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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Money and Modern Strategy: How the Depleted Yankees Kept Winning

It is not just the Yankees’ financial might (though their $204 million opening day roster constructed by General Manager Brian Cashman, the second largest in the major leagues, is certainly a significant aspect) but also their embrace of the modern baseball smarts that now pervade the game — along with sprinkles of opportunity and luck.

“When you have the resources that we do to go out and acquire high-end free agents but at the same time give yourself the options in AAA or AA to help cover for injuries like we are right now, it’s important,” Yankees relief pitcher Zack Britton said. “A lot of times you think about only spending money at the major league level and neglect having backups or replacements, and obviously Cashman didn’t.”

ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 18, 2019 at 08:02 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: al east, yankees

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   1. Captain Supporter Posted: May 18, 2019 at 08:43 AM (#5843348)
While Yankee fans on various blogs pretty much did nothing but complain about the Yankees failure to sign Machado and Harper, Brian Cashman continues to focus on making numerous marginal improvements to every area of the team, and focusing on obtaining players like DJ LeMehieu who can play multiple positions well to maintain a great deal of roster flexibility. Its a winning strategy that should play well over time. Hopefully, Yankee fans figure out what is really going on, and stop whining about Hal Steinbrenner being cheap.
   2. Swoboda is freedom Posted: May 18, 2019 at 11:06 AM (#5843365)
Or maybe they have been a little lucky. They have been unlucky with the injuries, but anyone who thought Voit, Urshela, and LeMahieu would hit this well is deluding themselves. Plus the pitching has been better than one could have expected.
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 18, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5843369)
Or maybe they have been a little lucky. They have been unlucky with the injuries, but anyone who thought Voit, Urshela, and LeMahieu would hit this well is deluding themselves.

Cashman and his analytics crew clearly saw something in Voit and Urshela that other teams didn't, and in Urshela's case worked to adjust his swing from the minute he arrived on the scene. Obviously they've been lucky that so many no-names have come through for them, and that Germán's blossomed as he has when Severino went on the IL, but it's not as if they were just taking random shots at building up their backup roster. Other teams have also made these sorts of under the radar acquisitions (think of Pearce and Eovaldi last year), but the Yankees have made it a much more intense focus.

And again, the extent of their injuries is unparalleled in MLB history, in terms of the track record of those who've been shut down. That's simply a fact.
   4. Captain Supporter Posted: May 18, 2019 at 11:52 AM (#5843370)
They have certainly been a little lucky, but the point is that they have had the roster construction in both the major and minor leagues to be able to adjust to the extraordinary number of injuries they have had. And LeMahieu is a former batting champion, so his performance, while above expectations, is not shocking. And a careful look at Voit's major and minor league numbers makes it clear that expecting him to hit .250+ with say 25-30 home runs is not a stretch.

I'll give you Urshela, but the Yankees have stated that they could see in spring training that the changes he/they have made to his spring had led to his hitting the ball much harder. We'll see if that is sustainable, but even if it is not, Didi will be back soon and LeMahieu can shift over to third without missing a beat. And then there is Thairo Estrada waiting in the wings who looks like he might be able to play four or five positions well. Like i said, flexible roster construction appears to have become a key Yankee goal.
   5. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: May 18, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5843371)
The Yankees are. “Luck is the residue of design” team. Yeah they have advantages financially and some of these guys are overperforming but it’s a good, smart organization and they get guys who have reasonable upsides. Voit is a good example, yeah he’s been better than expected but he’s also a guy who’s track record suggested he could produce.
   6. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 18, 2019 at 12:23 PM (#5843373)
And again, the extent of their injuries is unparalleled in MLB history, in terms of the track record of those who've been shut down. That's simply a fact.

Not sure what you mean here. It sounds like it's unprecedented for these particular guys to be shut down. Judge has a 3 year track record and he's now been injured in 2 of them. Not counting this year, Stanton has as many seasons with fewer than 120 games than with 140 or more. Andujar has no track record. he was healthy last year, this year he's not. Bird and Tulo are poster children for the DL.
   7. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 18, 2019 at 12:37 PM (#5843377)

Not sure what you mean here.
I think what he meant was that the combination of number & caliber of players on the DL is unprecedented. It's probably bullshit, though.
   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 18, 2019 at 12:51 PM (#5843380)
Not sure what you mean here.

Here's a list of who's currently on the IL. The dates refer to the most recent status updates:

Miguel Andujar May 15, 2019
Dellin Betances May 15, 2019
Greg Bird May 12, 2019
Jacoby Ellsbury April 24, 2019
Didi Gregorius May 05, 2019
Ben Heller May 15, 2019
Aaron Judge May 09, 2019
Jonathan Loaisiga May 14, 2019
Jordan Montgomery April 11, 2019
James Paxton May 18, 2019
Luis Severino May 05, 2019
Giancarlo Stanton May 14, 2019
Troy Tulowitzki May 04, 2019

I defy you to find me any team in MLB history that's had that much WAR value on the shelf for any length of time. You can throw out Heller, Bird, Tulowitski, Loasiga, Montgomery and Ellsbury, and you still can't do it.

But feel free to try, and don't forget that Hicks was out for the first six weeks of the season.
   9. Jeff Frances the Mute Posted: May 18, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5843389)
The 2018 Dodgers had the following players on the DL/IL at the same time:

Clayton Kershaw
Justin Turner
Corey Seager
Rich Hill
Yasiel Puig
Hyun-jin Ryu
Logan Forsythe
Tony Cingrani
Julio Urias
   10. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 18, 2019 at 01:41 PM (#5843390)
I think what he meant was that the combination of number & caliber of players on the DL is unprecedented. It's probably bullshit, though.

It's based on a study that dates back to 2002. For Andy, that's good enough to be "in MLB history."
   11. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 18, 2019 at 08:50 PM (#5843463)
It's based on a study that dates back to 2002. For Andy, that's good enough to be "in MLB history

To be fair, he’s probably including his own first-hand observations, which go back to the Deadball Era.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: May 19, 2019 at 02:39 AM (#5843518)
But as #6 points out ...

Judge missed about 1 month at AAA in 2016, missed 7 weeks last year, has now missed a month this year. So, no surprise at this point.

Betances is a pitcher, a reliever so neither a surprise nor a major concern.

Greg Bird is always hurt. Nobody expected Ellsbury to play or to matter even if he did play. It was known for ages that Gregorius was missing the start of the season. Montgomery hasn't pitched in over a year, Stanton is frequently injured, Tulo didn't play at all in 2018 and <300 PA in 2017 and wasn't expected to really contribute this year.

The "WAR" lost in the injuries to Ellsbury and Tulo is zero.

Some ZiPS projections

Judge 4.6 WAR so they've lost about 0.7 so far
Stanton 4.6 so they've lost about 1
Andujar 1.6
Didi 3 in 580 PA but I don't think anybody expected more than maybe 2/3 of that so they haven't lost anything yet
Bird/Tulo/Ellsbury 1.6 combined which is just ZiPS being polite
Looks like Paxton will miss 3 starts which is about .3 WAR

The only significant injury here is Severino.

It's unfortunate they all hit at the same time but that's not an historic amount of injury. As #9 alludes to ... Turner and Seager combined for just 541 PA. ZiPS had projected them to 10 WAR combined so that's 5-6 WAR lost right there. Meanwhile, to reiterate the point about some of the Yanks' players, Kershaw, Hill and Ryu did make only 61 starts ... but they're so often injured that ZiPS only projected them to 71 starts anyway so they missed only about 1/6 of the projection or about 1.5 WAR. Similarly, Puig ended up with 444 PA which (for various reasons) has been a pretty typical season and also only about 1/6 less than what ZiPS projected so that's only anotehr 0.5 WAR.

Meanwhile the 2018 Cubs lost basically the full season of Darvish who was projected to 4 WAR. We were all shocked (SHOCKED I tell you) when closer Brandon Morrow went down. But otherwise the Cubs were pretty sickeningly healthy -- still, 4 lost projected WAR is 4 lost projected WAR.

The Yank list is mainly (a) good players with histories of being fragile that aren't expected out long; (b) players with histories of fragility who probably wouldn't be any good if they did play; (c) two good pitchers who are ... pitchers.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: May 19, 2019 at 02:58 AM (#5843520)
As a Cub fan when I think of "lots of injuries", I think of the 85 team. At one point, the entire opening day rotation was on the DL (for a day or two). But really, the injuries weren't that bad. That team started out like wildfire then had a disastrous combo of a slump and a ton of minor injuries, losing 13 in a row (some very bad lineups trotted out some days) then, sure the instability of the rotation pretty much guaranteed they wouldn't recover.

But in the end, the original rotation did make 103 starts. Now on the one hand, needing to cobble together 59 starts will generally mess up your season. But on the other hand, you probably can't realistically expect more than 140 starts max from your original rotation. So in that view, they missed only 37 starts ... still obviously not a good thing but it's not like it would have made that much difference to a team that went 76-85. And while a couple of the starters had been huge in 84, the rotation as a whole put up "just" 4 WAA or call it 14-15 WAR ... so we lost 1/3 of that at most ... great, we maybe coulda been 500.

As I occasionally annoyingly point out ... there were only 141 position players who qualified last year, fewer than 5 per team, a perfectly standard total. And recall some of those are guys who barely made it over 500 and a player like that is still leaving 200 PA for a sub to fill up. There were only 91 starters who made as many as 25 starts (not including Stanek).

Guys missing 1/3 of a season -- due to age, due to injury, due to crap performance, due to design (platoon) -- happens all the time. If Didi was healthy (let's not even consider Tulo), that would just mean less PT for some combination of a healthy Andujar, a healthy Bird, Voit, Frazier, etc. anyway. The original plan for LeMahieu was probably 400-450 PA ... now it's 500-600 ... not exactly a big deal.
   14. Avoid Running At All Times- S. Paige Posted: May 19, 2019 at 07:36 AM (#5843522)
To be fair, he’s probably including his own first-hand observations, which go back to the Deadball Era.

Look, Walt is an absolute treasure on this site, but YC’s #11 should have been the last comment on this thread. It’s a real show-stopper is my only point.

   15. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 19, 2019 at 08:53 AM (#5843525)
That's only because you haven't been paying attention. Clapper's used that Deadball Era line almost as many times as he's posted notices about Trump's judicial appointments. He's also no more than a few years younger than me himself, though he never mentions that.

And while I never paid much attention to the 2018 Dodgers until they got their heads handed to them in October, I'd like to know how long that impressive collection of players that Jeff mentioned in #9 remained on the DL,** compared that to the amount of time that Andujar, Betances, Gregorius, Judge, Hicks, Paxton, Severino and Stanton will have missed by the time the season is over. You can then compare the Dodgers' record during that time when those players were all missing to what the Yankees' record has been so far this year.

** As the IL was known until about 15 minutes ago.
   16. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 19, 2019 at 01:23 PM (#5843544)
It's unfortunate they all hit at the same time but that's not an historic amount of injury.

The injuries occurring at the same time or overlapping is more than “unfortunate”, it magnifies their effect. If a team’s outfielders take turns with their injuries, the 4th outfielder mostly fills the gap. When the entire starting outfield is out at the same time, the 4th, 5th & 6th outfielders are pressed into service.

Walt’s injury list is incomplete - no mention of Aaron Hicks, or Clint Frazier, who was playing at a very high level when he was injured, requiring use of the 7th outfield option, which, IIRC, was actually an infielder.
   17. Tin Angel Posted: May 19, 2019 at 08:41 PM (#5843626)
I defy you to find me any team in MLB history that's had that much WAR value on the shelf for any length of time.

I wish I could find the episode, but they actually researched this on the Effectively Wild podcast. The 2019 Yankees led by a considerable margin. The 2018 Dodgers were up there as well as a recent Nationals team.
   18. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 19, 2019 at 10:10 PM (#5843674)
Glad to see some backup, Tim.

Part of the reason that I'm 99% sure that the Yankees would be the unfortunate winners in that sad competition is that there've been few teams in history with that many star players on the roster to begin with, let alone on the DL. Most of history's "greatest" teams in fact had several dead spots in their lineup, but they were the biggest fish in a small pond. And the tiny handful of teams that did approach the number of star players on their roster, none of them ever had that many of them out due to injury.
   19. Blastin Posted: May 20, 2019 at 09:03 AM (#5843703)
The Ringer had an entire article about this and it was based on last year's WAR (not projections, which still think Judge is a 4 WAR player). And it was indeed the most previous year WAR on the shelf at the same time since 2002. Dunno about ever.

And they wrote that before Paxton got hurt.

Now, is it surprising for each of these individual players? Not really. Certainly not Paxton or Hicks or Judge. The most surprising one was probably Andujar destroying his shoulder diving back into a base. The rest have been injured before or are pitchers.

As for the randos, LeMahieu isn't really surprising (he has a sub 800 OPS with little power, he's just playing to the best of his past results). Voit just turned out not to be a complete fluke. Urshela is the random one, but I think the team has shown superior player development enough by now that it's not random.

   20. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 20, 2019 at 10:57 AM (#5843742)
From Blastin's link:
The Yankees stand out for two reasons. The first is that most of the teams with 13 or more players on the IL at once reached their injury peak near midseason, which makes sense—players’ bodies wear down as the season goes on. The Yankees are one of just two teams since 2002 to put 13 players on the IL in April.

The second reason is the quality of players they have on the shelf at once. Like Judge, their list of IL’d players is not only large, but quite productive. If the Yankees could put together the best 10-player lineup (eight position players, DH, starting pitcher), eight of those players, plus another member of their rotation (Montgomery) and their setup man (Betances), are currently on the IL.

And as Blastin notes, that's not even including Paxton.

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