The New York Yankees 2014 season success could come down to one factor, according to a recent report in ESPN The Magazine. The difference in winning the American League East and finishing in second or third place could be determined by ¨clubhouse chemistry.¨
ESPN even went so far as to create what it calls ¨A Proprietary Team Chemistry Regression Model¨ that ranks teams by how well players are likely to get along. The model, which uses a mathematical algorithm, was built with the assistance of an assistant professor at Santa Clara and an associate professor at Rutgers.
The formula starts with the players age, time with the team, and nationality. If there are too few or too many players in any of these areas, some players may feel that they don’t belong. Then, the impact of how much money players are getting versus how much they are producing is added in. This is called the ego factor.
This is where the formula stings the Yankees. Since the Yanks have an American League-high seven players earning $15 million or more, they have the biggest overall salary differences between the highest paid players and the lowest, giving them baseball’s second worst ¨Ego Rank¨ and second lowest team chemistry score.
What this all is supposed to mean is the Yankees will lose two games in the standings, mostly because of this ego rank.The Red Sox clubhouse chemistry score leaves them with one more loss than they might have had and the Rays will pick up two more wins and win the division, according to ESPN.
But what this all really means is that we have finally reached the point of paralysis by analysis. What ESPN´s figuring is missing is the personalities of individual players. It doesn’t figure in the determination of CC Sabathia to prove that he still has it. It misses Derek Jeter‘s pride and will to show that spring training means nothing, and his desire to go out the way Mariano Rivera went out last year.
And it assumes that any of the young players who make the team will be sitting in the locker room sulking because they are making less money. In reality, they will more likely be happy for the opportunity to make the team, and perhaps earn a big contract some day.
We have enough analysis in baseball. There is a stat for everything except bubble blowing and tobacco spitting. When Joe Girardi goes to the mound to take out Sabathia, he has gigs and gigs of information at his disposal. But still, his decision of whether to leave Sabathia in comes down to how he is pitching that night and the look in CC´s eyes when he asks,¨Do you have anything left, big fella?¨
The real beauty of baseball comes from its sudden action after a long pause. One moment we´re waiting for the pitcher to come out of his stretch with the bases loaded, and the next moment a scorching line drive is headed through the gap toward the wall. We stand and cheer as the runners circle the bases and we anticipate a play at the plate.
That´s what makes baseball so exciting. Not algorithms and calculators.