The 2012 Oliver Projections: Yankee Offense and Pitching

Mailbag: Retired Numbers, Hall of Fame, Lyerly
RAB Live Chat
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Our latest swing through projection-land brings us to The Hardball Times’ Oliver, the fourth of the six major offseason projection systems and perhaps also the angriest. Now obviously projection systems are devoid of emotion, but this being my third straight offseason of sifting through projection data I can safely say that Oliver dislikes the Yankees more than any other system, so as always, take these projections with a grain of salt.

For previous posts on the 2012 ZiPS, Bill James and CAIRO projections, click here, here and here. This time around, instead of taking you through the entire Yankee starting nine and projected rotation, I’m just going to touch on some of the more interesting/outlandish projections, saving us all some time in the process.

Part of the reason Oliver is hard on the Yankees is because it, like ZiPS, applies aging factors. Now I’m pretty sure some if not all of the other systems also do this to a degree, but Oliver and ZiPS seem to be the hardest on older players, and as we know, the Yankees have a fair amount of those, hence some of the aggressive projections. While in some cases the projections seem crazy — Oliver somehow had Curtis Granderson, no one’s idea of an old man, putting up a comical .336 wOBA in 2011 (his worst projection by far) and it also had Robinson Cano at .350 last year — in others the seemingly laughable projections were right on the money.

I remember thinking the system was near-worthless after it spat out a .244/.326/.401 (.321 wOBA) line for Jorge Posada in 2011, and Posada managed to underperform that, finishing the season at .235/.315/.398, .309 wOBA. The only other Yankee it more or less hit the nail on the head on? Alex Rodriguez, who Oliver had at .271/.356/.491, .365 wOBA for 2011, while Alex’s actual line was .276/.362/.461, .361 wOBA. That’s not exactly good news, as we saw in last week’s post about A-Rod’s contract.

The flip side of this, however, is that Oliver seems to really like younger players. Last offseason it projected a 3.71 ERA for Phil Hughes in 185 innings. Can you imagine how excited we’d all be if that had happened? Despite Phil’s poor 2011 campaign, Oliver still has a man crush on Phil, projecting a 4.08 ERA over 150 innings and getting his K/9 back over 7.00. Talk about carrying a torch.

Oliver also really liked it some Ivan Nova last offseason despite the fact that Nova had all of 42 Major League innings under his belt, projecting the righty to throw 145 innings of 4.25 ERA ball, which seemed crazy at the time. Nova of course wildly exceeded expectations, though Oliver isn’t fooled, and has Nova regressing to a still-respectable-for-the-back-end-of-the-rotation 4.33 ERA in 185 innings.

This year the role of Ivan Nova seems like it’ll be played by Hector Noesi, who Oliver projected a 2011 MLE line of 65 innings of 4.25 ERA ball with 7.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9 despite zero Major League track record. Following a solid 2011 debut, Oliver again likes Noesi for a 4.25 ERA, only this time in 102 innings, with a 6.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 — numbers we’d all happily sign up for.

You’re no doubt curious about Jesus Montero. Last offseason Oliver forecasted a .284/.337/.497, .357 wOBA line in 152 PAs. This year, Oliver is projecting a .284/.339/.502, .360 wOBA line in 554 PAs. That’s the second-highest Oliver-projected wOBA among Yankee starters after Robinson Cano’s .363.

As for the Yankees’ one-time big guns, Oliver sees A-Rod falling to a .266/.348/.471, .355 wOBA line, which would represent a lower OBP but slightly more power than in 2011; while Mark Teixeira took the biggest hit by far, falling from a team-high .381 projected wOBA last offseason to .358 this winter.

As for the kids, Manny Banuelos is forecasted for 60 innings of 4.92 ERA ball with a 7.1 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9; Dellin Betances at 75 innings of 4.96 ERA ball with a 7.8 K/9, 5.4 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9; while Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell have MLB equivalencies of 140 IP/4.63 ERA, 143 IP/4.59 ERA and 144 IP/4.91 ERA, respectively.

For those wondering about Yu Darvish and what might have been, Oliver forecasts a 2012 MLE line of 207 IP, 2.46 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9, good for an astonishing 6.8 WAR. I think it’s fairly safe to say this won’t happen.

If you plug the starting nine’s 2012 Oliver-projected numbers into Dave Pinto’s Lineup Analysis, we get a starting lineup that projects to score 5.2 runs per game, the lowest projected rate we’ve seen thus far. As a point of comparison, the 2011 team as a whole averaged 5.35 runs per game. The “best” iteration of the Oliver lineup scores 5.209 runs per game and features Nick Swisher at leadoff.

The 2012 ZiPS-projected lineup averaged 5.3 runs per game, the James edition a hearty 5.7, and CAIRO’s spit out 5.6 runs per game. So again, it’s not terribly outlandish to claim that Oliver is not the Yankees’ biggest fan.

If the Yankees do nothing more this offseason, Oliver currently has them projected to finish tied for first place in the AL East with a 92-70 record, with the best record in the American League and third-best in baseball. Last offseason when I looked at the Oliver projections in January, the Yankees were projected to finish at 87-75 and 2nd place in the ALE. All things considered, that’s a pretty nice projection for a team that could still probably use a starting pitcher.

Mailbag: Retired Numbers, Hall of Fame, Lyerly
RAB Live Chat
  • Dee

    Those Darvish projections are Pedro like and will never happen thats why you cant believe their projections for the Yanks…what a load of shit

    • Peter R

      But damn….those are some serious numbers if he even gets in the same ballpark to that lol.

    • thenamestsam

      It’s definitely outlandish, but then again people said the same thing about Oliver’s Strasbug projection (similarly extreme based on his college and minor league numbers) before he came up and he performed up to it. Here’s an interesting discussion about it if you’re interested in reading more:

      Anyway saying “thats why you can’t believe their projections for the Yanks” is just silly. It’s a projection system with a great track record for major league players and guys moving minors to majors. Darvish is an almost impossible task for any projection system – there are simply no comparable pitchers who dominated Japan to the same extent and came to MLB with whom to compare him. I’d definitely take that Darvish projection with a healthy grain of salt, but it has very little relationship with the other projections.

    • Ted Nelson

      Pedro was an 8-12 WAR guy in his prime…

      6.8 is really good, but it would have been tied for 4th in MLB last season… not Pedro like.

  • Tampa Yankee

    According to Fangraphs, a 6.8 WAR by a pitcher has happened 39 times since 2000 but by only 20 pitchers. That’s some series company he’d be in.

    • vin

      Something must be wrong, I didn’t see Verlander’s 2011 season on that list. I thought it was a legendary season?

      Also, I love the thought of Randy Johnson having a 16-14 record with a 9.9 WAR. Nothing filters out idiocy like someone using W-L to A) describe a player’s worth or B) predict a player’s future performance.

      A 6.8 WAR pitcher would pretty much be Justin Verlander (in a typical season in his prime).

      • pat

        Verlander 2011 is on the 2nd page.

        • vin

          I know, I was making a commentary on just how out-of-hand the media’s representation of his season was.

  • vin

    The projections seem about right for both the young and old guys. It’s the ones in the middle that it seems to miss the mark on (Cano, Swish, Tex, Granderson).

    I wonder if the deflated wOBAs for these guys is due to offense being down the last couple years? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t wOBA driven purely from linear weights, and isn’t relative to the league or park effects? Perhaps they are anticipating a further decline in offensive production?

  • Monteroisdinero

    So where do we bat our 2 best hitters? 3rd and 7th? 5th and 7th?

    Think outside the chalupa Joe!

    • Ted Nelson

      Cano hit 3rd in the playoffs last season… not 5th.

      And Montero was a September call-up. Give him some time to earn his spot. What manager in the history of baseball would have moved a bunch of perennial All-Stars and HOFers to put a September call-up in the middle of the second best line-up in baseball by 8 runs all season?

  • Ted Nelson

    Hideo Nomo’s rookie season was 2.54 ERA, 4.9 fWAR, 4.9 bWAR
    Dice-K put up 3.9 fWAR, 3.2 bWAR and followed it up with 3.3 fWAR, 5.1 bWAR

    I think the Darvish projections are very optimistic… but could definitely happen.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I still hope we don’t regret not going after Darvish. He will most probably surprise a lot of people and have something close to Oliver’s projection. I surely hope that we do well against him.

  • CJ

    Do we sign for .800 OPS for Montero right now? I think .800 is the over/under line. Place your bets.

    • Slugger27

      ill take the over on that. i see him in the 820 range.

  • CJ

    If those Yu Darvish projections are even close, there will be no wild card in AL east or a game 163 vs angels.

    • thenamestsam

      Even with that projection, Oliver still has us projected for the best record in the AL, so I’d step back from that ledge.

  • Damons noodle arm

    If Darvish doesn’t sign, when would be become a unrestricted FA?

  • Rainbow Connection

    Oh good. More projections.