Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rough August, Rougher September, and Bautista is on Los Steroids

With last night's loss to the Blue Jays, the Yanks are now 12-12 in August. It's their worst month of the season, and Boston has now gained two games since the 1st. We can pinpoint a few reasons for the stretch of .500 ball:

1) Tough schedule: 6 against the Jays, 3 against the Sox, 1 against the Rays, 3 against the Rangers. That's 13 of 24 games against top-5 AL opponents.

2) Injuries: Losing Pettitte has hurt. Strangely enough, the Yanks have still outscored every team in the American League in August (116 runs). But the starters have come up wanting, and Andy's absence from the rotation has aggravated the problem.

3) Bad Luck: Our run differential in August is +23, meaning we've scored 23 more runs than we've allowed. Boston's is -1. Yet they're 14-10, we're 12-12. With that kind of healthy run differential (again, the best in the American League), we can reasonably expect to fare better than .500. It hasn't happened, and that's a shame, but the odds dictate that we'll soon be back to our winning ways. The Royals series was a great example of this 'bad luck.' The series was a split, and the two losses were both by a run. It's not that the Yanks aren't scoring; they're just not always scoring when they need to.

In this post, I showed that it's not crucial for a team to be world-beaters in August. It doesn't have huge predictive value on how they'll fare in the playoffs or the World Series. But let's see about September. Here are the records of every World Series team in the final month of regular season baseball (excluding the 2 or 3 games that happen in October):


Yankees: 19-9*^
Philadelphia: 17-13*


Tampa Bay: 13-14
Philadelphia: 17-8*^


Boston: 16-11
Colorado: 20-8*^


Detroit: 12-15
St. Louis: 12-16


Chicago: 17-12
Houston: 17-11*^


Boston: 18-10*
St. Louis: 16-12


New York: 18-9*
Florida: 18-8*


Anaheim: 18-9*
San Francisco: 18-8*

* - Win % was better than their overall season win %
^ - Best record in their league

So let's do a comparison between the August and September records of world Series teams since 2002.

Future World Series teams with a record .500 or worse:

August: 5
September: 3

Future World Series teams who underperformed by their season standard:

August: 9
September: 5

Future World Series teams that had 'exceptional' month-long runs (4 games or more over .500):

August: 8
September: 13

Future World Series champions with a record .500 or worse:

August: 3
September: 1

Total combined record of World Series-bound teams:

August: 265-187 (.586)
September: 266-173 (.605)

So it's evident that September is far more predictive of post-season success than August. That's to be expected, since it's important to peak late, and teams that excel in September are likely to carry that success over into October. Conversely, teams with a poor August are more likely to recover momentum in time for the playoffs than teams who have a poor September. An interesting anomaly is 2006, when both St. Louis and Detroit had losing records in August and September. That's the year, you might remember, when everyone thought the Yankees would kill Detroit in the divisional round, but Kenny Rogers started throwing spitballs and ruined our season.

Regardless, the good news is that the Yanks shouldn't fret too much about a 12-12 August record. The bad news is that September gets really, really tough. Check out the schedule, italics are road games:

2 Oakland, 3 Toronto, 3 Orioles, 3 Rangers, 3 Rays, 3 Orioles, 4 Rays, 3 Red Sox, 3 Blue Jays

27 games, and 18 of them (67%) are against good-to-great teams. 12 are on the road, including a rough 9-day trip. Now check out Tampa's September:

1 Toronto, 3 Orioles, 3 Red Sox, 3 Blue Jays, 3 Yankees, 3 Angels, 4 Yankees, 3 Seattle, 3 Orioles, 1 Royals

27 games, but only 14 against good-to-great teams, and 15 are on the road. Overall, their schedule is much easier, and with the AL East currently tied, the Yanks need to create some cushion in the next 6 days. Because if we're still tied when September 1st rolls around, smart money is on Tampa to take the division.

Last thing: two days ago, I got some crap in the comments for implying that Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays sluggers, was using PEDs. Of course I have no concrete evidence for this, but after looking at the stats, the evidence is pretty compelling. I'm actually more convinced than I was while writing that post, where the accusation was offhand and half-joking, that something's amiss.

Why Jose Bautista is a PED-Using Cheater

Don't worry, this will be quick. As of September 5th, 2009, here were Jose Bautista's career home-run numbers:

1,656 at-bats, 49 home runs. That's one home run every 34 at-bats.

At the time, he was 29 years old. Here's how he's fared in the year since that day:

540 at-bats, 50 home runs. That's one home run every 11 at-bats, and an average just shy 60 home runs for a full season.

You'll notice he's more than doubled his career home run total in just 6 months of baseball. And these are just his home run numbers. The rest of the power numbers, including OPS, are similarly out of proportion.

In other words, the guy was a mediocre journeyman his entire career, and suddenly, at age 30, he put together one of the greatest stretches of home run hitting in baseball history. And he did it in what everyone is calling the "year of the pitcher."

Yeah, nothing suspicious here. I'm sure Cito Gaston just gave him some good advice in the batting cage.

I give it less than a year before we know the truth.


  1. If he's on something like HGH we'll probably never know.
    It's not an unprecedented jump though. Carlos Pena's age 29 season was very similar, and Ibanez was on pace for a 60 HR season in 2009 until he went on the DL and then sucked. Those are just two off the top of my head.

  2. Actually, yeah, Cito HAS given Bautista quite a bit of advice re: his swing mechanics. FanHouse had a scout break down the changes here:

    Surely that, combined with his increased playing time and confidence at the plate, is the most likely explanation for Bautista's power surge in the absence of any evidence of PEDs use.

    Side note: How in the world could Bautista prove to baseball fans he's not on something anyway? It's impossible to prove a negative. These rumors will follow him for the rest of his life now, and if he's clean like he says he is, that's hardly fair.

  3. Nasty - Pena's 2007 was very, very good, and somewhat surprising, but it wasn't totally unprecedented. He hit 27 homers in '04, which was his only full year before '07, and 18 the year before. It looks injuries sidelined him in '05 and '06, so the sudden jump, while remarkable, isn't totally surprising...if he'd continued his career trajectory from '04, those numbers would be pretty expected.

    Ibanez was another guy who was always in the 20s and 30s for HR totals...again, '09 was a great year, but at least there was evidence that he was capable of it.

    Last year, Bautista had 3 home runs at the end of August. And that was in 227 at-bats, so it's not like he wasn't getting playing time. Unlike Ibanez and Pena, his career production was actually going down. At its absolute peak, in '06 and '07, he hit 16 and 15 home runs in seasons that were pretty full (400 and 532 ABs, respectively). Ibanez and Pena were anomalies in terms of how much they improved, but Bautista is like a friggin' miracle child or something. You have to look at known users like Brady Anderson to see anything that compares.

    Jarrod, I don't doubt that Cito has helped Bautista, and you're right, a guilty-until-proven-innocent outlook isn't really fair in any context. But baseball has brought that on itself, when you think about it. I love the game, but as a fan I feel I've been conditioned to at least be skeptical of bursts like the one Bautista made this year.

    In the end this will come down to a difference of opinion, and I'll admit that the last few games have made me look at JB from that skeptical place. But being totally honest, if something gigantic was at stake and I had to guess whether or not Bautista did anything illegal toward the end of '09 and stretching into this season, I'd guess yes.

    Which says nothing, really, just one Yankee fan's opinion.


  4. (And thanks to both for the comments, by the way, it's always nice to have intelligent baseball fans give their take...and thanks for the Fanhouse article, J, it was a good read.)