Where have you gone, Ramiro Mendoza?

I had a guest spot today on Pete Abraham’s blog.

I had to keep the post under 500 words, which proved to be very difficult. The question I pose is this: The Yankees pitching has had a lot of trouble in the past few seasons. The Yankees seem to bring in the best talent available and yet these players always seem to fail. So who is at fault, Joe Torre or simply the pressures of playing in New York?

In the LoHud piece, I focus mainly on the bullpen, but the problem has been pitching, period.

A few points I had to cut out of my piece:

  • A look at the Yankees team ERA under Joe Torre shows that it trended downward and was definitely mediocre 2004 and beyond (see, it’s not all A-Rod’s fault!) :

    1996 4th
    1997 1st
    1998 1st
    1999 2nd
    2000 6th
    2001 3rd
    2002 4th
    2003 3rd
    2004 6th
    2005 9th
    2006 6th
    2007 8th
  • As far as starters go, let’s look at the stat-lines for a couple of notable players, using their ERA+. The numbers are listed sequentially, seasons underlined were played in NY, otherwise elsewhere (if you’re unfamiliar with ERA+, 100 is league average and above that is good while below it is poor): Randy Johnson (177, 112, 90), Javier Vazquez (139, 92), Kevin Brown (169, 110, 65), Jeff Weaver (123, 73). I realize that this is statistical “cherry-picking.” However, I think that I am again just reinforcing what everyone believes to be true. How many pitchers can you think of who came to New York and thrived in the past 7 years?
  • To Torre and his staff’s credit, the Yankees aren’t the only ones having problems. Boston has had similar cases, as recently as Eric Gagne, where a pitcher came in to the Boston “pressure-cooker” and pretty much imploded.
  • I can’t take any analyst seriously when they break down bullpens primarily because every year some bullpen is talked up as being the class of baseball (and often has the numbers to prove it) but I can’t help but think if it was theoretically “moved” to NY, it would fail spectacularly.
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