Why the Yankees can improve

Run Differential matters?

I keep on hearing the baseball scribes saying that being outscored means you can’t compete.  With that logic then does it mean that if you have a positive run differential that you are a winner?  The 1960 Pirates and 2000 Yankees both won the WS with a low run differential in the series that brought home the Championship.  Those 1960 Pirates beat the Yankees despite being outscored 55 to 27.  The 2000 Yankees beat the Mets in 5 games and only outscored them 19-16.  I am just not seeing where this run differential theory has any substance.  Winning a game 4-2 and losing a game 6-1 gives you the same record as a team that won 7-2 and lost 5-4.  Their run differential might be different, -2 compared to +5, but both teams would be tied in the standings.  Maybe one team is just more consistent on a daily basis, but whether a game is a blowout or a one run victory, it does not change the value of the win in the standings in a different way.  So where does run differential really come into play?

Really it is all about perception; it has little bearing on success itself if you are a mid-tier team winning around 81-85 games a year.  Just think about it, the Yankees did it in 2013 and the experts said they would be under .500 if they have a negative run differential.  Now they do it in consecutive seasons and still this opinion persists.  With this logic of unimpressive run differential, then it just seems weird how the Cardinals and Royals got into the postseason.  Cardinals had a +16 differential, clinched their division, and knocked the very talented Dodgers out of the playoffs.  The Royals went to Game 7 with the tying run on 3rd base with 2 outs in the 9th. Their differential was +27.

Now let’s go back to team not just from this year but from the 5 years prior to this one.  We will not be counting the 2013 Yankees as we are trying to support that they are not the sole case of low differential equaling a solid record.  In 2012 the Baltimore Orioles won 93 games and had a +7 differential.  They clinched the Wild Card and therefore appeared in the postseason.  The Orioles were projected to only have 82 wins, according to ESPN’s expanded standings.  In 2011 the San Francisco Giants won 86 games and had a -8 run differential.  They were projected to win 80.  What about the 2011 San Diego Padres who had a -18 differential and won 71 games.  They were projected to win 79, got to wonder how that happened.

Ooh 2009 has some good ones for us.  In 2009 there are 5 teams who defied the run differential logic.  The 2009 Mariners had a differential of -52, and had 85 wins.  Had there been 2 Wildcard teams that year, they would have been just 2 games back.  They were projected to win 75 games.  The 2009 Oakland A’s won 75 games and had a -2 run differential, they were projected to win 81 games and were instead in last place.  The Toronto Blue Jays completely destroyed this scientific law that was discovered by the baseball experts.  The 2009 Blue Jays had a +27 run differential, but only one 75 games.  They were projected to win 84 games.  The 2009 Tigers were eliminated from playoff contention in game 163 against the Twins.  They had a -2 run differential, and won 86 games.  They were projected to be 81-82, but they wouldn’t have played a 163rd game if they had this little wins so unclear whether they would have been projected at 80, 81, or 82.  The 2009 Florida (now Miami) Marlins won 87 games with a differential of +6.  They were projected to win 82 games.

Now this article is not just directed at David Schoenfield’s (Personally I like his articles on a whole) one quote I have up top.  I just have been seeing that in many writers’ articles, both now and in the past.  I can’t just understand how it is people always find a way to put the Yankees low without having any real solid reason behind it.  I mean the Red Sox haven’t even appeared in David’s rankings so far, and they have had 2 last place finishes and only one playoff appearance in the past 5 years.  I understand they have a ton of hype, but they still have too many outfielders and have no idea how Hanley will adjust playing LF.  The last big money free agent they put in the OF was Carl Crawford, and he quickly wore his welcome with the team.  They have no guarantee at C and maybe even SS if Bogaerts doesn’t bounce back.  The rotation is quite comparable to the Yankees, granted with more durability at the moment.  This is not in any way trying to bring down the Red Sox, but to show their similarity to the Yankees.

Old Teams can’t play?

People love to use another reason and say the Yankees are old. Maybe they should just take a look at what Satchel Paige had to say about age “Age is a question of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” This old team still had more wins than the 8 youngest teams in baseball.  In fact 3 of the 5 oldest teams in baseball reached the playoffs, the Dodgers, Giants, and Nationals.  All 5 of the oldest teams had a winning record last year.  The oldest team in baseball won the WS this year, with an average age of 29.  At much as Yankees fan get ridiculed by Boston for being old, Boston is the 6th oldest team and the Yankees are 4th.  Average age for Boston is 27.9 and average for Yankees is 28.1, go figure.  Only 1 of the top 10 youngest teams made the playoffs, that would be the Oakland A’s who lost in the Wild Card round.  Aside from the A’s, coming in at the top half of the youngest teams is the 14th and 15th Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals.  7 playoffs teams were in the older half.  Of the 10 oldest teams, only Reds and the Red Sox had a losing record.  So yeah it seems the proclamation of being too old doesn’t have as much value as it is claimed by many to have.

Injuries a key problem

I guess the only excuse for lowballing the Yankees now is the injury card.  While very true, the team has won 85 and 84 games the past two years despite getting hit with a multitude of injuries to their starters.  Just imagine how many for wins they could have with just some better health from the starters in the lineup and rotation.  Last year no position player had 600 AB’s, and only three had 500 AB’s.  Those three were Jeter, Gardner and Ellsbury.  Aside from Jeter’s last game in Yankee Stadium heroics, he didn’t do much else in his 500+ AB’s, having an OPS+ of 76 and providing 0.2 WAR.  Last year Kuroda had more quality starts than Tanaka had starts.  Kuroda and Tanaka were the only starters with at least 20 starts, Kuroda had 32.  No pitcher pitched 200 innings and only 3 pitchers threw 100 innings.  The last time the Yankees had one pitcher with 30 starts and no one throwing 200 innings was back in 2004.  The last time the Yankees didn’t have at least one player with 600 AB’s was back in the strike shortened 1994 season.

So it seems that having such extreme lack of health is a very rare thing for the Yankees, perhaps that is the reason for having made the playoffs in 17 of the past 20 years.  Maybe that durability is part of what made the Yankees such a dominant team for 2 decades.  Now we all know injuries happen, and I don’t expect them to just disappear.  However, if the Yankees did not have such extreme pile of injuries throughout the 25 man roster, they probably compete for a Wild Card at least.  So examining those 2015 predictions and analyzing it, I predict that with some better health the team can win 88-89 games which was enough this year for both teams who reached the WS.  I am not predicting a WS coming back to the Bronx, but I am saying that the Yankees can return to the playoffs with a healthier team.


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