• Has Yanks’ Competition Risen Or Have Yanks Fallen?

    Posted by on February 6th, 2009 · Comments (2)

    Something Tom Verducci said to Alex Belth the other day has stuck with me. Here it is:

    The Yankees helped raise the competition because they were so good. [Billy] Beane, in fact, compared those championship-winning Yankees teams to the UCLA basketball dynasty — so good as to make moot his crapshoot theory about the playoffs. And then the competition improved because of systematic and philosophical changes across the industry (increased revenue sharing, statistical analysis, ownership changes, etc.). I believe, for instance, these days teams that miss the playoffs are better than, say, the Rangers teams the Yankees were sweeping just about every year in the Division Series. So the closer the competitive gap is narrowed, the more “luck” will come into play. And more specifically, the Red Sox leveraged their cutting edge smarts on player evaluation to acquire on the cheap many of the players who pushed them past the Yankees in 2004 (Ortiz, Millar, Mueller, etc.)

    Is this true? Has the Yankees competition improved? Well, thanks to the situational record won-loss data available at Baseball-Reference.com, we can look into this question.

    The chart below shows us, from 1996 through 2008, how many games the Yankees played against teams who would finish the year with a winning percentage of .525 or better, how many of those games the Yankees won, how many games the Yankees played against teams who would finish the year with a winning percentage of .550 or better, and how many of those games the Yankees won:

    	>= .525		>=.550	
    Year	Games 	Wins	Games	Wins
    1996	75	40	24	14
    1997	43	18	29	10
    1998	64	38	16	10
    1999	53	29	43	23
    2000	63	32	50	25
    2001	39	16	27	11
    2002	56	33	56	33
    2003	78	43	44	25
    2004	58	31	46	24
    2005	54	29	45	22
    2006	84	45	34	18
    2007	63	34	39	22
    2008	90	48	46	23
    

    The first thing that jumps out, to me, here is the 2001 season. Wow, did the Yankees have a soft schedule that year, or what?

    But, getting back to the Verducci point, the data suggests that it’s a valid one for consideration.

    In terms of playing “really good teams” – ones that finished the season with a winning percentage of .550 or better – the numbers for the Yankees do show an increase with time.

    From 1996 through 2001, the Yankees averaged about 32 games played against these “really good teams.” And, from 2002 through 2005, New York averaged about 48 games played against “really good teams.” Lastly, from 2006 through 2008, the Yankees averaged about 40 games played against “really good teams.”

    So, you could claim, from 1996 through 2001, the Yankees played about 30 games a season against “really good teams” whereas, from 2002 through 2008, the Yankees played about 45 games a season against “really good teams.” And, that’s an increase of 50%.

    Next, look at the data in terms of playing “good teams” – ones that finished the season with a winning percentage of .525 or better – the numbers for the Yankees here also tell a story.

    From 1996 through 2001, the Yankees averaged about 56 games played against these “good teams.” And, from 2002 through 2005, New York averaged about 62 games played against “good teams.” Lastly, from 2006 through 2008, the Yankees averaged about 79 games played against “good teams.”

    So, you could claim, from 1996 through 2005, the Yankees played about 60 games a season against “good teams” whereas, from 2006 through 2008, the Yankees played about 80 games a season against “good teams.” And, that’s an increase of 33%.

    Looking at this data, if asked the question “Has the Yankees competition improved?,” one might want to answer “Yes.” Look at the numbers. In the last seven seasons, the Yankees have faced more “really good teams” than in the six seasons prior, each year. And, in the last three seasons, the Yankees have faced more “good teams” than in the ten seasons prior, each year.

    But, the one question I have here is this: Have the Yankees raised the bar, and other teams have now matched it; or, is this more a matter of the Yankees lowering the bar which has enabled other teams to raise their bar?

    From 2002 through 2004, the Yankees were good for 100 wins each season. But, from 2005 through 2007, the Yankees were good for 95 wins, thereabouts, each season. And, last year, the Yankees won “only” 89 games.

    Therefore, are the records for Yankees opponents better in the last few years because they’re getting better; or, are their opponents’ records getting better because the Yankees are getting worse and allowing them to win more games?

    It’s probably something that can be debated, debated some more, and then debated again. It’s the chicken and the egg argument, in some ways.

    Comments on Has Yanks’ Competition Risen Or Have Yanks Fallen?

    1. butchie22
      February 7th, 2009 | 2:55 pm

      The Yankees are worse and the other teams have gotten better. The teams that are winning lately are different from the 90s Yankees in different ways. The Red Sox have had two bashers (Manram and Papi) in the middle of their lineup with an OBP emphasis. The Yankees were not a “home run” bashing team at that point.They had dominant pitching and relief.

    2. February 8th, 2009 | 11:22 am

      […] Has Yanks’ Competition Risen Or Have Yanks Fallen? / Yanks Team Report […]

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