Though offense is down league-wide and has been trending in that direction for the past two seasons, it doesn’t change the fact that, for all the concern about Yankee pitching heading into the 2011 campaign, the staff has actually acquitted itself quite well through the season’s first 71 games.
While ERA is mostly an afterthought these days due to the enormous wealth of pitching data we have at our disposal, it’s still worth noting that the Yankee pitching staff on the whole is currently carrying the 4th-lowest ERA in the American League at 3.55 — behind only the stingy pitching staffs of the A’s, Mariners and Angels. If they were to somehow keep this impressive pace up through the end of the season, the team would post its lowest full-season ERA since 1978, when they logged an absurdly low 3.18 (league average was 3.78). As it so happens, if the current AL average ERA of 3.88 were to hold, that too would be the lowest since 1978 (not counting 1981 as it was a strike-shortened season).
For fun, here’s a chart of Yankee team ERAs since 1978, compared to the AL average.
While it seems rather improbable that this year’s Yankee pitching staff will end the season on such a historic note, it is worth noting that the 2011 team really hasn’t been blown out all that frequently, which is partially why the team’s ERA sits where it does right now. The Yankees have only allowed 8 or more runs five times, and have never allowed more than 11 in a game. Their biggest margin of defeat is six, which has only happened twice — once against the Royals and once against Boston.
Even if the 2011 team can’t end the year at 3.55, if they’re able to finish below 4.00 it would only be the 11th time in the last 34 seasons (the staff’s xFIP is currently 3.87, so this could very well happen). The last time a Yankee pitching staff was below 4.00 on the season was 2002, when they put up a 3.89 ERA.
The worst Yankee staffs since 1978? The 2000 squad, which somehow put up a 4.76 mark (presumably this is one of the worst full-season ERAs by a World Series winner of all time, although the league ERA was an even-uglier 4.92) and — this likely comes as no surprise — the 2004 team, which had a 4.69 ERA.
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