Travis asks: How does this NY Yankee team (lineup and rotation/bullpen) stack up against the 2009 team? I feel like this team is better, which makes it also feel like the other American League teams are getting better, but at a quicker pace.
In terms of hitting relative to the league — which is really the only thing that matters — the 2011 Yankees are a bit better than the 2009 team. They have a 121 wRC+ (21 percent better than league average), while the 2009 team had a 118 wRC+. Of course, the 2009 team also did that in a whole 162-game season, while the 2011 season is still playing out. By the end I expect they’ll end up in a similar spot.
It might not be that the AL is getting better. The run environment is much lower this season. Since fewer runs have scored overall, things might seem a bit closer. Regardless, the Yankees do have a top two offense in the league. The only real difference is that Boston has an offense that’s just as good. That was missing in ’09.
The real difference comes from the pitching staff. In 2009 they had a 4.28 ERA and 4.32 FIP, and had the seventh lowest runs allowed per game. In 2011 they have a 3.64 ERA, 3.69 FIP, and have the third lowest runs allowed per game. So even after adjusting for the lower run environment, they’re still out-pitching the 2009 team by a decent margin.
Paul asks: What are the chances Soriano decides he doesn’t want to be the 7th inning guy next year and opts out? How bad would that really be, considering what he gets paid (yes, he is obviously talented)?
I’d put his opt-out chances at slim to nil. Not only does he now have another injury red flag, but he has the two more expensive years of his contract ahead. That is, he’s made $10 million this year and would be leaving $25 million on the table by opting out. Could he do better than 2/25 on the open market? There’s a decent free agent class of closers, including Heath Bell and K-Rod, but the more I look at it the more I’m convinced that Soriano would be a better option than them. But they’d have to know they could get more than $25 million, and I don’t think that’s guaranteed right now. Expect Soriano in pinstripes next year.
John asks: Can Ivan Nova win the Rookie of the Year?
Stephen actually covered Ivan Nova’s chances at the AL Rookie of the Year Award this past weekend. Make sure to give that article a read. He has quality numbers, sure, but the wins are really the thing that the voters will focus on. There are some more deserving candidates, in my opinion. But if Nova pitches well down the stretch and ends with 17 or 18 wins, the old school voters could place his name atop the ballot.
Biggie asks: With Weaver off the board who do you prefer coming out of the 2012 class?
I’ve always been a big fan of John Danks. It’s hard not to think of Andy Pettitte when watching him, and it’s always palatable to have a lefty in Yankee Stadium. Cole Hamels is another swell option, not only because he’s a lefty but because he’s a lefty with good control and excellent strikeout numbers. The class kind of fades a bit from there. The Yanks probably won’t consider Zack Greinke, and Matt Cain allows a few too many fly balls for comfort (and wouldn’t have the spacious confines of AT&T Park to aid him).
Ranking them in terms of desire, I’d probably go Hamels, Danks, Cain, Greinke. I suspect at least two will have signed extensions by then, though.
Paul asks: The Yankees are seemingly historically bad at small-balling in a run from 3rd with 0 or 1 outs. How bad are they really?
This notion, I suspect, is merely frustration from the first two games in the series. Entering play yesterday the Yankees were hitting .356/.362/.663 with a runner on third and less than two outs, with 44 sac flies. That OPS is the best in the league, and the 44 sac flies is second best. With a runner on third and two outs the Yankees are hitting .314/.406/.522, again leading the league in OPS (by a wide margin). They also lead in batting average in those situations, by 40 points.
In other words, the Yankees are absolutely stellar when a man stands on third base, regardless of how many outs there are. And, again, that doesn’t even count yesterday’s game. (Baseball-Reference hadn’t updated when I did this, and plus it’s awesome to see the numbers before yesterday, anyway.)
Willie asks: With Tabatha getting a new contract, can we use his value to see what an extension for Brett Gardner would be worth?
The two aren’t really comparable, because of service time. Tabata didn’t come up until mid-2010, and so has a few more reserve clause years before he even hits arbitration. Gardner, on the other hand, will reach arbitration after this season, so he will necessarily make more than Tabata. As Mike mentioned in a previous mailbag, Gardner might not make a lot in an arbitration hearing. I’m not sure if that favors the Yankees signing him to an extension or letting him go year-to-year.