Tonight, Sidney Ponson takes the mound against the team that just disowned him. Word has it that when Milton Bradley comes up to bat tonight, his and Sidney’s combined IQ levels + their combined testosterone levels, will equal zero, and might even creep into the negative depending on how pivotal a point in the game it is.
For more on how the Yankees arrived at needing Sidney Ponson to serve as "stopper", we have to look back…indeed, as the Yankees’ stumbled past the mid-way mark of the season this past week, it is worthwhile to consider a couple markers of their performance.
From a certain (though admittedly very specific) angle, the most suspect aspect of the team going into the season – pitching – has been pretty good. Yankee starters are tied with the Dodgers’ hurlers for having allowed the second fewest HRs in the majors (43). Only Oakland (36) has allowed fewer. Of course, one reason they’ve been able to keep the ball in the park is that they tend not to stay in the game long enough to give up many dingers. Yankee starters have eaten fewer total innings (461.0) than every other major league team’s starters other than those of Florida (452.2). Indeed, on average, only Florida’s and Texas’s starters manage to get back in the clubhouse faster than the Yankee starters do – with 5.45 IP/start each compared to the Yanks’ 5.48 IP/start.
The Yankee starters’ middle-of-the-pack ERA (4.47 – 8th in the AL) is compensated for in part by the fact that – as the NYT pointed out last weekend – the Yankee bullpen has been surprisingly strong, with the second best record in the league when protecting a lead in the 6th inning or later. The Yanks are 36-1 when leading after 6 – only the Reds, who are perfect in such situations – have held leads better. This includes an 18-0 record for the Yanks when leading after six since Joba’s last bullpen appearance back on May 28. Indeed, the only 6th inning-or-later lead the Yankee bullpen let slip this year was when Joba gave up a game-winning 3-R HR against Cleveland on May 6. So much for the indispensibility of Joba in the 8th. This is particularly impressive given the fact noted above that no matter how the team is doing by the end of the 6th, the bullpen is most likely already in there trying to cobble innings together.
As for that dreaded Bronx Bomber offense…
While the Yanks get on base with the best of them (tied for 3rd in the AL with a .341 OBP just behind Boston and Texas), once there, they tend to stay on. The Yanks have scored 388 runs – 12th in the majors and a middle-of-the-pack 7th in the AL. And with RISP they are abysmal, batting a lowly .250 which is good for 12th out of 14 AL teams (only Toronto and Seattle trail NY here). Toss in the NL teams and the Yanks rank 22nd in hitting with RISP, just barely behind…the Florida Marlins.
So the Yankee pitchers keep the ball in the park but can’t keep those on base from scoring. And the Yankee batters get on base but can’t seem to make it home once they do. And on more than a few metrics, the Yankees – disturbingly – are most comparable to the Florida Marlins. They even share the Marlins’ 44-40 record. Unfortunately, unlike the Marlins, who are only a game out of first in their division, the Yankees are 8 back in the loss column to that other team from Florida. Sure glad that first half of the season is behind us. Of course, so far in the second half we are 0-3…
But no reason to get down fellow YF’s! Sidney Ponson is pitching tonight! Wooo-hooo!!!!!!