Nov
23

On World Series winners and roster turnover

By

Throughout the late 1990s, the Yankees won three World Series in a row and came within two outs of a fourth with much of the same cast of characters. In fact, 14 players on the 2001 team were also on the 1998 team, and other than the DH spot, the regular 1998 starting lineup took the field during 2001.

This stability makes the Yankees unique among World Series winners. Most, according to a Jonah Keri article in The Times this weekend, turn over 28 percent of their roster — or approximately seven players — after winning. These moves make teams better, younger and more able to maintain a competitive edge, and the current iteration of the Yankees would do well to heed Keri’s warnings.

First, some numbers. Keri used the introduction of the Wild Card as a baseline, and he found that six of the 13 World Series winners, not counting the 2009 Yankees or the extreme outlier 1997-1998 Marlins, turned over less than a quarter of their rosters and combined to lose 47 games — or nearly eight per team — more than they had in their World Series years. Those teams that turned over more than 25 percent lost just three combined games more the following year. Clearly, a savvy general manager along with some roster machinations can lead to repeated success.

For the Yankees, Keri’s lessons are particularly apt:

The Yankees face another regression-related situation. They had an old roster in 2009. Two of the top three starters, five of the nine starting batters as well as the Hall of Fame closer were 33 or older.

It is possible that 35-year-old Hideki Matsui’s knee problems are behind him and that 28-homer seasons will remain the norm. It is conceivable that Johnny Damon’s tying a career high for homers at 35 (he turned 36 on Nov. 5) means we should expect a big power threat for the next half-decade. It is imaginable that Andy Pettitte, a 15-year veteran who has flirted with retirement in recent years and has nearly 3,000 regular-season innings under his belt, will keep winning games well into his late 30s and beyond.

But it is not likely. Few players are more likely to see a regression in their numbers than those getting well into their 30s who have suddenly had a big bounce-back season. The Yankees caught lightning in a bottle with Matsui, Damon and Pettitte, who are free agents, as well as incumbent 30-somethings like Jorge Posada. Even (gasp) Mariano Rivera cannot fight Father Time forever.

The Yankees, warn Keri, shouldn’t grow complacent, and by extension, neither should the fans. It would, in fact, be foolish for the Yankees and their fans to claim this team can repeat what it did last year without questioning some holes. To that end, the Yanks should look to free agency to boost the team. A few younger bats are out there, and some hurlers who could replace Andy Pettitte loom as well.

But there is a part to Keri’s thesis that he didn’t explore in his column. I e-mailed Jonah today to ask him about the so-called sentimental players who have won over fans by winning a World Series: What if the ‘sentimental guys are 1) on short term deals and 2) are better than other options on the market?

Jonah’s answer was not surprising. “You definitely want to go with incumbents if nothing better is out there,” he wrote. “Of course, something better clearly is out there, between Holliday and Bay, plus maybe some trade candidates. So yes, it could very well be a question of deciding whether, say, Damon at 2/28 is better than Holliday at 7/120. There’s no easy answer to that one – you’d probably just go for the better (and younger) player, since the Yankees can obviously afford it.”

The Yanks can afford Holliday today, but do they want to be paying him in four or five years? That’s the real rub, and the answer is “probably not.”

Oftentimes, good teams are, in part, the product of career years and a good deal of luck. With their walk-off wins and overall season numbers, the Yanks certainly exhibited a combination of the two in 2009. To avoid a fall, expect some roster turnover. If the incumbents can be had for cheap and the big fish sign elsewhere for too much money, as Keri said to me, the Yanks would be golden, and that right now is in the hands of the Front Office.

Categories : Analysis

88 Comments»

  1. Thomas says:

    Most, according to a Jonah Keri article in The Times this weekend, turn over 28 percent of their roster — or approximately seven players — after winning. These moves make teams better, younger and more able to maintain a competitive edge, and the current iteration of the Yankees would do well to heed Keri’s warnings.

    Regarding the player turn over, Keri looks at all players equally. He never mentions how many of these players were bench players or the last man out of the bullpen.

    For example, on the 2009 Yankees, Jose Molina, Eric Hinske, Jerry Hairston Jr., Brian Bruney, and Ramiro Pena all have at least a decent chance of not being on 2010′s opening day roster. However, comparing if all of them are or are not on the team, the differences in the team’s record is probably minimal.

  2. Andrew says:

    regardless of how valid this article is (and its not bad because i read it) i hate jonah keri. his stupid crap for espn is annoying

  3. Amy says:

    “Even (gasp) Mariano Rivera cannot fight Father Time forever.”

    Lies.

  4. Ed says:

    I understand the idea that relying on the same group of guys as they get older is asking for a regression. However, when talking about World Series teams declining, how much of that is due to the fact that you can only go down from there?

    Sure, there’s the Cardinals team that won 80-something games and won the World Series. There’s plenty of room for them to improve from there. But if you’re talking a 103 win team, you’re already taking a team that’s exceptionally good. The odds of winning 103 games in a season just aren’t very good, making the odds of winning 103 games two years in a row rather bad.

    One other thought – with the average 28% turnover, how much of that is bench or bullpen? On every team, those spots tend to be rather volatile. Look at how much those positions changed this season just from April 1st to July 31st.

  5. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    Question: Is the reason that WS winners turn over so much of their roster really because they’re trying to keep up with the ever cahnging forces outside of their control? Or is it because most teams don’t have the payroll to keep everbody on their team from the previous year?

    I would argue that the dynasty was a dynasty precisely because the Yankees had the money and good management to keep running out the same winning formula year after year, with minimal change. While other teams (see: 2003 Florida Marlins) woudn’t have the money to keep everybody they wanted, the Yankees did. So the winning formula lasted until they got too old.

    Basically what I’m saying is, couldn’t our advantage in the 90′s have been BECAUSE of our lack of roster turnover, and that it might be an advantage that the Yankees, because of their payroll, have over other teams?

    • The dynasty is a tough one to assess. The 1998 team was so good; the 2000 team didn’t really deserve to be there; and the 2001 team was significantly helped by Mike Mussina and peak year production from Jeter, Posada and Bernie.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

        2000 was an really ugly year. The opening day roster was pretty bad, and the Yankees were lucky to even reach the playoffs because of the lack of competition in the AL East. Plus, Cashman made some great deals for Justice, Hill and others. 2001 was a much better team then 2000, and that is the season I can remember that still can not grasp why we did not win the WS. Thinking about it, 2004, too.

        • vin says:

          2001? 2004?

          Nope, don’t remember those World Series. Must’ve been strikes or something.

        • Rose says:

          2001 was a much better team then 2000, and that is the season I can remember that still can not grasp why we did not win the WS. Thinking about it, 2004, too.

          Curse of Mike Mussina (2001-2008)…it was almost as powerful as the Curse of Don Mattingly (1982-1995)…

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

          The 04′ team is remembered for all the wrong reasons. While the collapse was histroic and a great achievement for the Sox, it should never have gotten to that point. The fact that the Yankees won more games than the Sox, and took a 3-0 series lead, is mind boggling when you consider that their pithcing staff was sixth when the Red Sox was third and their offense was second to the Red Sox offense by 49 runs.

          The Red Sox underperformed all season until game 4, and the Yankees overperformed. I mean, they had no lefthanders in their rotation; KEVIN BROWN started game 7, for God sakes.

          • Rose says:

            Exactly. The Sox had 21 game winner Curt Schilling AND the enigma known as Pedro Martinez…going up against 4.60+ ERA Mike Mussina and #2 starter Jon Leiber. They also had the best offense in baseball. How they lost the first 3 games in the first place should have been the big question. Assuming Mike Mussina and Jon Leiber (or whoever) will beat Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez TWICE just because they pulled it off once…is just stupid. You have to play all of the games for a reason.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

              Oh, I disagree. The Yankees still collapsed, epicly (my big question is why did Torre not use Mo for two innings in game 5). No disputing that. I’m just saying that it was impressive for the Yankees to even GET to that point. They had an inferior pitching staff and offesne, yet they won more games in the regualr season and took a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs. That’s actually pretty impressive, and personally I think it speaks favorably of Torre’s managing up to that point (game 4).

              • Comrade Al says:

                Name one member of 2004 Sox who was not on steroids.
                That surely had something to do with it (and with their having better pitching and offense, too).

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  Whether they did steroids or not is irrelevant to my arguement (not to mention you really don’t think that those champiosnhip Yankee teams didn’t have tons of juicers?). It is a strawman.

                • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

                  Just asking, but is there one player on the 2004 Yankees you are SURE of, that he wasn’t on steroids?

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  Clay-Nope. Sheff wouldn’t surprise me, off the top of my head. Giambi. Brown (maybe not that year).

                  This has nothing to do with my arguement anyway.

                  I wrote, basically, that the Red Sox were better than the Yankees in 04′, but their win-loss redord and playoff performance before game 4 didn’t show it. The response to this was that the Red Sox in 04′ were better because they juiced.

                  Well, mybe (I don’t even think so), but they were still better.

                • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

                  My answer was directed at Comrade Al, as our response came at the same time. Essentially, I said excatly the same as you.

                  And I agree with you: The Red Sox had a better team on paper in 2004, but we still should have won the ALCS.

      • Rose says:

        Alfonso Soriano had a .306 OBP…Yikes.

        I strongly believe the decline in repeat champions is due to the turnover and attempt to get younger immediately afterwards. Yes, the 2000 Yankees didn’t deserve to be there…but they got there for whatever reason (experience? chemistry? luck?)…the 2004 Red Sox team nearly won in 2003 (which may have been even a better team)…but after 2004, nearly everybody left and didn’t come back. In 2005, the Red Sox weren’t nearly as good…and in 2006 they didn’t make the playoffs. It wasn’t until they started making other drastic moves (Hanley for Beckett and Lowell) accompanied with timely news (breaking news of Paul Byrd using steroids the DAY he’s suppose to pitch a clinching game in the playoffs) that they won again.

        The Yankees still have 3 players from the 1996 Championship team (albeit Pettitte left and came back) and 4 from the 1998 Championship team. 13 years ago and 11 years ago respectively. The Red Sox have 3 players from the 2004 Championship team. Only 5 years ago. I don’t necessarily know what this has to do what I said above…but I just felt like bringing it up. lol

    • Ed says:

      Question: Is the reason that WS winners turn over so much of their roster really because they’re trying to keep up with the ever cahnging forces outside of their control? Or is it because most teams don’t have the payroll to keep everbody on their team from the previous year?

      If we’re talking just Wild Card era, I don’t think there’s enough of a sample to really draw conclusions. We’ve got 14 seasons in that span (ignoring 2009). The champs include:

      4x Yankees, 2x Red Sox – both with the money to keep who they want.

      2x Marlins, 1x Diamondbacks – both who went in with the strategy of spending all their money at once to win big, then trading away the team. These teams had no intentions of building a sustainable team, they just picked a season to go all out.

      Eliminate those teams and you’re down to 5 teams that might have had roster turnover because they didn’t have the revenue to maintain the team they would like to maintain.

      • Paulie21 says:

        One other element relating to replacing aging players is the conundrum associated with performance (or lack thereof) in the NY spotlight. Older players tend to have proven they can perform in the rather stressful environment that is the NY Yankees. As they note in the financial world, “past performance is no indication of future performance” and that warning certainly applies to folks like Holiday. I believe that sometimes, the older proven player is a lesser risk than the younger unproven (at least, in the Bronx) player. Having said that, I certainly would be thinking 1 year for Matsui, and no more than 2 for Damon.

  6. nolan says:

    in a recent Daily News article, Mark Feinsand states that the only way Damon signs a 2 year deal is if it’s for the same annual salary he made in 09 (13 mil). If that’s the case then shouldn’t the Yanks pay the extra couple million to get Holliday? Yes it’s would be for 4 more years than Damon contract but we would be getting a younger, better player (both offensively and defensively) than Damon. What are some other opinions on this?

  7. nolan says:

    in a recent Daily News article, Mark Feinsand states that the only way Damon signs a 2 year deal is if it’s for the same annual salary he made in 09 (13 mil). If that’s the case then shouldn’t the Yanks pay the extra couple million to get Holliday? Yes it would be for 4 more years than Damon contract but we would be getting a younger, better player (both offensively and defensively) than Damon. What are some other opinions on this?

    • bkight13 says:

      I think the Yankees should sign Holliday and let Miranda/Posada split the DH. Damon is going to cash in on his post-season and will not take a paycut. Matsui may return but don’t expect a discount either.

      $26M for Damon and Matsui= $18-20M for Holliday + a high risk/reward SP like Sheets/Wang/Bedard.

      • toad says:

        in a recent Daily News article, Mark Feinsand states that the only way Damon signs a 2 year deal is if it’s for the same annual salary he made in 09 (13 mil).

        All well and good, but where’s the 2yr/$26 million offer coming from?

        I mean, we hear lots of times that player X is demanding this or that, but getting it is a differnet matter.

        Damon is going to cash in on his post-season

        I don’t understand this. You mean somebody is going to overpay him becasue he did well in the post-season? I don’t see why.

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