A few weeks back, the Yankees loss to the Indian’s Josh Tomlin prompted The Captain’s Blog (please excuse the obligatory reference in the “third blog”) to take a look at how the Yankees have fared (since 2000) against pitchers making their major league debut. That inspection revealed a level of futility that matched a general perception held by those who have followed the team closely over the last 10 years.
Another frequent lament of Yankees’ fans is the team also underperforms against pitchers it is facing for the first time. As evidence of this undeniable truth, the Yankees current two game losing streak was suffered at the hands of the Royals’ Bryan Bullington and the Tiger’s Max Scherzer, both of whom were facing the Bronx Bombers for the first time.
A look inside the Yankees’ 2010 performance once again reveals that this common perception is dead on the money. In 10 games against pitchers making their first start against the team, the Yankees are an abysmal 3-7 (see chart below). Those pitchers have not only beaten the Yankees, but pretty much dominated by pitching to an ERA of 3.17 with an average Game Score of 57.1, including five outings above 60.
So, it seems as if another myth has been proven true. But wait. How far back does this trend go? In the analysis of the Yankees record against rookies making their debut, the period of struggles extended back until at least 2000. Unfortunately, the small sample size (11 starts) rendered any conclusion far from meaningful, and that included one more game than this year’s performance against pitchers facing the Yankees for the first time. Clearly, a deeper look is required.
Going back to 2000, 233 pitchers have faced the Yankees for the first time in their careers, finally providing a sample meaningful enough to settle the issue once and for all. And, sure enough, this more in-depth look also paints a picture of futility, but this time not on the part of the Yankees. Instead, it is the first timers who take a beating. Beginning with Scott Schoeneweis’ debut on April 5, 2000 and ending with Scherzer’s victory last night, pitchers taking the mound against the Yankees for the first time have compiled a ghastly 90-143 (.399 winning percentage) record with a 5.40 ERA and average Game Score of 44.7. Now, that’s more like it. Myth debunked.
Record of Pitchers Facing the Yankees for the First Time*
*Based on first appearance against the Yankees within the first 50 starts of a pitcher’s career. Pitchers facing the Yankees for the first time after 50 career starts were not included in this analysis.
Undoubtedly, Yankees fans are probably scratching their heads over such numbers. After all, just about every pinstripe loyalist would swear they can’t be right. Then again, maybe the struggles in “first time” games are a more recent phenomenon, perhaps confined to the Joe Girardi era? Again, no such luck. Since 2008, pitchers facing the Yankees for the first time are 30-38 (23-35 excluding 2010) with an ERA of 4.57 and an average Game Score of 47.8.
Sometimes, the negatives overshadow the positives, and the shocking leave a more lasting impression than the expected. So seems to be the case with regard to the Yankees’ performance against pitchers staring down the barrel of the Bronx Bombers for the first time. Hopefully, Yankees’ fans can now rest a little easier the next time the team faces a new name.