re did that first appear in this thread?
    I made one substantive post in this thread and one where I didn’t mention Hughes or Burnett. That’s a “sledgehammer”? You obviously got nothing nice to say, so why say anything? You really think you’re going to change my mind by making it personal?
    Let it go, man. As I type Gaudin solidifying his post-season starts. Wooooooo!

    Rob September 22, 2009, 10:39 pm
  • I guess the argument one has to make is who are the pitchers most likely to face the Yankees and what those matchups are?
    Detroit:
    Verlander and Washburne have beenv ery hittable this second half. The scariest pitcher they’re sporting is Edwin Jackson…but he’s in no man’s territory with his innings pitched.
    Angels:
    Lackey and Edwin have been very hittable. Kazmir could be there 3rd, probably Saunders.
    Boston:
    Beckett is known for his post-season heroics. Lester’s got the stuff but then he faces the athletics and eh. I think he’s a super good pitcher and may end up being a really great one but we don’t really know yet.
    The point is, I think that the post season this year, in the American league is going to pretty awesome to watch for all teams involved. In the end, if the AJ Burnett give up a 3 run homerun in the fifth inning and the Yankees lose 5-1 after leaving 14 men on base, I’m not going to be blaming the pitching.

    walein September 22, 2009, 10:44 pm
  • I’m not trying to change anything about you, just trying to get you from stop repeating the same thing over and over. I know Rob you’re a martyr, it’s all my fault. Again my question goes unanswered…why do you keep coming back if we are so “stu-stu-stupid”…

    John -YF September 22, 2009, 10:48 pm
  • Where have I called any one here “stupid” at any time?
    Where have I complained about Gaudin previously?
    As for why I come back, I like the concept of the site. I live and work outside Boston so I follow that team even as I love the Yanks. Need more?
    At least you’ve given up on claiming this isn’t personal for you. But it’s time you let it go.

    Rob September 23, 2009, 12:00 am
  • “Problem is I have yet to see those arguments from all the very intelligent people here. That leads me to believe, strongly, there aren’t any.”
    Sorry you didn’t call us stupid, just unintelligent.
    And you’re right Rob, Gaudin is new, But the point behind it isn’t.
    You have my apology for making it somewhat personal. Bottom line is I used to be here 24/7 before you started stirring the pot here. So yeah I’m a little bitter. This was an enjoyable place to discuss baseball, now my rule is to only comment on threads you aren’t on. Except moments of weakness like last night. So again sorry, but I really love this place while you constantly complain about it, yet you are always here…that’s two apologies in one post that’s more than sufficient.

    John -YF September 23, 2009, 7:49 am
  • John, maybe I am more generous in my interpretation but I read Rob’s comment as being about “decent arguments”, not “all the intelligent people”. In other words, he was saying there aren’t decent arguments against his position, not that there aren’t intelligent people here (because clearly I’m a genius!) I think there was a pronoun confusion there, which makes you technically correct.
    Anyway, I wonder if you looked back at the brilliant 1998 Yanks’ roster if you could look at them and dissect them and find weaknesses that would concern you for the postseason. I’m guessing there could have been arguments that the offense could be shut down by a top flight pitcher. My point is that it’s almost a form of neurosis to be so nervous and critical of a team that like this year’s Yankees which has done so well.

    Nick-YF September 23, 2009, 8:05 am
  • Nick, you’re absolutely right on the first count. I would never think to call someone unintelligent or stupid (raw psychological nerve for me). I want arguments if you disagree with me. Nothing more, nothing less. John, apology accepted. We’re fans first. That’s emotion. But what I really like about the concept of this place is that even diehards can come together to discuss baseball. But I barely know any of you to make it personal. Bottomline, that’s a lame rule and I hope you’ll let it go. If it helps, feel free to email me.
    Neurosis, I’m not so sure. The 98 team had much better pitching (but not as good hitting). I think that’s exactly why it feels like a movie we’ve seen before – a team built for regular season success. Gaudin starting a playoff game has Jaret Wright written all over it. Burnett obviously gives me the heebie-jeebie’s. Pettitte as a #3 or #4 would be fine. But he should be the #2. Stacked against Lester or Jackson though?

    Rob September 23, 2009, 10:05 am
  • Nick, I think you are being overly generous – which is of course a virtue. Fact is, Rob has had counterarguments to some of his positions made, including counterarguments that more than one poster here found convincing. The fact that he personally doesn’t find them convincing can just as easily reflect on his obstinancy as they do on the merit of his positions. Regardless, John is right that Rob is beating this dead horse well beyond the grave and it is tiresome.
    First of all, there is no possible counterargument to “this rotation can win in the postseason”. This rotation has never pitched in a postseason!?!?! It isn’t even a position that can be argued, convincingly or otherwise. We’ll wait and see whether or not they can.
    As to whether Burnett has underperformed/is overpaid/whatever, I don’t think anyone is really arguing this. On the contrary.
    As to the primary position he has eben taking and beating to death (Phil Hughes mismanaged, buried/wasting/wilting in the pen), that argument can and already has been argued against effectively. I’ll sum up here for the last time (at least for me).
    Hughes has been absolutely handled the right way. Yes, most YFs would love Hughes to be starting and doing so effectively. The problem is that he has been given ample opportunity to start last year and this and has been anything but effective. His record as a starter in those two years and how the team did in those starts?
    2008: Hughes goes 0-4 in 8 starts in which the Yankees go 3-5. Total IP? 34.0. That’s right – he averaged less than 5 IP/start, ensuring that his starts not only put the Yankees in a hole on those particular days but also increased the pressure on the other starters and taxed the bullpen. BAA? .314. OBP? .814. ERA? 6.62. WHIP? 1.705. these are not bad numbers. They are HORRIBLE.
    2009: Hughes goes 2-3 in 7 starts in which the team as a whole goes 3-4. he compiles 34.2 IP (still averaging less than 5 IP/game), BAA .276; OBP .361; ERA 5.45; WHIP 1.500.
    You can not discount the impact that such poor starts have well beyond the demonstrably negative impact they have had on the days on which he started.
    Then there is the argument that results speak for themselves.
    Hughes out of the pen: 4.81 IP, 1.30 ERA, BAA .167; 0.848 WHIP. The Yankees are 63-33 since that move (compared to 33-23 before it).
    As for Gaudin, he hasn’t been great. And he has not gone much deeper than Hughes in his few starts, but he has also been much better than Hughes in that role. The Yanks are 5-0 in his starts, during which he has compiled a 3.23 ERA. more to the point, in handling Hughes and every other player in exactly the way they have, the Yankees are likely to be the only 100-game winner of 2009, the first to clinch a post-season berth, and seem certain to finish with the best record in the game. If you want to argue what it all means for the post-season that’s great. It’s also impossible to argue against until they play int he postseason which, thanks fo exactly what they have done, they are now assured of doing.
    Then there is all the stuff Rob ignores regarding what it would have meant to make a second ’09 mid-season transition for Hughes – this time from pen-to-starter:
    As has been repeated and repeated here, transitions from starter to pen mid-season are one thing. Transitions in the other direction are more prone to lead to injury as guys need to move from throwing everything in 1-2 innings to pacing themselves, not to mention get into a between-starts routine that involves more days off but more work on the days you throw than when you are in the pen.
    On top of which, the Yankees would have had to make that transition for Hughes at a time when they were needing to limit Joba’s IP so that they could keep from having too large of a leap for him from ’08 to ’09. So at exactly the time that you know your #4 starter is going to only pitch 3, 4, or 5 innings per/start and therefore you’ll have to rely more heavily on the pen, you want to take out the primary stalwart of that pen (other than Mo).
    If I were to pick on the Yankee handling of any pitcher this year, it would be Joba, who has been on a yo-yo and is clearly struggling to get into a groove with all the messing around. Hughes? Perfectly well handled.
    If Rob wants to say this is a poor argument, that’s fine. I’m fairly confident he’ll be alone. But regardless, let’s everyone else who cares about this particualr debate please acknowledge that repeating something ad nauseum doesn’t make it true.

    IronHorse September 23, 2009, 10:10 am
  • IH, I’m generous, but my generosity was not meant to be extended to Rob’s arguing style. Rather, I just wanted to make sure that it was understood he wasn’t saying that we were stupid with that comment explicitly.

    Nick-YF September 23, 2009, 10:21 am
  • Great! Back to good ole-fashioned baseball disagreements!
    The problem is that he has been given ample opportunity to start last year and this and has been anything but effective.
    You mean how both Mitre and Wang got more starts this year…because they were more effective?
    It isn’t even a position that can be argued, convincingly or otherwise.
    Ummmm, that dovetails exactly my point. Burnett has no track record. CC’s is poor (even as I think it’s a smallish sample). Gaudin is a scrub. Pettitte is fragile.
    As for Gaudin, it’s the same argument I made about Penny/Smoltz vs. Buchholz. That decision alone cost the Sox a shot at the division. Why ever would you choose a guy with no upside over one with a clear upside, especially when you have months to prepare?
    Joba’s handling is a symptom of the same disease.
    Beckett would make a great 8th inning arm.
    But regardless, let’s everyone else who cares about this particualr debate please acknowledge that repeating something ad nauseum doesn’t make it true.
    Kettle meet black. Except now you’re forced to defend Gaudin in a playoff start. Let’s see how that works out to see who was right.
    Wanna put some money where your mouth is? Hell yeah I’ll bet against Gaudin if it means $100 in my pocket. You wanna bet on him throwing a quality start?

    Rob September 23, 2009, 10:32 am
  • Then there is all the stuff Rob ignores regarding what it would have meant to make a second ’09 mid-season transition for Hughes – this time from pen-to-starter:
    Actually you’re wrong on this count. Remember when Hughes and Wang were competing for a rotation slot? That was what, May?

    Rob September 23, 2009, 10:35 am
  • Sorry nick, I really didn’t mean to criticize you – and yes, I get your point: no one is calling anyone stupid here.
    Rob, you and I disagree. Great. My post was meant less for you than for Nick and anyone else who is interested in the baseball debate. I think they know where you and I each stand.
    Oh – and I don’t bet.

    IronHorse September 23, 2009, 10:42 am
  • Oh – and I don’t bet.
    How convenient. :)

    Rob September 23, 2009, 10:46 am
  • Sorry, Hughes’ out-of-pen numbers should start with 48.1 IP (not 4.81)…

    IronHorse September 23, 2009, 11:29 am
  • have to admit i have my fair share of high anxiety when it comes to the yankees in the post season, but i even try to scold myself into just letting fate sort it out…all of the hand-wringing some fans are doing over the prospects of starting gaudin, or whether aj’s head is on straight…gee, what if jeter stubs a toe, or arod pulls a choke, or jorge’s shoulder starts barking, or cc starts to believe he can’t do it in the post season, and so on?…point is that we don’t know…with a few exceptions, like jeter, we have very little to go on historically for how some of these players have performed in the post season…the fact that this team will probably win a 100 games bodes well for their chances…but, like i’ve said many times, this is now a tournament…it never was a given, but it there’s even a greater possibility with the additional playoff tiers that the so-called “best” regular season team isn’t going to win…are the yankees the best team going in?…i dunno, they will probably have the best record, but that won’t mean jack if someone gets hotter…that’s why there’s been so many wild card winners in recent years…the “best” [aka hottest] team in the playoffs will win, regardless of what they did in the regular season, duh…i don’t know how we can know who that is until the games are played…dissecting small samples, and “what if” scenarios are an interesting way to pass the time perhaps, but are conclusive of nothing…if the yankees win, chad gaudin, or brett gardner could be your post season mvp, just as easily as any other yankee…just ask bucky dent, scott brosius, david eckstein, josh beckett [before it was expected of him]…rob, you have no way of knowing how your “what if” scenarios would have played out…for example, the sox apparently felt buck needed more seasoning [and at the time there was no reason to doubt their judgement, still isn’t], so they went with the penny/smoltz strategy for a fairly small investment…penny, at least for awhile, bought them a little time…you say hughes is being wasted, although he’s performed well in a very critical role out of the bullpen, especially with a starting staff that with the exception of cc, won’t very often get to the 9th inning so it can be turned over directly to mo…the rope is even shorter in the post season…so who do you want to turn the ball over to in the 7th or 8th inning with a 1 run lead?…bruney?…look, using your logic, the yanks should have been more patient with mo as a starter, rather than installing him as a setup guy for wetteland…wonder how that might have changed history…

    dc September 23, 2009, 12:10 pm
  • Great point on Mo, dc.

    IronHorse September 23, 2009, 12:47 pm
  • Mo with one pitch is not a great comp. He’s an anomaly in the history of baseball. Of course, they also used him much more than Hughes is being used.
    On Buchholz, his peripherals are actually worse this year. Young pitchers need to face MLB hitters. Hughes will struggle next year too. But I’d rather that than Mitre or Gaudin. And starting Gaudin over Joba and Hughes shows how clueless they are.
    One more observation to be “paranoid” about.

    Rob September 23, 2009, 1:05 pm
  • 2 out of 13 sounds about right for the wildcard era (15%), although it is a little low, so clearly a correction is in order! ;)

    AndrewYF September 23, 2009, 2:12 pm
  • Joba could be just dealing with late season fatigue. He’s beyond his innings. Maybe the adrenaline rush of being int he post season makes him super fantastic, or maybe he crumbles. Maybe Jackson loses his mind under the pressure, maybe Saunders does, maybe Lester and Buchholz stink it up as well.
    In terms of post-season experience, as I said above, you can dissect the Yankees rotation but you must also dissect the other, most likely post-season, teams’ rotations as well.
    I find it hard to worry about the Yankees rotation. I worry about their hitting. They have amazing hitting and the only issue in our post-season history (in recent years) has been untimely hitters slumps in the post-season.

    walein September 23, 2009, 2:14 pm
  • all he’s needed is one pitch as a closer rob, so he is a good comp…they never let him develop [other pitches] as a starter, because someone with baseball sense realized that he could be more effective as a closer, most of whom limit their pitch repertoire…
    walein, yep, right on…your first paragraph was what i was trying to say…your second point about hitting is right on too…that’s what i meant about arod going into choke mode…not to pick on him, but you know…someone will try to tell you that the “slumps” were due to the superior pitching they faced, but that ignores the fact that they faced some of those same pitchers in the regular season…some guys have a way of dialing it up a notch, and some don’t…

    dc September 23, 2009, 4:44 pm

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