Thursday, August 28, 2008

End of an Era?

Officially, you might say that the end was October 19, 2007, the day Joe Torre left the Yankees. Some would argue the end came February 15th, 2004, the day the Yankees traded Alfonsio Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. That was the day Yankee pundits (both fans and haters) claim, the Yankees left the days of the "real Yankees" of O'Neil, Bernie, Tino, Jorge, Jeter, Mo etc and became the reincarnation of the 80's Yankees, most notably defined by Frank Costanza as the team that traded Jay Buhner for Steve Kemp (ignoring the fact that Clemens was a renegade ala Arod who won 2 rings with the Yanks, Giambi came over the year before as a very expensive free agent).
The truth probably lies nowhere near those two factors.

When the Yankees started their great run in 1995 (officially you can say it really started the strike year of '94) Derek Jeter was a 22 year old up and coming superstar SS. Bernie Williams was 27. Tino Martinez was 28, coming off a 35 HR 110+ RBI season for the Mariners, who just happened to knock the Yanks out of the playoffs in 1995.
This years version, Jeter is now an aging 34. Johnny Damon is 35 and is a liability in the field. Bobby Abreu, who has been the best Yankee all year is 34 and another defensive liability. Posada has been a non factor- as is usually the case for 34+ year old catchers. The core of this squad is old and the kids who were counted on have been huge disappointments. Robinson Cano, who will hold multiple batting titles before it's all over, is hitting .268 (a career .300+ hitter). Melky has been an even bigger disappointment. One glaring stat that back this up (the aging factor):
According to Bill James, the Yankees are third to last in Defensive Efficiency- a stat that estimates the number of batted balls turned into outs by a team. The estimate for plays made is based on outs minus things like double plays, caught stealings and outfield assists or total batters faced minus strikeouts, walks, HBP, Hits and errors times a factor. These aren't perfectly known historically, so some of these ratings may be dubious. Contrast this to 2006 when they were 2nd in that stat, or 2000 (their last World Championship team) finished 2nd.

Pitching is the other main factor. With all due respect to the same Yankee pundits referred to above, the Yankees lost the winningest pitcher in baseball the last two seasons to injury in Chien Ming Wang after only two months. Replace a perennial Cy Young contender with a Darrel Rasner and that spells trouble, both for the rotation and just as importantly, the taxing of the bullpen. Wang would always give them 7 innings. Rasner has been lucky to get to the 5th. There's a trickle down effect. The next night when you have a starter go 5 or even 6, they are already wearied because instead of getting the rest Wang provided, they must now go two in a row. Over the course of the season, that's brutal.
You then had the disappointment of the Kids and Pettitte. Pettitte was the #2 behind Wang. Phil Hughes was supposed to step in and be the teams #3 starter this year. After showing signs last year (especially vs. Cleveland in the playoffs) and his previous minor league success (he was the consensus #1 pitching prospect in baseball in 2006), there was much reason for hope. Ian Kennedy would be the #4 starter and a washed up Mike Mussina would stick around until they got someone in a trade. Well, Hughes and Kennedy have a combined win total that matches The People's Champ for this season (O). Hughes has taken a huge step back in the Triple A this season. Pettitte has been average at best all season, and awful at best in big spots (especially Tuesday's 4IP 10H 6ER vs. Boston in a do or die series opener). The "washed up" Moose would finish no worse than 4th if the Cy Young voting was today. he's been the only bright spot.
The bullpen has been a disaster. A strength when Joba led to Mo, has now been a mess in what may be a top 3 ever season for the Greatest Closer of All time.
So is the end of the great Yankee run, the 1981 of this current run? Or is it just a blip on the radar a year of rebuilding within, a year the team got younger and experienced and the start of the next great run?
Next years team will be much different. The IF will still be Arod, Jeter and Cano left to right (still a decent defensive squad with offensive abilities that outweigh and defensive limitations). A first baseman (perhaps a Texiera) who will be better both offensively and defensively than Giambi (you can bet that Steinbrenner will have an open check book going into 2009 and a new stadium). The OF will be Nady (a very nice surprise in a dismal season) and who knows. Maybe they bring back Abreu, maybe not. The staff will presumably be Wang, Joba, Hughes and maybe a return of Moose and a signing of a CC Sabathia. They will need to strengthen the bullpen.

With that being said, it says here Yankees 2009 will be a great year for the Bronx faithful.



Mr. Ed said...

A Fraud is at it again. Striking out with 2 on and 1 out in the first. Mr. Clutch. Well, at least we have only 9 more years of him DOH!

Ducks said...

Mostly an accurate analysis, TPC, except that I told you nearly everything you said about thie aging squad at the BEGINNING of this season.

And it says here, 2009 will be the continuation of the demise, not a resurgence, regardless of who they sign. Their greats are aging. It's over, man.

ThePeoplesChamp said...

Aging and all, if Cano, Arod, Hughes (even to a minor extent) and Wang are healthy (notice I didnt use Posada and the other aging players)the Yanks are right in the thick of it.