The New York Yankees are Good, Rich, and Lucky

This is a great article by Grant Brisbee of SB Nation regarding baseball and the luck the Yankees have had. Not to mention how much payroll leads to success in the MLB. Check it out…

The Yankees are leading MLB in payroll. Again. Silly Yankees. Don’t they know that money can’t buy championships? Of course not. Money can’t buy anything. It’s an inanimate object. It can’t even buy a bag of FunYuns if the dollar is too wrinkly.

Teams can use money to buy players, but the teams who spend a lot of money on payroll aren’t even guaranteeing wins, much less championships. Here are the twelve teams who will spend more than $100,000,000 on payroll this year: 

1. New York Yankees $201,689,030
2. Philadelphia Phillies $172,976,381
3. Boston Red Sox $161,407,476
4. Los Angeles Angels $138,998,524
5. Chicago White Sox $129,285,539
6. Chicago Cubs $125,480,664
7. New York Mets $120,147,310
8. San Francisco Giants $118,216,833
9. Minnesota Twins $112,737,000
10. Detroit Tigers $105,705,232
11. St. Louis Cardinals $105,433,572
12. Los Angeles Dodgers $103,788,990

The top three are three of the best teams in baseball, of course. But of the nine teams that follow, only one is likely to make the playoffs. The Angels have a decent chance, and the Giants technically aren’t out of it, but the teams who spent more than $100 million in 2011 had just as good of a chance at finishing under .500 as they did of making the playoffs.

One of my biggest pet peeves in baseball today is a reductive haves/have-nots discussion. That sort of thing makes baseball seem predictable, which it most certainly isn’t. Yes, the Yankees have a substantial, irrefutable advantage as the only team willing to spend $200 million. They can afford players like Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett, and when the latter started to stink, they offered to throw sacks of doubloons at Cliff Lee. The Yankees are rich, and that helps them greatly.

When people focus on what the Yankees spent this year, though, it’s irritating. Not because I’m some radical laissez-faire fetishist, but because it ignores how lucky the Yankees have been this year.

  W-L G GS CG SHO     IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
Bartolo Colon 8-9 24 21 1 1     138.2 138 65 56 17 34 116 3.63 1.24

 

  W-L G GS CG       IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
Freddy Garcia 11-7 22 21 0       128.1 125 48 44 10 38 85 3.09 1.27

 

  W-L G GS CG       IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
Ivan Nova 14-4 24 22 0       131.2 136 64 58 12 45 81 3.96 1.37

The Yankees have gotten 64 starts out of those three pitchers. Two of them might have been dead before this season started, I haven’t checked their Wikipedia pages yet. The Yankees entered the season with three known quantities in the starting rotation. After that, they were just hoping to patch things up until the trading deadline. And of those three known quantities, here’s how they’ve done this season:

  • One was the ace he was supposed to be
  • One has continued to pitch far below expectations
  • One completely disintegrated

It should have been a complete disaster. It should have been “Sabathia and Sabathia, and pray for Sabathia.” Instead, the Yankees found three good pitchers by putting an ad on Craigslist. Other teams spend millions internationally, in the draft, and on the market looking for pitchers like Colon, Garcia, and Nova. Like, oh, the Yankees, for one. And after all of that, the Yankees rotation is being held together ably by two minor-league deals and a semi-prospect.

Don’t let the word “luck” irritate you, Yankees fans. All sorts of credit goes to the Yankees’ scouts, coaches, and front office for correctly predicting that they could find a couple of useful players out of the group they invited to camp. But for all three of them to hit in the same season with barely a hiccup? That’s not how any pitching staffs are supposed to work, much less pitching staffs cobbled together in January.

Colon hadn’t pitched since 2009, and he hadn’t pitched a full season since 2005. Garcia hasn’t stayed healthy for a whole season since 2006, and he was merely decent when he has been healthy since then. Nova’s career strikeout rate in the minors was 6.4 — that’s a hard strikeout rate for a right-hander to thrive with in the majors, and that was his career mark in the minors. And that’s before accounting for the fact that young pitchers are all weirdos whose performances are usually impossible to predict.

Yet here the Yankees are, ready to make the playoffs again, behind a ridiculous offense and a lot of good pitching. A ton of that has to do with money (and talent evaluation), don’t get me wrong. But don’t ignore the good fortune that the Yankees have enjoyed, either.

I know what you’re thinking now: “Finally. Finally the Yankees catch a few breaks.” Yep. It’s about time.

This is perfectly argued and perfectly said. As a New Yorker and a guy who follows the Yankees, I don’t even know how they have won as many games and are even in contention for first place. I guess when you have the big bucks, there are no whammies…

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