For most of this decade we’ve been treated to powerhouse Yankee offenses. A-Rod, Sheffield, Giambi, Abreu, Matsui, Posada, Bernie for a couple of years, even Jeter. The team is always in the 1,000-run conversation, though reality has kept them from reaching that. This year, however, no one’s talking about a thousand runs. Not after last year’s offensive meltdown. The Yankees scored 4.87 runs per game, seventh in the AL. This represented an enormous drop-off from 2007, when the team scored 5.98 runs per game, a half-run more than the second best team.
Dave Pinto uses his Lineup Analysis Tool and Tom Tango’s Marcel projections to predict the number of runs the Yankees offense will score in 2009. No, it’s not a 1,000-run force — it’s doubtful any projection system would be optimistic enough to allow for that. Yet the showing should be better than last year, as one might have guessed. Pinto predicts the Yankees will score 5.72 runs per game with their best lineup (~927 runs) and 5.64 runs with their probable lineup (~914 runs). Not bad considering their mark from last year.
That, of course, doesn’t factor in the A-Rod injury. He’ll probably miss all of April, and right now Cody Ransom is the fill-in. Unfortunately, there’s no real accurate projection on him at this point due to his lack of big league experience (a scant 214 plate appearances over six seasons). Because of Ransom’s high OBP numbers in 2007 and 2008, he’s projected for a .351 OBP and a .450 SLG, which seems unreasonable if he’s going to play full time for a month. If he could pull off those numbers he’d have a starting gig somewhere.
With Ransom batting sixth, Pinto has the Yankees scoring 5.44 runs per game. I’m not that optimistic. Ransom will likely hit eighth, and he probably won’t hit to the Marcel projections. The Yanks will be lucky to put up five runs per game in April before A-Rod’s bat returns to the middle of the lineup. The hope is that the revamped pitching staff can hold opponents closer to four runs per game, which would more than make up for any offensive deficiencies — the Rays won 97 games last season while scoring just 4.8 runs per game, because their pitching held opponents to 4.1 runs per game.
In no way, shape, or form do the Yankees benefit with A-Rod out of the lineup. Since it’s only for a month, and since they have an improved pitching staff, they should be able to weather the blow. Still, it’s pretty clear that A-Rod helps the team score more runs, which makes winning games easier. If he comes back full strength a month into the season, the Yanks could be poised for an offensive year reminiscent of 2006 or 2007.