The Myth About “Bad” Big Contracts

Courtesy: NY Newsday

The prevailing wisdom around the Yankees is that big contracts like the ones Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have are what is killing the team. In reality, those contracts have been fine and fans in general worry way too much about them.

I never get fans who would rather see the money go into the pockets of the owner than into the players’. The difference in the Yankees over the last two plus seasons is that they’ve been spending less and the performance on the field has suffered. Sure, Hal Steinbrenner fooled most people with his shopping spree in the 2013-14 offseason. People didn’t realize how much money came off the books and that the payroll was only about $120 million to begin that offseason, so the Yankees didn’t really go above and beyond at all.

The business model the Yankees used from 2001 through 2012 absolutely worked. The lack of championships are lamented, but the reality is that the Yankees put themselves in the best position to bring home rings every season winning 95 plus games.…

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This Year’s Yankees Already Mastering The Art of Being Consistently Inconsistent

It’s only the last week of May and already this has been quite the season for the New York Yankees.  Barely a step or 2 past the quarter pole and it already feels like we’ve experienced multiple seasons in one.  The Yankees started off 3-6 in their first few weeks, then rattled off a white hot 18-6 stretch into early May to ascend to the top of the American League, and followed that up with an ongoing 2-10 run that has dropped them back to .500 and started many fans and writers scrambling for the towers to wave the white flags.

More important than the streakiness itself has been the way the Yankees have looked like completely different teams during the respective streaks.  They looked sluggish and old to start the year 3-6, showing little on offense and getting inconsistent starting pitching at best.  When they were 18-6 they were a lethal combination of speed at the top of the order and power in the middle with a lockdown bullpen preserving a lot of close wins.  …

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Monday Morning Food For Thought: Offense Living And Dying With The Top Of The Order

Last Tuesday I wrote this post about the Yankees using the simple “get ‘em on, get ‘em in” formula with the top 4 spots in their batting order to fuel their recent hot streak.  They were coming off an 11-5 thumping of the Rays the night before in a game that saw the team hit 5 home runs and the top 4 spots in the order combine for 9 hits, 8 R scored, and 7 RBI.

Since that game, the Yankees have fallen on hard offensive times.  They’ve scored 11 runs in their last 6 games and gone 1-5 in those games.  5 of those 11 runs came in their only win during that stretch on Saturday afternoon, leaving the other 6 to be lightly dusted across the 5 losses.  This level of semi-extended offensive ineptitude is a call back to the last few seasons, something nobody wants to revisit.  While there are plenty of logical explanations for this regression: small sample size bias, bad luck, tired team desperately in need of an off-day, my biggest takeaway from these 6 games and the handful before them is just how top-heavy the Yankee lineup has become and just how little chance they have of winning when those top 4 spots aren’t producing.…

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Sound the Alarm! Relievers Are Overworked!

When it comes to the New York Yankees, there always has to be an alarm bell. Call it a meme or a talking point, a clarion bell, whatever: There always has to be one. Remember a few years ago when the Yankees were hitting too many homers? Yeah, we still yuk it up over that one. The latest seems to be about the Yankees’ bullpen being overworked. Is it really?

Mike Axisa probably had it drilled down a little bit better. He only mentioned Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller the other day. But are even those two overworked? Part of their workload is the success the Yankees have had this season. The Yankees are winning…a lot. Thus there is more need for your setup and closer to finish out games. But again. are they overworked?

How can you tell with Dellin Betances? He pitched 70 times last season and compiled 90 innings. That’s a new breed of animal. Was that abuse?…

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Yankees Using The Simplest Formula In The Book To Drive Their Offensive Success

Teix-A-Rod vs BAL

Bash bros. Courtesy of Getty Images

I made this point on Twitter earlier today, but since not everybody in the world has had the good sense to follow me yet I figured it was worth expounding on here.  The Yankees are the cat’s meow right now.  They’re all that and a bag of chips.  They’re 18-6 in their last 24 games, at 21-12 they now own the best record in the American League, and they’re 4 games clear of Tampa Bay in the division with the chance to put more room in between themselves and the Rays tonight.

With all due respect to Michael Pineda and the ace relief duo of Betances & Miller, this blazing hot run has been driven by the insanely productive top of the batting order.  Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira have been the 4 best position players on the team thus far, and that’s reflected in all 4 of them currently ranking inside the top 25 in the American League in wRC+.  …

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Can CC – or Any Starter – Survive at 1.6 HR/9? A Look at High-K/Low-BB/High-HR Comps

Last month I noted how pitchers usually don’t recover after a CC-like decline from top-of-rotation starter to 80ish ERA+, but the outcomes varied widely: about a third of the comps did recover, half stayed lousy, and a fifth recovered underwhelmingly minimally. Given that range of variation, I wanted to look for comps a different way. Staring at CC Sabathia‘s stats since 2013, you see not just a gradual ERA worsening, but a real consistency in his HR, BB, and K rates – the defense-independent pitching components that may be more telling of true talent level than ERA, the noisy bottom-line stat.

2013: 1.2 HR/9; 2.8 BB/9; 7.5 K/9; 4.78 ERA
2014: 2.0 HR/9; 2.0 BB/9; 9.4 K/9; 5.28 ERA
2015: 1.6 HR/9; 2.0 BB/9; 7.6 K/9; 5.45 ERA

The ERA decline jumps out at you, but you’re actually seeing a guy who’s evolved into a pretty consistent profile: high-control, high-strikeout, high-homer. While the K and BB rates are strong, the big question is: can you remain a major-league starter giving up more than a home run every 5.2 IP?…

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Top of the Lineup Carrying Yankees

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Courtesy: NY Daily News

The New York Yankees have considerably improved their offensive production from the last two seasons so far this year, which has lead to a 18-11 record and a +29 run differential. This has mostly been due to the four players at the top of the lineup carrying everybody — Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, all of whom are playing at an All-Star level.

Ellsbury has just been unconscious for a long stretch now where it seems every at-bat ends in a hit. His .363 batting average and his .438 OBP are both good for second in the AL. Gardner has been almost as good. His OBP is also over .400 (.408) and his wRC+ (145) and wOBA (.385) are exactly identical to Ellsbury’s.

This is exactly what the Yankees envisioned when they signed Ellsbury to pair with Gardner. Having two guys atop of your lineup with an OBP over .400 is absolutely lethal.…

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Quick Hit: The Soft Roster Underbelly

Petit HBP vs TOR

I know, Gregorio. It pains us to watch you play too. Courtesy of Getty Images

I got Axisa’d on this yesterday, but with the way the last few games have gone down I did want to touch on the back end of the roster topic while it was still relatively fresh.

The Yankees have definitely over-achieved in these first 27 games.  I don’t think you’d find too many people who would say they honestly believed the Yankees would be 17-10 with a +32 run differential right now.  They’ve done it by finding a pretty good balance between above-average starting pitching, elite late-game relief pitching, solid team defense, and a return to the “power and patience” approach that served their offense so well for years with just enough speed mixed in.  Top to bottom, they’re a pretty good ballclub right now even without Tanaka.

What the last few games showed us, especially in the late innings, is that they are also still a ballclub that could use some upgrading at the back end of the roster.  …

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New Lefty Specialist Reliever CC Sabathia?

I’ll start with the Cliff Notes version of my argument. (1) CC Sabathia is no longer a big-league starter. (2) The Yankees have three southpaw relievers, but no true lefty specialist. (3) CC’s decline has been entirely against righties, so he still has use as a lefty specialist reliver. (4) This isn’t as weird as it sounds: other declining lefty starters have had second lives in their 30s as relievers.

I’ll skip the Nth discussion of how CC has been horrible for about 300 innings spanning 2013-2015, except to add that CC has zero value to the club even if he could run a 4.5ish ERA (which he can’t), because the team has too many alternatives ranging from replacement-level at worst (still better than CC) to mid-rotation-level. After Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi: (a) Chase Whitley and Adam Warren look like equally serviceable back-end starters; (b) another similar back-end starter is on the way in Chris Capuano, (c) Bryan Mitchell, who’s looked strong in AAA, is a wild card who could be awful but could be very good; and (d) Ivan Nova should return next month, and if healthy (which he seems to be) is a solid 3rd starter or better.…

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