Yanks Gamers/Postmortems

The Sicks

Whoops.  Meant six.  As in six losses in a row.  And three wins in the last thirteen.  Longest stretch last year was four.  The Yankees lost five in a row in early May of '09, but then again went on to win the Series over the Phillies.  They lost four in a row twice in 2008.  The dark of April 2007 saw them lose seven in a row, even though that team went on to win 94 games.  That year belonged to Boston, so that year was wretched on multiple levels.  Just kidding, sort of.

Six.  Sicks.  Sucks.

The Yankees are awful on almost every level, except for the special level reserved for Curtis Granderson.  Thank you, Curtis.  Because of you, I still have a reason to watch the game.

28 replies on “The Sicks”

Normally at this time of the season I caution against overreacting to a losing streak or a run of anemic play. The ship generally rights itself and normalcy ensues on the field.
And that may well be the case with the Yankees. But there is something about this team, be it the bad karma in the Jetere/Posasada v. Mgmt. scrum or the age of the players or the lack of notable young talent that just isn’t sitting right and has that air of being a season-long problem.

I don’t get the constant “age” issue comments. I didn’t realize knowing how to win vanished once you reached age 30. The Yankees and Red Sox have almost identical (baseball reference can verify this) average player ages on both the position player and pitching side. The Phillies have an average player age of 32 (2 years older than the Yankees and Red Sox), yet they are still winning? San Francisco Giants, same average age as the Yankees, they are in 1st place.
The Yankees are playing poorly right now, that’s it. It’s not age, it’s not turmoil, it’s their pitching and lack of offense. When you get mediocre pitching combined with and offensive slump you get an extended losing streak. It’s just that simple fellas. I wasn’t convinced this team was good enough (full strength and from the start) to win the AL East and what we’ve seen over the past few weeks only proves that. But let’s not get crazy and start blaming their mediocrity on “turmoil” and “age”.

“The Yankees are awful on almost every level”
I know you are probably just venting, and the emotional side of me very much agrees with this sentiment, but I don’t think it is entirely true. Looking at this as objectively as I can (which admittedly is not very) this is what the different components of the Yankees’ performance look like:
OFFENSE: The Yankees are 2nd in the AL in runs; 3rd in OBP; 1st in slugging (helped largely by being first – by a ton – in HRs); 1st in OPS; and 5th in total bases.
The frustrating thing is that they are also 1st in GIDPs and their BA of just .231 with RISP ranks them 21st in all of baseball (Boston is 28th at .220!); and they rank 2nd to last in the AL in SB% ahead of only the White Sox (because apparently Brett Gardner has completely lost the ability to read a pitcher).
In sum, relative to the rest of the league, they are getting on base and hitting the ball with authority, but they are not getting timely hits. On the contrary, they are running themselves out of innings and stranding the population of Abbottabad on the basepads seemingly every night.
PITCHING: Their starting rotation, which we all knew would be their weak link this season, has proven to be just that. They rank 10th or 11th among the 14 AL teams in ERA (4.20); BAA (.260); WHIP (1.36); and K/BB (2.07).
Their relievers by comparison rank 5th or 6th in all of those same categories: ERA (3.24); BAA (.239); WHIP (1.32); K/BB (2.02).
In sum, their starters are as bad as people expected – particularly in light of the fact that on top of starting the season with 2/5s of a “reliable” rotation, one of those two ended up being horrible and then lost for most of the season. And their pen, which one would have expected to be in the top 3 or so in the league, has been slightly worse than that.
FIELDING: The Yankees rank 12th among the 14 AL teams in fldg% (.981) and commit more errors per game (1.44) than any team in the majors.
In sum: they are not fielding the balls they should be reaching. And that’s puttin git kindly. I won’t even look at the defensive rate stats that are supposed to account for range, etc. since they are notoriously unreliable for single seasons let alone partial seasons. But suffice it to say, their defense has played much much much worse than anyone would have anticipated.
Looking forward: it is not only plausible but a virtual certainty that the Yankee offense will start getting some of their many hits when there are men on base and that, in so doing, they will mask what will likely remain a very shaky starting rotation for the rest of the season.
It is also virtually certain that their defense improves – even if you only account for the balls that are more or less hit right at them, which they currently seem unable to field.
I do not expect the pitching to get much better, but I also don’t expect it – on whole – to get much worse.
Do they suck at every aspect of the game? No, just starting pitching, fielding, and producing with men on base. Otherwise, this team is awesome :)

But let’s not get crazy and start blaming their mediocrity on “turmoil” and “age”.
So it isn’t plausible that A-Rod, Jeter, and Posada, 1/3 of their lineup, are older with diminishing skills and that this has impact?
While there are a lot of moving parts (a low team BABIP, for example) I am unclear on why this is so easily dismissed. Because Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin have hit 22 homers combined?

No SF – every team has been good for a while has a mix of players on the downside and upside of their respective careers. John made that point pretty explicitly by not talking about the Yankees in isolation but doing it relative to the Sox, who clearly have that same mix.
Posada is far on the downside of his career – it’s the last year of his career for God’s sake and the Yankees did the right thing and ensured that A. he would not be an every day player (yes, I await the snide reactions to that statement of fact) and B. got a superlative starter at his previous position to take his place. In that regard, the Yankees are in better position than the Sox, who opted for continued Varitek + Salty. By a lot. Even while the place where Posada got slotted (part-time DH) is clearly lower-producing than the Sox equivalent in Ortiz. But if I had to opt between whether to be better at C or better at DH, I’d take C every day of the week.
A-Rod is struggling, but are you saying that his .242/.336/.445 is reflective of what he’ll produce now because he is 35?? I’ll take a 35-year-old A-Rod over a 32-year old Youkilis even if Youkilis is hotter over the past 2 weeks.
Jeter is a serious problem, no bones about it. And there, the Sox are getting substantially more value out of Lowrie than the Yankees are from Jeter (I am not ocnsidering salaries when I say value – i continue to believe that the salary numbers are pretty much irrelevant for these two teams – I just mean purre value out of the SS position).
So no, the point is not that the Yankees have no one that is ageing and in decline. It is that they – like the Sox – have a mix. The Sox are in better position, mainly in my view thanks to a better starting rotation.

SF: I’d blame A-Rod’s recent struggles on him recovering from an injury before I’d blame it solely on age.
Gardner isn’t old, he’s struggled. Swisher isn’t old, he’s struggled. Martin isn’t old, he’s been awful the last 2 weeks+. What’s their excuse? I think age is an easy excuse. The Yankees are “old” there’s no excitement, etc…How about the Yankees aren’t hitting, pitching or playing defense? I didn’t get overly excited when they were in first place and I am not going to get overly excited now. This is a flawed team, regardless of age and I said that from the get go. Let this marinate for a second: The Yankees rotation is CC, Burnett, Nova, Garcia and Colon…One more time: CC, Burnett, Nova, Garcia and Colon. If you were starting a team tomorrow how many of those guys would you take? This is clearly more of a quality of player issue vs age.

Of the three areas where statistics demonstrate that the Yankees suck right now (fielding easily fieldable balls; producing with men on base; and starting pitching), two have nothing whatsoever to do with age and are almost certain to improve. A third has – as John says – everything to do with quality of players – and not the effects of age.

SF: I’d blame A-Rod’s recent struggles on him recovering from an injury before I’d blame it solely on age.
Doesn’t one have a lot to do with the other? I don’t mean this as needless arguing, but isn’t the conventional wisdom that older guys recover more slowly?
This is clearly more of a quality of player issue vs age.
This may very well be true, and in particular with regards to the rotation. But if Martin only hits career average (which would be great, right, considering expectations?) and Swisher has an off year, where does that leave the Yankees? Gardner isn’t a great player, by any means.
This leaves Tex and Cano, two great players, and Granderson, who is either going to continue on a career year and defy all projections or regress a bit.
Now add in the three “old guys”, and that’s what the Yankees are.
It sure looks like Granderson and Martin’s early performances helped mask the aging, in my opinion. And now if they regress and the guys play their age then where does that leave things?
As a side issue, I very much worry about Drew, Cameron, and the Sox’ right field position. I thought if Drew was healthy (and he is, it seems) he’d have a solid to very good year. But he, like some guys on the Yanks, is playing “old”. Or is this just my projection because Drew isn’t playing all that well, and since he’s older I just make that simplistic connection? Could be, for sure.

Or to put it another way: one might expect that due to the general streakiness of baseball that when one player is slumping another is not, and that is what smooths over the inconsistencies of a year.
In the Sox’ case, clearly Adrian and Papi and Ells have helped conceal the drek that is Tek, Pedey, and Drew. And hopefully when Adrian goes cold for a spell someone else breaks out, Pedey goes on a tear, etc.
But what if when Grandy slows down (he’s got to, right?) Jeter and A-Rod continue their aged play? Martin cooling off hasn’t been timed with a commensurate rebound by one of the older stars, and that’s hurting. Isn’t there a chance that when regression occurs the older players aren’t going to suddenly rebound to their levels of play when they were 30, 31 years old?

SF, the Yankee offensive production relative to the rest of the league – as noted above – has been excellent. The problem is situational — i.e. with RISP especially. Do these guys suddenly feel their age when someone reaches 2nd? I am not at all ready to write off A-Rod as I am Jorge who is both older and struggling to adapt to a role he hates, and in the last year of his contract.
If we look at the age-issue, my concern would be with where the Yanks are ageing. Ageing players who have little fielding range but can still slug can be hidden by slotting them in at DH, corner OF, 1B, etc. But the Yankee age is at DH, 3B, and SS. And their corner outfielders are REALLY not power-producers. This is more a concern over the next 2-3 years for me.
This year, my enduring concern is pretty much focused on starting pitching, and that’s it. And it isn’t likely to get better any time soon.

SF, that’s why I said solely on age. Sure, we all know that as you age you heal slower, etc…But an injury is an injury at any age.
The Yankees position players, old or otherwise do not concern me. Taking salary out of the equation I am fine with the starting 9 with the exception of Posada and that’s an easy fix: call up Jesus, Vazquez, Maxwell, etc…Who knows maybe they catch lightning in a bottle. They certainly can’t be any worse.
Other than that I am perfectly fine with this team offensively. The infield isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and in the OF only Swisher is in a contract year.
What concerns me more than all of that is the health of Hughes (not old, but hurt) and the lack of support behind CC. That’s really where my concerns begin and end re: the Yankees.

A few statistical tidbits, a propos of nothing:
Situationally A-Rod’s career “Baserunners scored” percentage is 18%. That is, the percentage of baserunners that score while he is batting (not RBIs). In 2008 it was 16%, 2009 it was 17%, last year it shot up to 22%, and this year it is 16% again. His “productive out” percentage is on his career number at 29%, exactly.
For Jeter, his “Baserunners scored” career percentage is 16%, and his pattern has been downward: 16%, 14%, 14%, then this year at 12% to date. He’s made a lot of productive outs, though, in a small sample he’s at 57% (well above average).
There are so many numbers at BR that this is a cherry-picked piece of info. I don’t really even know what it means, frankly. When one looks at both Jeter and A-Rod’s patterns of knocking in guys from third with less than two outs there is just too small a sample, but trends are downward over the last three to four years for both guys (A-Rod had a big anomaly last year, a surge).

When you are looking at a 3-year period, can one-third of that (1 year), be simply dismissed as an “anomaly”? I really don’t think so.
Again, I am not arguing that specific players are past their prime. I am looking at the team as a whole, which incorporates downslopes and upslopes. If you want to asert now that A-Rod will continue to hit .242/.336/.445 or even worse because he is now 35, OK. I’d take that bet.
I’ll assume that if, as you say, Granderson and Martin go cold together, it is likely that Teixeira, who you don’t mention, and A-Rod, not to mention Swisher, will likely pick up much of that slack, and more, because – I assume unilke you – I think they are still more than capable of doing so.

I assume unilke you
I assume nothing. I simply don’t know. If I had to bet (which I don’t) I would say that A-Rod definitely progresses. With Jeter and Posada I have less faith. I think last year Jeter made everyone think (unlike A-Rod) and this year his struggles have basically continued, making his rebound that much less certain.
As for Granderson and Swisher, Martin, Cano, Tex, I expect these guys all gravitate towards career averages, with one of the five going nuts and one of the five underperfoming. That’s baseball, maybe?

“With Jeter and Posada I have less faith”
It’s interesting – I actually have more faith in Posada than I think many others, in part because he is SO bad right now. I really don’t believe that he went from one of the best hitting catchers in the majors for his career to – literally – the absolute worst hitter in all of major league baseball within 2 seasons. I think he is closer to the latter than the former, but if he could just get his head right I think he SHOULD be able to hit .250 with continued serious pop. Now that won’t set the world on fire, but it would be a huge improvement from the bottom-dwelling he is now doing.

I interrupt this terrific exchange to offer my condolances to the family and friends of one Baseball HOF-er Harmon Killebrew. Anyone ever hear someone say a bad word about him?

John says: “I’d blame A-Rod’s recent struggles on him recovering from an injury before I’d blame it solely on age.”
SF’s argument that these go hand in hand has even more merit when you consider the injury.
If memory serves, Mike Lowell had essentially the same surgery for the same injury when he was 34, and he was never really the same. Rodriguez is 35.
(Now, before anyone has a hissy, please note: I make this comarison to note the similarities in AGE and INJURY.)
The larger point is that even for a professional athlete, his injury is one that requires time for a full recovery. And is there even a guarantee that he will fully recover?
And PB37 apparently is out for the Bruins tonight.

Sorry for the thread hijack, but I couldn’t resist …
Change “growth chemical” to “steroids” and change “watermelon” to “Roger Clemens” and we have all the incentive we need to end the use of PEDs:
But ol’ Roger wouldn’t be as good for the compost pile.

I wanted to address this:
The Yankees and Red Sox have almost identical (baseball reference can verify this) average player ages on both the position player and pitching side. The Phillies have an average player age of 32 (2 years older than the Yankees and Red Sox), yet they are still winning? San Francisco Giants, same average age as the Yankees, they are in 1st place.
Batters’ Age (weighted by AB and games played):
* PHI: 32.1
* NYY: 31.5
* SFG: 30.6
* BOS: 30.6
Pitchers’ Age (weighted by games started, games and saves):
* NYY: 31.3
* PHI: 30.4
* BOS: 30.2
* SFG: 28.6
According to Baseball-Reference, the Yankees’ hitters are the third-oldest in franchise history, behind only the 2004-05 squads, when Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield, Ruben Sierra, Tony Womack, Tino Martinez and Kenny Lofton all saw plenty of playing time. The pitchers are 11th, behind the 1987-88, 2000 and 2002-07 versions.
These numbers will change as players are released, injured, traded, called up, etc., but as of right now, the Yankees’ hitters are indeed quite old.
For some further perspective, an average weighted batters’ age of 31.5 would be tied for second all time in Red Sox’ history with the 2005 club. The Rangers and Indians have never had a batters’ age that high. The Tigers haven’t had their hitters at 31.5 since 1988. In 135 years as professional franchises, neither the Reds nor the Cubs have never had a lineup as old as the Yankees’ so far in 2011.
So I think age, while certainly not the only or even the primary factor, is a legitimate thing to consider when discussing the struggles of the Yankees.
But, moreso, I think it’s simply the fact that teams look really bad when they’re losing. When they start winning again, everyone will be talking again about the amazing ageless Yankees.

Looking at this as objectively as I can (which admittedly is not very) this is what the different components of the Yankees’ performance look like:
If I were going to provide the pessimist’s counterpoint to IH’s post at the top of this thread, I would argue something like this:
Yes, the Yankees are leading or near the top in a bunch of offensive categories, nearly all of which is explainable by their unsustainable home run rates.
Through their first 25 games, the Yankees batted a league-average .251 and posted a slightly better-than-average .335 OBP, but because of 45 home runs maintained a sterling .810 OPS, 100 points above the league average. They were 16-9 through this stretch.
Since then, they’ve hit .242 with a .330 OBP, not much difference from before, but their home runs have plummeted from 1.8 per game to 1.1 per game, and so their OPS over that span is just .714, a league-average total in keeping with their league-average batting and on-base totals.
Let’s compare these more directly:
H/G, 1-25: 8.2
H/G, 26-39: 8.2
2B/G, 1-25: 1.6
2B/G, 26-39: 0.9
HR/G, 1-25: 1.8
HR/G, 26-39: 1.1
BB/G, 1-25: 3.9
BB/G, 26-39: 4.1
K/G, 1-25: 6.8
K/G, 26-39: 7.1
The Yankees are not hitting much less, if at all, than they were. The main difference is that their insane home run rate has normalized. The argument at the time, which I agreed with, was that the home runs were helping buy time for the rest of the struggling lineup, and that slumps would end as home runs decreased, allowing for the production to continue. Instead, the home runs have returned to normal levels, and those players who were struggling are mostly still struggling.
The pitching, on the other hand, appears to be generating the results you’d expect from the performance. As IH notes, the starting staff is among the bottom three or four teams in almost every traditional and advanced metric, while the bullpen is at the top. Of course, the starters pitch a lot more, and as a result, the Yankees’ pitchers overall are below the median in most metrics.
The Yanks have been pitching worse over the past two weeks, but not that much worse. (4.26 ERA versus 3.72 in the first 25 games). This slump has been driven almost entirely by the lineup, which has been slightly unlucky over the course of the season (.266 BABIP versus .285 league average), but mostly has simply seen its good luck revert to normal.
So we’re still early, and players still have plenty of time to snap out of their slumps. I don’t think age and injuries have turned the Yankees from an elite offense to a league-average one overnight, but that month-long home run surge masked the fact that average is exactly what the Yankees’ hitters have been since the beginning of the season.

it’s been said already, including by me on another thread, but if the yankees rediscover hitting with runners in scoring position [with or without homers], and play better defense, they start winning a lot of the games they’re now losing, and we’re not having this conversation…i don’t buy the age excuse either…not when the average is only 1 year different between the so-called elite teams…average ages are misleading anyway…too easily skewed by a couple old guys or a couple of young guys…are the yankees old?…i suppose in certain spots…are the red sox old?…again, in certain spots…is the reason the sox sucked for the first 15 games and the yankees sucked for the last 15 games due to age?…nah…the sox didn’t suddenly get younger and the yankees didn’t suddenly get older…wishing for age and turmoil to consume the yankees doesn’t make it so sf…you can beat us fair and square on the field, for at least 5 of the first 6…let’s see how the rest of the season goes…

Agree dc 100%. And Paul, in my defense, I did point out explicitly in the comment to which you responded that the SLG figure was skewed by the HRs, and since OPS comprises SLG, I think the inference is clear. Of course OBP has nothing to do with the HRs and whether you cite the Yankee OBP rate as “slightly above average” due to the tight spread between the top rates and bottom rates or you cite it as 3rd out of 14 in the AL as I did, both are true. As you say, your framing is more pessimistic, or perhaps, given that you’re an sf, maybe “hopeful” would be a more accurate descriptor :)

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