Wednesday, May 7, 2008


On Friday, May 9, 2008, The New York Yankees will send Kei Igawa, the organization's $46 million dollar albatross, into the Tigers' den, to be, in all likelihood, bludgeoned and devoured.

Indeed, the most salient folly of Cashman's reign as plenary GM started 12 games in 2007 and with minor exception, flopped in every one. In those 12 games, Igawa threw 60.6 innings. His number appear below.
  • 47 earned runs
  • 74 hits
  • 33 walks
  • 14 Home Runs
  • 53 Keis
  • WHIP = 1.77
  • ERA = 6.98
  • Quality Starts (6 innings allowing 3 or less runs) = 1

His one quality start occurred on April 18 against Cleveland, throwing 6 innings of 2 run ball.

He registered another quality performance, however, in a memorable quasi-start on April 28 against Boston. Julio Lugo's lead-off hit in the 1st inning broke Jeff Karstens's leg. A batter later, Kei Igawa relieved the very pitcher who just had supplanted him from the starting rotation, and pitched 6 shut-out innings of 2 hit, 4 walk baseball. After which, David Ortiz, with all the charitable grace of a self-proclaimed Idiots, appraised Igawa's perfomance, as follows, "He was all right. Nothing special." Was bin-Papi being petty or prophetic? In his next outing, Igawa surrendered 8 runs in all of four innings.

In fact, in the 8 starts Igawa made after 04/28, he lasted into the 6th inning precisely ONCE, on June 30 against Oakland, in a game in which he allowed 4 earned runs, 3 of which homeruns produced.

Igawa's numbers at AAA Scranton hardly impress either, neither in 2007, nor in 2008. In fact, his 2008 stats roughly approximate his 2007 AAA numbers, over about one-half the sample size.

  • 2007- AAA- 11 GS-- 68.1 IPs, 3.69 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 10 HRs, 6.2 Innings per start
  • 2008- AAA- 7 GS-- 39.2 IPs, 3.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 3 HRs, 5.6 Innings per start

So how often do the Yankees promote starters who register little better than a prosaic 4.00 ERA in AAA? Well, one hopes not often. So why has Igawa earned this rare indulgence? Is it the $21 million posting the Yankees paid for his free-agent rights and $4 million dollar annual salary due him each season through 2011?


Here's perhaps an instructive comparison. Take the respective struggles that led the Yankees to demote Ian P. Kennedy in 2008 and Igawa in 2007. After all, Igawa earns $4 million; the Yankees pay IPK the league minimum. As it happens, the Yankees demoted them within almost one year of each other. The Yankees optioned IPK on May 3, 2008; Igawa, on May 7, 2007. More uncanny still is the similarity in the stats they posted beforehand.

Before his demotion on May 3, Ian Kennedy's 2008 numbers as an MLB starting pitcher were as follows:

  • 5 GS, 23.7 IPs, 8.37 ERA, 2.02 WHIP, 1 HR, Avg. Innings Per Start = 4.74

Before his demotion on May 8, Kei Igawa's 2007 numbers as an MLB starting pitcher were as follows MLB statistics were as follows (the first without the quasi-start against Boston, the second with):

  • 5GS, 24.1IPs, 10.08 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 8 HR, Avg. Inning Per Start = 4.82
  • 6GS, 30.1 IPs, 7.63 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 8HR, Avg. Inning per Start= 5.02

Not only do the numbers differ very little, excluding the Karstens' start, Igawa's and IPK's numbers bear an striking resemblance. The parallel here implies that far from money animating the Yankees' decision-making, the pitchers' ineptitude largely dictated the Front-Office's decision. Performance, at the very least, would appear to supersede money as the guiding index.

On the other hand, what about at the opposite end of the continuum? Did money influence Igawa's promotion in 2008? Once again, a comparison, albeit conversely, with the successs IPK enjoyed before the Yankees promoted him in 2007, illuminates.


Before the Yankees tapped IPK for his major league debut on September 1, 2007, IPK had excelled so effortelessly in A-ball the Yankees promoted him from single-A to triple A within a single season. (Much like Joba.) As a consequence, IPK didn't amass a represenative number of starter innings in any one level (63IP in Single-A Tampa, 48IP in Trenton, 34IP in Scranton) Still, the last of these figures sheds light on the question because Ian Kennedy's 2007 inning totals in Scranton before the Yankees elevated him roughly mirror the number of inning Igawa will have accumulated in Scranton before he starts against Detroit this Friday.

  • 2007-IPK (Scranton)- 6 GS, 34.2 IPs, 2.08 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 2HRs, 5.7 Innings per start
  • 2008-Kei (Scranton)- 7 GS, 39.2 IPs, 3.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 3 HRs, 5.6 Innings per start

IPK's numbers are considerably better than Igawa's, it seems, but not drastically better. Money could account, in this instance, for the Yankees' readiness to promote Igawa, despite his mediocrity, but the sample size is too sample and the differential too narrow, to draw a definitive conclusion.

In fact, with Alan Horne on the DL, Jeff Marquez foundering, and McCutchen still in AA, the case of the most seasoned alternative to Kei Igawa, only blurs matters. His name is Steven White. Over the last two years White has compiled almost as many starter innings in Scranton as Igawa has. Compare,

  • White- (07-08), 21 GS, 124.4 IPs, 3.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, Avg. Innnings per Start = 5.92
  • Igawa-(07-08), 18 GS, 107.3 IPs, 3.77 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, Avg. Innings per Start = 5.96

They're almost identical. White has a slightly lower ERA and has ceded fewer home runs, 7, to Igawa's 13, but otherwise neither especially recommends himself over the other.


Now, because the Yankees generate the most revenue in baseball, their detractors and assorted cynics, invariably, will attribute their every motive to the all-mighty dollar. To explain why the Yankees have promoted Kei Igawa, for example, a starter who has foundered consistently in the major leagues, they will look no further than the $4 million he earns: i.e., $3 million more than any other pitcher in the Yankees' farm system, and will surmise that the Yankees are desperate to salvage a scintilla of value from an otherwise $46 million dollar waste.

However, the above statistical examples, anecdotal to be sure, would paint a far more intricate picture. They appear to compel the conclusion, rather, that money only exercises perceptible influence when all else is equal; all else meaning, above all, the player's performance.

That is, Igawa's $4 million a year salary no more kept him in the Yankees' 2007 rotation when he struggled than IPK's league minimum salary secured when he faltered in 2008. Performance dictated the organization's decision regarding each; ineptitude consigned them to the minors.

On the other hand, when the need for a starter from AAA arose, money may have played some unquantifiable role in the Yankees decision to promote Igawa instead of White because their performances otherwise parallel each other. Unquanitifiable because Igawa's experience in having actually pitched in the major leagues before, among other factors, just as easily may have accounted for his selection over White.

Regardless, it's likely the Tigers lineup would ravage any of minor leaguers the Yankees could choose to oppose them on Friday. But by expending high-priced cannon fodder now, perhaps, the Yankees secure time to develop their more promising and potent weapons for the future.

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