Monday, August 31, 2009

A Good Weekend, But Not Good Enough For Some

Rise and shine, Fackers. I know it's Monday, but the good weekend that was in Yankeeland should help soften the blow. They managed to get in all three games without so much as a delay despite a tropical depression lurking just off the coast in the Atlantic which prevented some complications later in the season. Although the Yanks struggled in their first meeting with the White Sox in Chicago, they swept this three game set and might have dealt the final blow to the Pale Hose' playoff hopes for this year.

After surrendering the lead in a dramatic 7th inning on Friday, the Bombers got a walk off, homer from Robinson Cano, with runners in scoring position, no less. Saturday played host to an offensive explosion and a stellar pitching contribution from the most unlikely of places. You can't tell just by looking at the final score, but Sunday's game was more similar to Friday's than Saturday's in that it was hotly contested. The Yanks held on tight until the bottom of the seventh inning and only after that did their offense finally take over.

In their past 9 games (dating back to the beginning of the Red Sox series), the Yanks have scored an average of 8 runs per game, which has allowed them to go 6-3 during that stretch against three teams that were all in Wild Card contention when it began despite allowing almost 6 against.

Steve at Was Watching, however, is not impressed. Yesterday, he noted that the Yankees are "only" 33-30 when playing a team with a record at or above .500 and even goes as far as to label the post "possible bad news". The point of the article was apparently to insinuate that the Yankees are doomed in the playoffs:
...but, I'm thinking ahead to the post-season, for the Yankees. And, there will be no Blue Jays, A's, Orioles, Twins or Mets for the Yankees to play in October. Most likely, New York will have to deal with Detroit or Texas in the ALDS and then face someone like the Angels, Red Sox or Rays in the ALCS (should the Yankees advance past the ALDS for the first time since 2004). And, that’s a horse of another color, no?
Well yes, the postseason is different than the regular season. But the rest of that argument? Yikes. Where to begin?

How about the fact that the Twins, who Steve lumped in with the "losing" teams, as a result of winning ONE GAME, are now at .500, swinging the Yankees record from 33-30 to 40-30 against these teams, which is now the best in the AL. So his post went from spurious to irrelevant in roughly 5 hours.

Just because it's listed in a column on Baseball-Reference doesn't make it a useful stat. Aside from the perfect example provided by the Twins above (which could have been prevented by removing their 0-7 record against the Yanks), there are plenty of good reasons not to take much stock in team's play against other squads with "winning records".

For one, the teams are divided based on their cumulative record for the season, which for various reasons doesn't always accurately reflect their strength at various points within it. For instance, the Yankees took 5 of the 6 games they played against the Mets this year, but going into that 6th game, the Mets were 37-36. Now, after putting $85M on the DL, they are a shell of their former selves and 13 games below .500 so it looks like the Yankees were beating up on a cupcake.

A while back, (actually while debunking a piece on that claimed having a losing record against teams over .500 was actually a good thing) we determined that the average winning percentage against teams over .500 is around .430. This means that an average team would be 27-36 against teams with winning records through 63 games. Using that as a benchmark, even the 33-30 Steve was working with is quite a healthy showing.

As we have more recently discussed, the fine folks as Baseball Prospectus have studied what makes a team likely to succeed in October and at no point was the team's record against opponents with winning records even factored into the equation.

For better or for worse, over the next month, more and more emphasis is going to be placed on the Yankees odds in the postseason. There will be countless theories proposed about why the Yanks are poised to return to World Series glory or be bounced in the first round. The truth is that there are a myriad of variables that will ultimately determine how they fare, and the most important one is luck.

No comments:

Post a Comment