A hot start something new for the Yanks

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With last night’s victory the Yankees improved their season record to 6-3, having taken two out of three in each of the first three series. That doesn’t quite place them atop the AL East, as the Blue Jays have played one more game (and won it), but it’s an excellent start nonetheless. The Yankees aren’t exactly used to this type of occurrence in April. For what seems like forever the team has taken its time to get into a groove, sacrificing April for torrid production later in the season. Imagine what the 2009 team would have looked like, for instance, if their April looked more like their August.

Photo credit: Charles Krupa/AP

Six wins in nine games represents quite a pace when extrapolated over a full season. That’s 108 wins, which would surely mean another AL East title. Of course, just because they hold a .667 winning percentage now doesn’t mean they’ll maintain it over the course of the season. April results, as we’ve seen over the past — well, forever — don’t necessarily correlate to how a team plays over the course of a season. That presents more of a concern for teams like Toronto, which stand little chance of contending.

The last time I can remember the Yankees getting off to a decent start was in 2006. In 2005, I’m sure you remember, the team got off to its infamous 11-19 start, prompting plenty of questions about the team’s moxie. That year they had played 15 games before they reached the six-win plateau. The next year went a bit better, but apparently the slow start in 05 left such a scar that my memory is willing to interpret a middling start as something positive. It took the Yankees 12 games to reach the 6-win mark. They actually played pretty much .500 ball through the first month.

I remember April 2007 very well. It was the month where Alex Rodriguez started to shed the choker tag, as he hit two walk-off home runs during the team’s first two home stands. Yet that team started off as a .500 team as well, losing Game 11 before winning their sixth game in Game 12. It was afterwards that they stumbled, losing eight of their next 11 games to finish April at 9-14. May was just as bad, and they finished that month 22-29 before becoming the hottest team in baseball the rest of the way.

(Just how hot? They finished 94-68, so from June 1 on they went 72-39, a .649 winning percentage. From July 1 on, though, they went 56-27, a .675 win percentage. So while they stanched the bleeding in June, they really started to lay into the league in July.)

Most of us remember 2008 as a total disaster, with the Yankees facing injury after injury in Joe Girardi‘s debut season. The Yankees actually didn’t start horribly, though they didn’t start great. As in 2006 and 2007 the team went 5-5 through 10 games, but in 2008 they won Game 11, earning them their sixth win. They then lost Game 12 to even their record again, before falling to 20-25 after Game 45. They did make a nice recovery, but there was little to get excited about that season, other than Joba throwing gas in the rotation for a couple of months.

Last season opened the same way, with the sixth win coming in Game 11 (and the sixth loss coming in Game 12). So when was the last time the Yankees got to their sixth win in Game 9 or better? I thought maybe 2004, but they pulled the same .500 jig that year, attaining six wins after Game 12. It was actually 2003 when they got off to a rapid start, going 18-3 over their first 21 games. That year they were 6-1, so they got to their sixth win even faster, in Game 7. The Yanks could certainly use a little 2003 this season. They won the AL East by six games that year.

From the purview of a six-month baseball season the Yankees’ hot start means little. We’ve seen teams get off to slow starts and win over 100 games. We’ve also seen teams get off to fast starts and crumble. After this off-season, however, it’s nice to see the team starting well. Not only does the team face heightened expectations after a World Series victory, but they also faced a bit of criticism by pulling a few fan-unfriendly moves. From what I’ve gathered, the average Yankees fan didn’t like the idea of replacing Matsui and Damon, and certainly, as demonstrated on Wednesday, did not approve the return of Javy Vazquez. The Yanks are doing their part to change the fans’ mindsets. A hot start oftentimes cures all.

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  • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

    2008 was such an odd year. Every time the Yankees started to gain some ground, they’d fall back again. But then you look at that team–specifically the starting pitching–and you marvel at how they even won 89 games. If Joba had been starting the entire season–and Wang didn’t get hurt–they could’ve made the playoffs. Having Ponson and Ranser start 30 games combined really hurt, as did the Phranchise and IPK disaster that started the year.

    • Dirty Pena

      Not to mention the godawful Pudge/Molina combo because of Posada’s injury. Or Matsui’s injury glorious 162 games played, all in the OF, just like every year since 1970.

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

      Statistically, the Yanks had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball in 2008. It was not the pitching, but the defense and injuries that derailed that team.

      • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

        The bullpen was great that year, true lightning in a bottle performances from Veras and Edwar.

        • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

          Yeah, if the Yanks’ bullpen performs as expected, that’ll make it three consecutive years that the team has boasted one of the the majors’ best bullpens.

          It amazes you when one looks over the names of the mortal relievers that has made up some of these relief units. Here are the names of the major (read: relievers who faced an arbitrarily chosen amount of batters of 170 in 2008 or 2009) bullpen cogs over the last two seasons:

          Alfredo Aceves
          Brian Bruney
          Phil Coke
          Kyle Farnsworth
          LaTroy Hawkins
          Phil Hughes
          Ross Ohlendorf
          Edwar Ramirez
          David Robertson
          Jose Veras

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            no joba :(

            • SK

              of course no joba. same with no rivera. They are not mortals.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

        It was not the pitching, but the defense and injuries that derailed that team.

        -44.5 team UZR…

        :: head explodes ::

        • bexarama

          2002 Yankees: -48.9 UZR (worst in majors)
          2003 Yankees: -62.2 UZR (worst in AL, second worst in majors)
          2004 Yankees: -76.3 UZR (worst in majors)
          2005 Yankees: -137 UZR (!!!) (worst in majors)
          2006 Yankees: -73.9 UZR (worst in majors)
          2007 Yankees: -8.8 UZR
          2009 Yankees: -18.5 UZR

          Having terrible defense is obviously not a good thing, but the Yankees did very well with even worse defense in other years.

          • Snakes on the mother effin Temple Of Doom

            That’s just…wow.

          • Kiersten

            2005 Yankees: -137 UZR (!!!) (worst in majors)

            …excuse me?

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

              Uncommonly bad years by our DP combo of Jeter and a young Robbie Cano, coupled with the worst cast of defensive outfielders in recorded human history (Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Tony Womack, Matt Lawton, Melky Cabrera, Ruben Sierra, etc.)

              When you can add an old, overrated Johnny Damon as your new centerfielder in the offseason and actually dramatically upgrade your defense, you know your defense was bad.

              When Jason Giambi ISN’T one of your 5 worst defensive players, you know your defense was bad.

          • bexarama

            I should add that I’m not saying defense isn’t important (and I’m extremely pleased that the team seems to be concentrating on defense a lot more in recent years), just that defense wasn’t the main reason they failed when 95+-win, AL-East-winning, playoff teams from years prior weren’t just bad defensive teams but perhaps some of the worst defensive teams of all time.

        • Nigel Bangs

          I literally shuddered.

    • China Joe

      Teams that employ Sidney Ponson don’t deserve to be successful, just on general principle.

    • bexarama

      Yeah, if Joba and Pettitte were fully healthy and Wang wasn’t hurt, the 2008 Yankees actually had a pretty good rotation, actually. Moose was awesome, Pettitte was pretty good until he got hurt IIRC, Joba was awesome until he got hurt, and Wang was Wang. The fifth starter was a fifth starter.

      Unfortunately, pretty much everyone got hurt and I think Pettitte’s shoulder was being held on by some fraying twine by the end of the year.

      Oh, and the 2008 Yankees still won more games than the 2000 Yankees.

      • bexarama

        the 2008 Yankees actually had a pretty good rotation, actually

        one of these days I will learn how to write

  • China Joe

    Given their success this year, and considering their historical problems regarding the month of April, the park of Fenway and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Yankees fans can safely assume a 130-32 regular season…with 20 of those losses coming from Javy Vazquez. BOOOO! GAME 7!!!!! WHY DIDN’T TORRE LEAVE KEVIN BROWN IN THE GAME??? KEVIN BROWN WOULDN’T ALLOW A HOME RUN THERE! We heart Kevin Brown!

  • Greg G.

    Also nice to see them beating quality opponents this early in the season.

  • Tank Foster

    “That’s 108 wins, which would surely mean another AL East title. Of course, just because they hold a .667 winning percentage now doesn’t mean they’ll maintain it over the course of the season.”

    It doesn’t? ;-)

    My closest baseball friend and I trade facetious emails all year about stuff like this. In the Angels series, we were incensed that Girardi brought Rivera in to save game one. Why? Well, because the Yankees had won both the Red Sox and Rays series by losing game 1, then winning games 2 and 3. Obviously, if we were going to continue winning every series, it was imperative that we lose the first game of each.

    Now, we figure that all road series must go loss-win-win, and home series win-loss-win.

    • Klemy

      Hahaha! This same though was crossing my mind when they won the first game against the Angels. Patterns kill my OCD.

  • Beamish

    6-3 yet still not in First Place. By merely winning these three series and not sweeping any of them it is clear the Yankees have problems putting teams away. They lack that killer instinct.

    …can I write for the Tabloid Sports page now? They must be apoplectic that there is really nothing in the team’s record to complain about right now.

    I might even be inclined to raise my confidence level to an 8.1 on Monday.

    • Klemy

      You automatically qualify for Tabloid Sports page writing by using “apoplectic” in a sentence. Congratulations!

  • Dirty Pena

    I think 2007 serves as a great example of how things can go wrong in a heartbeat in April. After a sluggish first 11 games (capped off by Scutaro’s walkoff) things seemed to be ready to getting going after sweeping Cleveland. Then we lost 7 in a row. Of course 6-3 is a great start, but I’d rather be clear of the always momentum killing @LAA next weekend before I start celebrating.

    /Debbie Downer’d

    • Dirty Pena

      to get going*

  • Tank Foster

    Ok, I’m flirting with off-topic, but I think maybe it’ll fly under the general rubric of “season beginnings.”

    David Ortiz: .154 BA .241 OBP .269 SA .511 OPS

    OPS+ = 35

    :D

    • bexarama

      Mark Teixeira: .091/.302/.121/.424, 22 OPS+ :(

      • Tank Foster

        I knew someone was going to do that.

        • bexarama

          Heh. It’s okay. Melky’s even worse o_O

          • bexarama

            and we all know Teixeira snaps out of this in early May and destroys pitching, whereas Ortiz… hmm.

            • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

              he finished with somewhat respectable numbers last yr.

              • Tank Foster

                I choose to ignore the positive Ortiz spin, generated by, as Jeff Neuman described those Red Sox supporters…

                …darlings of the literati, focus of their self-proclaimed Nation, smug in their moral superiority to the lordly Yankees even as their tactics and payrolls have come to look the same…

                • Dirty Pena

                  Can you link to that? Also, while yes Ortiz was “somewhat respectable” (though a .332 OBP and league average OPS from a DH beg to differ)- it’s the rapid decline that makes it great.

                • bexarama

                  http://www.realclearsports.com.....96923.html

                  And yeah, league average OPS from a guy who is there just to hit and did hit a good number of HRs…

                • bexarama

                  though heh, should we be talking about a guy who’s just there to hit when NJ is our DH? Then again, Ortiz is clearly there to clobber the ball like it’s 2003-2007 when he can’t really do that any more and NJ is here for his ridiculous OBP

  • Frank

    6-3 is a nice start, but it’s a long season and there surely will be some down times before it’s all over. That said, I like this team winning 95-100 games barring any major injuries.

  • mryankee

    I would think 105-110 wins is reasonable. This team will be better when Tex decides to show up and Arod hits his stride. Big series against Tex time for a sweep.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      We’re going to get 120 wins once Cash finally trades David Adams for Albert Pujols.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

        Adams is untouchable.

        Emerson Landoni, Ray Kruml, Yeicok Calderon, and the rights to C.J. Henry into perpetuity. That’s my final offer.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

          No way. Calderon runs a sub-4.2 forty.

    • bexarama

      why is this a “big series”? It’s APRIL.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      Sorry, but no. 105-110 wins is not a “reasonable” expectation. It’s a feasible outcome given the overall talent on this team, sure, but I wouldn’t call anything more than 95 wins a “disappointment” given the natural deviation in player production, age of some of the core players, and potential for injury.

      There is a reason like 5 teams in baseball history have won more than 105 games.

  • Hughesus Christo

    My only possible concern is that Toronto isn’t bad and it becomes impossible to get a WC spot out of the ALE. Granted that Baltimore has been bad, but I don’t think they’ll end up with fewer than 75-80 wins. If the bottom two teams in your division are going to be at that level, there’s very little chance of producing two playoff spots. If Vernon Wells decides to put together a credible season Toronto can stay in the 80-85 win range, I think. They have pitching.

    • mryankee

      Baltimore to win 75-80 games is a bit premature-Toronto I will give ya they seem decent. In the end the Yankees should just roll over everyone and leave them in teh dust by memorial day.

      • bexarama

        You have unrealistic expectations. The Yankees are an incredibly good team, but thinking things like that is setting yourself up for disappointment.

        • mryankee

          Yes but you know what if it does happen that way how happy you would be?

          • bexarama

            Extremely happy. Because I’m not expecting it because it’s completely unrealistic for the most part.

            • mryankee

              Well we will just have to hope for the best. Btw today I like Granderson, Cano and Hughes. I do not like Tex again and Vazquez.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

      My only possible concern is that Toronto isn’t bad and it becomes impossible to get a WC spot out of the ALE.

      Vernon Wells is currently OPS+ing 246, and Alex Gonzalez (yes, that Alex Gonzalez) is OPS+ing 204. Meanwhile, Dana Eveland has an ERA+ of 299 and Kevin Gregg, Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen, and Shawn Camp in the bullpen have given up only 4 runs between the 4 of them.

      They’re smoke and mirrors.

      Adam Lind is legit, Travis Snider will probably start hitting well and join him in legitimacy sometime soon, and Ricky Romero is a great young starter (but not 1.80 ERA great, mind you.) Everyone else on that team who isn’t already playing like crap is playing incredibly over his head and will be playing like crap before you can say “Take off, you hoser”.

      They’ll crash. Just like last year.

      • Hughesus Christo

        I’m not saying they’re WS contenders, but we have to recognize that—somewhere deep inside—Vernon Wells had/has something valuable. Elite production out of CF and 2B (assuming Hill comes back strong) combined with a representative pitching staff can keep you respectable all season.

        • mryankee

          They will be a pain in the butt especially when Romero pitches. However they should not be a real problem to dispose of.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        I agree that they’re playing WAY above their heads but there’s a chance Cecil, McGowan, Romero form a really good 1-2-3, which could give teams fits.

        Beyond that, Wells could return to being a 130 OPS+ player, Adam Hill should return in a week, Lind is a monster, Snider could figure it out if he stops striking out every third at-bat. If they get just average production out of Ruiz, Bautista, Overbay (until Wallace comes in), they might not be so awful.

        But that’s a tremendous amount of things that have to go right for them to make any serious noise.

        Not happening this year.

  • Geek

    6 and 3 against the tough teams and the W’s and L’s don’t reflect that.

  • Klemy

    I really like their start and who it was against. It’s the best I’ve felt about this team in recent years. Yeah, tough times could come, but for now I’m going to enjoy this start and hope it continues a while longer.

  • http://www.bomberbanter.com/index.html BomberBanter.com

    We’ve also seen teams get off to fast starts and crumble.

    True – last year’s Blue Jays come to mind; then again, so does this year’s Toronto team. While I do think its possible for a team to start hot and fade, I don’t see this happening to the Yankees. Their team is just too good. Consider: they are 6-9, winners of all 3 series against the Red Sox, Rays and Angels and their 3 and 4 hitters have 0 home runs. ZERO. That’s how good the Yankees are this year.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

    Of course, just because they hold a .667 winning percentage now doesn’t mean they’ll maintain it over the course of the season.

    What have you done, Derek? Nothing! You’ve done nothing! NOTHINGGGG!!

    /mugatu’d