This really is amazing:
Vinny (New York): With a gun to your head, still Seatle over the Yanks for the Wild Card? Yankees are looking pretty impressive, just taking care of most people’s “best team in baseball.”
Steve Phillips: The Yanks looked good beating an undermanned Tigers team, I agree with you. But I think the Mariners will hold on and win the Wild Card. Their starting pitching is just good enough and their bullpen in unreal. They have one of the best defenses in babseball, and they are starting to produce on offense. I think it is too little too late for the Yankees to make the playoffs.
Firstly, I debate the notion that the Tigers were “undermanned”. The only key player they were missing was Placido Polanco. Starters Kenny Rogers and Andrew Miller are on the DL, but the Yankees faced Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander, Chad Durbin, and Jeremy Bonderman. All except Durbin are their regular starters, and he’s actually as good as Miller and Rogers have been this year. Lastly, there’s Joel Zumaya, but the Yankees were leading late in most of the games anyway, which (according to current bullpen management) means Zumaya wouldn’t have been in many of the 4 games. In short, I don’t think the Tigers were undermanned. But this is nitpicking compared to the rest of Phillips’ response.
[Seattle’s] starting pitching is just good enough and their bullpen in [sic] unreal.
“In” unreal. Nice. Each clause in this statement is false. Seattle’s starting pitching is 27th in baseball with a 5.02 ERA, and 25th with an .802 OPS against. Their bullpen is not “unreal.” I will bet you a nickel that Phillips only thinks their bullpen is awesome because they have JJ Putz, who is, in fact, awesome. Seattle’s bullpen is definitely good – 11th in baseball with a 3.81 ERA and 7th with a .692 OPS against. This is not, however, “unreal.” I know ERA is an imperfect evaluative tool, but it is worth mentioning that the Yankees’ bullpen ERA is better than Seattle’s (3.76). Marginal, I know. But still.
They have one of the best defenses in babseball, and they are starting to produce on offense.
Seattle is 26th in baseball in defensive efficiency. Again, I will bet you that Phillips thinks the Mariners are awesome on defense because they have Ichiro and Yuniesky Betancourt. Also maybe because they don’t commit many errors. But we know that errors are a poor tool for evaluating players, because errors are usually the result of a blatant mishandling of a ball, and balls can only be blatantly mishandled if the player can actually get to it. So, players with great range may commit more errors than Derek Jeter a player with terrible range, because their range affords them more opportunities to screw up. Got it?
Seattle’s OPS by month: .723, .778, .764, .695, .871. Let’s play a game called “Find The Outlier.” If you guessed that .871 is the outlier, you’re right. Implied in Phillips’ phrasing is that the Mariners are finally performing up to their full offensive potential. So let’s say the Mariners’ full offensive potential is in the mid-.800s. How many teams in baseball have an OPS in the mid-.800s? Zero. Well, the Yankees are at .832, so maybe them. So, according to Steve Phillips, the Mariners – in August – are finally blooming as an offense. The previous 5 months were a slump. The Real Mariners are hitting at a (would-be league-leading) .871 clip.
Sorry, I’m going with the previous 5 months’ data.
I think it is too little too late for the Yankees to make the playoffs.
Ah, he ends with flourish. A quick look at the standings shows that the Yankees are 0.5 games behind the Mariners in the Wild Card. In light of the following facts…:
- The Yankees’ offense is the best in baseball, the Mariners’ is 12th
- The Yankees’ starting pitching is 19th, the Mariners’ is 27th
- The Yankees’ defense is 15th, the Mariners’ is 26th
- The Yankees’ bullpen is 8th, the Mariners’ is 11th
- The Yankees have scored 735 runs and allowed 575; the Mariners have scored 604 runs and allowed 589
…Steve Phillips says the Yankees – with 38 games to go – will not catch the Mariners. Think about that. The Yankees have made up 3.5 games in the last month on the Red Sox, which is actually a good team that is playing right around their expected level. So obviously making up half a game on an average team that has been incredibly, ridiculously lucky this year is impossible. ESPN.com itself shows that the Yankees’ expected record – given their run differential – is 77-47 (their actual record is 70-54). The Mariners should be at 62-59 (their actual record is 69-52). Therefore, Seattle should expect a correction soon.
Now, I’m not saying that the Yankees will definitely overtake the Mariners. Baseball is a crazy game, and Seattle may hold on. Who knows. What I am saying is that, in light of all the available evidence, it is ludicrous to say that “it is too little too late for the Yankees.” Ludicrous.