Net-net, the 2010 team is better than the 1998 team offensively. Easiest way to demonstrate this? Well, if you read through the lengthy argument here, discussing 2010 versus 2009, I think it’s fairly clear that 2010’s team is better at the plate. Johnson and Granderson compare positively to Matsui and Damon (though plenty of people have let me know, in no uncertain terms, that they think that’s bologna—nevermind the statistics!). Feel free to disagree. But bring some statistics to back you up, would ya? Next, add in a full season of A-Rod (rather than having him on the DL the first month, and a shell of himself for the first month or so after he was back). Finally, just for good measure, slot Brett Gardner in for Melky Cabrera. For those of you who think this isn’t a big difference (or that Melky is better, even), consider this: two weeks ago Gardner took the lead over Melky for career WAR. Gardner, in 1/5 the playing time of Melky Cabrera, has been worth 3.7 wins above replacement. Melky clocks in a 3.4. Five times as much playing time, folks. Brett Gardner’s not just better than Melky–he’s a lot better than Melky.
So where does that leave us? 2009’s offense (.366 wOBA) was better than 1998’s (.361 wOBA), and 2010 is very likely to be better than 2009. Seems pretty simple to me.
Defensively, the two teams are pretty comparable. Given our lack of advanced statistics tracking back to 1998, I’m not going to waste more of your time writing about it.
So the final piece is the pitching—and as TCM and I both suggested earlier, it’s pretty close. Data can be found here.
Not convinced? Worried about Javier Vazquez’s poor start? Fret not—even with Vazquez’s early season ERA of 9.00 (!!) included, 2010’s starters (3.62 FIP) have been flat out better than 1998’s (4.11 FIP). Now, it’s early in the season—I don’t expect that sort of dominance to continue…same as I don’t expect Javy Vazquez to continue stinking up the joint. He’s got a solid track record—and a .345 BABIP thus far in the season (which, compared to his .308 career number, suggests that he’s been quite unlucky on balls in play). He’s also watched two outs turn into hits due to the crappy play of Marcus Thames in LF (both came at critical points, and each led to multiple runs). Again…this guy was the second best pitcher in the National League last year by FIP. Yes, there’s an adjustment to make going from the NL to the AL. So go ahead—tack on a full run to his FIP. He’s still the 2nd best pitcher on the 2010 Yankee staff at 3.77.
And on the other side of things, could Phil Hughes surprise to the upside? If you’ve watched his starts so far this year, I think you’d be hard pressed to not be a little bullish.
Finally, the bullpen (stats can be found here–same as above):
Look, we’re splitting hairs with this discussion. Both bullpens are quite good. 1998 may have a slight edge…but it’s not enough to outweigh 2010’s advantage in the rotation. Working with just what we know—1998’s bullpen put up a solid 4.24 FIP. Thus far in 2010, it’s been a tick higher, at 4.45.
So 2010 takes the offense, and pitching/defense both appear to be at worst a wash. So, call me crazy, but I’d take 2010 over 1998.
Here’s another fun bit. Since Alex Rodriguez returned to the team on May 8, 2009, they’ve played 161 games, and won 108 of them. OK, so that’s not 114, and they’re left 6 games short (5, if they win tomorrow). However, if you look at the Pythagorean Records, the gap narrows a bit—1998 sits at 110, and this sample (2009-2010) sits at 105. Which is close enough, if you ask me. Why? Because the competition the 2010 team is and has been up against is dramatically better than the competition that 1998 were up against. Call me crazy, but as I see it a team that can put up a pythag of 105 in the AL East in 2010 is better than a team that can put up a pythag of 110 against 1998’s version of the AL East.
This is where it gets a bit hazy. I’m sure somebody out there has a way to quantify this—but that somebody isn’t me. Just consider, however, the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays, from the worst of the league to the top four or five teams in baseball. The Red Sox have improved as well. With the exception of the Blue Jays, the entire AL East has improved. I’ll just ask openly—you think that if the Yankees were to play the 1998 Devil Rays instead of the 2009 Rays, they wouldn’t average a few more wins? The 1998 Devil Rays scored 620 runs….and were scored on 751 times—good for a pythag of 61 wins. In 2010, they’re a lock for 90+ wins. (Look at that, I do have some numbers.)
In the end, what’s it all mean? Means it’s good to be a Yankee fan in 2010—and don’t be shocked when they’re testing triple digit wins in mid-September.
Remember: You heard it here first.
THE GREAT DEBATE!
Will and TCM will continue with their cases, each having made their Opening Statements:
For the next phase of this debate, we examined the infields of the 1998 Yanks versus the 2010 Yanks:
We’re now into the Outfielders and DH of the 1998 Yanks versus the 2010 Yanks:
And the pitching staffs can be debated here:
And the Closing Arguments:
- Will’s can be seen here
- TCM’s can be seen here (when ready!)