New York Yankees Editorial: Why It’s Not Time For Yankees Fans To Panic


The big series in the Bronx is now behind us. The Blue Jays, bolstered by new talent acquired at the trade deadline, swept the first-place Yankees. And those Yankees, who just a few weeks ago had a commanding seven-game lead in the AL East, now lead by just 1.5 games, their smallest lead since July 7.

It’s tempting to conclude that the Blue Jays – who added an ace, David Price, as well as Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Lowe, Ben Revere, and LaTroy Hawkins – are now the force to be reckoned with in the East. But it’s hard to see how those additions can suddenly catapult a team from one that for the majority of the season had been jostling between 2nd, 3rd and 4th place to a team that just won 11 out of 12. We’re in the midst of an anomaly. If you’re a Yankee fan, this is not the time to panic.

The question is not whether or not the Blue Jays became a better team at the trade deadline but rather by how much. Surely a pitcher like Price makes a team better, but it’s important to note that his season ERA is just a little over one point less than the overall team ERA.

So while Price is having an incredible season, his addition to the team means that the Blue Jays, in the long-run, can expect their opponent to score only one less run every five days, and that’s assuming Price pitches a complete game every time out. In other words, it’s hard for one player – even a pitcher like Price – to vastly improve a team: A FanGraphs analysis, for example, shows that of 21 teams who have added an ace pitcher at the trading deadline since 1995, only two have made the World Series and neither of them won.

As for the other players the Blue Jays added, their contribution surely makes the team better but not by enough to account for their recent surge. The combination of Price, Tulowitzki, Lowe, Revere, and Hawkins turns up just a 1.6 WAR, hardly the kind of improvement that can explain going from eight games out of first place to 1.5 games out in under two weeks. (Keep in mind, even with this surge, the Blue Jays are still three losses behind the Yankees.)

A better explanation is that the last two weeks are an anomaly, both for the Blue Jays and the Yankees.

The Yankees have lost seven out of their last 11 games; the sweep by the Blue Jays was just the second time the Yankees have been swept at home all season; the Yankees finished their latest series with 28 scoreless innings, the longest streak at home for the team since 1908. This happened despite no major changes in the roster besides the loss of Michael Pineda, but his start was replaced by a very quality one at the hands of Luis Severino.

Anomalies happen. A team’s performance can deviate in the short-term. In the long-run, however, teams will generally perform closer to expectations. Just think: if the Yankees had simply performed just one run closer to their expected value at any given moment since 1908, there is a good chance they could have won the series opener, which they lost by just one run. In that not-far-off case, there would be a lot less panic in Yankee-world.

There is a lot of baseball to be played. The Yankees and Blue Jays still have 10 more games to play against each other. The Yankees have a majority of their remaining games at home, where they perform quite well, and the Blue Jays still have to make a trip to the West Coast, while the Yankees won’t be leaving the Eastern time zone for the rest of the season.

By the time all of that is through, it is more likely than not that both teams will return to expectations. Indeed, that is very good news for the Yankees.

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