ALDS Game Two Review: Yankees

You might have learned in your years as a schoolboy or schoolgirl that the earth’s tilted rotation around the sun causes seasonal changes in weather. Scientifically that might be true, but any baseball fan will tell you that the seasons follow the sport. As the winter frost thaws we’re instilled with a sense of hope — a feeling that this year could be the year. The warmer the weather gets the more drawn we are to even-keeled analysis. Why isn’t this player performing well? How did this move work out for that team? But when the weather starts its progression back toward winter, we shed our analytical hats and immerse ourselves in the drama that is the MLB postseason. For one month, what happened in the previous six don’t matter.

In the first half of 2010, Yankees fans found an easy whipping boy in Curtis Granderson. The team traded a top prospect to get him, and when that top prospect got off to a torrid start the criticism heightened. Granderson was not only a bum because he wasn’t producing, but because the player they traded for him, Austin Jackson, was off to one of the finest Aprils in the game. It took a few days off in August and a change in approach before fans even remotely warmed to Granderson. But in Game 1 of the ALDS all was forgotten. Granderson hit a go-ahead triple. Even if the Yankees get bounced before the World Series, the fans will remember that more than they do the regular season.

Granderson’s August resurgence left a void in Yankee fandom. Who would they criticize mercilessly? Who would represent the differences between the 2009 and the 2010 teams — the foil to Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui? The answer was soon clear. Lance Berkman had a horrible start to his pinstriped tenure, and fans wasted no time in calling him a terrible acquisition. Even his explosive production upon returning from the DL, there was still a vocal sect of fans who proclaimed Berkman the worst acquisition ever. But in Game 2, all ill will was forgotten. It’s his big moments that we’ll remember.

The first came in the fifth inning, while the Yankees were still having problems hitting Carl Pavano. Alex Rodriguez tied the game with a sac fly in the previous inning, but that actually subtracted from the Yankees’ Win Expectancy. Making outs, even when it results in a run, just isn’t that productive. But an inning later Berkman got a hold of a Pavano sinker and sent it over the bullpen for the Yankees’ second run. Two innings later he again laid into a Pavano pitch, though this one didn’t quite have the distance. But it still went over Denard Span‘s head and then caused more trouble when Span overpursued it. Jorge Posada scored all the way from first, which again gave the Yankees a lead- a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Berkman’s WPA on those two plays was .327, and even with his outs he ended with a .292 WPA, easily the best of the game. With a 3 for 4 day, tainted only by a sac bunt, Granderson added 11.8 percent to the WE. Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira also ended in the positives.

On the pitching end, the Yankees had everything going for them. Despite a tighter strike zone (see below), Andy Pettitte held the Twins in check through seven innings. He made a mistake with a breaking ball to Orlando Hudson, but other than that he was settled into a zone by the third inning. The Twins had a few chances early, when Pettitte left pitches up in the zone, but later on it was too late. Everything was down, and it led to 11 straight outs before the Hudson homer. He then retired five of the next six batters before exiting the game. Kerry Wood then came on to strike out two in a flat-out dominant performance. Mariano Rivera did what he’s done for the past 15 years.

The Yankees leave Minnesota in the best of positions. They head home with a chance for a sweep; if that doesn’t work out on Saturday, they then have their ace ready for a potential Game 4 on Sunday.


Complaining about the umps is usually the territory of the losing team. Just look at the past few Yanks-Twins ALDS threads. Apparently the Yankees are running a scheme that makes the Black Sox Scandal look like amateur hour. They’re paying the umps to give them favorable calls, especially when it comes to the strike zone. It make perfect economic sense. They’ll make more money by winning the World Series than they’ll be paying out to the umps — they’d be stupid not to bribe them. It’s clear to anyone paying attention that’s what’s going on…

Back to reality, the strike zone was particularly horrible tonight. Yes, I noticed it because I root for the Yankees and noticed that Andy Pettitte wasn’t getting the same calls as Pavano. It was clear on the TBS Pitch Trax, and it was clear on PitchFX (though I’m not sure if the two are related). Here’s the strike zone Hunter Wendelstedt called for Pavano:

And here’s the one called for Pettitte:

It’s clear that some pitches called strikes for Pavano weren’t given the same benefit for Pettitte. This advantage didn’t end up helping the Twins, but on a different night it might have. This isn’t so much a complaint about the specific game as it is about the future. If Wendelstedt is allowed to call balls and strikes in future postseason games he’s apt to make the same mistakes. Apparently he has trouble discerning pitch location relative to pitcher handedness. This is what we’ve seen touted as the human element, but it’s nothing more than inaccuracy. I’m not sure what to do about it, but at the very least MLB shouldn’t allow Wendelstedt to continue umpiring postseason games. His zone was objectively inconsistent.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


61 Responses to “ALDS Game Two Review: Yankees”

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  1. awayish says:

    nice zone graphs

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  2. pft says:

    Funny, but the key call of the game in my mind was an obvious strike 3 to Berkman with the game tied up at 2 and a ROB, and the next pitch was an RBI double. I guess as a Yankee fan you missed that.

    Just a tip, but if you wanted to clearly show how an umpire was calling balls and strikes you could eliminate those pitches where the batter swung the bat.

    The pitches that were called for Pavano were on the section off the plate that Pettitte for the most part avoided.

    Some pitchers take advantage of an umpires expanded strike zone, and some don’t. Unless there is a claim the umpire is intentionally biased (for or against a team or pitcher), then one must assume the bad calls are random or systemic (umpires consistent interpretation of the strike zone). The SSS make it impossible to prove intentional bias, since Pettitte simply did not throw enough to the section off the plate the umpire was prone to call a strike for Pavano (vertical 2+ AND horizontal -1.2-1.4) for comparison.

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    • moebius says:

      Funny, but if you look at that same AB, Berkman had two strikes on him that were out of the zone. So yes, that pitch was a called strike, but it was a called Strike 1 or 2, not 3.

      But I guess as a non-Yankee fan, you didn’t notice that.

      Also, if you look at the PitchFX you’ll see that Pavano WAS getting that call more consistently than Pettitte. So maybe Pettitte was avoiding the area because he knew there was no point in throwing a bunch of called balls.

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    • hank says:

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting intentional bias (read the last paragraph where Joe chalked it up to ability with location relative to pitcher handedness)…. but the observation that Pavano got a lot more strike calls on pitches out of the zone than Pettitte is not up for debate unless you want to not look at the data.

      That 2-2 count was a key call, only because of another blown call on a 1-0 pitch that turned what would have been a 2-0 count into a 1-1 count. Pavano doesn’t throw that inside comeback pitch in a hitters count (it should have been a 3-1 count), but will throw that pitch with 2 strikes.

      To blame a game on a marginal ball/strike call when Pavano was benefiting all game from marginal calls is a bit hilarious… Pavano should have just thrown the 3-2 pitch 6 inches off the plate and he would have gotten yet another called strike.

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  3. Leo says:

    Interesting interpretation of the data.

    I agree that Wendelstedt’s strike zone didn’t agree with the typical zone, but they looked fairly consistent throughout the game for each pitcher and the difference between the pitchers’ called pitches is attributable to the different handedness of the two pitchers.

    I’m assuming you’re referring to the left part just outside the typical zone as the locations for “Pavano’s advantage”. This is largely due to the pitch types thrown and the angle they were thrown from. The pitches by Pavano were all to left-handed batters and had horizontal breaks of greater than 3 inches to the left. This means the pitches were in front of the plate for almost the entire path of the pitch. Pettitte’s pitches off the left side of the plate that were called balls were all fastballs with 0-2 inches of break to the right. Combine that with Pettitte being left handed and the pitches were never in front of the plate.

    Looking at the normalized strike zone plot, there is one obvious outlier almost right down the middle of the plate. Presumably, this was the pitch to Berkman in the 7th that Gardy got ejected for arguing.

    Also, looking at the strike zone graph from the last game where Wendelstedt was manning home plate (G2 of last Saturday’s NYY-BOS doubleheader) , it was almost exactly the same; lenient on the left side and stingy down and to the right.

    This is why Yankee fans are so unpopular. The Yankees are, as you say, in the best possible of positions, yet the fans can still find ways to complain that they should have won by more.

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    • hank says:

      Wow the Joe P haters starting to come out of the woodwork… Joe was not suggesting bias, not suggesting they should have won by more…just stating a relatively simple observation (backed clearly by the K zone data); while Pavano got hosed on that 2-2 call, he benefited from a lot of calls outside the zone during the game, and got a lot more calls out of the zone than Pettitte did.

      People want to argue the why… it doesn’t change the fact that Pavano was getting a lot more calls on pitches out of the zone than Pettitte. Regardless of the why, the bottom line is Pavano threw a bunch of balls called strikes and got a greater # of them than Pettitte. The umpires inability to deal with handedness or being confused by calling strikes based on path of the ball as opposed to where it crosses the plate is just an excuse for incompetence.

      If you want to use that logic than the Berkman 2-2call fits right in… that was a pitch that was out of the zone most of the way and tailed back in due to the horizontal movement… it was the same exact phenomena that was causing issues with Pettitte getting calls on the other side of the plate, no? In fact the greater break on the Berkman pitch means it was further out of the zone most of the way until the end.

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    • MikeD says:

      JoeP wasn’t being biased. Just the opposite. He was showing something you didn’t get on the TBS and ESPN and MLB Network recaps. They all focused on the one missed call on Berkman, not noting how the umpire had been calling a wide strike zone for Pavano all night, and a tighter one for Pettitte. Stating facts, and backing it up with the data and charts above is just the opposite of bias.

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    • Rob in CT says:

      Dude, Twins fans (or people pretending to be Twins fans) in other threads have been babbling about some supposed paying off of the umps by the Yankees. It’s ridiculous, and Joe was simply responding to that by showing that, in game 2, if there was any bias (there wasn’t) it was the other way ’round. In reality, the ump was having some trouble picking up certain pitches. Andy’s a lefty, Pavano’s a righty, and that’s probably the difference.

      Also, I’m not sure that “right down the middle” pitch came in the Berkman AB. I thought the 2-2 to Berkman was on the inside corner. I think that bad miss by the ump came in a different AB. He missed some. They do that. Robot umps FTW!

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    • Sej says:

      The called ball pitch right down the middle was on a 3rd inning Derek Jeter strikeout.

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    • JTC says:

      What Leo pointed out is entirely correct. If you actually examine the pitch charts, you will notice that there is a rather clear line to the right of Pavano’s, inside the strike zone, that the ump consistently called balls; and that this distance is visually the same as the distance to the left of the strike zone that Pavano was getting as strikes. Therefore, if you normalized Pavano’s strike zone to how it was consistently called, Pavano’s strike zone was not any more liberal than Pettitte’s. In statistical terms, there is a bias to the data. The thing is, for someone analyzing this data from a statistical standpoint to suggest that Pavano’s strike zone was wider does indicate a bias on the part of the interpreter.

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      • Rory says:

        That’s entirely incorrect. While there seemingly was just a strike zone moved horizontally over for Pavano, it was in fact wider.

        Called strikes for Pettitte ranged from +0.8 to -0.9, which equates to a 1.7 foot wide strike zone.
        Called strikes for Pavano ranged from +1.5 to -0.5, which equates to a 2.0 foot wide strike zone. Clearly a difference there.

        Furthermore, 7 of Pettitte’s pitches that were CLEARLY in the zone were called balls, and 7 pitches that were on the black were called balls.
        For Pavano, 6 pitches that were clearly in the zone were called balls, while 4 pitches on the black were called balls.

        Absolutely 0 of Pettitte’s pitches outside of the zone were called strikes, as well as 0 borderline calls(on or around the black).
        For Pavano, 8 pitches Clearly outside of the zone were called strikes, as well as 3 borderline calls were called strikes.

        Pavano’s strike zone was clearly more liberal than Pettitte’s, that fact is undeniable.

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      • JTC says:

        Again, please keep in context of the “effectual strike zone” that HW was calling. It’s nice to say that Pavano’s zone wa 0.3′ wider, except that Pettitte didn’t throw any pitches between -0.9 and -1.0 or between +0.85 and +1.0 (the subject areas that would result in a 2-foot wide zone for Pettitte,) for the ump to give an indication of if this area was a ball or a strike for Pettitte. How can you justify your definition of the width of Pettitte’s zone so precisely with no data in these zones. As far as the number of ball calls in the strike zone for Pettitte, all but two of those balls were below the level that HW was calling as strikes for either pitcher. The fact that Pavano threw fewer pitches in this area that weren’t swung at should not be counted against him. The whole “clearly outside the zone” thing just gets back into HW’s shifted strike zone for Pavano. Again, now verified with measurements on the plot, there isn’t any significant evidence that Pavano’s strike zone was any wider than Pettitte’s.

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      • JTC says:

        p.s. Before one gets too carried away with comparing the widths of strike zones by these graphs, one should know the accuracy and precision of the plotted data. (Does anyone know this?) Its great that the plot has tic marks for 0.1 feet, but, does the accuracy and precision of the data actually support this?

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  4. NotDave says:

    Yada yada yada. When the umpire needed to assist the Yankees with the game winning rally, he had no trouble doing so. Berkman could’ve stood there for 2 days and wouldn’t have been called out on strikes.

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    • Stephen R. says:

      I find it hard to believe that someone could actually think this, let alone air as an actual, non-sarcastic opinion in a forum like this.

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    • Steve says:

      This is especially hilarious considering the umps blew the call in game one to give Thome a shot to tie a game that should have been over.

      I mean, seriously? You forgot that ALREADY? I know it’s been ONE day, but try to keep up.

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  5. Jonathan says:

    Um, I came to fangraphs because I couldn’t handle the blind stupidity of the “mainstream” threads but wow…I don’t know if these are just bitter Twins fans or just plain idiots but the Twins benefited from the strike zone way more than the Yankees did. If you somehow can’t realize this with Joe’s words and the graphs I can give you several other points.

    1. The graphs clearly show that 6 pitches for each team were called balls when they were actually strikes. Except 4 of the Yankees were blatantly wrong and only 2 of the Twins were.

    2.14 pitches that weren’t close to strikes were called strikes for Pavano when only one pitch that was a ball that wasn’t touching the edge of the square was called a strike for the Yankees. 14-1 and the Twins got screwed?

    3. Oh, and last but not least, the Yankees won 5-2 and if you take away the Berkman double they still would have won 3-2. 7 out of 9 Yankee hitters batted left handed against Pavano so a majority of them had to deal with this ridiculous zone. This isn’t to say the Yankees would have or should have won by more, it just goes to show that just because Berkman hit the go ahead double on the pitch after he “should have” struck out doesn’t mean the Yankees got an advantage from the umpires.

    If you use the same logic that says Berkman wouldn’t have gotten that double because he “should” have been out….When Pettitte gave up his HR to Hudson, the count was 1-0 when clearly the first pitch was right over the middle of the plate (a curveball). He then doubled up and threw another curveball that hung that Hudson hit out. You could say that had the count been 0-1 instead of 1-0 he most likely doesn’t throw another curveball, especially since he only threw a few and it’s his 4th best pitch. 2. Then the next batter he calls 2 pitches that were clearly strikes, balls on Delmon Young. Pettitte then threw a pitch right down the middle on 2-0 that was hit to CF for a triple. Obviously, he wouldn’t have thrown a fastball down the middle if the count was correct and 0-2. BUT YOU CAN’T USE THAT LOGIC FOR SPORTS. Jeff Passan has a terrible article on Yahoo.com but he has easier to read graphs which illustrate Joe’s point very well.

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    • JTC says:

      1 and 2 are more of a result of the number of pitches thrown in a particular area than any “advantage”. (See my post above.) Pavano only threw 6 balls in the area to the right of the graph that the ump was consistently calling as balls for him, so only 6 could be called as balls. By your logic, Pettitte got a higher strike zone because he recieved 6 strike calls between 3.1 and 3.5 feet and the three balls Pavano threw in that area were all called balls. Of course, Pavano didn’t throw any at that elevation within the ump’s shifted strike zone for him, so there was consistency there as well. (By the way, I count 8 total ball calls for Pavano within the diagrammed strike zone and only 10 strikes outside of it, [and all of the strikes within the ump’s shifted strike zone]. So your argument loses quite a bit of water there as well.)

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  6. woodman says:

    As a Blue Jays fan I’m by no means a fan of the Yankees and I’m of course rooting for Minnesota in this series, but you kind of have to be blind if you don’t see that this umpire called an awful game and shouldn’t call any more postseason games. Twins lost because the Yankees can afford to pay every superstar player they can get and a pretty smart front office, not because of Hunter Wendelstedt.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Can you think of any other profession where you are rewarded for demeaning your coworkers and performing terribly and not having any sort of negative consequence for your actions? Maybe MLB is telling their umpires to start sucking so fans won’t talk about PED’s anymore. If you show up a player you should be suspended for 10 games without pay. And if you continue to perform terribly as a ball/strike caller you can’t work the plate anymore. And if you can’t umpire anything well, then you lose your job. What I don’t understand is having a bunch of 50/60+ year old men in charge of a profession where eyesight and reaction time are two huge factors. I’d really like the good umpires to come out and admit it has become an embarrassment for them all and they’d like better policed performances and at least some instant replay. Of course they would/couldn’t ever do that for $$/union purposes but you know the good umpires can’t stand the negative attention and showboating of the poor umpires.

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      • JTC says:

        Did anyone else notice that after Berkman’s double, that the ‘pitch zone’ wasn’t around on the screen for about an inning and a half. Also, there apparently is a platform in Target Field where a camera can look in to home plate over the pitcher’s head with no distortion with respect to pitches crossing the plate due to camera angle. This location was used for all of the Twin’s local telecasts. Curiously, despite its clear advantages from a viewer perspective, it is not being used in the playoffs. If there is any conspiracy here, it is MLB covering up for its umpires, to the detriment of the quality of its telecasts.

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  7. Noseeum says:

    NotDave, your complaining on this thread and the Twins one is pretty funny. The fact is the umpires’ strike zone was terrible. Both offenses got strikes called that weren’t strikes and balls called that weren’t balls. I believe if you scanned every game ever played you’d find a similar phenomenon in varying degrees.

    One player took advantage of an extra chance. Many others didn’t. The story is that one pitch because berkman made the most of his opportunity. If he struck out on the next pitch there would be no story.

    Get over it.

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    • not dave is a troll says:

      name^

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    • Rex Manning Day says:

      “One player took advantage of an extra chance. Many others didn’t. The story is that one pitch because Berkman made the most of his opportunity. If he struck out on the next pitch there would be no story.”

      This. Just look at Game 1: Delmon Young hit a “single” that was clearly caught by Greg Golson for out three. This wasn’t a close ball/strike call, this was a major call on a major play. We’re a long, long way from human-error-free pitch calling, but this was the sort of play tailor-made for instant replay.

      The Yankees were only up by two at the time, and Jim Thome was up. If Thome had hit a home run there, which is not too far out of the realm of possibility, the game is tied and the Twins have the momentum of breaking through the Invincible Rivera in the very first game. That blown call would have become a monumental turning point. Instead, Thome popped up on the first pitch, and the game ended with the Golson catch just a footnote.

      Bad calls are a part of the game. It’s not bias, it’s human error. Some umps are just bad at their job. That doesn’t make it ok, but until we get replay and better ump monitoring, it’s just a fact of life.

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  8. Jon in CUO says:

    Nice article, Joe. Anyone who sees these PitchFX graphs and still complains about “Yankee bias” is not an intelligent baseball fan.

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  9. Captain says:

    good article Joe. people are going to get hung up on just that one missed call because it benefited the Yankees and not the wide zone for Pavano that helped the Twins out early.

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  10. NotDave says:

    “Anyone who sees these PitchFX graphs and still complains about “Yankee bias” is not an intelligent baseball fan.”

    Anyone who doesn’t understand a home plate umpire will only cheat on the strike zone in select ABs–just enough to influence the game at key moments– is not an intelligent baseball fan…which rules out no Yankee fan.

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    • Jon in CUO says:

      Your act is tired.

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    • Tom B says:

      Weren’t you here last year whining about the same nonsense? Get a life kid.

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    • DT says:

      off course the umpire new berkman was going to hit a double on the 2-1 ball. crystal balls ftw right? i mean Pavano threw the pitch, he could have as well easily walked him and faced gardner instead or throw another pitch 6 inches outside and get a strike call. he threw a bad pitch that berkman crushed, which he had been doing all night, in the same spot where he gave up the HR. The umpire didn’t force pavano to do that

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  11. BD says:

    @ Woodman: The Yankees won because they have the better team, and because that team played like the better team.

    You can whine that the Yankees have the better team because of payroll, but it’s obviously not as simple as that, as you probably realize even if you refuse to acknowledge it.

    Take a look at last night’s starters and closer: Sixty percent of them (Posada, Cano, Jeter, Gardner, Pettitte, and Rivera) are players developed by the Yankees farm system. Of the remaining three, only A-Rod was ever a highly-coveted FA (Swisher and Granderson were the remaining two).

    I point this out only to make the point that the constant fixation on payroll as the reason for the Yankees’ success is as misguided as it is tiresome.

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    • Jon in CUO says:

      And FWIW, as you probably already know, the Yankees didn’t give A-Rod his first monster contract – the Rangers did. The Yankees originally acquired him by trade, not free agency. By the time they opened the bank for him, they were essentially bidding against themselves exclusively – I don’t think there was much of a market for his services at that point.

      Swisher and Granderson – also trades.

      Media narrative FTW.

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      • DT says:

        Tex,CC, AJ, Thames, mitre and Moseley. Those guys are the only players on the yankees 25 man postseason roster that came from FA. Thames. mitre and Moseley were minor league deals and for bench players. The rest of the yankee lineup and pitching comes from the farm and trades (which requires a farm).

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    • chuckb says:

      BD, to say payroll is overblown b/c “60 percent of them (Posada, Cano, et al) are players developed by the farm system is slightly disingenuous. Each of them, save Gardner, was resigned by the Yankees to a high dollar contract. So yes the Yankees farm system has routinely sent very good players to their club but the Yankees haven’t lost anyone of them to free agency that they wanted to keep, except Pettitte for a couple of years (and it’s debatable that they wanted to keep him when he went to Houston).

      The Yankees high payroll is a key component to their success and you know it.

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      • noseeum says:

        Of course payroll is a key component of the Yankees’ success, but it can’t be denied they are a very well run baseball team that seems to have its priorities straight. That’s what’s so terrifying about the Yankees. It was one thing when Steinbrenner was forcing them to acquire every aging free agent in sight and trading away all of their prospects. The could still compete because of the money.

        Now they have a top 10 farm system AND they spend their money on the right free agents. Pretty scary.

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      • BD says:

        Nobody is saying the Yankees’ success is completely unrelated to their ability and willingness to play their players well. But it’s not as simple as going out and buying up all the best FAs. The fact that that Yankees are only 1 team out of 30, and that a high proportion of current Yankees are home-grown, tells you that they aren’t systematically, single-handedly preventing the other teams from developing players or acquiring proven veterans simply by throwing around their economic might.

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      • Mike says:

        A team signing its own players developed through its farm system does not mean they weren’t developed through their farm system. Your comment is the one that at best is misleading, and at worst disingenuous. Of course the Yankees have a financial advantage, and of course they use it. As hard as it is to believe, they actually have probably restrained themselves. I have no doubt they could double their payroll, yet they haven’t and they seem to have held steady since 2005, most likely because they have no desire to pay additional luxury taxes.

        No one denies the Yankees have access to more financial resources. It’s partly the market they’re in, and partly how they’ve run their organization, reinvesting back into the team. The Mets have the same financial advantages and have never truly taken advantage of it because they’re not run as well. The Red Sox for years were a poorly run organization. That’s no longer the case. The Phillies were a poorly run organization for two decades. That’s no longer the case.

        The Yankees have the advantage to be competitive every year because they have money and they are run well. Intelligence is a great equalizer. Most fans that are upset at the Yankees is because they are fans of poorly run organizations.

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    • Onbekend says:

      @ BD: Take a look at last night’s starters and closer: Sixty percent of them (Posada, Cano, Jeter, Gardner, Pettitte, and Rivera) are players developed by the Yankees farm system.

      This is an argument commonly used by Yankees fans to defuse the payroll issue. If these great players had come up through a mid- to small-market team do you really think they would all still be on that team? The bottom line is that with the exception of the Phillies the Yankees more than double the payroll of the teams that have made the play-offs.
      I do agree that the Yankees are a well-run organization but are they really that much better run historically than say the Cards? This is fangraphs – does magic and mystique explain the 27 to 10 championships disparity? Logic points to another word that starts with M.

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      • Rex Manning Day says:

        This is a side issue, but only 7 of the Yankees’ WS championships have come in the free agency era. In 1974, the Yankees already had 20 championships under their belt (the Cardinals had 8). Magic and Mystique probably wasn’t responsible for that disparity, but neither was Money.

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      • BD says:

        Another way of looking at that is, even though the Yankees have by far the largest payroll, there are still 7 other teams competing in the LDSs. The Yankees’ money didn’t prevent the Rays from edging out the Yankees for a division title. It didn’t keep small market teams like the Twins and Cincy from getting into the playoffs, etc. By the nature of the game and the league, it is impossible for 1 team to monopolize the good players. (a) There’s a draft in which lower ranked teams draft first. (b) Players are under the control of the teams that drafted them for 6 years (barring a trade or something). (c) Injuries and the vagaries of player development and performance makes it impossible to be sure that a player signed through FAgency will actually perform as advertised (see Pavano, Burnett, and about a million other examples in between those two). (d) A single team like the Yankees can only have 25 players on its MLB roster; therefore, you can’t hoard players no matter how much money you have to spend. Once the NYY got Teixeira, for example, they put themselves out of the 1B FA market for about 7 or 8 years. (e) There are plenty of teams that COULD spend a lot more money on payroll if they wanted to, but they choose not to. Some are in less competitive divisions and just don’t want to invest the cash in order to marginally increase their playoff prospects.

        I could go on, but you get the point (hopefully).

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      • Onbekend says:

        @ Rex Manning Day
        Actually the issue of money goes well beyond the free agency era. The trading deadline was brought into effect in the 20’s to restrain high-flying New York teams (not just the Yanks) from stocking up for the post-season. The big story of the 1950 Series was DiMaggio’s $100K salary. Branch Rickey voiced his concern about the concentration of money amongst a few wealthy teams as early as 1918 (don’t quote me on the date I don’t have Lowenfish’s book with me here at work). But even if you don’t buy this what do you think explains the disparity? The Cards had/have a great organization and yet the Yankee record is head and shoulders better.

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      • Onbekend says:

        @ BD
        I think Joe Posnanski’s article (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/joe_posnanski/11/05/yankees.payroll/index.html) addresses some of your points – at least far better than I can – lol. I guess the big question is that if it isn’t money what does explain the Yankees record? I’m willing to admit that they may have a better organization than the Cards but can it be that much better? BTW for full disclosure I’m not a Yankees hater or Cards fan – I’m a long suffering Bucs supporter.

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  12. Mike Fast says:

    The pitches to Berkman and Jeter that were clearly in the zone but called balls by Wendelstedt were the worst problems with his zone last night. Pitches off the rulebook outside edge are typically called strikes to LHB, so it’s not as if Pavano was getting something that umpires don’t usually give and batters don’t expect. The problem was that Wendelstedt was just horribly inconsistent last night, both in the zone and at the edges. Pavano got the worst of it in the zone, and Pettitte got the worst of it on the outside corner to LHB.

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  13. PTS says:

    MIN is 0 for the series with RISP (0 for10) which doesn’t help.

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    • chuckb says:

      Neither does the fact that the Yankees only had 4 swinging strikes against Pavano.

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    • NotDave says:

      It’s hard to get hits w/ RISP when the umpire is cheating at those very specific, important times. Conversely, it’s not hard for the Yankees to eventually succeed in those very same specific, important times when every Yankee batter knows he’s immune from the risk of taking strike three called. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen, either, unti the game has been decided and the umpire can safely resume to calling the game fairly to give useful idiots ammo to argue against the obvious.

      Yankees need Tex to hit a 2 run homer in the 7th? Easy. Just refuse to call any strikes for Crain, until eventually he hangs one.

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  14. Alan says:

    It is obvious that Pavano was getting balls of the plate called strikes. However, if you look at the other side of the plate, he wasn’t getting any strike calls, not even on pitches that were clearly in the zone. It looks like the umpire’s zone was just shifted to the left for Pavano, for whatever reason. It looks like he was pretty terrible for both pitchers, though.

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  15. mike N says:

    Here is the issue, just looking at the plots:
    Number of balls called strikes for Pavano = 10
    Number of balls called strikes for Pettitte = 0

    Number of strikes called balls for Pavano = 8
    Number of strikes called balls for Pettitte = 10

    This isn’t a matter of saying the reason the umpire blew the calls but the outcome is factual and obviously biased towards Pavano. The American Idol got 10 extra strikes compared to Pettitte, and Andy had 2 extra balls called compared to Pavano. Simple.

    Next time this point is made, the plots would be interpreted easier with only called balls and strikes…..

    Nice Job Joe!

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  16. Sammy says:

    Pavano got an extra inch off the plate, chalk it up to the unsaid effects home field advantage.

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  17. CircleChange11 says:

    All of this talk reminds me of the playoff game where Livan Hernandez and Eric Gregg combined to fan something like 12 Braves. I say combined because they worked in perfect tandem. Livan threw balls out of the zone and Gregg played charades of Naked Gun and was ringing everyone up with fervor and panache.

    That was one of the few times where I felt one team was just getting jobbed.

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  18. B N says:

    Sorry guys, I’m going to have to throw you all out of the game for arguing balls and strikes. Nothing personal.

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  19. Mike says:

    This thread is a bit strange, especially considering Fangraphs generally has more intelligent conversations than fan threads. It’s obvious the plate umpire called a bad game on both sides, with Pavano benefitting overall more than Pettitte on the number of calls, but getting screwed on a key call. It’s also obvious the Yankees have been the better team over the first two games.

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    • NotDave says:

      “Pavano benefitting.” LOL. Wake me the next time a Yankee hitter takes a called third strike in a key situation. Wake me the next time a Twin hitter ISN”T rung up in a key situation.

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  20. Risto says:

    It would be extremely difficult to find any appreciable contigent of Yankees fans who deemed Lance Berkman, a minor, low-risk trade deadline acquisition, the worst acquisition ever. This view is particularly unlikely to generate in light of the Carl Pavano’s, Kei Igawa’s, and Javier Vasquez’s fans have suffered. So obviously the author’s characterization is a stale form of hyperbole and stereotyping regarding “fickle” Yankees fans. Never let the facts get in the way of a good argument, I suppose.

    Also, Joe’s assessment of the perception of Curtis Granderson is wrong. Fans reaction to his struggles was notable in how downkey it was. He struggled fairly anonymously, not subject to any serious malign. 0-2, Joe.

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  21. Josh says:

    I scanned through, and not sure if this was brought up, but one of the things that is important to realize is that the umpire stands on the inside corner of the plate. He has to look over the catchers shoulder so the umpires always are trained to stand over the inside corner. Which means by default they get an up close straight on angle of pitches over the inside corner, but don’t get quite as good a look at pitches on the outside corner. Historically for this reason, inside strikes are usually stingier and outside strikes are usually a bit looser, but that is where the most amount of error based on visual perception is. I would be curious if the data were shown per LHB/RHB if this is what we would notice.

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