Season in Review: New York Yankees

A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.

Number Five New York Yankees

If you’ve been paying attention this week, you will have hopefully picked up that incredibly this is the fourth team from the AL East already listed within the top five teams. The Yanks check in with 91.1 projected wins by BaseRuns thanks to a much more balanced team than Toronto above them and more akin to the first three teams we saw. The Yankees posted the 7th best offense and 11th best defense in the league.

The offense rested on Alex Rodriguez and a surprising rejuvenation from Johnny Damon. Rodriguez gets too little credit for being probably the best overall hitter in the American League this season and as always when you have a team full of stars, the supporting cast was solid as well. Possibly free agents Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi both contributed excellent offensive seasons as well.

What did New York in on offense though was their players up the middle. Jorge Posas was hurt early on and Jose Molina was a poor substitute. Robinson Cano had a horrid April which was bad enough to drag his whole season line down the tubes. Derek Jeter had a big off year, recovering some in September after their playoff hopes were already dashed (though you won’t be hearing any words about Jeter only getting hits in meaningless situations) and center field was a nightmare as well.

On the pitching side, the rotation was a mess of injuries and ineffectiveness. On the plus side was the surprising Mike Mussina who succeeded despite a microscopic swinging strike rate, but he might retire. Joining him was Joba Chamberlain, but there are concerns about whether he will be able to stick in the rotation health-wise. Andy Pettitte was also solid enough as well.

On the negative side were injuries to Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes and dismal performances from Sidney Ponson (why?) and Carl Pavano. In the bullpen, amazingly this was one of Mariano Rivera‘s best seasons to date and further shows that nobody has any idea when he’s going to show signs of age or when or even if, batters will ever figure out his cutter.

How do the Yanks look for 2009? Well, they should be busy during the winter as usual and that takes a lot of the edge off but right now they have serious question marks up and down their rotation and a rapidly aging offensive core.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

7 Responses to “Season in Review: New York Yankees”

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  1. Joe Simas says:

    Mr. Carruth was clearly sleeping when he wrote this piece…he believes in what? Certainly not his eyes…not even very good on his beloved stats. A-Rod failed to deliver time and again when he was needed. Closing to within about 3 games heading into August, he banged into 11 DPs, many of which came in the midst of a rally…some ended games.

    A-Rod’s absence for much of May was nicely covered by Jeter who smacked the ball around hitting over .350 during Alex’ time on DL. Even in a bad season (I’ll give him that), he drove in nearly twice as many runs hitting in the 2-hole Close & Late than the guy Carruth hailed as the best overall hitter in the AL this season. Did he fall asleep at end of regular season in ’07? He had to be snoozing when Carmona fanned him twice in G2 of the ALDS with the game on the line. Set his alarm.


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  2. Double06 says:

    Repeatable skills, Joe. Repeatable skills.

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  3. Ray Cartagena says:

    Rodriguez *is* repeatedly bad in the clutch. Not usually this bad, and rarely bad enough to waste time writing about (except in the playoffs, and even then only as a Yankee), so needless to say nowhere near as bad as the press would have you believe, but that’s a matter of value vs. ability. If we’re talking ability, A-Rod tops the list. If we’re talking value…not so much. At least not this year.

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  4. Jonmo says:

    However if you want to compare the “clutchness” of A-Rod vs. Jeter, which in my opinion is an exercise in futility, wouldn’t you first look at the WPA that each hitter totaled since it takes into account leverage? (A-Rod 0.47, Jeter -0.03)

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  5. Jonmo says:

    I should clarify that I believe it’s an exercise in futility because clutchness is an attribute that is quantified (via stats) to some, but qualified (via what they’ve seen or heard) to others. I put the WPA numbers out there to hopefully spark discussion over the quality of this quantity pertaining to clutchness.

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  6. Joe Simas says:

    Practiced eyes and a commitment to watching the Yankees play at least 95% of regular and postseason games since A-Rod’s arrival in ’04 reveals a power-hitter unmatched, and, alas, a power swing that slips in and out of action with alarming regularity. Alex has his long swing which leads to his high K total–his high leg kick gets out of synch with his stroke resulting in off-balance hacks. His compact swing is a thing of beauty and mind-boggling fluid power. He gets his foot down and fires the bat effortlessly often driving the ball out of sight. Unfortunately, repeatability (as Double06 wrote), is sporadic to the point that it is, arguably, not a one of his consistently applied skills.

    As to arguing “clutchness”, I really can’t provide anything but anecdotal evidence based on nearly 40 yrs coaching baseball–without looking at stats, I knew who I wanted at the plate in a tight game…and who I didn’t want with a bat in his hand coming out of the opposing dugout.


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  7. John says:

    Dear Joe and Ray,

    1. I ran a correlation analysis between all players w/ at least 300 AB in both ’06 and ’07 with their WPAs, WPA/LIs, and a “Clutch” score of (WPA-WPA/LI).

    Results: WPA, r = .4674, WPA/LI, r = .5844, CLUTCH, r = .0191

    Clutch is not a retainable skill for ANYONE, let alone a talent

    2. Using Bill James’s clutch definition, binomial standard deviation theory, and A-Rod’s BAs (havent gotten around to other stats yet), A-Rod is not, as Ray said “repeatedly bad in the clutch.” He has had some bad years: 6th personal percentile in ’06, 8th pp in ’08. He has had some great years: 93rd pp in ’07, 78th pp in ’08. Since 2002, A-Rod is .283 (in 468 AB) of clutch and .302 overall. Given this, 5 in every 27 hitters would be .283 or worse in clutch. He is getting a little unlucky overall, with a lot of up-and-down movement.

    3. Note: Despite his BA being 19 pts lower, his OBP is actually 3 pts higher, indicating he’s not changing; the pitches he’s getting are!

    A Sabermetrician

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