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For the second straight year, the Yankees are overachieving

Sep 2, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Joe Girardi AP

Katie Sharp at the Yankees blog IATM notes that, for the second straight year, the Yankees are poised to do something historic. Not, like, gloriously historic, but historic nonetheless:

If the Yankees maintain their current season pace, they would become the first team in major-league history to post back-to-back winning seasons while being outscored by at least 20 runs in each year.

Last season the Yankees went 85-77 despite a run differential of -21, their worst mark since 1991 (-103). Based on the amount of runs scored and allowed, the team was expected to win just 79 games.

This year they could easily end up with an even lower run differential and still produce a winning record – they currently have been outscored by 27 runs and are five games over .500.

Katie analyzes why this may be and chalks it up to good hitting in close-and-late situations. Whether that’s a skill or not is often debated. I’ve not seen a lot of great evidence that convinces me that it’s a skill, so it may be luck.

But you can’t just say the Yankees have been lucky, either. They’ve had a good back end of their bullpen, and good bullpens help in close games (losing the blowouts + winning the close ones often = outperformance of run differential). Another constant: Joe Girardi. I don’t think anyone has the market cornered on managerial analysis any more than we have it cornered on close-and-late hitting being a skill, but managers doing harm often lead to a run being blown or forgone here or there. Girardi never seems to mess up like that. And maybe he’s doing some good things too in that dark area of managerial unknowns.

Not that any of this will make Yankees fans feel a lot better if their guys don’t make the playoffs for the second straight year. But it’s probably worth noting that it could’ve — and maybe should’ve — been way worse for them than it has been.

  1. sdelmonte - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Girardi must be very glad that he lives in a time when doing a great job with a mediocre team is recognized as an asset. Instead of being ignored when certain hot tempered owners are looking to shake things up. It is just impossible to imagine he would be the scapegoat if the Yanks miss the playoffs.

    Though it’s also hard to imagine that a team built in every way to make the playoffs wouldn’t shake up a lot if they miss it again. Is the Cashman era coming to an end?

  2. timberwolvesbrisin - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:41 AM

  3. hairpie2 - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    4 games out of a Wild Card spot and a 200+ million dollar payroll is considered “overachieving” now???

    • Rich Stowe - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      yes because if you constantly get outscored, and have given up more runs on the season than you have scored, you shouldn’t be over-500

      which is why it’s never been done in back to back seasons in MLB history and it is considered overachieving – teams that get outscored should be well below .500

      • Hard On For Harden - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        I think his point is a team with a 200M payroll shouldn’t be outscored in the first place

      • Rich Stowe - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        losing pretty much the entire starting rotation but still having the starting pitching being part of the team’s strength is a big part of it as well

        all teams have injuries but it seems like the Yankees over the last 2 years have dealt with a lot of injuries to key personnel but still manage to stay in the playoff hunt till the end (whereas other teams would have faded a long time ago)

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        That’s assuming the team is spending those 200M wisely. That’s not a given.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 2, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        It’s overachieving when you look at the disconnect between the payroll and the actual team on the field. Too many of those 200 million bucks are being paid to guys not playing.

        Must admit, I’m fascinated by the irony of the last couple of Yankees seasons. Brian Cashman, with the huge payroll, having to scrounge for sufficient players to fill a 25-man roster. This is what Joe Girardi has to work with. IMHO, he deserves some credit for keeping the team together and above .500.

      • bigmeechy74 - Sep 2, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        “all teams have injuries but the yankees…. are all 40 years old so it isn’t surprising they have more injuries”

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      Opening day rotation + IP:

      CC: 46.0
      Tanaka: 129.1
      Kuroda: 167.0
      Nova: 20.2
      Pineda: 43.0

      The fact they are still in contention are above .500 after all their injuries could be some testament to Girardi’s ability, couldn’t it?

      • eggs0beat - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        Or a testament to Cashman’s contingency plans.

      • nbjays - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        Or sheer luck.

      • Paper Lions - Sep 2, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        This is far better support for the idea that they are over achieving and that Girardi should get some credit for that than their run differential.

        The difference between their actual record and that expected based on their run differential probably just indicates that their offense isn’t good enough to blown teams out very often, but that their pitching winds up getting them blown out at times…in between, the majority of games are close and the run differential in non-blowouts likely better reflects their actual record.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      The payroll is partly a function of old players at the end of their contracts, then on top of them we have old players who just got signed to pretty silly contracts. It isn’t the amount, it’s who the Yankees spent it on. Sheesh.

      But imagine what Girardi could be doing with that Marlins team this year, if Loria wasn’t such a moron.

  4. dparker713 - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    This absolutely can be chalked up to luck. Just like those Angels teams that had a string of good results under Scioscia

    • Kevin S. - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      It’s probably a combination of luck and bullpen management (a strength of Girardi’s). More the former than the latter, certainly.

      • bolweevils2 - Sep 3, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        I could imagine the bullpen being a big factor in having a better record than your run differential suggests if it is strong at the front end and weak at the back end:

        In close games, you use your good relievers who don’t give up any runs and result in one run victory.

        In games when you are losing by several runs, you use the weak back end of the bullpen who get pounded and result in a blowout loss.

  5. russ117044russ117044 - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    Joe Girardi is a good manager. He inherited a ball team that is probably the worst Yankee team in franchise history.
    Lets look at the Yankees:


    There comes a point in a player’s, team’s or artist’s career where they are so good, they don’t have to work any more. The money “syphens” in for doing nothing. ie. The rolling stones can release a CD of static and still get a gold record. Stephen King can publish a book of blank pages and still go to #1 on the charts. THEY DON’T HAVE TO WORK ANY MORE! THE MONEY COME VOMITING IN. Well, the Yankees are at that point. They have a money slamming in and don’t do ANYTHING! Add to that the rip off scams of ticket prices (look at all the empty seats) and $30.00 hotdogs abs $100.00 parking? lol…

    • Ren Ignatiago - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      The reason why they’re “overpaid” is probably cause of their good showings in the past.

    • miguelcairo - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      I’ve been to five games at Yankee Stadium this year. Never paid more than $30 for parking right next to the stadium. Never paid more than $45 for a ticket (didn’t sit in the nosebleeds.) And you can get TWO large Nathan’s dogs for $6. It’s not as bad as you make it seem.

      Wanna sit right behind the dugout? Yeah, it costs a $hit ton of scharole.

    • Wesley Clark - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      Baseball, including the New York Yankees, has a long history. Would you please offer some proof as to how this current Yankee team is the worst in franchise history? By every conceivable metric that is a demonstrably false statement. The 1990 Yankees would like to have a word with you. There were also a few NY Highlander teams that were far, FAR, worse at baseball.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      Why are you so mad? Like all good people, I’m a long-time Yankee-hater. But I can’t understand what you’re so pissed about. The Yankees are spending money, which they always do. They’re going to miss the playoffs. Enjoy it. Or failing that, go take up yoga or something. You need to chill.

    • 65panhed - Sep 2, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      I guess you are not old enough to remember 1965 thru 1971.

  6. trbmb - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Clearly the person to be commended and rewarded is the brilliant GM, Cashboy The Magnificent. No doubt he will shortly be reward with a 3 year contract taking him to 20 years as GM. Then 3 more years of high dependency on his only skill, CASH.

    • Kevin S. - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      Are you Brian Cashman’s former mistress/extortionist?

  7. freedomofspeechyesway - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Yankees have a good record = “Wow look at how well they’re doing against the odds!”

    Orioles have a good record = “Yea well the AL East is weak this year”

    While both of those statements may have some truth to them, the way with which they are reported is undeniable.

    • ripwarrior - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      These 2014 O’s could whip the 1927 Yankees.

      • ripwarrior - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        Doubt anyone in that lineup could hit O’Day’s slider

      • timmmah10 - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:49 PM

        You could say that about a lot of teams. Remember, this was a time where there weren’t great players from all over the world throwing 95+ mph. As a matter of fact, few players were throwing that hard back then.

        Impossible to ever know for sure, but I’d be willing to say that the evolution of baseball makes the numbers of the past impossible to compare with the numbers of today.

        On the other side of the coin though, pitchers had pine tar, vaseline, etc on the mound with them at all times, the game is more policed today (even though many pitchers have found creative ways to get foreign substances on the mound still today).

        Let’s not act like the O’s are a team without blemishes though. Machado out, Crush not being Crush this year, Hardy seems to have lost his consistent power stroke… I don’t think you should be jumping up and done just yet

      • ripwarrior - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        It’s not so much the orioles. I just think players today would dominate players from that long ago. I don’t even think those players back then worked out.

      • 65panhed - Sep 2, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        Good luck with that…

    • allmyexsliveintexas - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Totally agree with this observation. I recall the media’s comment on the Orioles 2012 run as “lucky.”

      • freedomofspeechyesway - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        And my thing is that generally it’s not that sportswriters are necessarily getting their facts wrong when reporting this kind of stuff, it’s just the utterly transparent way in which they present the ‘story’. As other posters have observed, very few professional sports teams outside of the Yankees could be described as “overachieving” when their payroll exceeds the GDP of a small nation.

        The quick response to the payroll point is usually “but the big money guys are hurt!”, to which I respond…”You seen how the O’s $50-million starter has played? Imagine what our record would be if he were on the DL all year”. So…yea.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        Totally agree with this observation. I recall the media’s comment on the Orioles 2012 run as “lucky.”

        2012 record in 1run games: 29-9, best % in the history of baseball (76.3%)
        2013 record in 1run games: 20-31 (39.2%)

        It wasn’t luck, it was that their ability to win 1 run games wasn’t repeatable. Some took that to mean luck, but every O’s fan on here complained when it was brought up but magically didn’t say anything in ’13.

        Just like the Yanks:
        ’13 1run: 30-16 (65.2%)
        ’14 1run: 21-18 (53.8%)

  8. psuorioles - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Oh lord… he we go again with Girardi deserves Manager of the Year.

  9. canadatude - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    When is MLB going to come to it’s senses and implement a hard salary cap? With that, someone else signs Tanaka. How does that record look without him, Headley, Prado and Ellesbury? Level the playing field and see how good Girardi is.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      They’re playing .519. They have essentially as many wins as losses.

      And you’re worried that their payroll gives them an unfair advantage? Go beat your dead horse elsewhere.

      • nbjays - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        Well if you look at their practice of simply going out and buying a replacement player every time someone gets hurt, then yes, it does give them an unfair advantage. Not many teams have that luxury. If any other team with that much dependence on their starting pitching had the injuries/suspensions the Yankees did, they’d have tanked long ago.

      • 18thstreet - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        Chris Capuano was available to anyone who wanted him. The Red Sox — the LAST-PLACE Red Sox — cut him earlier this year.

        If you think the Yankees have come up with a brilliant strategy to win the World Series through replacement players, then I don’t know what to say. I think they’ve come up with a very inefficient way to spend $200 million and still finish .500.

      • nbjays - Sep 2, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        This year’s Yankees team is a study in contrasts and contradictions. They are paying exorbitant amounts of money to a bunch of aging players and big-name free agents who, collectively, are vastly under-performing their expectations. As well, they opened Fort Knox for Tanaka, who has spent significant time on the DL and will require TJ. These under- and non-performing players are being propped up by a bunch of young no-names who are vastly over-performing THEIR expectations.

        The result is a team that, based on their payroll, is a huge disappointment, but also one that, despite their stats, is somehow almost in contention (although without a 2nd Wild Card, the point is moot). But this is also tempered by the “apparent” weakness of the AL East —

        “It MUST be a weak division”, say the ESPN talking heads… “Baltimore is in first place.”

        No mention of the fact that only the Angels, in ALL OF BASEBALL, have a better record than the Orioles.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Sep 2, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        These under- and non-performing players are being propped up by a bunch of young no-names who are vastly over-performing THEIR expectations.

        Who is vastly over-performing their expectations? Robertson has been one of the best relievers in baseball for the last 3-4 years, and still is as a closer. Gardner and Ellsbury are having above average seasons, but nothing out of whack for them. Betances? Greene? SSS caveats should apply.

        They are getting some timely hits and great bullpen work which has kept them in the hunt this year. It also helped that Tanaka was amazing before going down, and Pineda has been great in the limited time he’s pitched. But no one is having an absurd season…

    • nbjays - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      How are the Yankees and Dodgers (west coast Yankees) supposed to be competitive with a level playing field? That’s just un-American.

      • caeser12 - Sep 2, 2014 at 2:21 PM


        You do know that EVERY MLB team is owned by a BILLIONAIRE, so they could spend the money if they WANTED to, just like the Yankees and Dodgers do.

      • nbjays - Sep 2, 2014 at 3:48 PM

        It isn’t billionaire owners Not when 4 are on the DL that allow these teams to spend like drunken sailors, it is the revenues from the huge television contracts. Every billionaire owner is as much of a cheapskate as every other.

      • nbjays - Sep 2, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        It isn’t billionaire owners that allow these teams to spend like drunken sailors, it is the revenues from the huge television contracts. Every billionaire owner is as much of a cheapskate as every other.

        Disregard the previous reply… EDIT FUNCTION!!!!!!!

    • umrguy42 - Sep 2, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      “When is MLB going to come to it’s senses and implement a hard salary cap?”

      When the owners are ready to lose probably at least an entire season to a strike or lockout (or both). If memory serves, that was a key point to the ’94-’95 strike (owners really wanted a salary cap), and the players’ union is still as vehemently against it now as it was then.

    • Wesley Clark - Sep 2, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      There is no guarantee that even with a salary cap someone else signs Tanaka. I doubt that baseball will ever have a salary cap. Why does it even need one? Competitive balance seems to be doing just fine all by itself. The A’s will most likely make the playoffs this year. The Royals have a very good shot at making the playoffs this year. The Phillies, with their bloated payroll, will not make the playoffs this year. The Yankess also will probably not make the playoffs. There is no need for a salary cap in baseball. None.

  10. larrymahnken - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    They’ve had good starting pitching and a really good setup/closer combo. But their middle relief stinks. Their offense also stinks.

    So when they win, it’s often going to be close because you can’t give up negative runs. When they lose, it’s often going to be a blowout because they didn’t score many runs and because the bullpen let it get out of hand.

    Average score of wins: 5.3-2.8
    Average score of losses: 5.9-2.5

    That’s almost a run difference between the two.

  11. pisano - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Are you serious? Two of the three free-agent picks are a disaster, the only thing that’s keeping them above water, and in direct competition with the Red Sox for the cellar is their pitching, which after losing four of the five starters, that in itself is amazing. McCarthy, and Capuano were great moves, and Shane Greene has done a great job. That team has one of the most anemic offenses I’ve ever seen a Yankee team have, only last year’s team might be on the same level as this one. If Cashman’s contract is up at the end of the season, he may well be on shaky ground, McCann, an dBeltran are both nightmares, for the money they received. If I were Cashman, if he keeps his job, I would seriously think about bringing Melky Cabrera back, as he’s a free agent at the end of the season.

    • timmmah10 - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      But you’re getting into the same hole that they got into this year… Melky is not a young pup and going to cost a lot. McCann needs to finish adjusting to AL pitching already… dude was a stud in the NL, but this is common when guys come from the NL. The pitching in the AL is just better on the whole (obviously there are stud pitchers in the NL, but the average pitcher in the AL is a better pitcher, IMO)

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Sep 2, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Melky is not a young pup and going to cost a lot.

        There’s also no room for him either. As it stands right now, you have Beltran/Ellsbury/Gardner all signed for at least two more years with Arod still around. If they don’t release Arod, he’ll probably play DH the majority of the time, forcing Beltran to RF. Or you have Beltran DH, Arod 3b, and maybe Prado 2b/RF?

  12. irishlad19 - Sep 2, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Will the Yankees ever try to rebuild their minors system and grow their own talent?
    Maybe a new GM is needed to implement such a un-Yankee strategy?

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Sep 2, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      How’d that large influx of home grown talent do for the Red Sox this year? And while it’s a bit of a cheap shot, why do people continue to think grown talent will be some major success for the Yanks? It never was before, so why would be in the future?

      • 18thstreet - Sep 2, 2014 at 4:00 PM


        Well, I’ll say this: it’s been more entertaining as a fan than the 2001 or 2012 team was. If you’re going to be bad, at least give me something to look forward to.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Sep 2, 2014 at 4:12 PM

        I’d love for the Yanks to have four or five prospects that everyone is drooling over*, but great prospects != guaranteed success. There’s also this idea that the late 90s Yanks were all homegrown, while conveniently forgetting that the best pitcher on the team was Clemens, they had two perfect games from Wells and Cone, Stanton/Nelson were a great bullpen tandem in front of Mo (and Wetteland before him), and O’Neil, Raines, Strawberry, Brosius, Justice, et al were from trades/FA.

        The majority of those teams weren’t home grown, and then ones who were, were all either sure thing (Jeter/Mo), or borderline HoF’ers (Pettitte/Posada) and the easily forgotten Williams.

        So how realistic is that? Grow a bunch of possible HoF’ers, and then trade for another couple of HoF’ers/borderline…

  13. bigmeechy74 - Sep 2, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    They are going to make the playoffs(and I will vomit) because they have the best pitching staff in baseball. In the 1 game playoff against Oakland they have the luxury of having 3 aces to choose from: Pineda, Greene, Or mcCarthy with other great pitchers like capuano in case of emergency. Then they will match up pretty well with the tigers or Angels. When you have 5 elite starters you can beat ANYONE

    • nbjays - Sep 2, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      Note when 4 of those elite starters are on the DL and the other is suspended….

  14. jdillydawg - Sep 2, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    The Yankees are playing match play while all the other teams under 500 are playing stroke play…

  15. stupidusername - Sep 2, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    The Pythagoreon win-loss stat, and Playoff chance, are based on run differential. To me they’re about as useful as pitcher wins. They’re the ultimate ‘more to the story’ stat. But they’re not as old or as simple as W, RBI or AVG so people think they’re useful or some predictor of what’s to come. There was an article earlier in the year about the Phillies actually overachieving the last 2 years based on run differential. As stated above, there’s a lot that can go into that like good late-inning relief with poor middle relief, good starting pitching, poor offense.

    Seems to be common with “lucky” teams: struggle to score, poor middle relief, good late relief, a few good SP’s. For “unlucky” teams I guess it would be the opposite, poor starting pitching and poor late-inning relief with a good offense.

  16. Mikhel - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    Another reason could be that Joe Girardi plays for the big rally expecting three run homeruns instead of getting a run here and there every inning they have men on base and no outs, more often than not, a man in second and no outs ends up stranded after a K, a long fly out and a groundout.

  17. irishlad19 - Sep 3, 2014 at 6:52 AM

    It appears some posters here are too young to remember that the core of the Yankee teams that won WS repeatedly not so long ago were home-grown talent–Jeter, Pettit, Riveria, etc ( fill in the names).
    Time for them to rebuild the minor league system.

  18. britdawg - Sep 3, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    ‘Katie analyzes why this may be and chalks it up to good hitting in close-and-late situations.’

    No, she doesn’t – she chalks it up to good pitching in close-and-late situations: ‘…late-inning offense is not the reason why the Yankees have done so well in close games…Instead it has been a clutch pitching staff…’

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