by Deb Seymour
As I tweeted this week, the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games in the regular season, had 25 wins and 7 losses after 32 games. The 2022 Yankees have a record of 24 wins and 8 losses after 32 games.
The tweet itself didn’t get much attention; but if the Yankees stay on their current win pace throughout the regular season, they could end up with a record of 105-115 wins this year. Not too shabby.
Because it struck me that comparing the two teams might have some merit, when I pulled up the 1998 team’s stats, the first numbers I looked for were total errors and American League rank in errors. And I was not disappointed. The 1998 Yankees had a total of 98 errors, which ranked third in the AL that year. The current Yankee team has 13 errors, which ranks second in the AL, to date, this season. As I’ve explained elsewhere in this blog (https://bigapplebitesports.com/2022/03/23/the-yankees-big-payroll-not-enough-superstars/) attacking their fielding challenges was one of the priorities of the Yankees this past off-season, and so far — it’s working.
I don’t expect the comparison of the two teams’ statistics and personalities to be one-for-one by any means, and so third in the AL is close enough to second in the AL for me. Especially since we’re just a little over a month into the season.
The 1998 Yankees pitched to a team ERA of 3.82 over the course of the season. That ranked first in the AL. The current Yankee team is pitching to a team ERA of 2.78, which (somewhat surprisingly) ranks second in the AL. For such a low ERA to not be first in the league? That tells you something about how pitching has changed over the years. In the AL, only the Houston Astros have a team-wide ERA to date that’s better than the Yankees’ at 2.68 — and that leads all of MLB. The Yankees are third overall in MLB, with the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching to a 2.75 ERA at the moment.
The 1998 Yankees finished fourth in the AL with 207 home runs and second in the AL with 1625 hits; meanwhile, a month into the season, the 2022 Yankees are first in the AL with 22 home runs and third in the AL with 231 hits. The current Yankee team is definitely more of the power-hitting variety, which has become a trend overall in baseball. The 1998 Yankee who hit the most home runs was Tino Martinez, with 28. And yet 32 games into the 2022 season, Aaron Judge already has 12 home runs. In terms of total runs scored, however, the 1998 team had 965, ranked first in the AL, while to date, the 2022 Yankees have 160 runs scored, second in the AL. So even if they’re achieving those runs differently, the level of production ranks similarly.
We could compare all the team stats or even do a breakdown and comparison of individual player stats; but the rough outline is that if the 2022 team stays on its current pace, the potential to have season record team numbers is there (barring injuries and their impacts).
Just for fun, who led the 1998 Yankees in hits? “The Warrior,” Paul O’Neill, with 191 — whose number 21 will be retired by the Yankees this season. Leading the current Yankee team in hits is Aaron Judge, with 36 — who seems to be raising his upcoming contract value by the day. In 1998, O’Neill was 35. That’s some pretty good productivity for a 35-year-old baseball player. Aaron Judge is 30. Though that’s not young for an MLB player, we may not yet even have begun to see his ceiling.
One other factoid about the 1998 Yankees is that Paul O’Neill was second only to Tino Martinez in RBI for the season: Martinez with 123 and O’Neill with 116. They were the only two team members who cracked the 100 mark that year, back in the day when hitters like Manny Ramirez were hitting over 125 RBI on the regular. That tells us the 1998 Yankees’ 114 wins were a team effort, much like the success we’re seeing from the 2022 Yankees so far this year.
There remain 130 MLB games for the Yankees this season — and one really can’t either logically or statistically compare the successes of a 32-game segment to that of a full 162-game season. But we live in a world in which sports trends matter; fantasy sports and legalized sports betting have changed the timbre of how each segment, even each game, is analyzed and has an impact. And besides, why not have a little fun dreaming — and projecting along the way about what might be possible?