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.