Almost halfway through May, the biggest question is how long the Yankees can win with smoke and mirrors.
Wells, a member of the Angels last year when their horrific start put them in a ditch they couldn’t escape, believes the “It’s Early’’ phrase doesn’t apply.
“I learned last year you never say it’s early, good or bad,’’ he said. “You like to be in this situation, but at the same time the game has a funny way of slapping you across the face at any time. We go out and have the same mentality, continue to get great starting pitching and score enough runs to support these guys.’’
Now, the Yankees haven't seemed particularly smoke-and-mirrors-ish to me, but then a) I tend to think of last year's Orioles when I think of a team doing that, so maybe I'm grading too tightly, and b) I admittedly haven't been able to keep quite as close tabs on the Yankees this year as I've been doing for the past three or four seasons, so maybe I'm just not seeing it.
But, indeed, the team's overall statistics more or less match my perception pretty closely. The offense, while certainly not great top to bottom or as prolific as we're used to seeing it be, ranks smack in the middle of the American League with a 99 wRC+ and, for what it's worth, Fangraphs' defensive metric ranks them as the fifth best team in the league at saving runs. The pitching, meanwhile, has been very good, with an overall staff FIP that ranks third in the A.L. at 3.68, a starting rotation with the fourth best FIP in the circuit, and a bullpen that comes in at fourth in FIP and tops the list with a 3.24 xFIP.
What about run differential, you might be saying to yourself right about now? Well the Yankees are three full wins better than their expected win-loss margin of 20-16, but even that number extrapolates to an even 90 wins over 162 games. And just for giggles, if we re-arrange the A.L. East by what their records "should" be, the Bombers would come in right in the middle of the pack, just a game behind Boston and Baltimore.
So to answer the titular question: not really. I mean, there's plenty of reasons to be skeptical of a team that's winning in large part because of Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, and two starting pitchers over the age of 38 years old, but that's not the same thing as essentially saying that they're getting lucky. If the Yankees could maintain the production they've gotten out of this roster over the course of a full season, they'd stay right in the hunt for October contention. The best thing they have going for them right now is that these wins are already in the books, and that they haven't dug themselves into a deep hole while waiting for help to arrive from the disabled list.