The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Pinch hitting: Statistically Speaking

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Jan 31, 2009 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

January is traditionally a slow month for baseball news. So for the second year in a row, we will showcase other blogs with a series of pinch hitters.

Next up is Dan from Statistically Speaking.

Dan is a freshman business major at Cornell. He started blogging a few months ago and say his favorite player is Phil Hughes. Why? “Because he’s the man,” Dan said.

Here’s his post:


Brian Cashman is an idiot. There, now that I got that out of the way, let’s see if we can figure out what it means to take an honest look at evaluating a general manager. This means trades, free agent signings, drafts, and roster management. I’m not going to go trade by trade, and signing by signing telling you what Cashman did well or what he could have done differently. I’m not even going to say if I think he’s done a good job as GM of the Yankees. Why does my opinion matter more than anyone else’s? What I’m going to do is outline how such a debate should take place.

For the sake of space I’m going to focus on trades specifically, mostly because people love debating them. First and foremost, the most important part of evaluating any trade is to do the evaluation using only information available at the time. For a trade that just happened, such as the Swisher deal, this isn’t a problem. But if we’re looking back in time at, say, the Weaver-for Lilly-deal, then this becomes incredibly important. At the time, this was hailed as a steal for New York. Since the deal, however, various fans and members of the media have bashed the deal as another one of Cashman’s blunders. To paraphrase from U.S.S. Mariner, if the Yankees traded Jeter tomorrow for a can of Sprite, and next week Jeter tore his hamstring while the can of Sprite turned out to be delicious, that wouldn’t make that trade any better. No GM has a crystal ball (besides Theo Epstein, according to Red Sox fans), and it’s simply unfair to evaluate a decision based on information that was unknown at the time it was made.

Consciously or not, every fan has this equation in his or her head when declaring a “winner” for a trade:

(Value of assets acquired) – (Value of assets lost)

If you get a positive number, then you obviously made a good trade. What exactly goes into “value,” though? There are the obvious things like hitting, defense, and pitching, and then there are other considerations like contracts, service time, and team needs. These secondary factors make it possible for both teams to come out ahead. This has nothing to do with whether or not you subscribe to sabermetric principles, by the way. You can use numbers or not, it makes no difference to me, as long as every aspect of a trade is considered with the information known at the time.

So what if Nick Swisher hit .219 last season? Tell me about his contract, his service time, who else we got and who else we gave up. Using the outline above, I think the Yankees made a good deal. I know that if he’s out of baseball in three years, my opinion won’t change.

I hope this will help encourage everyone here participate in a more intelligent, well-reasoned debate.


Thanks, Dan. Intelligent, well-reasoned debate? Are you tying to kill my traffic? Just kidding.

Coming tomorrow: Jim from the Giambi Mustache Squad.




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