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Mailbag - Yankees Don't Make Playoffs?
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
July, 2006


Keith has gotten a bit of mail on his recent article in which he predicts that the Yankees will not make the playoffs.  Here is a sampling:

Brett Kneitel 8/11/06:

I just read your article on the Yankees dispointing their fans.

Do you honestly consider yourself a baseball expert?

A team, with as many injuries as they have had, hung in it as long as they did, and now they are what, 3/4 games up in 1st place on the quickly dwindling Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Sox just got swept by the ROYALS!!!!!

As I always tell people who talk smack...come talk to me in August, when the games actually count.

Keith: Thanks for the email, Brett.

Clearly, I was wrong about Steinbrenner's willingness to spend money at the deadline. He was able to get one fantastic player and two very good players for essentially a wad of cash. Those moves addressed the teams' needs perfectly. If you think that the Yankees would be three games up without having made those moves, then you're deluding yourself.

As far as games not meaning anything until August, tell that to Oakland and Cleveland fans last year, or perhaps Minnesota fans this year. It's not enough to have a great second half if your first half effort was lousy.


Daniel, Re: Yankees not making the playoffs...

 

I can see them perhaps running out of steam during the playoffs but not making it in to the playoffs? One more thing in regards to the White Sox being better than the Yanks...the Yankees sweep the White Sox!! Maybe the White Sox are better than the Yankees on paper but that is why they play the game.

Keith:

I realize that many people can't remember a time when the Yankees didn't make the playoffs, but yes, it can happen.  The White Sox sweep was big, but one series does not a season make.  The Red Sox got swept by the Twins in June.  That does not necessarily make the Twins the better team (especially since both series in question involved the home team sweeping).


Daniel:

In regards to the Twins your right they are not better than the Red Sox nor are they better than the Yankees or the White Sox. I just think it is still a little early to be so sure the Yankees are not going to make the playoffs as they are closing on the White Sox for the wild card and are right on the heels of the Bo Sox. I have doubts about just how far if the Yankees make it into the playoffs on just how far they will go but to be so sure they will not make the playoffs is a stretch. You are right about the Twins and Yanks sweeping at home and I agree with you on that point…I believe Boston took two of three games in Chicago. Well it will be very interesting and the Yankees not making the playoffs would actually be a good thing for the Yankees. The sooner they get some tinkering with the sooner they will be dominating baseball again and the balance of the universe will be restored once again. Any ways thanks for emailing me back Mr.Glab and I will keep on reading what interesting predictions you will be making in the near future.

Anonymous:

On scout.com you posted this article regarding the Yankees not making
it to the playoffs this year, while you make your points, don't you think
you jump the gun a bit too much ?

5. Pitching and defense: Wang's BABIP .. it is higher than last year
... but he's having about the same success if not more than last year.
Cano's defense metrics seem to shown quite an improvement in all
categories.. his ZR is up to .839 this year (as oppose to say.. Mark
Loretta... whom is around .790ish) from .818 last year. his "horrible
range" is actually front of the pack of AL 2Bs... the Yankees are also
playing Andy Phillips as much as they could, which also removes the hole
that is Giambi into one of the better range 1Bs in the league. Thinking
Moose's age is a problem while the Red Sox have Schilling/Wakefield /
Timlin, the Tigers have Rogers (whom have melted down in the second half
over the last couple of years) / Jones (who sucks now already anyway) isn't
a problem seems rather biased.

The Yankees are managing a better team ERA than both White and Red
Sox.. and they manage a better team defense efficiency. than those two team
anyway. meanwhile both the Red Sox and White Sox lost recently to horrible
defense and even worse pitching. .. while the Yankee pitching definately
have it's holes, to think it's really worse than anyone else except Detriot
is realllly stretching it.

4.Robinson Cano have been a non-factor in the Yankee offense anyway, he
doesn't hit well in RISP, and it's always hard to predict how young guys
will or will not hit. on the same side, Melky Cabrera has walked a lot, and
after the dismal June he is hot again in July... Bernie Williams is posting
..800+ OPS since June... so calling him a real hole is another real stretch
(offensively anyway..... defensively I'd definitely agree) Andy Phillips
had a great June also, and seems to be coming out of his recent slumps.

3.Schedule: The Yanks just swept the White Sox while Boston lost 3 out
of 4 at home to the A's.. that kind of screwed this part up already didn't
it?

2.Everyone knows it's a tough league coming in, it's a point, but it's
not exactly a revelation.

1.Old Stein's spending: we shall see about that, who knows maybe next
week the Yanks pick up Abreu's massive contract? he has hinted that.....
then this point would be even more silly... if the Yanks made no major
moves after the break you might have a point.. but again this is jumping
the gun big time right now.

While you definitely pointed out the problems Yankees have, you seem to
be a little too optimistic on the holes the other teams also have ( you
said guys don't walk can't keep hitting well.. guess what? Detriot as a
team walks less than just about everyone except the Cubs... AND they strike
out more than any other AL team by over 70 times) Boston's rotation is in
the same funk as Yanks are in and perhaps even more so, they also have a
disastrous middle relieve corp. Crisp / Loretta / Varitek / Gonzalez are
just as much of a hole if not more than Williams/Cano/Cabrera/ Phillips.
etc... you could obviously make predictions, but posting it on a supposed
neutral major site with such a major conclusion seems rather unfitting.


Keith:

Thanks for writing.  I'd be happy to address all of these points.
 
First off, I never meant to imply that the Yankees' pitching has been noticeably worse than the White Sox, Red Sox, or Blue Jays.  Merely that the White Sox and Blue Jays have more potential to improve their respective staffs in the second half.  Chacin and Burnett for the Jays, as opposed to Josh Towers and Dustan McGowan, is huge.  Brandon McCarthy or Charlie Haeger could step in for the White Sox.  Unless you think that Carl Pavano is going to come back strong, I don't see much help on the horizon for New York.
 
I get my team DER from The Hardball Times. It shows the White Sox to be slightly more efficient than the Yankees and the Red Sox slightly less.  The Green Monster is a factor in that, since it turns many routine flies into doubles through no fault of the defense.  In any case, I wasn't saying that the Yankees' defense was noticeably worse, just that it wasn't suited to Wang's extreme groundball tendencies.  The Yankees seem to think so as well; they intentionally soften the dirt in front of home plate to slow down grounders for their lackluster IF defense.  Like you say, Wang's BABIP is a major red flag, particularly for a pitcher who rarely strikes guys out.  I do expect him to have a disastrous second half.
 
As far as the schedule goes, Boston is still 28-13 at home.  One bad series against the A's does not change the fact that their home-heavy schedule is a huge edge in their favor.
 
Boston hitting:  Call me crazy, but based on recent performance,  Loretta, Crisp, and Varitek seem to have a lot more upside this year than Cano, Williams, Cabrera, and Phillips.  Alex Gonzalez, of course, is a problem.   
 
Bernie Williams: I'm not prepared to weigh his lukewarm month-and-a-half more heavily than his terrible offensive season last year. 
 
Abreu: Another Yankee fan guaranteed me that they'd land Abreu.  I don't think the Phillies will part with him for less than two of the Yankees best pitching prospects, and the Yankees' best pitching prospects are supposedly untouchable.  I could be wrong though; they certainly didn't get much in return for Thome.
 
Detroit: I agree that they are playing over their heads much more than the Yankees are.  However, they also have nine more wins than the Yankees do.  I like to make bold predictions, but the Tigers have something like a 98% chance of making the playoffs according to coolstandings.com, so I didn't address them much in the article.     
 
And as you say, that's what this is, a prediction.  It's certainly not impossible for the Yankees to make the playoffs, but it doesn't seem very likely in my opinion.  And I believe that I provide a good deal of objective support for that opinion. 

 

Frankie:

Hi,
I write for Scout.com on PinstripesPlus.com.  I have a question for you.  Covering the Yankees' farm system for years and following the Yankees here is my question: Robinson Cano is a dead spot in the lineup?  Your recent article that was posted on our site said that.  Good article, but I have to say that statement is wildly off base.  I bet every team would love to have a "dead spot" that is hitting .325 and has drawn comparisons to Rod Carew.  He's one of the best young hitters in the game and even if you haven't watched him play everyday you can see that. 

Keith:

Since you have covered the Yankees system, I'm sure you're aware that Cano was a .277 hitter in the minor leagues.  .277 hitters in the minors tend not to hit over .277 in the majors, much less over .300.  Half-season flukes happen; Brian Roberts had 15 homers at the break last year... he's hit four since.
 
As for comparisons, Ray Durham was supposed to be the next Joe Morgan and Travis Lee was touted as a clone of Mark Grace.  Those guys turned out alright, but as far as "best young hitters in the game," I would say not.  I understand that Cano's a scrappy little player and a fan favorite because of that, but so was Augie Ojeda in Chicago.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves here.
 
If Cano is still batting .320 by the end of the year, I'll eat my words, but I think he'll drop to around .300 and still call it a career year.  .300 would be fine if he could draw walks, hit for power, or play defense.  But since he can't, I still label him as a liability for a team trying to make the playoffs. 

Frankie:

Ivan Rodriguez
Magglio Ordonez
Miguel Tejeda

 

These are just a few guys who are examples of Latino players who have low career minor league averages because of the adjustment it takes to the United States.  Cano is not a half year fluke.  I followed his development from the time he was signed through today.  I spoke to his coaches as a rookie league player, interviewed scouts and coordinators about him throughout his stint in the minors and much more.  And, to call him a half year fluke is crazy.  His rookie season was .297 with 14 HR.  Prior to the promotion, he was hitting .333 with 4 HR.  Seems like a productive player to me even if I knew nothing about him.  And, I could call up five different scouts right now from rival teams that would tell me they look at Cano as a guy with 25 HR power.  It also doesn't take a scout to see how much potential he has simply by watching him hit.
 
I've seen your writing on FutureBacks and I figure you'd be one to look at the projection of players also.  I don't know if you've watched this player play.  I you haven't, you should and you'd also see the most important thing about scouting: projection.  Also, if you are looking at his 7 errors, high total yes, but it doesn't tell half the story.  At least 5 of those errors came on tough plays that he threw the ball away on.  See the player consistently before making a judgment is all I'm saying.


Keith:

I want to ask you about his defense.  I don't know whether you're familiar with The Fielding Bible, but it's basically the same as the UZR system, dividing the field up into zones and rating the player against all other players in terms of how many plays he made.  Out of 36 qualifying second baseman last year, Cano ranked dead last in this plus/minus system, allowing approximately 20 more runs than the average second baseman.  He also ranked 29th in percentage of double plays turned.  The double plays are obviously affected by Jeter, but the rest is hard to explain away.  I even heard on the telecast today that the Yankees make the dirt in front of home plate extra soft to slow down ground balls, suggesting that they are well aware of the problems with their infield defense.
 
That being said, I haven't seen anything personally on his defense that suggests that he would be among the worst in the league.  How do you rate his defense, and what are the scouts saying?
 
Your three examples are good ones.  I wouldn't think that Cano has 25 homers in him, but then, I wouldn't have thought that Soriano would have projected to a 40 homer guy, so maybe I'm not the best judge.  Or maybe the Yankees' system is particularly good at getting slender Latino infielders to hit for power.  He could indeed develop into a fine player, but I think it's just as likely that he'll be the next Jerome Walton.  For what it's worth, according to JC Bradbury's PrOPS (The Hardball Times), Cano's having the tenth most fluky season in baseball right now, projecting to just a .720 OPS based on his batted ball distributions.
 
As you can tell, I like to look at both the scouting and the numbers.  Based on my own observations and analysis, it's pretty ridiculous to compare Cano to Carew, unless you're just talking defense.  As far as his being a dead spot in the lineup... I took that a little further than is right.  But as you probably guessed, I was asked to do so in order to elicit this type of response (so please don't put that on your message boards).
 
And I think that both Giambi and ARod are poised to go on tears, which could make up for Cano's inevitable second half decline. 

 

 




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith Glab resides in Chicago, Illinois, and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.




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