Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's Been A While

Ok, I haven't posted in a while and a week before finals is probably not the best time to start blogging again, but I want to write something quickly about the Yankees.

The Yankees are currently 8-11, a mark topped by 21 of the 30 major league teams. That's pretty bad, especially for a team that was supposed to compete for the championship. So does this slow start portend a season of disaster?

Not necessarily. Look at the Run Differential (runs scored - runs allowed) of all the major league teams. The Yankees are +20, 4th in all of baseball and only 5 behind the AL leading Red Sox. Surprised? I'm not. Here's why:

Only one of their 11 losses were by more than 2 runs and that sole 4 run loss was was the result of a Farnsworth meltdown in the 8th inning. In other words, the Yankees have been in every game. They've won their 8 games by a total of 39 runs, about 5 runs a game. Point being, that almost all their losses have been close and could easily have gone the other way. So even if nothing changed, I'd expect the Yankees to pick it up and end up with close to 90 wins.

But something will change. Of their original 5 starters, only Andy Pettitte and Kei Igawa have made more than 2 starts. Wang made his first start yesterday and Mussina was injured in the 3rd inning of his first game. Pavano only pitched twice, as many times as Chase Wright, who wasn't even considered in their top 8 pitchers on the depth chart before the season. Injuries are affecting not only their top 5 starters, but also the depth, like Karstens and Sanchez. Tomorrow when Phillip Hughes makes his major league debut, the Yankees will be using their 9th starting pitcher in their first 21 games!

But forget about quality; they are also getting the least innings per start in the majors, forcing their bullpen into excessive use, and making them less effective. The bullpen is already tired from having to pitch almost 5 innings a game.

The Yankees should get back Wang healthy for the rest of the year, and Mussina for much of it. If Mussina, Wang and Pettite all pitch around 180-200 innings, we should expect an improvement in the quality of the bullpen's performance just based on being used less often. Even if Igawa doesn't get the hang of the AL and Pavano never comes back, just having those three pitchers healthy and pitching, improves the team's pitching numbers. We should expect a significant improvement if the staff just gets reasonably healthy. And of course Clemens, if he should sign, would at the very least be a vast improvement just by going 6 innings and pitching solidly every start.

So I'm assuming the runs allowed aspect of the equation should improve dramatically, making the run differential even more vast. But what about the runs scored? I don't see a significant dropoff on the horizon. Sure, ARod is white hot right now, but no one else in the lineup is having an above average year, and some are slumping (Jeter for example). Even when A-Rod comes back to Earth, I'd expect only a minor dropoff in overall run scoring.

If everything goes right, this team will win 100 games. If injuries continue to mount, but at a normal pace (like last year), they'll probably win between 90-95. If they get Clemens, watch out.