May 14, 2008
BASEBALL: What Ails The Yankees?
A quick look here at what's wrong with the Yankees, from a Win Shares angle - you'll recall that my EWSL method had the Yanks pegged before the season as having 89 wins worth of talent, which would translate to 101 wins if they got a typical number of Win Shares from players beyond the 23 guys I rated before the season.
So if they keep up their pace through the first 40 games, here's how those 23 guys would finish up, compared to their preseason EWSL:
As you can see, while guys like Giambi and Mussina have gotten a fair amount of grief, they are not doing too badly given the low expectations EWSL had for them before the season. Giambi's on a pace for 28 homers, 89 walks and 81 RBI, even with his ugly .194 batting average; if he can hit .240, he'll have done basically what's expected of him, while Mussina's actually righted the ship enough to be exceeding his EWSL, much unlike Pettitte. The catastrophic failure of Cano (.183/.237/.303) and injuries to A-Rod and Posada have been the big factors, as well as Ensberg's failure to step up when opportunity knocked and Hughes' and Kennedy's early failures. Jeter's decline, masked by a good batting average, has been a smaller contributor. Note that Win Shares also penalized players who don't perform in the clutch - besides being hurt, A-Rod is batting .130/.259/.174 with runners in scoring position and .111/.273/.111 in the late innings of close games (neither of which has been a particular problem for him in prior years, including .333/.460/.678 with RISP last year).
I should add that the problem doesn't end there - the Yanks have 5 WS so far from the other 10 guys they have used so far (1 each for 6 guys and a -1 for Igawa), which would project to 20 WS, compared to 38.5 for an average team over the past few years. So the cavalry hasn't been riding to the rescue.
That's depressing. Hopefully we'll have a turn-around like last season.
Yankee fans have come to expect a red hot second half, as we see from MVH. However, a few things to point out:
Robinson Cano is a young player with an unproven history. His second half last year was of a level few can maintain.
ARod's numbers will rebound. Like David Wright, over a long season, the numbers will simply come about. Remember Jeter's swoon a few years ago? He couldn't hit his weight, but by the end, he has a normal year. Same with ARod. The problem is expecting anything over 70% of what he did last year. Now THAT is unreasonable. He joined Mantle and Ruth as the only players who led the entire majors in HRs, RBIs and Runs. Maybe Ted did it, I'm not sure, but he won't do that again, because nobody can.
You need pitching, or it doesn't matter. Joba came along, and now everyone expects someone to maintain a level that Walter Johnson couldn't maintain in the dead ball days. From a kid who pitched under 50 innings last year. Wang is as good as everyone knows he is, but the rest of the core is old, and getting older. The kids aren't ready yet. And Rivera needs leads to save games. He is really something.
Posada's loss is major, maybe the biggest. A good handler of pitchers, he had a great year last year, and the only catchers who had years like that, year after year were Berra, Cochrane and Piazza (maybe now all you doubters know why Piazza should be a Hall of Famer--what he did year after year was impossible). So when he comes back, he replaces a catcher who can't hit at all, not even a bit. And Posada cannot do what he did last year, since, unlike Piazza, he did NOT show an ability to be a leading offensive force every year. But a switch hitting catcher with pop? Hard to replace. The same, but with extensive playoff and leadership skills? Now you are in thin air.
Add to that a new/old Steinbrenner, sort of George 2.0 version 1980, a manager with little experience, and boy do you have a problem on your hands.
Thanks, Daryl. I needed that boost of optimism! Unfortunately, I can't disagree with you. The only thing more depressing than hearing "Now pitching, Kyle Farnsworth" with a one-run lead is hearing "Now batting, Jose Molina" with runners on base and two outs.
The Yankees need a good run of wins right now. I'd rather not wait for the second half.