FIRE JOE MORGAN: Butterfly Flaps Wings; Yanks Win Six Straight


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Monday, June 11, 2007


Butterfly Flaps Wings; Yanks Win Six Straight

Coincidence? Not if you're Wallace Matthews, who believes that the Yankees' recent resurgence has one cause and one cause only: Jason Giambi's injury.

(And before I begin investigating this article, allow me to say, as a meta-critic of sports journalism, that the discovery of Newsday's Matthews has been, for me, equal to Darwin landing in the Galapagos Islands.)

[Giambi's] rehab is going as well as can be expected, he said. Another MRI is planned, but surgery is not an option because cutting would only make things worse. Yesterday, his treatment consisted mainly of sitting around waiting for his sore foot to heal... As far as the Yankees are concerned, Giambi should take as much time off as he needs.

For the record: Giambi was in a terrible funk right before his injury. Even still, he was at .262/.380/.436 for the year, with a .297 EqA. Not bad. Not everything you want from Giambi, but not bad.

The Curse of the Giambino descended upon Yankee Stadium in December 2001 and they haven't won a thing of importance since. Giambi may not be out of their lives, but he is out of their lineup, and what do you know? They win.

Other things that happened in December 2001: President Bush grants Permanent Trade Status to China. Riots erupt in Argentina. And of course, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah Al-Haj, Sultan of Selangor and 11th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, dies in office.

Each of these things has had roughly as much to do with the Yankees not winning the WS as Giambi signing with the Yankees.

Here are Giambi's season HR totals in his NY career: 41, 41, 12 (injured), 32, 37.

Here are his season EqA's: .351/.327/.262/.347/.332.

Steroids or not, (ok: steroids), Giambi is a world-class hitter. He walks all the time. He hits home runs. (He singlehandedly roided two of them out of the Stadium in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS from the 7-hole, keeping the Yankees in the game.) His illicit substance-ing has no doubt been a distraction for the team, but his on-field exploits far outweigh whatever negative effect that might have had.

Also: there is no such thing as a "curse."

Suddenly, October doesn't seem quite so bleak. There are plenty of factors to point to as reasons for this remarkable turnaround - the rejuvenation of Bobby Abreu, the return to his April form of Alex Rodriguez, who hit two homers and drove in five runs yesterday; the long-awaited arrival of Roger Clemens, who, we are told, inspires by his very presence even when he's not around.

Yes. These are all actual reasons. Also, the Yankees were pretty seriously under-performing their Expected Win-Loss prediction before the injury to Giambi, so it was only a matter of time before they went on a run like this. In fact, ExWL has them at 35-26, five games better than what they are now, so the run will most likely continue, if not immediately, then over the next month or so. They had a ton of guys slumping significantly below their career averages, like Cano and Abreu, who have been on fire recently.

And who, might I ask, "told you" that Roger "inspires by his very presence even when he's not around?" Have you been talking to Suzyn Waldman?

And then there is the absence of Giambi, the beginning of whose stint on the disabled list coincides almost exactly with the resurgence of his team. Call it coincidence or call it karma, but the Yankees, who were a far better team before Giambi's arrival in December 2001, are a measurably better team since his departure from the active roster 10 days ago.

Also coinciding almost exactly with the resurgence of Giambi's team, Dr. Kevorkian being released from jail.

I would also like to address the idea that the Yankees were, and I quote, just to rub it in, "a far better team before Giambi's arrival in December 2001." In order to address this, I will quote my own post of April 15th:

The payroll became more menacing after that, but the trophy has not returned. As the Yankees stocked up on Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, et al., they became less potent.

Incorrect. They became far more potent.

In 2000 they won 87 games and got to the WS from a very weak AL East. They scored 871 runs, allowed 814 .

In 2002, the first year with Giambi, they went 103-58. They scored 897 runs, allowed 697.

In 2003, they went 101-61. They scored 877 runs, allowed 716.

In 2004, the first year with Sheffield/ARod, they went 101-61 again, scored 897 runs, allowed 808.

In 2005, 95-67. Scored 886 runs, allowed 789.

In 2006, first year with Damon: 97-65. Scored 930 runs, allowed 767.

So. To sum up. More "potent" pretty much every year since 2000. Just haven't won the WS, due mostly to thinner pitching, better competition, and bad luck (esp. 2001, 2004).
In what universe can you claim that the Yankees were a "far better team" before Giambi arrived? Perhaps only in the universe where you point out that the Yankees' pitching was not as good after he arrived; a universe, I might add, that thanks to reason and logic, would indicate that the Yankees being "worse" in some way has nothing to do with Giambi, who has certainly helped the Yankees' offense.

Without the drag of Giambi, the Yankees' lineup is rolling again. In the 10 games Giambi has missed, Abreu has hit .500 (19-for-38) and raised his average 44 points to .272. In the same period, Melky Cabrera is hitting .378, A-Rod .371 with five homers and 18 RBIs, Jorge Posada .364, Robinson Cano .293, Miguel Cairo .292 and Hideki Matsui .282.

This is all due to Giambi not playing.

Abreu is a walking embodiment of the idea of "regression to the mean," given his career .313 EqA, the fact that he was hitting like .040 for the first two months, and the significant fact that he was still walking a lot even while not hitting, meaning that he had not lost his strike zone management. Or maybe it was Giambi going down that caused Abreu to start hitting.

And Cabrera...thanks to his incredible hot streak -- due entirely to Giambi going down with his injury -- he is up to a blistering .255 EqA, which is still shy of his 50th percentile PECOTA projection. Say it with me people: regression to the mean.

ARod is ARod. He hits like a motherhumper all the time. He was mediocre in May, and is knocking the hell out of the ball in June. This is 100% because of Giambi's foot injury, and not his decade-long demonstration of hitting dominance.

And Posada! My God! He is hitting .364 since Giambi went down?!? That is hugely significant, since he is hitting a paltry .358 for the entire season. (Also, if any of you can explain to me how an almost 36-year-old catcher has a .980 OPS this deep into the year, I would be much obliged.)

Robby Cano had an OPS more than 100 pts. below his career average through May. His torrid Giambi-induced hot streak has him...still below his career averages in most offensive categories. So he will probably keep hitting. Regression to the mean.

Miguel Cairo. Oh my God, you're citing Miguel Cairo's 7-24 June as an indication that Jason Giambi's injury is making the Yankees play better. That's 24 AB. And 7 hits. All of these batting averages you've cited -- besides being batting averages, which is a stupid stat -- are from really small sample sizes (around 40 AB or so) but this one takes the cake.

And finally , Matsui. He has hit .282 since Giambi went down! My goodness, that is interesting. You know what he was hitting before Giambi went down, in a much large sample size? .282, dummy. In fact, in the month of June, Matsui's slugging .371. He has 1 HR. His OBP is down. His power is down. He has gotten worse. So the question is: How can you cite his performance as evidence that Giambi going down is helping the team?

If you're going to claim that solar eclipses cause crops to grow, at least cite some crops that are actually growing.

The absence of Giambi has allowed Johnny Damon to DH, a role he likes, and get his legs healthy while Cabrera, a defensive upgrade over Damon, plays centerfield. And because of the regular at-bats, Cabrera has become the Melky of 2006.

The fact that Damon can DH might actually help, since he's been battling leg injuries. But you know what Damon has done so far in June? .262/.340/.333/.673. No HR. Worse across the board than May, when he was in the OF. And the phrase "Cabrera has become the Melky of 2006" sounds like bad Dr. Seuss. (The Melky of 2006 had a .272 EqA. The Melky of 2007 has a .255 EqA.)

In a culture in which a player will wear the same underwear for weeks if it has hits in it, that seems to be prima facie evidence that for the Yankees, the absence of Giambi has been addition by subtraction.

First of all, how dare you try to smarten up your article with Latin. Second, your underwear has hits in it. Third, all the superstition in the world can't change the fact that most of the guys you cited as doing better since Giambi went down with his injury are doing pretty much the same, or worse, or they are simply starting to hit after bad slumping. This, to me, is prima facie evidence that you are a moron, but, you know, de gustibus non est disputandum.

This should come as no surprise to Yankees purists, for whom the signing of the greasy-haired, tattooed captain of the bad-boy Oakland Athletics to a seven-year, $120-million contract signified the franchise's crossing over to the dark side. In his years as a Yankee, the postseason record stands at 19-22 with one World Series appearance, the six-game beatdown by the Marlins of Wal-Mart.

Why in the world would you blame this on Giambi, and not their pitchers? In exactly 100 Yankee post-season AB, Giambi has 28 H, 6 HR, 6 2B, and 19 BB. He rakes in the post-season, roughly like he does in the regular season. How about looking at Pettitte, Mussina, and Wells getting lit up by Anaheim in the 2002 ALDS, while Giambi went 5-14 with a HR and a .526 OBP? That series loss was Giambi's fault?

Dollar-for-dollar, win-for-win and ring-for-ring, Giambi probably is the worst deal the Yankees have ever made this side of Carl Pavano

Kevin Brown. Kyle Farnsworth. Johnny Damon, probably, by the time it's over. Matsui's new deal, probably, by the time it's over. There have been a lot of iffy deals. Giambi's isn't one of them.

Giambi, for on-field only reasons, was a good signing. I don't care if he's immobile and can't field. They signed him in his prime, the year after he had a .381 (!!!!) EqA. And yes, he was clearly on steroids, and yes, he was expensive, but nobody in baseball cared about steroids then, and the Yankees don't care about money.

and like it or not, they are stuck with him, to the tune of $47 million - $21 million each for this year and next, plus a $5-million buyout. The money they will eat. It's the losing they can't swallow.

Fortunately, the losing doesn't really have anything to do with him. And yes, he is expensive now vis-a-vis his performance, by they knew that would happen. This is what teams like the Yankees do -- they offer more years and more money and no-trade clauses, knowing the deals will be costly at the end of them, in order to out-bid teams who can't afford to take that financial hit.
For a long time, they suspected they were a better team with Jason Giambi on the DL than on the field. Now they've got the numbers to prove it.

No, they didn't, if they had a brain. And no, they don't now.

You wrote this ab absurdo. I end this analysis ab irato.

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