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The Yankees and Moneyball

The Yankees are expected to win, period.  Although they had the best record in the American league this season, they won their 95 games in a rather remarkable way.

Injures took a huge toll.  Mariano Rivera--the best relief pitcher ever--went down with a freak knee injury early in the season.  Set-up man Dave Robertson fell down a flight of stairs while packing for spring training and missed six weeks.  Michael Pineda--the big off-season acquisition--had major shoulder surgery.  Brett Gardner (the speedy outfielder, who may just be the best defensive outfielder in baseball according to some metrics), went down early on with a wrist injury and missed virtually the whole season.  C.C. Sabbathia was on the DL twice.  During the heat of the pennant race, A-Rod broke his hand, Teixeira suffered a calf injury, and 40-year old wonder Andy Pettitte was having a great season until he stopped a line drive with his foot--breaking a bone.

Two young pitchers (the crown jewels of the Yankee minor league system) were expected to have a huge impact late in the season.  They didn't.   Manny Banuelos had Tommy John surgery.  Dellin Betances couldn't find the stike zone.

So, how did the Yankees win?  With cast-offs--people like Freddy Garcia, Derek Lowe, Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, Jayson Nix, Steve Pearce, and with smart bargain free-agent signings like Hiroki Kuroda, and with unheralded minor leaguers like David Phelps stepping up big time.

The Yanks have not been big-money players in the free agent market the last couple of years, and they don't sound like they plan to return any time soon.  Instead, they were counting on their young pitchers to carry them while the bad contracts of A-Rod and Teixeira come off the books over the next few years. 

But they won their division by signing players who had never been and will never be all-stars, but who stepped up, filled gaping holes in the line-up, and beating back Tampa and Baltimore.  That is the Billy Beane playbook.  That sounds a lot like moneyball to me.  Not how people usually think of the Yankees.

Reader Comments (5)

Sounds like the road to success of the Cards last season. Seems like teams that spend the most don't always win. It comes down to getting hot at the right time. Especially in football and baseball, where wild card teams can win it.
October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd I. Cadle
Measured by WAR, the Yankees' 4 most valuable players this year were Cano, Kuroda, Teixeira, and Swisher, who combined are making more money than Billy Beane's entire team. Let's not get too carried away.
October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike R
Notice how much more the Angels are spending than are the A's. Baseball and football are the two sports where the best teams on paper usually don't win it. Just get hot at the start of the playoffs and get on a roll.

Basketball is the one sport where talent usually wins out.
October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd I. Cadle
Ummm . . Kim, I don't think the Yankees are expected to win at this point. And StrayRod appears to be more interested in picking up babes in the crowd than in picking up a bat to hit. I'm just saying.
October 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Yankee fans have high hopes and high expectations. If the Yankees' season ends this pitifully, you'll see a re-tooled team next year. Geezer ball will be over, the team will be younger, and Arod will be the DH (if he's still with the team, which is reportedly and justifiably furious with his antics).

October 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger

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