Fan versus the machine - 2014 hopes against the odds

Being a fan of a team and writing about that same team is a very difficult trick to pull off. The most difficult part is being objective and writing in a factual way without getting carried away by emotions. If you don't fight the emotions, you end up writing screeds against the general manager or manager and players who don't perform the way you expect or turn the other way and be exceeding in the praise. One way to really illustrate the problem is to look at the fan's hopes during the season and cold, hard odds of making the wild card or winning the division as it is calculated every day by places like Fangraphs.com. It wasn't until the end of the 2014 season when the hopes fell in line with reality. What I did to illustrate the point was to list the day by day Fangraphs odds for the Yankees to either win a wild card spot or win the division from Game 1 of the season to Game 162. I then in a third column listed where my hope meter was during the same time frame. As you can see from the chart below, I wasn't dealing well with reality until about the 91st game of the season when the crushing weight of mediocrity and injury started to overwhelm hope.

When the season started, my hopes were high. After a productive off season, a promising Spring Training and the landing of Masahiro Tanaka, I was sure the 2014 Yankees were a playoff team. The odds did not agree. The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox were almost a 40% chance to repeat the division followed closely by the Rays. Hey, I never said the computers were always right. The Yankees were given about half the chance as those other two teams. But I was confident.

That confidence wavered some but did not falter until after the All Star Break. The Blue Jays were the early pace-setters and pulled out to a nice lead. My confidence got a little shaky. But the Jays came back to the pack and the Yankees were in the thick of it. During that little space, I was very confident again. Tanaka was 11-1, Dellin Betances was the biggest surprise in baseball and despite injuries, the Yankees seemed plucky and hard to put away.

Sure, the win five, lose four see-saw started getting to me. The high of seven games over .500 was followed by five losses in a row. On July 8, Tanaka was diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his elbow and my hopes took a serious hit. But the addition of Brandon McCarthy seemed to fill up part of the slack. But everything started to seem like an uphill climb when the offense could not get going and every uptick was followed by several losses and then the Orioles took over the division never to look back. Once that happened, the only hope seemed to be a wild card.

Here is the chart from my spreadsheet and a few notes along the way to show my state of mind as the season went along:

odds again

 

  • Game 2: Two losses to the Astros to start the season. Ugh.
  • Game 21: Pine tar game and Michael Pineda suspended then hurt.
  • Game 47: Walk off against David Robertson.
  • Game 54: Tanaka is 8-1.
  • Game 55: Robertson is crushed in the ninth.
  • Game 59: Tanaka is 9-1.
  • Game 61: David Phelps bombed.
  • Game 63: The legend of Dellin Betances grows.
  • Game 64: Tanaka is 10-1
  • Game 65: Where did Chase Whitley come from?
  • Game 66: David Phelps shutout..
  • Game 68: Vidal Nuno is killing me.
  • Game 69: Tanaka is 11-1
  • Game 71: Finish sweep of Blue Jays.
  • Game 72: Walk off against Orioles. My hopes the highest since the beginning of the season
  • Game 74: Tanaka bombed.
  • Game 75: Whitley comes down to earth with a thud.
  • Game 76: Adam Warren blows it.
  • Game 86: Yanks score one run in eleven innings in a game started by Yohan Pino.
  • Game 88: Shane Greene is the man!
  • Game 89: Tanaka is hurt. Elbow. Oh woe is us.
  • Game 93: Another Shane Greene sparkler.
  • Game 95: Brandon McCarthy superb.
  • Game 97: Sweep of Reds complete. My hopes start to stir.
  • Game 98: Yanks cannot score against some guy named Mikolas with an ERA near my shoe size.
  • Game 102: Four wins in a row.
  • Game 105: Never mind. Three straight losses.
  • Game 106: Bats break out.
  • Game 108: Bats are back to sleep.
  • Game 115: Yanks win four of five.
  • Game 120: Five losses in a row. Bats dead. Division dead to Orioles.
  • Game 122: Two wins in a row at Tropicana!?
  • Game 129: Five wins in a row. Pineda is back!
  • Game 135: Three straight losses.
  • Game 138: Walk off against Koji Uehara. Boy that felt good.
  • Game 139: Shut out by James Shields
  • Game 149: Two straight walk-off losses. All hopes dashed.
  • Game 152: Three straight wins, but it's too late.
  • Game 157: Officially dead. Long live the Captain.

And so it went. Brad did a great job of outlining the good and bad of 2014. But this was a team that, even early on was not given much of a chance by the computer models. Perhaps my initial hopes were unfounded. Perhaps the injuries were just too hard to overcome. Perhaps it was never meant to be. Every good streak was followed up by a losing streak which meant the team could never really get any traction. I think that was the hardest thing about being a fan this season.

Our crack team of writers are hard at work speculating on next year and Brian Cashman, armed with a new three-year contract, will not sit still this winter. As a fan, my hopes will again be high at the start of the season. All links to the past will be gone and it will be time to start fresh. The 2015 New York Yankees will be different. The hopes will be the same.

Day to day odds