The Yankees officially wrapped up the first half of the 2014 season last night with a 4-3 extra innings loss to the Rays. They currently own a decidedly mediocre 41-40 record with an awful -33 run differential that ranks ninth worst in the game. It feels like this team loses nothing but blowouts and wins nothing but close games, last night notwithstanding. Nothing comes easy.
Now that the season is halfway complete, I want to look back and compare the team’s current position to where they were last year at this point. Last year’s squad, as you know, was decimated by injuries (especially on the position player side) and only the second Yankees team to miss the postseason in 19 years. Here is a quick nuts and bolts comparison of the last three half-seasons:
|W-L||RS||RA||Run Diff.||AVG||OBP||SLG||ERA||FIP||Def. Efficiency|
|’13 1st Half||42-39||310||326||-16||.239||.302||.379||3.87||3.68||0.692|
|’13 2nd Half||43-38||340||345||-5||.246||.312||.372||4.00||3.90||0.692|
|’14 1st Half||41-40||326||359||-33||.252||.316||.382||4.00||3.82||0.697|
Right now, this year’s club is marginally better than the team the Yankees trotted out there in the second half last season despite a worse record. They’ve performed slightly better at the plate — the difference is basically a few points of batting average, which hasn’t translated to more runs — and in the field and almost identically on the mound. The first half of this year has gone much better offensively and much worse run prevention-wise than the first half of last season.
The difference between this season’s team and the one that closed out last season is very small, which is a big problem. The 2013 Yankees were hit hard by injuries and scrambled for replacements all summer. This year’s team added over $500M worth of contracts to the roster and have not benefited from them in the standings at all. Masahiro Tanaka‘s been outstanding, Jacoby Ellsbury‘s been very good, and just about every other offseason addition has been terrible. Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have truly been $30M+ worth of dead weight through 81 games.
The problem is two-fold. Not only is like, half the roster underperforming, but now the Yankees are locked into even more big money contracts with even less roster flexibility. They drew a lot of criticism for having an old, expensive, declining, veteran-based roster a year ago, yet they doubled down on that over the winter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I don’t think. It only looks really bad when those guys underperform, which is something young players are certainly capable of doing as well. The Yankees needed better players this past offseason, not necessarily younger players. That got neither (in terms of actual, on-field performance).
The Yankees are only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot with half-a-season to play and I think the best thing that can happen to them right now is some kind of streak. Either win a whole bunch of games or lose a whole bunch of games. They have 13 games remaining before the All-Star break and either winning or losing about eleven of them would provide some clarity before the trade deadline. The standings say this team is still in contention, but man, watching them day after day does not inspire confidence. Going on some kind of run, either good or bad, puts the front office in a better position to make decisions before July 31st.
Of course, I fully expect the Yankees to go about 7-6 in these next 13 games and be in just about the same position they are right now. That’s what they’ve been doing all season. Whenever they’ve had a chance to beat up on some direct competition or take advantage of a soft part of the schedule, they’ve broken even. If they continue to do that, they’ll look to add pieces at the deadline, perhaps aggressively so because missing the postseason a second straight year will really take a bite out of the bottom line. There is bound to be some desperation setting in and I have a hard time seeing how that can be good.
The Yankees have been wholly underwhelming this season and the numbers bear that out, especially compared to last year. Outside of about five players (Tanaka, Gardner, Ellsbury, Dellin Betances, David Robertson), I don’t find this team to be particularly enjoyable to watch either. That’s just my opinion. They took steps to improve on last year’s performance over the winter and by and large those moves have backfired. The shape of the production may be different, but overall the team is simply not any better than last year’s mess.