Monday, June 16, 2008

Math, Wang and the future of the 2008 Yankees

Welcome to today's dissertation, a self-help guide entitled "Surviving Without Your Ace In A PED-Free World". Your professor today will be me, some random dude with a blog.

Listen, it goes without saying that this was a huge blow. You didn't need The Genius, Lanny Poffo, to tell you that. But if Chien-Ming Wang's early return timetable of Sept. 1 proves accurate, the Yankees are not dead men walking. Far from it. The proof is in the numbers, so please get out your pen and paper and feel free to ask questions.

According to my schedule, Wang will miss his final two starts of June and then approximately 12 turns over the course of July and August. That's 14 in total.

If you believed this was a playoff team prior to the injury (which I for one did), it would be foolish to discount their chances over 14 starts. If Wang is pitching like Wang, which he was in last two outings prior to his foot imploding, you would expect to win between 10-11 of games he started, regardless if he got the decision or not, right? Right. So let's go on the high side and estimate the Yankees would have went 11-3 in games started by their ace.

There are three ways the team can go here.

The first scenario is the Yankees catch lightning in a bottle and match or exceed Wang's production. This could happen if the team traded for an ace who then pitches up to his potential, or another Aaron Small arrives, something that's not scheduled for 9,997 years.
What would this be on par with? Matt Nokes comes out of retirement to steal Posada's job, wife.

Possibility #2 is the doomsday scenario, a theory your friends in Boston, Oakland and St. Petersburg are pulling madly for. All fill-ins in the rotation implode and the bullpen can't pick up the slack, leading the Yankees to win between two and four games in Wang's place. This would be breathing-with-the-help-of-a-respirator time by the time Sept. 1 rolled around. I think I'm going to be sick, so let's just move on.
What would this be on par with? Carl Pavano takes a break from banging models in Miami and decides to dominate the game like Brendan Frasier in The Scout.

The final scenario involves New York playing around .500 ball, winning between seven and eight games out of 14. The team gets a few quality starts and the offense starts cranking, bludgeoning its way to wins. It's a tactic that doesn't work in the postseason (see: 2005, 2006, 2007), but it remains effective when facing the weak underbelly of American League middle relief.
What would this be on par with? Billy Crystal moves into a locker in the Yankees clubhouse convinced that he is Roger Maris.

Of course there are other factors in play here. The remaining rotation must more-or-less maintain their overall production, and the bullpen must be able to cope without their best innings-eater on the hill. But numbers are numbers, and if you keep your head above water over the course of those 14 games, you'll still be in the game for the regular season's stretch run. George Oscar Bluth once said the jury was out on science, but basic math is irrefutable.

There, don't you feel better now?


Howie said...


You know I'm a pessimist. I'm not happy about this at all and I fear the worst (all the way from Vietnam).

Keep up the good work.

Mark said...

I'll bet Howie was also pessimistic about the Vietnam War (or police action if you want to be accurate). And look how that turned out....Victory!

(Just to clarify, that was sarcasm)

Look, I think if this dooms the Yankees to a .500 record for the season, then they weren't the team we thought they were to begin with. Like DH already said, if we can go .500 in the starts that Wang would have missed, we should still be very much alive in the playoff hunt come September. I don't think .500 through those starts is too much to ask. We'll see though.

Howie said...

I hear you Mark. And, the propaganda from the War here is hilarious. Went to the jail where McCain was and there's all this stuff about how well the Americans were treated.

Keep up the good work, Dan.