They scored 965 runs, 5.96 per game, easily the highest total in the American League. They outscored their nearest competitors, the Rangers (who played in a bandbox) by 25 runs. But the Yankees also dominated on the other side of the ball, giving up just 656 runs on the season, or 4.05 per game. That was also good for first in the American League, but they prevented almost 70 runs less more than the next best team, the Boston Red Sox.
Let’s put that in some perspective. The 2009 Yankees also led the AL in scoring, and did so by 30 runs. However, their pitching staff allowed 753 runs (4.65/game), good for 6th. The entire American League in 2009 allowed 4.75 runs per game. Meanwhile, in 1998, the leagues scored 5.01 runs per game. So, in a higher scoring environment, the Yankees of 1998 still managed to allow .6 runs per game less than they did last year. Their team ERA+ was 116. They allowed 24% fewer runs than the average AL team. The 2009 team allowed 2% fewer runs than the average AL team.
Now, as Will points out, the 2010 Yankees have improved over the 2009 version, and last year’s Yankees won 103 games. However, their Pythagorean record (based on how many runs they scored and allowed) was just 95-67 (which, coincidentally, was Boston’s exact record). We are left to conclude that, while excellent, the Yankees significantly outperformed their stats, and were much closer in quality to the Red Sox. To believe that the 2010 Yankees are better than the 1998 Yankees, you essentially have to believe that the team has improved by 13 games (the ’98 Yankees had a Pyth. record of 108-54). Yes, Javier Vazquez is better than the Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Phil Hughes, and Chien-Ming Wang hydra. However, Hughes is back in the rotation (and has had a 6.02 ERA as a starter over the last two seasons), replacing Joba. Despite The Hut’s struggles, his 4.18 ERA as a starter over the same time period is far better than what Hughes has shown.
And as much as you might want to credit the Yankees for adding Johnson (who has a significant injury history, and is no guarantee to play 120 games) and Granderson, you have to subtract the contributions of Damon and Matsui. Last year, according to Fangraphs, Matsui (2.7) and Damon (3.1) combined for a 5.8 WAR. Johnson (2.5) and Granderson (3.4) combined for a 5.9. And that was with Johnson playing 133 games. Granderson’s likely to improve, I think, and Granderson/Johnson (again, provided Johnson’s healthy) figure to be better in 2010 than Matsui/Damon. But it’s difficult to argue that the 2010 Yankees significantly improved their on field product over the 2009 Yankees with these moves. Plus, you have to hope that Brett Gardner can duplicate the Gardner/Melky platoon from last year.
Yes, having ARod back for the first month of 2010 will help, but ultimately you’re talking about a swing of maybe a win or two.
Looking at the math, you’re essentially arguing that Vazquez + Hughes – Joba + Johnson + Granderson – Damon – Matsui – .5Melky + 1 month of ARod > 13 wins. Plus, you have to deal with the additional injury problems that crop up this year with the aging core of Rodriguez, Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte, and relying on Johnson. The 2010 Yankees may outhit the 1998 Yankees, but taken as a whole the 1998 World Champs are better and deeper, and will likely be the best Yankee team you will see in your lifetime.
Go ahead, prove me wrong.