August 23, 2010

Is A-Rod’s DL stint a blessing in disguise?

How could the most expensive ballplayer make his team better by going on the DL? Alex Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day DL Saturday, but the Yankees haven’t lost once in 12 games with their star third baseman out of the lineup.

First, let’s take a closer look at those 12 games. There’s no way the Yankees could actually be a better team without a perennial All-Star, right?

Date Opponent Opponent Games Back Opponent Starter ERA Yankees Starter ERA RS RA
5/2 White Sox 6 5.30 1.44 12 3
5/28 Indians 10 3.69 2.70 8 2
6/11 Astros 10 3.18 2.46 4 3
6/12 Astros 11 5.60 5.43 9 3
6/13 Astros 11 6.32 3.11 9 5
6/15 Phillies 3.5 2.36 4.00 8 3
8/7 Red Sox 6 4.60 3.14 5 2
8/17 Tigers 11 3.77 3.12 6 2
8/18 Tigers 12 5.37 4.76 9 5
8/19 Tigers 12 5.76 3.90 11 5
8/21 Mariners 19.5 3.43 5.05 9 5
8/22 Mariners 20.5 4.57 3.02 10 0

The ERA stats may have something to do with it, but I think the biggest factor contributing to this odd streak of wins is the opponent. If you take the average of games behind the opposing team is in its division, it comes out to 11.04.

This is evidence that the Yankees aren’t necessarily a better team without A-Rod, but the teams they’ve faced haven’t been very challenging.

Of course, if you look at the Yankees upcoming schedule there aren’t many challenging teams. If he returns as soon as he’s eligible, he’ll miss five vs. Toronto, four vs. Oakland, three vs. the Chicago and he’s already missed two against the Mariners. The White Sox are the only team within five games of first place.

The Benefits of A-Rod’s Absence
Now we know the Yankees haven’t, and won’t be, facing a lot of competitive teams without A-Rod, let’s look at the bright side of his DL stint.

Super Nova Experiment: The only thing set in stone for Ivan Nova, the Yankees’ best starter in Triple-A this year, is he’ll make tonight’s start against the Blue Jays. After that, the plan for Nova is uncertain. Nova made one relief appearance for the Yanks earlier this year and I really liked what I saw. I love when the Yankees bring up new pitchers, and I’ll definitely be rooting for Nova tonight.

Cano’s MVP Chase: Robinson Cano isn’t the frontrunner for the MVP anymore with Miguel Cabrera and Josh Hamilton having the years they’re having. No matter what, Cano’s chances at the MVP Award are hurt because he plays for a team filled with All-Stars. Now that A-Rod is gone for a couple weeks, Cano will have a chance to prove he can put a team on his back. Yesterday’s game was a statement.

Grading Eduardo: Eduardo Nunez has started both games at third base since A-Rod went on the shelf, and he’s been solid in both. Nunez will likely stay on the 25-man roster through Aug. 31, meaning he’ll be eligible for the playoffs. If he proves his bat is worth having off the bench, he could possibly find himself a spot on the playoff roster. If not, at least the Yankees will have a better idea of what they’re getting from Nunez.

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