I noticed this little blurb over at Rob Neyer’s SweetSpot blog, written by the fine folks over at IIATMS:
It’s hard to know what to expect from the 2010 version of the New York Yankees. Should we focus on the great starting pitching, and the hitting of Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher? Or should we worry about A-Rod’s nagging injuries and the shaky bullpen? True enough, the Yankees are on a pace to win more than 100 games. But they are 16-3 against the weakest teams on their schedule (Baltimore, Houston, Cleveland) and just 25-22 against everyone else. So far, the Yankees have won eight and lost eight against division rivals Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto. We cannot pronounce these Yankees a championship-caliber team. Not yet.
These are sentiments that I have heard from plenty of Yankees fans, that despite the team’s lofty record, they are not a championship type team at this point. While I concede that the club is not perfect, I have to ask: if the Yankees are not a “championship caliber” club, who is? Watching the Yankees every day, some of us see flaws and tend to blow them out of proportion, turning bullpen struggles into an issue that is certain to torpedo their title hopes. We forget that the competition has flaws as well, and that their problems are likely greater and more numerous than those of the Yankees. The Yankees are most certainly a title contender, simply by virtue of being the best team in baseball. Is that where the analysis ends? Certainly not. There are circumstances under which the Yankees’ problems could get worse and other teams can improve, and suddenly the Yankees might be on the outside looking in. But as we stand now, I am quite confident in pronouncing the Yankees a championship caliber team.
Additionally, the concept of beating up on bad teams is one that holds true for most good teams in sports. Would it speak better of the Yankees if they were terrible against the Orioles and had a strong record against better clubs? I think not. The 2009 world champion Yankees had a .680 winning percentage against teams below .500, compared to a .598 against teams .500 or better. This year’s team has seen a wider gap, but we are talking about a handful of games such that it is not a real significant difference (.731 v. .553, two different results in each category would see the same numbers as last season). As a point of comparison, the Red Sox have a .632 to .540 split, while the Rays are at a slightly more “impressive” .646 v. .575 (Interestingly, the Rays have played 40 games against over .500 clubs, while the Yankees have had 48 and the Red Sox 50). Good teams beat the teams that they are supposed to beat and hold their own against the better clubs. The Yankees are no different in that regard, and I see no reason for concern in these numbers.
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