State of the Yankees 1/3rd of the Way Through

The book Moneyball is many things to many people, but one of the things I took away from the book that I always liked was Billy Beane’s way of looking at the season. He broke it down to three parts, the first two months where you evaluate your team, the next two months where you try to make improvements through trades and such, and the final two months of the stretch run.

So with that in mind I thought now would be the best time to evaluate both the good and the bad of the Yankees roster and try to figure out where they would benefit the most in making changes. In this first post we will take a general look at the roster and look at what has been working and what hasn’t. Throughout the rest of the week we will go back to this post and look at little more in depth at where the Yankees problems are and what they can do to fix their issues.

The Offense

The Yankees offense is currently the best in baseball. They lead in OPS+ with 125 and runs scored with 289. At this pace they will score 918 runs this year (the Blue Jays would be second with 837 runs scored). Injuries to Nick Johnson, Curtis Granderson, and Jorge Posada have slowed them down and a poor season by Mark Teixeira hasn’t helped either, but they have overcome that thanks to huge seasons by Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher.

Even over the last 30 days when their injuries have been the worst, the Yankees still have the best OPS in the AL at .825 (the Reds OPS has been .885 over the last 30 days).

People have complained about some of the losses to the team, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Melky Cabrera, but at least when it comes to offense, those people are wasting their breath.

Grade: A

The Defense

The Yankees aren’t anywhere near the top of the league when it comes to defense, but they aren’t slouches either. Overall their UZR of 1.9 this season puts them 17th in all of baseball. Nothing special, but overall it isn’t killing the team.

Curtis Granderson has been the top rated player as far as UZR is concerned at 2.5. Brett Gardner is right behind him at 1.8.  UZR also likes Derek Jeter and Swisher, but only slightly as they both have a 1.0. Jeter’s range to left has said to be suffering this year, but overall he is still doing a decent job thanks to his good hands and his range to the right.

Not too many players have been terrible defensively. The worst is Marcus Thames who has a -1.6 UZR in left and a -1.3 in right field. Ramiro Pena has actually been one of the worse players on the team with negative UZR ratings at second, short, and in the outfield (He has a positive rating at third base). Cano and Alex Rodriguez are both barely negative at -0.5 and -0.4 respectively.

The Yankees grade is bumped up slightly as only the Minnesota Twins have less errors in all of baseball (the Yankees have 21, the Twins have 12, and the league average is 32).

Grade: B-

The Rotation

Overall this season the Yankees rotation has been pretty damn good. CC Sabathia has been great and bad, but Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and even AJ Burnett have been mostly good. Javier Vazquez…has really only been bad. Right now they are ranked 2nd in the AL behind the Rays with a 3.71 ERA. Over the last 30 days the Athletics have been better than them though.

Take a look at the top starters in the AL this year by ERA+

Rk Tm W L ERA G IP ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP
1 Jeff Niemann TBR 5 0 2.37 10 64.2 17 6 20 41 181 1.052
2 David Price* TBR 7 2 2.57 10 66.2 19 6 27 50 167 1.140
3 Doug Fister SEA 3 3 2.45 10 69.2 19 5 10 32 167 0.962
4 Andy Pettitte* NYY 7 1 2.48 10 65.1 18 5 18 41 164 1.148
5 Clay Buchholz BOS 7 3 2.73 10 62.2 19 3 28 47 163 1.372
6 Shaun Marcum TOR 5 1 2.59 11 73.0 21 5 17 60 158 1.027
7 Phil Hughes NYY 6 1 2.70 9 56.2 17 4 19 57 151 1.059
8 Jon Lester* BOS 6 2 2.97 11 72.2 24 4 32 77 149 1.128
9 Jered Weaver LAA 4 2 3.01 11 68.2 23 8 20 74 142 1.150
10 Matt Garza TBR 5 4 3.08 11 76.0 26 9 27 60 139 1.211
11 Jason Vargas* SEA 3 2 3.12 9 57.2 20 5 17 38 132 1.058
12 John Danks* CHW 4 4 3.34 10 64.2 24 4 21 52 132 1.206
13 Ricky Romero* TOR 5 2 3.14 11 77.1 27 3 29 79 130 1.203
14 Francisco Liriano* MIN 5 3 3.29 10 65.2 24 2 19 66 129 1.294
15 Colby Lewis TEX 4 3 3.41 10 63.1 24 5 28 59 129 1.184
16 C.J. Wilson* TEX 3 3 3.48 10 64.2 25 4 24 47 126 1.191
17 Ervin Santana LAA 5 3 3.43 11 76.0 29 12 21 68 124 1.237
18 A.J. Burnett NYY 6 2 3.28 11 71.1 26 4 24 53 124 1.304
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2010.

Considering that CC Sabathia could jump into the top 20 or even the top 10 at any point, he’s currently ranked 34th in the AL, shows that the Yankees are in great shape as far as their rotation goes. If Vazquez straightens himself out, watch out.

Grade: B+

The Bullpen

Here is the Yankees dirty little secret, the bullpen. Right now the Yankees are the 4th worst in the AL with a 4.56 ERA (the Royals, Angels, and Indians are worse), but over the last 30 days the ERA jumps to 5.10 (only the Angels and Indians are worse).

When you look at the individual performances you can see why the Yankees are so bad. Mariano Rivera, who is having a very good year, has struggled and after him Sergio Mitre has been the best reliever (scary). Alfredo Aceves has been good, but he doesn’t help anybody while on the DL (a big part of the reason why the bullpen has gotten worse recently). Damaso Marte has been in the middle in terms of numbers, but Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Chan Ho Park, and Mark Melancon all have ERA’s north of 5.00.

Considering that a lot of those names were counted on to be big parts of this bullpen and are struggling so badly it is no wonder the Yankees have one of the worst pens in the league.

The good news is that if even just D-Rob and Joba straighten themselves out it will go a long way toward improving this pen. The loss of Aceves is pretty big though and they’ll probably need somebody else to step in and contribute more than they expected them to (I think a lot of people wouldn’t be surprised if Melancon was this guy).

I think the only thing keeping them from getting an F here is the fact that even at age 40, Mariano Rivera is still a presence.

Grade: D

Overall

The Yankees currently have a 31-20 record that is good for second in all of baseball. It’s unfortunate for them that the no. 1 team is also in their division, but it is important to keep in perspective that the Yankees are still a dominant team in baseball. Also, as far as their problems go their only glaring need is in the bullpen. Not bad.

Perhaps the biggest issue this team faces though is that of age. They’ve had quite a few injuries this season be they large or small and you have to wonder if age has and will continue to play a role in that. Consider that the Yankees offense is a combined 30.4 years old (only the Astros, Red Sox, and Phillies are older) and the average age of their pitching is 31.1 (only the Phillies are older). Makes you realize why they were so quick to be rid of both Damon and Matsui.

Grade: B

This entry was posted in Editorial. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to State of the Yankees 1/3rd of the Way Through

  1. Bronx Knight says:

    Rob, nice post; good perspective. Shocking how poorly the bullpen is doing.
    Re: pitching, Tyler Kepner on the NY Times Bats blog today says that Andy Pettite deserves to start for the AL in the All-Star Game. The above table suggests that a few other starters have been more dominant this year, but Tyler likes the idea of starting Andy, now 38, as a capstone to his career. Hard to argue with that.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    The Yankees have gotten unexpected contributions from Cervelli and Gardner and Pettite is doing far more than anyone could have hoped. These guys are the reason that they are where they are even though some other players are not performing.

    Mark Teixeira and, to a much lesser extent, ARod need to step up for this team to really take off. I am quite worried that Tex is going to put up a stinker of a season, especially after his terrible playoff and World Series play. This is a very long lasting slump.

    The Yankees need to get the bullpen in order with Robertson, Chamberlain and possibly Park improving their play and Aceves needs to get healthy. But it seems that they need to fix their bullpen every year.