Last week I looked at what sabermetric guru Bill James projects for the Yanks’ rotation next year, and now it’s time to take a gander at the lineup. While many hope the Yanks pounce on free agents Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira or Adam Dunn, it’s very likely that the Yanks won’t add a bat and instead go into the season with Nick Swisher at first and some homegrown youngster manning centerfield.
We’re used to juggernaut offenses that threaten 1,000 runs each season, but this year is different. Alex Rodriguez is the only proven homerun threat, while most of the other guys expected to hit in the middle of the order are more likely to line one into the gaps than shoot it over the fence. Save for one or two outliers, the lineup is full of guys that will grind out at-bats and work their fair share of walks. He might see more hit-and-runs and RBI ground outs than we’re used too, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Homers can only take you so far, especially once you face better pitching down the stretch and in the playoffs.
So let’s get to it. What does James see for the Yanks offense next year? Fun starts after the jump.
Robinson Cano, 2B
Projection: .295-.333-.461, 81 R, 42 2B, 17 HR, 86 RBI, 72-31 K/BB, .345 wOBP
Those numbers are essentially Cano’s career averages, so while James sees a bounceback from his subpar 2008 campaign, it doesn’t look like Robbie will take a step forward in his development. Only three AL second basemen had a wOBP that high last year, so Cano will still be an above average producer at the second sack. The real question is whether or not he can improve on the 3.27 career P/PA.
Johnny Damon, LF
Projection: .281-.355-.419, 96 R, 29 2B, 14 HR, 65 RBI, 82-62 K/BB, .345 wOBP
Johnny had a remarkable 2008 campaign, his best since 2004 and one of the best four seasons of his career. Considering that, it’s easy to understand why the 35 year old Damon projects to regress in 2009. He’d still remain a useful centerfielder but just an adequate corner outfield, and a solid leadoff man. Damon’s going to be a free agent after the year, but he’s had down years in his previous two walk years. Now would be a good time for Johnny to buck that trend.
Derek Jeter, SS
Projection: .307-.377-.432, 102 R, 32 2B, 14 HR, 73 RBI, 101-59 K/BB, .361 wOBP
Oh captain my captain. Jeter may or may not have been battling an injured wrist in 2008, but he projects to have a bounceback year on par with his 2007 effort. Jeter has entered the decline phase of his career, but he’s still a top notch offensive shortstop – only Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes had wOBP’s higher in ’08 than what Jeter is projected to do in ’09. He should have another two or three elite offensive seasons in him. Or at least I hope he does.
Hideki Matsui, DH
Projection: .288-.370-.457, 72 R, 26 2B, 17 HR, 77 RBI, 70-58 K/BB, .364 wOBP
After battling hobbled knees for much of the past two seasons, Godzilla projects to have a fine bounceback year as the Yanks’ primary DH next season. Bobby Abreu hit .286-.371-.471 this year, so Matsui’s projection suggests that he’ll comfortably replace him in ’09. His power numbers will be down a touch, but a healthy Matsui goes a long way towards improving the Yanks offense next year.
Xavier Nady, RF
Projection: .284-.337-.473, 71 R, 32 2B, 23 HR, 86 RBI, 108-36 K/BB, .352 wOBP
A Scott Boras client, Nady could have a monster contract year in store for 2009, but James doesn’t see it. Rather, he sees Nady coming back down to Earth after his breakout 2008 campaign, yet remaining an above average offensive player. The season projected for Nady in 2009 would be the second best season of his career, but we’d like to see him do a little more than that.
Jorge Posada, C
Projection: .277-.378-.455, 65 R, 29 2B, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 104-70 K/BB, .368 wOBP
Holy crap. I think everyone and their mother would be ecstatic if Jorge Posada had a year like that in 2009. A notch below his career averages, those kind of stats would still make Posada one of the two or three most productive catchers in the AL. We can only hope he has a season like that.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Projection: .293-.396-.565, 115 R, 29 2B, 42 HR, 120 RBI, 134-84 K/BB, .415 wOBP
Captain Unclutch will to be back to his usual stat-padding ways in ’09, with a projection that is basically his career average. He’ll probably lead the AL in VORP (again), finish in the top ten in wOBP (again), top three in homers (again), and top the majors in unclutch three run homers in the first three innings of the game (again). It’s just A-Rod being A-Rod.
Nick Swisher, 1B
Projection: .240-.359-.451, 78 R, 27 2B, 23 HR, 71 RBI, 122-80 K/BB, .358 wOBP
James sees a nice rebound year from Swish, who ran into some bad luck with the White Sox in 2008. Never one to hit for a high average, he’ll continue to draw oodles of walks and knock plenty of balls deep for extra base hits. While he won’t be as productive as Jason Giambi, Swisher should be an above average offensive first basemen that drives pitchers nuts – did you know that he worked the count full in 22.9% of his plate appearances last year? That’s freaking insane.
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So as you probably noticed, I neglected to include a centerfielder in there. If the Yanks opt to go with Melky Cabrera, they’re looking at a nice little .276-.337-.393 stat line. Brett Gardner? .271-.367-.354. If they end up making that long rumored Mike Cameron deal, they’ll get .237-.325-.434 and 24 homers out of their centerfielder, their best output from the position in three years. I’m still hopeful they’ll swing the deal with the Brewers, but I’d be okay with Gardner out there everyday. At least until he shows he’s completely overmatched.
So based on those projections, how many runs could we expect the Yanks score next year? If you assume Melky holds down the CF job, they’d be good for 5.774 runs per game using Dave Pinto‘s Lineup Analysis tool. With Gardner that bumps up to 5.808, and with Cameron they project for 5.793 runs per game. In case you’re wondering, the Yanks averaged 4.870 runs per game in 2008.
Now, these are just projections, and optimistic ones at that, so take them with a hearty grain of salt. This is no way represents what we here at RAB expect out of these players next year; it’s just a fun way to kill time during the offseason.
Next week: TEH 8tH InNiNG!1!one!! the bullpen.