Over the last few weeks, a number of articles have been written that have picked at the Yankees’ flaws and declared them in danger of a first round exit in the postseason. Most notably, questions about the Yankee pitching staff has lead some pundits and many fans to declare that the Yankees do not have a championship caliber rotation. The pitching concerns are valid, as the Yankees have seen issues crop up regarding all of their starters but CC Sabathia. However, I think those doubting the Yankees ability to compete in the postseason due to those issues are making an error that goes hand-in-hand with the very nature of fandom.
As fans of a particular club, we tend to watch our favorite team play significantly more often than we watch any other team. While I watch plenty of the Red Sox and Rays, I obviously watch the Yankees more, and read and think about the Yankees exponentially more than I do about another club. As such, I have plenty of context within which I can judge and parse the statistics put up by Yankee players. I know that Curtis Granderson has been better lately and that Phil Hughes has struggled in recent months, something that a cursory look at their statistics may not show me. Watching players every day gives a better feel for the shape their season has taken, and tends to magnify their strengths and weaknesses alike. Additionally, local media coverage and fan blogs are always looking for a fresh angle, further highlighting particular strengths and weaknesses that might go unnoticed otherwise.
As such, most Yankees fans are intimately familiar with the Yankees’ weaknesses in a way that they cannot replicate when it comes to another team. We look at the names in the Tampa Bay rotation and assume that it far outstrips that of the Yankees, because we look at the names, basic statistics, and the team’s record and assume that things are going well. However, a closer look would show an offense that struggles at times to string hits together, particularly in the second half, and a rotation with a number of struggling members (James Shields has an ERA near 5.00, and Jeff Niemann has been awful since coming off the DL). Meanwhile, Texas is having health and performance issues from Cliff Lee, and Josh Hamilton has been relegated to DH duties for the time being. Minnesota is still missing Justin Mourneau, Scott Baker is hurt, and Matt Capps is the closer. All of these teams have flaws that have become exacerbated in recent weeks, but we as opposing fans tend to miss a lot of these details.
This is not an indictment of Yankees fans, as this is a phenomenon that exists within all fanbases. It is a simple matter of reduced exposure to the opposing team and analysis of that team that limits our ability to adequately compare the club to our favorite. We gloss over their flaws because we are not faced with them on a daily basis, while we overemphasize the issues that surround the Yankees because we observe them each time the team takes the field. It is therefore important to make sure we delve deeper into the data and news to ensure that our comparison of the various clubs is accurate. In this instance, I think a closer look at the available data shows that while the Yankees do have problems, the other postseason contenders have them as well. The Yankees should match up well with all of them once October rolls around.
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