Thursday, April 29, 2010

Have The Yanks Over Or Underachieved So Far?

Good morning, Fackers. Through the first 1/8 of the season, the Yankees have won at a 65% clip, which, if continued throughout the entire season would net them 105 wins. Not too shabby, right?

Well, Darren Everson from the Wall Street Journal sees a bunch of guys who are well off their career numbers and determines that the Yanks haven't been that impressive:
The Yankees are hiding a dirty little secret: This team, despite its 13-7 record, actually hasn't played all that well.

We don't just mean over the past week, which saw them lose four of five before their 8-3 victory over the woeful Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night. We mean period.

...In total, there are probably 13 players on the 25-man roster who would be happy with their numbers if they maintained them all season. Yet not only are the Yankees playing .650 baseball, there's a feeling around the sport that this team is virtually certain to reach the postseason. Never mind that the Tampa Bay Rays, another team in the Yankees' division, have raced off to a 16-5 start.

This all means one of two things: Either the Yankees are going to be really scary once they get their individual acts together, or they're actually fortunate to be in the position they're in right now.
There are certainly guys on the Yankees who are struggling, but as a team they are balanced out by players who are performing better than expected. The Yanks' run differential aligns evenly with their actual record, so I disagree with Everson's implication that they "haven't played that well".

He names Mark Teixiera, Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez are the prime Yankee underachievers and I think we can all agree that those guys are sure to improve as the season wears on. But the Yanks are also getting outstanding contributions from a lot of players that aren't likely to be maintain them once sample sizes start catching up to them.

Robinson Cano is hitting a scalding .390/.430/.701. He has 6 homers and 15 RBIs, paces that would add up to 48/120 for an entire season. Those aren't completely out of the question, but even the most ardent Cano supporters would settle for much less. Jorge Posada is at .316/.400/.649, a line that will be atrophied as the season wears on and he logs more innings behind the plate. Nick Swisher has a 140 OPS+ whereas the highest mark of his career is 129. Frankie Cervelli (185 OPS+) and Marcus Thames (240) have both contributed valiantly in their limited roles and will return to earth as they are given more and more chances.

On the pitching side of things, even with Vazquez's terrible start, the rotation has a 3.50 ERA. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have been outstanding, with ERAs of 1.29 and 2.00, respectively. CC Sabathia is off to a great start. If A.J. Burnett could keep his mark around 3.20, it would be the lowest of his career. The bullpen has had some bad moments but overall, they've combined for a 4.30 ERA.

The only DL stint served by a Yankee player has been the one by Chan Ho Park and he's probably the 20th most important player on the team. It'd be nice if everyone was healthy all year long, but we know that's not going to happen.

I think the last paragraph of the quote from Everson's piece is a false dichotomy. Over any 20 game stretch of a season, individual players are going to be producing above, at or below what their numbers for the year turn out to be. However, when you combine everyone's production together, it typically evens out. When Teixeira, Johnson and Vazquez get their acts together, Posada, Cano and Pettitte will be returning to earth. The Yanks have played well so far, even if a few key players haven't.


  1. Great points, Jay. I also think Everson should consider the Yankees' schedule thus far. They have had some tough competition on the road in a month several of their key players traditionally struggle in. Even if one weren't considering run differentials, why do 3 struggling players equate to the team underachieving. To your point, you could just as easily reply with the team is WAY overachieving because Gardiner, Cervelli, and Thames are playing great. That line of reasoning sounds pretty anecdotal to me.

    Also, I believe Cano has 6 homers thus far. And I think 35-40 homers / 110-120 RBI are totally in his realm of ability. Hopefully, he reaches his potential.

  2. Really enjoyed your argument...makes me feel better about the team!

  3. Thanks for the catch, Matt. Probably should have got that right considering I mentioned that it was his 6th of year in the recap from last night. It's fixed now.