Overreactions and Underreactions: Week 1

Welp.  One week down and the  Yankees record isn’t great.  Power: out  Morale: low.  A lot of you might think the sky is falling.  But here at BP Bronx we prefer our sky stays right where it should be.  So rather than provide kindling for hot takes, we prescribe a reality check.

What are we making too big a deal of and what might be flying under our radar?  I’m calling it overreactions and underreactions.  We’ll go through the two divisional opponents the Yankees faced this week then take a closer look at the Yankees.

Blue Jays

Overreaction: Pitching Depth

On the surface the Blue Jays have the makings of a good, deep pitching staff.  R.A. Dickey has a Cy Young, Mark Buehrle is indestructible, and Norris, Hutchison, and Aaron Sanchez are all under 25 with immediate upside.  Per an article by Jeff Long on the main BP site, they have the longest tenured bullpen in the majors, while youngsters Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro looked terrific during the opening week.  The rotation and bullpen both contain a balance of talent and stability common to many great pitching staffs.  From the first series alone you might think the Blue Jays will be a force to be reckoned with this year on the mound.

But before we send the 2015 AL East banner across the border, there are a few things worth mentioning.  First, the Yankees are not a very good offensive team and we shouldn’t judge any pitching staff based on the extent to which they can shut 37-year-old Carlos Beltrán and the like down.  The Orioles scored five, seven, and seven runs on them in their weekend series, a better sign of their true talent level.  Secondly, the Marcus Stroman injury will really hurt the team this year. Aaron Sanchez was moved to the rotation as his de facto replacement and PECOTA projects the dropoff to be significant. Stroman’s projected ERA of 3.35 easily trumps Sanchez’s projected ERA of 5.48 over a similar number of innings.  Moving Sanchez also took him out of consideration for being used in the closer role, which Brett Cecil relinquished to Castro in short order.

Underreaction: Lineup Depth

Nobody questions the idea that the top half of the Blue Jays lineup may be the best in the AL East, or even the entire AL.  On opening day, they started five all-stars at the top of the order: Jose Reyes, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson.  Everyone knows that these guys will combine to be good and, if everyone stays healthy, they have the potential to be great.

Unsurprisingly, through one week of play, the Blue Jays lead the AL East in runs and are sixth in all of baseball.  The scary thing is that 1-5, the Blue Jays have been underperforming.  Bautista, Martin, and Donaldson are all hitting below .250.  The thorns in the side of the Yankees during the opening series weren’t Reyes and Bautista, they were Devon Travis and Kevin Pillar.  The bottom of the Blue Jays lineup looks to be improved significantly this year and that should scare teams. PECOTA projects Travis and Pillar to be around average offensive producers this year, a step up from the dead spots we used to see in the lineups of Blue Jays teams past. Dalton Pompey showed flashes as well this week, although John Gibbons would be wise to stop batting him in the two-hole.

Red Sox

Overreaction: Best Pitching in the AL East

Trust me, this sounded a lot better before the Yankees busted out the boomsticks on Sunday night so let’s pretend momentarily that that did not occur and we could restore that mindset we had Saturday afternoon.  The Yankees were fresh off two losses in a span of 18 hours and the Red Sox were leading the AL East at 4-1.  Through one turn of the rotation, the Red Sox had four different Cy Young candidates.  A direct quote in my series preview was “Kelly and Miley are…subpar” and yet the Yankees scratched together a mere three runs against them in games 1 and 2.  Sure they knocked around Alexi Ogando a bit while the game was out of hand, but chances are the dial on your panic meter was moving upwards.

Clay Buchholz did a lot to quell this panic Sunday night but it bears repeating, the Red Sox will not be winning because of their pitching this year.  In 2009, a week of pitching dominance against the Yankees and the Phillies would be a big deal, but in 2015, it doesn’t mean nearly as much.  Look for matchups with the Nationals and Orioles next to pump up those ERA’s and make fans a little uneasy up in Boston.

Underreaction: Regression towards the Mean

I’m sure you heard this only a million times this offseason, but the Red Sox were the first MLB team to ever go from last to first to last in a span of three seasons.  Needless to say, they’ve had extremely high variance results recently. 71 wins was probably a 10th percentile result for the Red Sox in 2014. A cause of that futility was a number of players who played well below expectations. Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Johnny Gomes, Daniel Nava, and Will Middlebrooks all had horrible seasons.

Yes, the biggest stories in Beantown this offseason were the signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. And yes, replacing Gomes and Middlebrooks with these two will help the club tremendously. But I would argue more important to the success of the Red Sox in 2015, and something that caught my eye more this first week were improved performances from those who disappointed. Some like Pedroia and Napoli will be healthier than last year. Xander Bogaerts and Daniel Nava look a lot more comfortable at the plate. Clay Buchholz will probably end up somewhere between his first and second start.  But if the Red Sox can, and I suspect they will, get the 50th-70th percentile results from guys who had 20th percentile seasons last year, they will be a much improved club.


Overreaction: Banjo Hitting

Yet another overreaction ruined by that Sunday night stomping.  Most of the concern through one week of Yankees baseball has to do with their ability or lack thereof to hit the baseball. Continuing with the Drew family tradition, poor play is causing people to call for Stephen’s head. Carlos Beltrán resembles a corpse so far, the bottom half of the lineup has looked punchless, and for a while on Friday night it seemed the Yankees were never going to score again. As my colleague Andrew Mearns pointed out, through 5 games, the Yankees had an abominable line of .193/.280/.342 with a 78 wRC+. They deserved every slur I’m sure fans were hurling their way.

But look what happened Sunday night; they broke out in a big way. And no I don’t expect them to bang out 16 hits and 14 runs every game but mediocrity? I think we can put up with that. For context last year the Padres had the worst offense in baseball and hit .226/.292/.342 with a 82 wRC+.  Beware of small sample size is an overused warning but for 5 or 6 games of baseball I feel it’s appropriate and the Yankees offensive production will probably end up looking a lot less like the first five games and a lot closer to last year’s line of .245/.307/.380 with a 92 wRC+.

Minor Overreactions

  • Tanaka is hurt: We covered this last week.
  • But they’re only 2-4: For those who point to the Yankees record of 2-4 and say boo, take a quick look at some of the other teams the same record: LAA, PIT, WSH, CLE, CHW.  And at the top of the league ATL (4-1), COL (4-2), and CIN (4-2) are all teams expected to compete for the worst record in the league.  One week doesn’t mean we should lose site of the bigger picture.
  • Player X needs to go: Check out Andrew’s article where he used whipping boy Stephen Drew as an example.

Underreaction: Stupid Little Things

During the FOX broadcast of the Saturday afternoon game they showed at least a 30-second montage of Yankee defensive misplays and errors.  It would have been an impressive collection of screw-ups for an entire week of baseball, but the Yankees accomplished it in one day. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the video online to dub Yakety Sax over but I found a few clips for your amusement.

Of these, only the A-Rod one was recorded as an error, but the team finished with three errors altogether, so you know that was just a sampler. Defensive misplays, errors, pickoffs, caught stealings, these stupid little things are commonplace among this team right now. For a team that envisions fighting for a playoff spot, this needs to be cleaned up. Last Friday Nick Ashbourne wrote a GIF-tastic article about all the baserunning blunders the Yankees had through one series. Well I turned the game on Friday in the fourth inning and the first play I saw was Chase Headley getting picked off and I joked that he’ll have to make it a weekly feature. Later in the game, tied in the 17th inning, with one out Brett Gardner got picked off again.  There were 132 pickoffs in all of baseball last year and the Yankees got picked off twice in the same game, a game that was won in the 19th inning by one run.

In a vacuum one pickoff won’t be the difference between being in or out of the playoffs.  But if the baserunning and defense continues to be this collectively porous, it’s entirely possible the Yankees will or might have already lost a game or two because of these fixable issues.

Minor Underreactions

  • CC’s return: In his first start back, CC didn’t get the results he deserved, but he pitched very well.  Hold some cautious optimism that this continues.
  • Weak bench:  The difference between the Yankees and Red Sox benches were pretty stark as indicated by the starting lineups the day after playing 19 innings.  The Yankees don’t have much versatility, thump, or experience on their bench beyond Chris Young.
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