Looks on in yesterday's game seeing his good performace fall by the wayside (Photo: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

How Do The Yankees Fare Against Staff Aces?


I’m throwing out advanced statistics in favor of some lighter reading today. It’s an off-day for the Yankees today, you’re probably a zombie after the Fourth of July festivities, and the All-Star game is coming up in less than a week. So, on the heels of facing Tampa Bay Rays’ ace, David Price, I thought it would be a good idea to see how the Yankees have performed against their opponents’ staff aces, plus a handful of other pitchers who I consider “all-star caliber”. We may not agree on the pitchers used, but you can’t ignore the results. So without further ado, let’s get started.

The Yankees have faced the aforementioned Price four times this season, including yesterday’s game. In those games their record stands at 2-2, but let’s be honest, Price pitched well enough to win the game yesterday with a seven-inning performance only allowing one run on four hits, while surrendering two walks, and striking out eight. But, hey, them’s the breaks.

They say that during the playoffs, aces cancel each other out (questionable logic) and it’s up to the depth of the pitching staff to get the team through. I’m assuming we can deduce from said logic, that if your team has .500 or better record against staff aces, then they should be doing pretty well, considering they have quality pitchers on the back end (bullpen included). Below I’ve included a chart with all of the games I thought were against staff aces, pitchers having a good year, and/or pitchers with decent track records against the Yanks. You’ll see a major omission in James Shields, and honestly, can we really put any of the Boston Red Sox pitchers on here right now? Oh well, Shields hasn’t pitched all that great against the Yankees anyway, neither have the Sox. Take a look:

The Yankees pitchers you see on the right are the starters, it doesn’t exactly mean they actually recorded the win that game, only that they started it. So what information can we take from this? In the 19 games shown above against excellent pitchers, the Yankees are 10-9, which follows with the “aces cancel each other out” axiom. However, a closer look reveals both Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes are 3-3 in games they start against their opponents ace, while CC Sabathia is 2-2. I’m sure that’ll fuel the fire that states that Sabathia is a mediocre ace, but then again, I’m sure those “fans” look for anything to discredit him.

Furthermore, they are 6-6 in games decided by three or fewer runs. They are also 8-1 in these games when they hit a home run (surprise!). Meanwhile, the opposing starter has completely shut down the Yankees offense only twice, Jeremy Hellickson‘s first start and Yu Darvish‘s start against Kuroda (tough luck loser that night) in late April. The Yanks are also making pitchers throw strikes or else, as they have coaxed three or more walks in eight of those 19 games, so their MO at the plate doesn’t change.

I think my favorite lines on the chart are Justin Verlander‘s. In both instances, the reigning MVP and Cy Young award winner has given up two home runs in each start en route to losses. In those outings he’s pitched 12.1 innings, giving up 16 hits, 10 runs (seven earned), surrendering four walks, and striking out only eight. Not very Cy Young-like.

So here we are, with the Yankees currently holding at 49-32 and five games up on the Baltimore Orioles. As stated before, 10 of those wins are against the best pitching the MLB has to offer. The Yanks are holding their own, and now more than ever, they’ll need Ivan Nova, Hughes, and Kuroda to keep the ship steady while CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte make their way back.

So it’s time for you to weigh in: Do the Yanks have what it takes to remain around .500 against staff aces? With the hitting now heating up, do you expect them to start pounding aces or fall back into their #RISPfail ways? Can Hughes and Kuroda hold their own against staff aces? Let us know!

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference

*Jered Weaver‘s start against the Yankees was cut short due to injury, it shouldn’t really count, but hey he gave up a few runs before he left, so I’m counting it!

Tags: Andy Pettitte CC Sabathia David Price Detroit Tigers Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Justin Verlander New York Yankees Phil Hughes Tampa Bay Rays Yankees

  • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

    Throw out advanced statistics???? BLASPHEMY!
    In all seriousness, great article, and I think a great starting point for maybe a more in-depth look at whether a team’s performance against aces in the regular season affects their postseason success.
    I also think the Yankees are definitely capable of beating aces, now and in the playoffs. Everyone makes such a big deal about how the reliance on home runs doesn’t work against aces, but looking at that chart, it seems like the Yankees have had no problem hitting home runs. If they can consistently hit home runs against Verlander and Price, they can hit home runs, and win, against anyone.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      Matt, thank you for the kind words. I think this article does lend itself toward a more in-depth look using advanced statistics. coughMATTcough

      All told, I think the Yankees have done a great job against staff aces, and they’re doing it with their second, third, and fourth starters, not their own ace. Combined Kuroda, Hughes, and Nova have pitched 13 of the 19 games, while Sabathia has only pitched four. If that gives the Yanks a 10-9 record, I’ll take it as it kind of eases my nervousness a tad with Sabathia and Pettitte out.

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