2013 Yankees: Perception vs. Reality

Hal Steinbrenner

There’s no denying that the Yankees were dealt a myriad of blows resulting in just their second missed playoff appearance in the Wild-Card era. Many players were either hurt for a significant portion of the season or regressed significantly. This list includes, but is not limited to: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and CC Sabathia. Guys who were the biggest contributors years before fell significantly short of past production. Plus, the replacements for the walking wounded and those who departed in the offseason (Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, etc.) were simply inadequate (Chris Stewart, Vernon Wells, etc.). Had we known all this prior to 2013’s commencement, we would have never thought the Yankees would win 85 games, let alone be within striking distance of a playoff berth late into the season. Yet, the Yankees were extremely fortunate not to be out of the race far sooner. Worst of all, it may provide false hope for ownership’s $189M plan.

On the forefront, it appears as if the Yankees were extremely unlucky this year given the multitude of issues illustrated in the previous paragraph. It’s easy to ponder the “what ifs” (ownership’s pitfall?). Yet, upper management is lucky that the club’s construction didn’t blow up in its face on a grander scale. According to WAR and Pythagorean Record, the Yankees may have won five or six more games than they should have. So, while we’re all disappointed in an 85 win, non-playoff team, imagine how frustrating a 79 or 80 win team would have been. Much of September, and perhaps even part of  August, wouldn’t have been worth watching.

Fangraphs’ version of WAR pegs the Yankees at 28.9 wins-above-replacement, which if added to a replacement level (roughly 50 wins), equals 79. Baseball-Reference’s version is slightly more favorable, at 30.3, an 80-win club. Based on run differential, pythagorean record expected the Yankees to have 79 wins. These metrics are all in consensus that the Yankees were mediocre at best.

So, why should we care that the Yankees probably won a few more games than statistically expected? While falling short of the playoffs is never a good outcome for an organization like the Yankees, an under .500 season may have placed a greater spotlight on the near-sightedness of the $189M plan. In particular, it may have shed light on how the plan resulted in a terrible offseason:

It’s not easy to figure out just how much blame Brian Cashman deserves, if any. He may have failed to have proper safety nets in place, but then again, how much did ownership hold him back? Moreover, a lot of responsibility weighs on amateur scouting and minor league development for not having any chips on the forefront of the farm system in recent years. There was only so much Joe Girardi had at his disposal this season, making it his best work despite the perfect storm of organizational deficiences.

It’s certainly speculation, but perhaps the Steinbrenners would have scrapped the $189M plan if this team won 79 or 80 games. Instead, they saw a 2013 team that “contended” despite all of the problem areas. Given all the circumstances, this club’s true talent level was that of a 79 or 80 win team. Unfortunately, Hal and co. may think otherwise, believing it could have won 90 or more without all of the injuries. Hopefully, they’re smarter than that. But given the hastily orchestrated $189M plan, my confidence in the organization’s direction is at an all-time low.

Photo by edogisgod (Hal Steinbrenner) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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6 Responses to 2013 Yankees: Perception vs. Reality

  1. doug says:

    I feel with 70 to 90 million coming off the books the Yanks should sign Beltran as a DH- OF. This will enable the Yanks to be competitive until Williams, Austin, and Heathcott are ready in 2015.

  2. Bob says:

    I think Derek’s hat is on a little too tight and forcing all the blood from his head. The Yankees were lucky? Are you kidding me?! This team didn’t over-perform, they performed much like a $220 million dollar team that lost many of its key players early and for too much of the season should have! Say what you want about their age, this team was filled with veterans who knew how to win but couldn’t do it from the disabled list….Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson and A-Rod just to name a few. Add to that young arms like Banualos and Pineda who were supposed to provide some excitement to the rotation or at LEAST depth and you’ve got a team that would have had no problem competing. If the team that was SUPPOSED to be on the field this year was, the Yanks might have even made a much larger move than Soriano in order to lock down a playoff spot. If the Yanks were lucky, remind me never to hope for that kind of luck the next time I buy a lotto ticket.

    • Derek says:

      You obviously stopped reading this post after the first paragraph or two. Were they unlucky on the injury front? Of course. But that’s not the point of this article.

      You don’t think this team was lucky to win 85 games with Vernon Wells, Ichiro, Lyle Overbay, Eduardo Nunez, etc. getting as much playing time as they did? The whole point of this article is that given the team they ran out the majority of the season, they were lucky to win 85 games. Run differential and team WAR points to good fortune strictly looking at those who were on the field.

      Maybe you should read the entire post before making a judgement on it.

      • losealot says:

        why is $189M near-sighted? the whole idea is to reset the clock on the luxury tax and go for the gusto in 2015. everything the yanks have done for the past year or two has had 2015 in mind. we can argue about the 2015 free agent class, lack of development in the minors, a long term deal for cano, whatever. but don’t call ownership near-sighted. that’s just bratty.

      • Derek says:

        I see your point. I get that ownership is doing it for the betterment of the future, but I’m not positive that it’s going to work.

        The reason I wrote that is mainly because of last season, where the plan clearly started taking shape. They’ve gotten so focused on getting under $189M that they have hurt the team in the long-term in some ways. No playoffs in 2013, and things not looking great in 2014. Hal has stated that they can compete under $189M, which is unequivocally true. However, the Yankees have so much money on players that aren’t terribly productive, that competing at $189M might not truly be attainable very soon.

  3. doug says:

    The key to this off season is the signing of Tanaka, he would give the Yanks a young starter to bridge them into 2015 when Pineda and Baneleos join CC and Nova. This additions of Beltran, McCann, Reynolds, Drew, and Balfour will make next year’s team a playoff team.

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