Feb
20

What the Good Book says: Yankee hitters

By

I arrived home last night at a little after 1 a.m. fully intending to go sleep, but when I walked into my building, I discovered with delight that my review copy of Baseball Prospectus 2010 had arrived. Sleep would have to wait. I spent around 45 minutes pouring through the latest edition of BP’s guide. Complete with PECOTA projections and pithy comments, the guide is, as always, an indispensable part of Spring Training.

Instead of droning on and on about the virtues of the book — or dwelling on the choice to go with a pea green cover this year — I’d rather just have some fun with it. Over the new few days, we’ll dive into the meaty part of the analysis offered by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts, but this weekend, I’ll bring you some selected projections and my comments. For what it’s worth, BP thinks the Yankees are “in a very good position to repeat.”

We’ll start today with some offensive lines and cover the pitcher’s projections tomorrow. Baseball Prospectus 2010 will be available in stores on February 22 and is already available for sale at Amazon.

Derek Jeter — .286/.359/.401 VORP: 20 WARP 1.6
PECOTA is bearish on Derek Jeter simply because, as the book says, “only a handful of shortstops 35 or older have had great offensive seasons.” One of those shortstops was 35-year-old Derek Jeter, but his comps don’t scream out success at similar ages. If Derek can continue to defy aging, he’ll far exceed this conservative projection. If he matches the projection in his walk year, not only will be he worst professional season, but the Yanks will have some tough choices to make as well.

Nick Johnson — .279/.421/.423 VORP: 21.4 WARP: 2.3
As always, Nick Johnson’s biggest question marks surround his health. BP is critical of his ability to stay healthy, someting they call a skill “Johnson doesn’t have.” They wonder if the Yanks can “keep him on the field for 150 games,” but as a DH, he won’t suffer through the wear-and-tear of playing first. He’ll also have a nice Interleague Play-inspired vacation in June. On the bright side, PECOTA pegs him for 466 plate appearances.

Mark Teixeira — .294/.395/.541 VORP: 43.3 WARP: 5.0
Need I say much here? Basically, PECOTA expects Teixeira, playing his age 30 season, to duplicate his age 29 year. That’s not an unreasonable expectation, and if Teixeira can avoid a painfully slow start, he could be even better. PECOTA projects 35 home runs for the Yanks’ number three hitter.

Alex Rodriguez — .282/.388/.532 VORP: 39.4 WARP: 4.4
In all likelihood, A-Rod will outplay his projection. PECOTA pegs him for just 532 plate appearances because he’s playing his age 34 season and missed considerable time, albeit with a one-time injury, last year. BP calls him “one of the most valuable and essential players in the game,” but as the rest of us do, they question whether he’ll “justify every year of his contract.”

Jorge Posada — .263/.355/.445 VORP: 16.7 WARP: 1.6
The key stat here for Posada is the way PECOTA pegs him as a prime candidate for a collapse. He’ll turn 39 in mid-August, and his collapse rate is an alarming 37 percent. Comfortingly, though, his attrition rate is nearly the same. We’ll probably see something of a decline from Posada, but hopefully, it’s closer to an attrition dip than an all-out collapse. The Yanks are penciling him in for 120 games behind the plate. That might be optimistic, but BP is high on Francisco Cervelli‘s defense as a caddy to Jorge.

Nick Swisher — .248/.370/.470 VORP: 26.2 WARP: 2.7
BP isn’t high on Swisher’s personality. They say he is “not master of his mental domain” and is far from “a frustration-free ballplayer.” But he excels at taking pitchers and working walks. He went to a full count in 22 percent of his plate appearances, fifth best in basebal, and his projected IsoD is topped only by Nick Johnson. If Swisher can get his head more into the game, he could have a breakout year.

Curtis Granderson — .268/.351/.491 VORP: 35.2 WARP: 4.4
For what it’s worth, PECOTA pegs Johnny Damon, playing for the Yanks next year, to hit .272/.360/.433 with 17 home runs. Granderson is projected to hit 28 home runs and play a far superior defense to Damon’s. More alarming, says BP, are his struggles against lefties, and the Yanks “should be prepared for the possibility that he’ll need a platoon mate.”

Robinson Cano — .295/.343/.483 VORP: 27.8 WARP: 3.4
Cano, says BP, is “far better as setting the table than cleaning it.” He ranked 141st in RBI percentage and hasn’t been a productive player with men in scoring position for the duration of his career. If he could get on base more, the Yanks would probably bat him higher in the order to minimize his potentially rally-killing ABs. Still, he is a “flawed but valuable player” and could out-play his projection, which is weighted down by his terrible 2008.

Brett Gardner — .266/.356/.378 VORP: 13.4 WARP: 1.5
Says BP, “Gardner’s speed on the bases and in the field merits another long look.” That sums up Brett Gardner. He’s not going to need to carry the club, and if he can get on base 35-37 percent of the time while improving his baserunning smarts, the Yanks will be happy. As for the other guys, PECOTA predicted a .231/.299/.447 line from Marcus Thames in Detroit. BP calls him “as one-dimensional a player as you’ll find in the majors.” Randy Winn is expected to hit .270/.334/.384 in San Francisco. Jamie Hoffmann, labeled “a curious selection by the Yankees as the first pick in the Rule 5 draft,” could hit .261/.332/.399. Pick your poison.

Categories : Offense
  • dkidd

    hard to believe there are 4 players who had a higher full count % than nick swisher

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Unfortunately, the book doesn’t identify the other four, but I can probably find out if look hard enough.

      • dkidd

        could one of them be nick johnson?

        • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

          Maybe Bobby too.

          • bexarama

            and Youkilis.

            • Slugger27

              adam dunn?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Adam Dunn probably. Jayson Werth too, that dude sees a ton of pitches.

      • bexarama

        Chone Figgins.

        • dkidd

          jack cust?

          • bexarama

            Jeff Francoeur?

            (Yeah, I got bored.)

            • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

              They don’t put full counts on the scoreboard.

              /Francoeour’d

              • bexarama

                ietc

                Frenchy is adorable though, I feel bad that he is soooo clueless.

  • Tom Zig

    .399 SLG for Hoffmann, but only a .401 for Jeter? Does it project Jeter to get hurt or something?

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      It projects him to be a shorstop who turns 37 in late June. History isn’t on his side, but PECOTA struggles with these sort of outliers. I would expect him to exceed the projection, but we shouldn’t be shocked if and when Jeter’s decline starts. After all, his 2008 wasn’t a great year for him.

      • Nady Nation

        El Capitan turns 36 in June, not 37.

        /nitpick’d

        • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

          Yeah. Same problem. Math fail on my part.

  • Barry

    Not very optimistic projections, especially with A-Rod. He’s probably more likely a .300/.405/.600 hitter if he’s completely healthy. And I just don’t see Jeter getting that bad that quickly. He’s not really comparably to other 37 year old short stops.

    • dkidd

      the “over-35″ shortstop projection is skewed by 3 historically bad seasons from larry bowa

      • http://deleted RollingWave

        The Phillies saw that comming, so they did the honourable thing…….. by trading him along with a a future hall of famer (who was a SS at that time and already in AAA) for a SS that just had one of THE WORST SEASON EVER for a guy that managed to get into 100+ games . (seriously , .194/.276/.233 ??? a good number of pitchers hit better than that)

  • ramez hanna

    i think these projections will be proved wrong
    as for jeter he is in his walk year and will literaly kill himself and have a high batting average to be on the yankees top order for the next 4 years (at least).
    i dont think this projection puts that in consideration

    • bexarama

      as for jeter he is in his walk year and will literaly kill himself

      That’d be terrible.

    • Slugger27

      while i think some ppl are letting 2009 get them over-optimistic about the offense, i definitely agree the jeter projection is insulting

  • http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com Jason from The Heartland

    Baseball Prospectus, which is overall terrific, doesn’t forecast a single (presumed) Yankee regular with an average of .300 or better? I strongly disagree. I think Jeter (even turning 36), Teixeira, A-Rod, and Cano are very good possibilities, especially with the tandem of Teixeira and A-Rod together and healthy. I also see the OBP of Jeter, Teixeira, and A-Rod likely being higher. If Johnson truly is hitting behind Jeter, I seriously doubt that Jeter will get a lot of great pitches to hit unless Johnson starts out and hits hot. That alone will boost the OBP.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Batting average? Where we’re going, we don’t…need batting average.

  • 28 next year

    I really think these are low. Adding up last year’s WAR from the starting 9 = about 36.4 and BP’s list has 26.9. That is really different and none of this factors in the bench so it could change but 10 WAR is a huge difference.

    • Slugger27

      maybe so, but practically the entire starting lineup of the 2009 yankees put up numbers above their true talent level (jeter, damon, posada, cano, swisher) or (in the case of matsui and arod) did a lot better than most expected given their health issues

      while the stadium clearly helped, its still not fair to use 2009 as a benchmark for 2010 because (as stated above) most the entire team had something resembling a career year… that was a special year and expecting them to have the same stats isnt realistic

      • bexarama

        OPS+ by year since 2005:

        Jeter 125, 132, 121, 102, 132
        Damon 110, 115, 96, 118, 126
        Posada 109, 122, 153, 103 (hurt), 133
        Cano 106, 126, 119, 86, 129
        Swisher 101, 125, 126, 92, 129

        I’ll give you that they all had really really good years and we got luck there, but there’s no way their 2009 numbers were all “above their true talent level” except Damon.

        • Slugger27

          ill expand on your data by batting order:

          jeter career OPS+ = 121
          jeter 2009 OPS+ = 132

          damon career OPS+ = 105
          damon 2009 OPS+ = 126

          tex career OPS+ = 136
          tex 2009 OPS+ = 149

          arod career OPS+ = 147
          arod 2009 OPS+ = 147

          matsui career OPS+ = 124
          matsui 2009 OPS+ = 131

          posada career OPS+ = 124
          posada 2009 OPS+ = 133

          cano career OPS+ = 113
          cano 2009 OPS+ = 129

          swisher career OPS+ = 115
          swisher 2009 OPS+ = 129

          melky career OPS+ = 88
          melky 2009 OPS+ = 99

          EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE 1-9 STARTING LINEUP exceeded their career production with the exception of arod (who we could throw in as well given his hip injury)… all of them

          i understand the stadium played a part… but still… how anyone can look at that and say they didnt exceed their true talent levels or that its fair to expect a repeat in 2010 i have no idea

          • bexarama

            Fair enough. I’m not expecting everyone to repeat what they did in 2009. That’d indeed be ridiculous (but nice, heh).

            But I also have no idea how you can say how those guys exceeded their true talent levels when they have recent years that are, you know, better or very similar, with the exception of Damon.

            • Slugger27

              But I also have no idea how you can say how those guys exceeded their true talent levels

              to be honest, i have no idea how you can’t

              every player in the lineup exceeded their career norms (not even by a small margin in a lot of cases) and most of them have several big league seasons were of data and sample sizes to establish those career norms

              • bexarama

                We’ll agree to disagree here. Or, I think maybe we’re trying to say the same thing, but you saying they “exceeded their true talent levels” is a little harsh. If their 2009 performances were beyond their true talent – well, they wouldn’t have had those performances. They were, however, very very very good years for everyone involved and we shouldn’t expect repeats.

                Some of these projections seem REALLY low, though.

                • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “brendog” Peck

                  i think that if theier 09 performances were above their talent level then they wouldn’t have had other seasons with identical or better production as you showed. I agree with you that his statement said that way is harsh and not really true.

                  did they outperform their career averages? yes. but that’s because everyone has good years and bad years. therefore the average. you showed above that in the past 3 years all of them had equaled or surpassed last years production (non damon division) meaning that it is indeed their talent level and I would change it to say that the reason their career averages are so low is because of the years they UNDERPERFORMED their talent level.

          • DP

            Jeter- I’ll grant you probably won’t perform the same
            Damon- Not on the team
            Teixeira- last 3 years: 149, 152, 149 (this is going to become a common theme)
            A-Rod- last 3: 176, 150, 149
            Posada- 153 , 103 (injury), 133
            Matsui- Not on the team
            Cano- 119 , 89 (killer April/low BABIP), 129 (and I’d like to note- entering his prime)
            Swisher- 126 , 92 (low BABIP), 129
            Melky- Not on the team

            So if you want to use career OPS despite including what some guys did 12 years ago, if you want to ignore 33% of the lineup is new, if you want to ignore the benefit of the stadium/elite lineup, then yeah, I guess the Yankees lineup blows and 2009 was the best year any of them will ever have.

            • P. Allen

              Agree completely. Other than Jeter and Posada, everyone in the lineup is in or entering their prime and should be expected to put up numbers that exceed their career best, especially in nys. Jeter and Pos (knock on wood) are special HOF players who put up great numbers in nys. Also agree that Matsui/Damon/Melky are non-factors.

              Gardner>Melky when you factor in defense and stolen bases, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see gardner put up an OPS+ of 100 or so, league average.
              Granderson moving to NYS has the potential to put up an OPS near Damon’s last year. Same with Johnson and his OBP leading to an OPS+ to hopefully replace matsui.

              No question, the yankees last year as a team were insane with an OPS+ of 120 as a team. I’ve tried to find a list of the highest OPS+ all time on baseball reference, couldn’t without manually going to each year, but a 120 team OPS+ probably hasn’t happened in the last 30 years or more.

              Here’s to hoping for another great offensive year (pitching too of course).

              • bexarama

                2003 Red Sox: avg. 126 OPS+

                Those guys were scary.

                • bexarama

                  though, 2009 Yankees: 131 OPS+

                  We were scarier. ;)

          • MikeD

            Comparing 2009′s OPS+ to career OPS+ is a flawed approach. The best predictor of how a player will perform in any given season is his most recent season. Teixeira, as one example, is now at the peak, posting OPS+’s of 149, 152 and 149 the past three seasons. His career OPS+ is not relevant since most players career OPS+ will be lower than their most recent season(s), that is until they hit their later years and they are in decline.

            There’s a possibility that a group of players, such as Cano, A-Rod, Granderson and Winn, will exceed their 2009 OPS+s for a variety of reasons, while others, such as Swisher, Tex and Johnson maintain, and others, such as Jeter and Posada, post declines, but probably not significant declines. Jeter is a highly consistent hitter, who cranks out 120+ seasons with ease when healthy. My guess is his OPS+ comes in somewhere between his career 121 and his 2009 132.

            There is almost assuredly someone in the group of Yankee hitters who will have a bust year due to injury or age compared to his 2009 season. Perhaps Posada, perhaps someone else. There is also somebody in here who will have a bust-out year compared to 2009, perhaps a Cano, who is entering his age 27 year; or an A-Rod, who will be healthy for the first time since 2007; or Granderson, who had a down year last season, but is still just 29.

    • bexarama

      They’re using WARP, not WAR, but I agree with this. I’m not expecting him to repeat his 2009 and I know his comparisons by age don’t look great but that’s a biiiig downgrade for Jeter.

      • Slugger27

        arent warp and war the same thing? except for the 1st one having “player” at the end of the acronym?

        vorp is a measure of actual runs and is something different, but thats stated in the projections as well

        • bexarama

          WARP is on Baseball Prospectus, WAR is on Fangraphs. Since this is BP, I’m assuming they’re using WARP. They’re different. At least as I understand it… I could be wrong. WAR had Jeter as the fifth-valuable player in baseball last year while WARP had him #44, below guys like Yadier Molina, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson, Brendan Ryan, and a bunch of closers.

          • Slugger27

            if thats the case, then warp officially means nothing to me

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          They’re the same idea, but calculated differently.

          • bexarama

            Do you happen to know the different way WARP and WAR are calculated? Because I was pretty shocked Jeets was that low for WARP.

  • Dollar

    Ben, It’s out already. I got my copy from Amazon on Wednesday.

  • Mike

    not 0ne .300 hitter on the team. hard to believe

  • bexarama

    NoMaas has a pretty good article about HR projections, especially what BP says re: Tex and HRs:
    http://nomaas.org/2010/02/whil.....ojections/ (generally safe, but it’s NoMaas so while I haven’t looked at the comments, there’s probably language issues)
    Basically, Tex got unlucky last year, and still hit 39 HRs. Swisher will probably see a similar number of HRs, though they might decrease a little. So will Granderson, with less of a chance for decline. Jeter will probably hit fewer HRs.

    Personally, considering that I’ve decided I’m going to be realistic but optimistic going forward, I think Granderson is gonna hit a ton of HRs this year. He had an awful year (for him) last year, he played in Comerica, he still hit 30 HRs. Now he’s a lefty moving into YS. Yeah.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “brendog” Peck

      agreed. damon equaled his career high in hr last year. expect granderson to do the same and quite possibly surpass it. especially since most pitchers you face are righties meaning he will be hitting at that delightful short porch.

      i don’t know the hitter parks and the pitcher parks but changing comerica for YSIII and then metrodome for Fenway (also a very short RF), kauffman for camden, the artist formerly known as comiskey for the trop, and jacobs field for rogers centre he could easily hit 40….imo

      and this is based on the idea that you play those in your division a lot more often than others due to the unbalanced schedule

  • mike c

    is this the same system that said the yankees were finishing 3rd in the AL east?

    • bexarama

      They’ve changed their projections a few times. They’ve currently got them second in the East (and winning the WC), but their PECOTA projections are so incredibly screwy – someone at RLYB I think pointed out that even with the most recent updates, the BA/OBP/SLG/OPS numbers don’t match up with the projected number of runs scored. And there’s other weirdness going on (like no one in the AL Central having a winning record).

      • Joe D.

        And there’s other weirdness going on (like no one in the AL Central having a winning record).

        Given the current rosters of the teams in the AL Central, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. One or two of those teams will break 85-86 wins, but it’s probably gonna take some oddball breakout, trades, signings, dumb luck…something. That is a seriously mediocre batch (Twinkies/White Sox/Kittens) at the top of the heap.

        • bexarama

          The Twinkies seem much better than the other teams in that division, to me. Their lineup is actually not terrible (I mean, the, like, #8 and #9 guys are to some extent, but really, teams that are lucky/good enough to have decent #8 and 9 guys are generally among the best teams in baseball). With the unbalanced schedule, they should at least be able to beat up on Kansas City and Cleveland. The White Sox have good pitching. Kitties, uhh, they have Johnny Damon and he’s a winner!!! /MSM’d

          agreed it’s mediocre, but so’s the AL West.

  • Accent Shallow

    Since BP has changed PECOTA multiple times since the projections dropped, which round of projections are in the book?

    Given the amount of time necessary to get something printed, would it be fair to assume that these are the first (and flawed) projections?

  • Cecala

    Question how does BP project Boston? Is it as harsh as the Yankees? I understand the Yankees had a great year compared to ’08 but A lot has to do with the new ballpark. As far as I am concerned the new stadium is still here and that should favor more in the ’09 stats rather than the ’08.

  • BigBlueAL

    I refuse to read this post since I get my BP the week of March 2nd along with MLB 10 the Show since both were ordered at Amazon and both will get shipped at same time. I pre-ordered the Show this year since you get a special code to immediately unlock the new 6 classic stadiums. Im a sucker for any old/classic stuff.

  • steve (different one)

    if they have Hoffman pegged for .261/.332/.399, then why would it be a “curious” selection? wouldn’t everyone be thrilled with that from a rookie? you’d have a cheap 4th OFer for the next 3-4 years, all for a guy you were probably going to non-tender.

  • Greg

    Basically it means the Yanks will be looking for a bat in July.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      As I said in another thread about 20 minutes ago, the Yankees have Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Jorge Poasda. If you think the pennant race is going to hing on needing another bat, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s just not what’s going to happen.

  • Rob

    It annoys the fuck out of me that smart people are still claiming that Granderson will need a platoon mate. In his career he’s looking at a .731 OPS outside of Comerica against lefties. The problem was Comerica, not lefties. And he’s going to crush the ball in Yankee Stadium. Just watch.

  • MikeD

    BP’s PECOTA did a poor job on many of the Yankee hitters in 2009, for example, missing badly on Jeter, Posada, Cano, Matsui and others. They were dead on with A-Rod, projecting him at .282/30HR/98RBIs, but that was before he had the hip surgery, which means A-Rod matched their projection, even though he had a near career-ending injury.

    We need to look no further than Jeter in 2008 to find and area where PECOTA does not excel. As we know, Jeter had an off year for him in 2008, chiefly caused by a couple of non-age-related injuries, including being hit on the hand by a pitch that substantially hurt his hiting in the early season. PECOTA for 2009 projected off his 2008 numbers and his age, projecting a further decline. Not a good assumption.

    I think we’ll see the same break down in PECOTA projections for A-Rod is 2010 as we saw with Jeter in 2009. Next year A-Rod should be the healthiest he’s been since 2007, as his hip started bothering him in late July 2008, impacting his hitting the last two months, and of course the surgery limiting him in 2009. I wouldn’t project a return to 2007, but a .300/.400/.600 season is more likely than what PECOTA will project for him this upcoming season.

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