Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Well Howdaya Like Them Apples?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Baseball really is a funny game.  It's one of the few sports where just a few days or a few games can make all the difference in the world.  And as much as we're taught to not put a ton of weight into small sample sizes when evaluating stats, it is one of the few sports where sometimes a small sample size can tell you exactly what you need to know.  Less than three full days ago the Yankees were 1-4, looking flat and old as flat and old can be, and facing the best pitcher in the American League as they tried to avoid getting swept out of Detroit.  This morning they find themselves 4-4, having vanquished said best pitcher on their way to two consecutive road routes, and having scored 32 runs in their last three after scoring just 17 total in their first five.

I'd been doing my best to stay calm and not overreact to the early struggles because, as a lot of other writers on this site and many others across the blogosphere had touched on, what else did I really expect?  The team that opened the season was old and bad on paper and they played old and bad on the field.  But truthfully, I was ready to blow up and I was ready to use what I expected to be a massacre at the hands of Justin Verlander and the Tigers on Sunday afternoon as the spark.  I honestly didn't think the Yankees were going to win that game and I didn't think they were going to follow it up with two games like these last two.  32 runs in three games is something I wouldn't have expected from a fully healthy regular lineup this season let alone the lineup Joe's been using, but it happened.

Here are some other fun tidbits from the last three days, just because I'm in a good mood:
  • The Yanks have score 7+ runs in three straight games in just 8 games this season.  They never did it once last season (h/t to LoHud for that one)
  • New guys Vernon Wells (.494), Kevin Youkilis (.481), and Travis Hafner (.420) have three of the top five best wOBAs on the team right now.
  • Robinson Cano (.430) has one of the other five best, and has raised his batting line from .111/.200/.111 to .303/.361/.667 in just 15 at-bats.
  • Francisco Cervelli (.457) is the last of that top five, and his 0.4 fWAR would tie him for 2nd among AL catchers ... if he had enough PA to qualify.
  • After last night's outing, Andy Pettitte, 40 years old going on 41, is currently 3rd in MLB in innings pitched.
  • The 5 team HR last night gives them 15 for the season.  That's tied for the most in MLB.
And the best part is there's still room for improvement.  CC and Hiroki, although better in their last starts, aren't anywhere near top form; Nova and Phil still need to put it together in the back end of the rotation; the middle relief is woefully thin and painfully ineffective right now; and the lineup could use some more consistency from everybody in the bottom of the batting order not named "Cervelli."  But the old replacements are mashing, Andy is still pitching like mid-2000s Andy, and Robbie has gone from 0 to "just walk the guy" quicker than it takes most us to write up a grocery list.

Thinking back to the point I made to open this post about small sample sizes, there is the possibility that short burst of excellence ends tonight.  The winning streak could stop at three.  It certainly wouldn't be surprising given the way this season started, and a loss tonight would be much more expected than another blowout win.  For my money, that's all the more reason to celebrate what the team has done these last three games.  It was one of the most unexpected outcomes I think any of us could have thought up just a few days ago, and it's given new hope to the idea that the Yankees can be OK if they can just stem the tide early, hang around, and get healthy in the next few months.

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