It’s been a rough year for the Yankees. First they lose four-fifths of their opening day starting rotation to injury, and now the first two years of the franchise’s existence have been erased from the team’s record book at baseball-reference.com.

Before Monday, baseball-reference.com had recognized the 1901-1902 Baltimore Orioles as the predecessors of the current day New York Yankees. However, with the franchise approaching milestones like 10,000 wins and 15,000 home runs, the repository of baseball’s past decided to do an about face. Convinced in large part by MLB historian John Thorn’s argument against franchise continuity, baseball-reference severed the roots of the Yankees organization by removing its Orioles years from the team’s legacy.

Are the 1902 Baltimore Orioles descendants of the Yankees or not?

Are the 1902 Baltimore Orioles antecedents of the Yankees or not?

Thorn’s argument is summed up by a comment he posted on baseball-reference: “When [a] franchise relocates under the same ownership an[d] the [with a] great majority of its players (1958 Dodgers and Giants, 1953 Braves, etc.), the franchise is continuous. If not, not.” Otherwise, Thorn argues, we’d have to assume continuity for other relocations, such as the N.L.’s replacement of the Troy Trojans with the New York Gothams in 1883. Seems pretty simple, but is such a hard and fast rule appropriate for situations that are often very complex? Because the circumstances surrounding many of the franchise movements that took place early in baseball’s history can be convoluted, an individualized examination seems more appropriate. Continue Reading »

When the home plate umpire yells play ball this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, history will be made in the Bronx. With Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki penciled into the lineup, the Yankees will become the first team to start a 40-year old at short stop and centerfield in the same game (during at least the modern era; since 1901).

Jeter and Ichiro will become the first 40-somethings to start a game at the two prime positions up the middle, but two other Hall of Fame pairings previously accomplished the feat, albeit with one player coming off the bench. In 1927, the Philadelphia Athletics had a 40-year old named Ty Cobb, who wasn’t quite ready to relinquish his hold on centerfield. Cobb played 52 games in center that season (while batting .357), and, in one of them, was joined on the field by fellow legend Eddie Collins. Known more his play at second, Collins entered an August game against the Red Sox as a defensive replacement for Chick Galloway. Collins wasn’t in the game long, but it was enough to join with Cobb to become the first pair of 40-year olds to man the middle for the same team.

The following year, Collins reprised his role as a late game short stop replacement, this time as part of a double switch in the second game of a double header against the White Sox. When Collins took his position at short, once again standing behind him was a baseball legend who was past the age of 40. However, this time, it was Tris Speaker in center field for the Athletics, with the now 41-year old Cobb looking on from right.

It’s been over 85 years since two 40-year olds played SS and CF for the same team, but there have been a few near misses, including last year’s Yankee team, which had Ichiro shift over to center while a then 39-year old Jeter was playing short. In terms of starting players, however, only three teams have come close to employing a 40-year old in center field and at short stop. The 2010 Brewers, 2006 Giants, and 1985 Cubs each almost beat the Yankees to the milestone, but came up short…literally. In each instance, the center fielder had more then enough seniority to qualify, but the short stop fell on the wrong side of 40, including Craig Counsell, who missed the mark by only 17 days.

Almost 40-Year Old Pairings at SS and CF, 1901-2014 near 40 Source: baseball-reference.com (using season data from 1901-1913 and game data from 1914-2014). Continue Reading »

Following a mutual off day, the Orioles rank one game ahead of the Yankees in the A.L. East. The season doesn’t end in June, but if it did, Baltimore would be listed above New York in the standings for the first time since 1997. And, if the Orioles do outlast the Yankees, it will represent the culmination of a three-year tug of war with the Bronx Bombers that has seen the two teams remain in remarkable proximity to each other.

Yankees vs. Orioles: Before (1998-2011) and After (2012- Present)
Source: baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

From 1998 to 2011, the Yankees and Orioles were miles apart. During that time, the Bronx Bombers won 1,369 games and made the post season in all but one year, while the O’s racked up a paltry 990 victories and never finished higher than fourth place. Since 2012, however, the Yankees have fallen back to the pack and Baltimore has done its part to close the remaining gap. Over that span, the Orioles and Yankees have posted an identical wRC+ and comparable adjusted ERA, leading to cumulative records separated by only one game. The parity between the two teams has also extended to head-to-head play as each club has won 24 of the 48 contests, including the ALDS, since 2012. Continue Reading »

The best defense may be a good offense, but, as it turns out, the worst defense is even better, at least for teams playing the Yankees. Repeatedly throughout the season, the Yankees’ defense has proven to be a greater threat than opposing batters, and never was that more on display than last night in Toronto.

There’s no defense for the way the Yankees played in yesterday’s 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays…literally. The comedy of errors began in the fifth inning when Derek Jeter made two crucial misplays that directly led to three runs. The coup de grâce was delivered by Yangervis Solarte in the ninth, when his throwing error on a bunt allowed the winning run to score. It was the Yankees’ first walk off loss on an error since 1997, but merely the latest of many games this year that have been marred by poor defense.

Yankees Walk Off Losses on Error, 1938-2014
Note: Play by play data is mostly complete since 1950 with gaps beforehand.
Source: baseball-reference.com

Continue Reading »

Carlos Beltran is officially a Yankee.

An extraordinarily clutch hit has become a rite of passage for newcomers to the Bronx, and, with last night’s walk off home run against Baltimore, Beltran finally earned his pinstripes…in a big way. Not only did the struggling switch hitter rescue the Yankees from a frustrating loss, but he did so from the very brink. By performing his heroics with two outs, Beltran became only the 22nd Yankee since 1938 (based on available data) to author a walk off with the Bronx Bombers one out away from defeat, and the 10th to do it with a long ball.

Sudden Death Heroes: Yankees Come From Behind Walk Offs with Two Outs
sudden death wins
Note: Play by play data is mostly complete since 1950 with gaps beforehand. Sudden death situations are deficits with two outs in the final inning (ninth or later). Source: Baseball- reference.com

Thanks to his clutch at bat in the ninth, Beltran’s WPA for the entire game ranks as the fourth highest in Yankee history dating back to at least 1914. However, he couldn’t have done it alone. Although Beltran’s blast was the keynote, the Yankees’ ninth inning rally featured two other sudden death at bats. Without Mark Teixeira’s walk and Brian McCann’s single, Beltran would have been taking an earlier shower (without the Gatorade), so his two teammates deserve their share of credit as well. Continue Reading »

The Yankees made several questionable decisions during the offseason. Signing Brett Gardner to a contract extension wasn’t one of them.

At the time, locking the speedy outfielder up for four additional years seemed like a low risk move, but with Gardner emerging as the Yankees’ best position player, the long-term deal looks better and better each day. Although it says more about the Yankees’ overall quality than the left fielder himself, Gardner easily leads the team in both versions of WAR, and, according to baseball-reference.com, has been worth more than the Bronx Bombers’ next two productive position players combined.

Defensive and Offensive Component of Gardner’s bWAR
GARDNER WAR components

Note: oWAR and dWAR do not sum to total bWAR because each one takes into account the positional adjustment.
Source: baseball-reference.com

Gardner has always rated well in terms of WAR. From 2010-2013 (excluding his injury abbreviated 2012), the fleet-footed outfielder has averaged a bWAR and fWAR of 5.2 and 4.4, respectively. However, during that span, a disproportionate amount of Gardner’s value has been attributable to defense. What makes Gardner’s 2014 performance more noteworthy is the sustained improvement in his offensive game. Now, not only is the left fielder a threat on the bases, but he has become a weapon at the plate, giving the Yankees’ a leadoff hitter with the ability to see pitches, get on base, disrupt the pitcher with his speed, and hit an occasional home run. Continue Reading »

There’s a wolf in Bud Selig’s hen house of parity. It just happens to be wearing sheep’s clothing. With a winning percentage of only .600, and a roster lacking many household names, the Oakland Athletics don’t exactly resemble a juggernaut. However, in complete defiance of league-wide mediocrity, or perhaps because of it, the A’s are quietly having a season for the ages.

Top-10 Teams Ranked by Relative Run Prevention, 1901-2014
Best run preventers
Note: Rates are not park adjusted. League R/G rates are either AL or NL, based on each respective team.
Source: baseball-reference.com and proprietary calculations

The Athletics currently lead the American League in both runs scored and runs allowed, and, in both cases, by a healthy margin. In fact, the A’s relative ability to both score and prevent runs has been historic. Only 4% of all teams since 1901 have outscored the league average by a higher margin than the Athletics are currently trumping their AL counterparts. And, that’s nothing compared to the stinginess of the team’s pitching staff. Oakland’s astounding ERA of 2.83 is impressive enough, but, when compared to the league average, it yields the fifth best ratio in modern major league history (out of 2,376 seasons). Summing the Athletics’ prowess at scoring and preventing runs yields a relative advantage of over 45%, which is also the fifth best mark all time. Continue Reading »

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