News Flash: team performs worse against good teams than bad ones

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I noticed this kicking around the Twitterverse last night and this morning, but the meme developed fully this afternoon: Oh noes! The Yankees don’t play well against good teams!

That’s the refrain from the New York Times today, which notes:

The Yankees’ struggles against better teams have received little
attention, and it is no wonder why. In recent weeks, the team has played
well over all, and the numbers seem to tell a story of a team that is
among the hottest in baseball . . . But many of those wins have come against bad teams.

I touched on this last week (and totally mangled the facts, but whatever), but the fact remains: bad baseball teams are much easier to beat than good baseball teams, and even championship baseball teams have worse records against the winners than the losers. In fact, a major league source who asked for anonymity because he’s not permitted to share such information revealed that beating good teams is much, much harder than beating bad teams.  It’s true!

But maybe saying stuff like that — or saying the thing that best describes what happened to the Yankees against the Phillies the last two nights (i.e. that the Yankees lost because they just weren’t playing well) is too boring.

It’s much more interesting to create some overarching theme that invokes mental toughness or the lack thereof than to simply chalk it up having trouble with junkballers, the bullpen pitching poorly at the wrong time and simply having the bats go to sleep.

Jose Altuve and Corey Kluber head list of Esurance MLB Award winners

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The 2017 MLB award season officially drew to a close on Friday with the Esurance MLB Awards, handed out to the best hitters, pitchers, front office members and moments in the 2017 season. Jose Altuve was crowned the Best Major Leaguer overall, beating out fellow finalists Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, while two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber took home honors as Best Pitcher.

Here’s the full list of winners:

  • Best Rookie: Aaron Judge
  • Best Defensive Player: Nolan Arenado
  • Personality of the Year: Adrian Beltre
  • Best Postseason Major Leaguer: Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander
  • Best Postseason Moment: Alex Bregman‘s 10th inning walk-off single in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
  • Best TV/Radio Call: Joe Buck and John Smoltz call Jose Altuve’s game-tying three-run blast in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
  • Best Play (Offense): Nolan Arenado completes the cycle with a walk-off homer (video)
  • Best Play (Defense): Austin Jackson‘s over-the-wall catch in the Red Sox’ bullpen (video)
  • Best Single-Game Performance: Anthony Rendon‘s six-hit, three-homer, 10-RBI game (video)
  • Best Player-Fan Interaction: Joey Votto gives Walter “Superbubz” Herbert a bat and jersey (video)
  • Best Fan Catch: Fan’s brother-in-law grabs Yasiel Puig home run ball and chucks it back on the field (video)
  • Best Manager: A.J. Hinch
  • Best Executive: Jeff Luhnow

No surprises here — the world champion Astros ran away with seven awards, including those for Best Manger and Executive and a dual award for Best Major Leaguer of the Postseason. Altuve added to an impressive run this offseason after earning a Silver Slugger, two Players Choice Awards, Hank Aaron Award and MVP Award for his outstanding work in 2017, while Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge continued to be a lock for all AL rookie-based awards after locking down the Rookie of the Year title earlier this week.