Monday, June 10, 2013

The Yankees Have Interest In Who?

It's been said over and over by "experts", bloggers, fans, and others that it's incredible the New York Yankees are doing as well as they have in the 2013 season.

The odds of winning weren't quite as high as this guy's was to win the lottery, but they couldn't have been far off.

Here we have a team that was without many key players for long stretches. Starting first baseman Mark Teixeira missed the first 53 games of the season, starting outfielder Curtis Granderson has only played in 8 of the team's 63 games. The Yankees starting third baseman, Kevin Youkilis has missed 38 games. Starting catcher Francisco Cervelli has been gone since the 17th game of 2013. And last, but certainly not least, Derek Jeter has yet to play a game this season, while his fill-ins have batted a combined .219/.288/.288 (good for the lowest OPS of any position on the team).

Only four of the planned starters for this season have been around all year... Ichiro Suzuki, Travis Hafner, Brett Gardner, and Robinson Cano. By the way, Cano is under-performing to the point that he's on pace for the lowest batting average he's ever had in MLB, and lowest OPS since his rookie campaign in 2005.

But here we are today, on June 10th, and the Yankees are in 2nd place in the American League East by 1.5 games, and have the third-best record in the entire league. So how did they get here? Taking a look at their AL ranking in the following categories clears that up quite easily...

Batting Average - 12th
On-Base Percentage - 12th
Slugging Percentage - 10th
wOBA - 11th
wRC+ - 13th
fWAR - 11th

Earned Run Average - 4th
Fielding Independent Pitching - 3rd
xFIP - 2nd
fWAR - 3rd

"Pitching, mother------!"

Pitching is by far the reason the Yankees are where they are today. And that's with their ace, CC Sabathia, carrying his highest ERA since 2005. Not to mention that 27 starts have been made by pitchers whose average age is 26 (Hughes is 27 years old, Phelps and Nova are 26, and Nuno is 25).

Therefore, when I read that the Yankees are interested in Ricky Nolasco, I can't help but scratch my head.

It's not that Nolasco isn't any good. Mind you, he's not going to be confused with any of the elite starters in the game, but his 3.61 ERA this season is quite solid. And although he doesn't strike out many batters (7.4 K/9 lifetime), his walk rate is fairly low (2.2 BB/9 so far this season, which would rank 32nd out of 120 qualified AL starters). You do have to keep in mind that the combined record of his opponents is 278-317 (.467 winning percentage), and the only three teams he's faced that have winning records (Reds, Diamondbacks, and Rays) resulted in a poor showing, a well pitched game, and an okay start.

So in previous seasons such a trade for a pitcher like that would totally make sense. Well, it would make sense as long as the team needed a middle to bottom of the rotation starter, and not somebody they'd be leaning on in the postseason. But this season the team doesn't need help on the mound... they need help in the batter's box.

Maybe it's because no hitters are clearly available, so there's nobody to connect the Yankees to. At least outside of Andre Ethier, who has been brought up as trade fodder for the Dodgers again and again and again, but his current triple-slash of .229/.316/.348 doesn't make any mouths water. So when I read about the Bombers connected to pitchers I just roll my eyes and move on to the next bit of news.

The internet provides me plenty of reasons to roll my eyes.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)