This afternoon, my mom gave me Dave Anderson’s column in the New York Times in which he clamors for a “real” Yankees first baseman. It is indeed online, but it is a part of the TimesSelect feature, to which I do not subscribe. Anyway, here’s the link as proof that the article exists.
The column is essentially Mr. Anderson creating subjective criteria for what constitutes a “real” Yankee first baseman. He cites Lou Gehrgi, Bill Skowron, Chris Chambliss, and Tino Martinez as “real Yankee first basemen”, because they are “power hitters who earned Series rings”. But then he says “without a Series ring, so were Don Mattingly and Jason Giambi”. Basically, after careful analysis of the article, I have deduced that Mr. Anderson’s definition of “real” in this case is “good”. He is wondering why the Yankees do not have a good first baseman. That’s fine. I would like the Yankees to have a good first baseman too.
But then, to conclude the article, this gem:
“Now there is no real Yankee first baseman. And until one arrives, there probably won’t be any World Series rings”
Mr. Anderson misidentifies causation here. While it is obviously important to have a good bat at first base in order to avoid a competitive disadvantage, it is not the reason the Yankees have not been winning World Series recently. In fact, here are the two reasons the Yankees have not won since 2000. Ready?:
- Declining pitching quality
That’s it. Oh right, statistics. In 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 (years the Yankees won the World Series), their team ERA+ was 110. Since 2000, the team’s ERA+ has been 101. As for the offense, the championship Yankees had a team OPS+ of 108. Since 200, the team’s OPS+ has been 113.
So, the Yankees’ pitching has gotten worse since 2000. That justifies reason #1 – questionable pitching. But the offense has gotten better, which justifies reason #2 – luck. Also justifying luck are (sorry Keesup) the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. To quote Billy Beane, the playoffs “are fucking luck”. If you get in, you’ve got a shot. Baseball, more than any other sport, relies on massive, huge, prolonged sample sizes to determine true skill. Therefore, inferior teams sometimes beat superior teams in the playoffs, which are a much smaller sample size, and sometimes inferior teams win the World Series. That’s it.