Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Winningest Yankee

Tonight the Yankees host the Red Sox for the start of a four-game series. If you're desperate to see it, fear not: three of the four games will be nationally televised (tonight on MLB Network, Saturday on Fox, Sunday on TBS). Funny how that works, it makes you think there's a rivalry between them or something.

The Yankees (2.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the last wild card) have more at stake than the Red Sox (5.5 games up on the same  Rays for the divisional lead). ESPN says Boston has a 99.5% chance of playing in the postseason compared to 17.1% for New York.

Of course, it wasn't that long ago that most people had left the Yankees for dead. But their 18-12 record over the past 30 days is second only to the Rangers' 20-10 in the AL, vaulting the Bombers back into the race. So what's changed?

To answer this, I looked at how the team's done with and without players this year. Three players--Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki--have been regulars, missing fewer than ten games. So I ignored them, since their presence has been a constant. I looked at every other Yankee with over 100 plate appearances and checked how the team's done with and without them in the lineup. For example, the Yankees are 60-54 in games Vernon Wells has played, and 15-10 in games without Wells. That's a .526 winning percentage with him, and a .600 winning percentage without him. The Yankees' winning percentage is .074 worse with Wells than without. Here's the full list, from worst to best. Yankee fans, with a long tradition of winning baseball, from Ruth to Gehrig to DiMaggio to Mantle, won't be surprised to see which player's been the best, by quite a lot:

                   W-L       W-L
Player            with     without   Difference
Austin Romine     .436      .607       -.171
Lyle Overbay      .525      .647       -.122
Travis Hafner     .494      .603       -.110
Vernon Wells      .526      .600       -.074
David Adams       .500      .556       -.056
Chris Stewart     .527      .565       -.038
Jayson Nix        .552      .519       +.032
Eduardo Nunez     .556      .522       +.033
Curtis Granderson .564      .530       +.034
Alfonso Soriano   .568      .529       +.038
Kevin Youkilis    .571      .532       +.040
Alex Rodriguez    .615      .522       +.093
Source for player W-L records: Baseball Reference

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