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Bob Geren’s Coincidence

July 22, 2011

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle had an article today that talked about the upcoming series that begins tonight in the Bronx. In the article he highlights that the A’s are presently on a ten-game losing streak versus the vaunted lineup of the New York Yankees. In the article he talked about how Bob Geren described the A’s struggles as just a coincidence. Is it, or is Oakland’s performance statistically telling?

The last time the A’s beat the Yankees in a season series was 2007, when they won four of six from the Bombers. Since then it hasn’t been nearly as positive for the A’s as they went on to go 4-24 against the Yankees from 2008 until present day. Bill James has a method called the log5 to find out how well a team should perform versus any other given team. Using this calculation, we learn that the A’s between 2008 and today should be around a .380 team against the Yankees (roughly an 11-17 record) instead they have been a  .143 team. Some of this can be attributed to just crappy luck (or one could argue the A’s manager as there have been many people who feel the difference between an actual team’s record and a team’s Pythagorean record is reflective of their manager) as the A’s have a Pythagorean record of  6-22 (still dismal, and still well below where they should be in a simple Team A vs. Team B type unbiased analysis). Regardless, the statistical likelihood of Oakland winning just 4 of 28 encounters with the Yankees is 0.5% – yet they have done just that.

So why is it that the A’s have done so poorly against the Yankees? Curt Schilling famously said in perhaps one of the greatest baseball quotes of my lifetime, when asked about the mystique and aura surrounding the Yankees prior to the 2001 World Series,

“When you use the words ‘mystique’ and ‘aura,’ those are dancers in a nightclub, those are not things we concern ourselves with on the ball field.”

But is that mystique and aura somehow a roadblock to the A’s success? I don’t think it is. While the old Yankee Stadium was very friendly to left-handed pull hitters, the new Yankee Stadium is friendly to any hitter, and the Oakland offense just hasn’t brought it since 2006. Oakland has had solid pitching but the Yankees have usually had average to good pitching with an out of this world offense. The lack of balance disproportionately effects the A’s when playing a team with so many methods of attack like New York.

For Oakland to win in New York this weekend, they need to pitch well as they always do, but like many people have said time and time again over this edition of the A’s, you can’t expect to constantly win 1-0 games, and the Yankees are just not a team that oftentimes goes out and scores a lone run, especially at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have scored none or one run in only 11 ballgames this year (they have played 96) and five of these games have come at Yankee Stadium. Interestingly, Yankee Stadium (1.056 – 11th) isn’t that far off from O.co Coliseum (1.013 – 13th) in terms of park factor for runs. The thing that is noteworthy however is how the run scoring is different and in one respect it is widely different: home runs. Yankee Stadium, is a home run hitter’s paradise, fourth best in the league at 1.325. Oakland and the thick marine layer? A surprisingly high 17th but at a home run suppressing .911. The Yankees can hit home runs, the A’s can’t. Geren, it is no coincidence, this will be a tough series.

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