• Yankees, Post-2001, So, What Do You Think?

    Posted by on January 25th, 2008 · Comments (15)

    Recently, elsewhere, I made the following statement:

    Since 2002, the Yanks have won a lot of games each year – and, that’s great. But, the way Brian Cashman has built his teams is the following:

    Spend ~$200 million on great offensive players and pitchers that are either over-hyped or past their prime. And, during the regular season, when those mega-batters are matched-up against the bad pitching teams in the AL, it covers for the weak Yankees pitching and then New York starts to pile up win totals.

    But, come the post-season, when you face teams with good pitching, or you face a team in a format where they can use their best pitchers and hide their duds, your great hitters get shut down and then your weak pitchers get exposed, and you lose the series.

    If the Yankees are going to return to the ring teams like the ’70’s and the ’90’s, they’re going to need to have great pitching to go with their hitting – and great pitching that can shut down another team in the post-season. Until that happens, it’s going to be just like the ’80’s and the post-2001 Yankees…lots of seasons where your hitters carry you to 90+ wins, but, teams that get bounced in the post-season.

    To anyone who has been reading this blog over the last couple of years, or longer, to hear a statement like this from me should not come as a shock.

    But, I thought, today, on a slow-baseball-news sort of day, it may be fun to review this concept of mine, again, and ask Yankees fans (reading this) the following questions:

    1. Do you agree with this conclusion from me? And,
    2. If you think it’s not correct, why?

    Thanks in advance to anyone willing to share thoughts on this in the comments section below.

    Comments on Yankees, Post-2001, So, What Do You Think?

    1. williamnyy
      January 25th, 2008 | 12:36 pm

      This is a silly conclusion because:

      1) It ignores that the Yankees made the World Series in 2003 and was “this close” to winning the ALCS in 2004. You make it sound as if the Yankees have sucked since 2001.

      2) The comparison to the 1980s is baseless. Those teams didn’t win the division/make the playoffs in every season.

      Finally, while, yes, better pitching makes winning easier, but you don’t need “great” pitching when you have an offense like the Yankees. Besides, which post 2001 champions had “great” pitching? The 2002 Angels? Nope. The 2003 Marlins? Nope. 2004 Red Sox..with Schilling and Pedro, I’ll say yes. 2005 White Sox? Nope…even though they pitched “great” in the World Series. 2006 Cardinals…again, no.

    2. Kered Retej
      January 25th, 2008 | 1:24 pm

      I do generally agree with the conclusion. I believe that in the past few years, the Yankees have built teams for winning in the regular season, but not for the short series postseason.

      During the regular season, they feast on the weak competition, and rack up wins against the sub-par #3, 4, 5, starters and expose the weak spots in bullpens by being patient, etc. But in the postseason, a lot of those problems can be hidden. You’re not going to make your #1 starter go 140 pitches to nail down a win in April, but you might think about it for Game 1 of the wild card game, for instance. Or you might bring in a top starter to pitch in relief during the postseason, whereas during the season some random arm in the BP might get the call. This plays against the Yankees’ strengths.

      In some sense, I see A-Rod’s struggles (not that he has to be the topic of conversation all the time) as a mini-example of this phenomenon. My observations of him are that he is a great mistake hitter. That is, if you groove a pitch and catch too much of the plate, he will make you pay, and he also feasts on sub-par pitching, punishing crappy pitchers. But, the really top guys seem to be able to get to him. I think that explains, to some extent, why he isn’t quite as dominant in postseason play as he is during the regular season.

      Just my $0.02.

    3. williamnyy
      January 25th, 2008 | 1:30 pm

      I think you are way off base about Arod. I am sorry, but you can’t post all-time numbers like Arod only hitting mistakes. As for his playoff performance, well, Arod WAS a dominant post season performer until Game 4 of the 2003 ALCS. Are we to just ignore his first two series with the Yankees and prior performance with the Mariners?

    4. yankcrank20
      January 25th, 2008 | 2:09 pm

      i remember joe torre always saying that the first round of the playoffs was a crap shoot; meaning its a lot of luck. well, like the yankee players said during their championship runs of 96-01, “good teams put themselves in position to take advantage of good luck.”

      the yanks haven’t run into postseason luck. i agree with the original post, however i think the 02-03 teams need to be left out of this argument because those teams had our dominant rotations of clemens, pettitte, mussina, wells, contreras (i know). it wasn’t until our entire rotation decided to leave in 04 that cashman had to fill the gaps with poor pitching. he didn’t have any other way to do it, and with guys like brown, vazquez, leiber, 50-year-old el duque, wright, aaron small and chacon…its a mircale we even made the playoffs, let alone the 04 alcs.

      also, the a-rod argument is ridiculous. good postseason pitching shuts downs the best hitters. we won a lot of low scoring playoffs games from 96-01, and it was because our great pitching outpitched other teams great pitching. you cant expect a-rod to go crazy in the postseason against guys like verlander, bonderman, sabathia, carmona, lackey and schilling. postseason baseball isn;t exactly batting practice. grow up and realize a-rod is amazing, and his expectations are unfair. nobody can live up to those standards

    5. Raf
      January 25th, 2008 | 2:46 pm

      it wasn’t until our entire rotation decided to leave in 04 that cashman had to fill the gaps with poor pitching. he didn’t have any other way to do it, and with guys like brown, vazquez, leiber, 50-year-old el duque, wright, aaron small and chacon…its a mircale we even made the playoffs, let alone the 04 alcs.
      =============
      Regardless, in 2004 & 2005 they were in a position to advance to the following rounds. They didn’t execute be it because of the pitching, defense or hitting.

      If you can consistently apply the logic in the original post to the teams in the postseason, then you may have something. But since you can’t, you don’t. Great pitching to go with great hitting may help, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all to winning in the postseason.

    6. vocallytrnsfrmd
      January 25th, 2008 | 2:52 pm

      I think you make a lot of good points, and I generally agree with you. However, the Yankees had very strong pitching in 2002/2003. From 2004 and on they fell off a lot, but remember hindsight is 20/20 and Cashman can’t be blamed too much. A majority of the moves looked solid to awesome during those years. Kevin Brown had come off a very healthy, dominant year with the Dodgers. Javier Vasquez was an emerging young pitcher with tremendous stuff, upside and had an elite 2003. Randy Johnson was old, but had come off a year where he might have deserved a Cy Young, but got screwed by the overrated win-totals. Carl Pavano had just had 2 straight healthy years, had B+ stuff, and a good 04. The more obvious bad moves here? Maybe Kei Igawa, but many scouts predicted he could handle the #5 workload. Jaret Wright? Yeah that stunk. But otherwise, solid job.
      Also worth remembering that Cashman wasn’t allowed to construct his minor leagues as a safety net for the inevitable pitchers that wouldn’t pan out until 2005/2006.
      To conclude, yes the Yankees will probably need the elite pitching to be stronger pennant contenders. But Brian Cashman shouldn’t be ragged on too much.

    7. Raf
      January 25th, 2008 | 3:08 pm

      Also worth remembering that Cashman wasn’t allowed to construct his minor leagues as a safety net for the inevitable pitchers that wouldn’t pan out until 2005/2006.
      —————–
      Regardless, that doesn’t explain, for instance, Wang’s poor postseason starts in 2007.

    8. Mr.Cletus
      January 25th, 2008 | 3:19 pm

      Steve you ignorant slut. Just kidding, I actually agree with everything you said except the comparison to the 80′s.

      Remember there was no wildcard then. The Yankees had the best winning percentage of the decade and could have been in the tournament 3 to 5 more times. Some of those years they would play together as a team long enough to possibly win a WS.

      Anyway, this is an interesting off season, because we’re going in with Wang coming off an awful postseason but typically great regular season, Pettitte coming off Steroids/Clemens?Congress, Hughes looking to stay healthy and get his inninigs up, Joba transtioning from the pen, Kennedy with the soft stuff and Mussina nuf said.

      I for one would rather have this group then Pavano, Wright, Bad RJ or Kevin Brown.

    9. Sky
      January 25th, 2008 | 4:02 pm

      The most important point is the first sentence: spending $200 million on overhyped, past-their-prime stars. That goes for both hitters and pitchers. There’s no way a $200 million payroll should win 95 games. 105 at a minimum. No matter what the specific strengths and weaknesses of a team are, a 105-win team is the odds-on favorite to win it all.

      The second most important point is that the playoffs definitely ARE a crapshoot. A best-of-five will be won by the better team MAYBE 55% of the time. Best-of-seven? 60%. There are no guarantees. The Yankees were lucky to win World Series titles four out of five years, and have been a bit unlucky to win zero since then, given that they made the playoffs every season.

    10. MJ
      January 25th, 2008 | 4:23 pm

      There’s no way a $200 million payroll should win 95 games. 105 at a minimum. No matter what the specific strengths and weaknesses of a team are, a 105-win team is the odds-on favorite to win it all….The second most important point is that the playoffs definitely ARE a crapshoot.
      =============================================
      No point equating payroll to expected wins. It’s a pointless excercise that’s been shot down a number of times. Sure, on paper, the Yanks should win all 162 games with their 25 All-Stars but it doesn’t work out like that. And why would winning 105 regular season games make anyone a favorite to win the WS? The 2004 Cardinals won 104 (most in baseball) and got spanked by the Red Sox.

      Point is, take money out of the equation. Judge a team by their roster and the stats, not by how much it cost them to get there. You can’t really tell much about a team by what they spent since money has so little to do with performance on the field.

    11. January 25th, 2008 | 11:50 pm

      ~~~You can’t really tell much about a team by what they spent since money has so little to do with performance on the field.~~~

      Don’t the two highest paid teams, the Yankees and the Red Sox, usually perform the best on the field?

    12. January 25th, 2008 | 11:53 pm

      ~~~It ignores that the Yankees made the World Series in 2003 and was “this close” to winning the ALCS in 2004. You make it sound as if the Yankees have sucked since 2001.~~~

      The Yankees pitching, in 2004, was TERRIBLE. To use your words, they sucked.

      I’ll give you 2003. I probably should look at this as post-2003 and not post-2001. But, post-2003, the theory works, for me.

    13. January 25th, 2008 | 11:58 pm

      ~~~The comparison to the 1980s is baseless. Those teams didn’t win the division/make the playoffs in every season.~~~

      Check the RSAA and RCAA stats for the Yankees teams in the middle ’80s. For the most part, they hit well and their pitching was not good – yet, they won near 90 games most seasons.

      That’s my point with the compare – then, and now, they win a lot of games because of the thumpers. Making the playoffs depends on the other teams too. See the 1984 Tigers, for example. Nobody was going to take the crown that year but them.

    14. Lee Sinins
      January 26th, 2008 | 10:32 am

      The postseason is such small sample size shit that you have just as good a chance of winning the World Series by having your CBE player ID numbers add to up to a higher figure than your World Series opponent than you do by having the better pitching staff.

      Since 2000, 6 out of the 8 World Series were won by the team with the higher CBE player ID numbers

      6 out of the last 8 World Series were won by the team with the higher RSAA

      And the higher CBE player ID numbers is the very definition of pure luck. Those numbers are determined by running a random number generator for every player in baseball history and then assigning each player their ID based on the descending order of their random number.

      And, even if we limited the comparision just to pitching, we get the same results. 6 out of the last 8 winners had the higher CBE player ID numbers just among the pitchers.

    15. Sky
      January 26th, 2008 | 11:25 am

      “Point is, take money out of the equation. Judge a team by their roster and the stats, not by how much it cost them to get there. You can’t really tell much about a team by what they spent since money has so little to do with performance on the field.”

      Seriously? There’s a high correlation between payroll and wins. It’s certainly not the end of the discussion, but you have to consider it. Are you saying the Yankees would only suffer “so little” if they were limited to a $90 million payroll?

      Given that the Yankees have $200 million to spend, they should be a much better team. Now, given the level of talent currently on the team, there might be an argument for redistributing the talent (strong 1-3 starters and another highly reliable setup man instead of quite so potent an offense). But if we’re going to figure out where the Yankees have gone wrong, the important answer is 80% in spending the money, not whether they should have grossly overpaid for a top starter instead of Bobby Abreu. Both would be a mistake compared to a reasonably price RF AND starter.

      (Oh, and the comment about “on paper the Yankees should win 162 games” is totally false. Having the better team doesn’t guarantee victory. That’s the whole reason the playoffs are a crapshoot.)

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