Mar
14

The 2012 New York Yankees All-Projection Team

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Much of the 2012 Yankee offense's fortunes are riding on your shoulders, pal. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

After an offeason’s worth of projections, it’s finally time to aggregate everything and see just how good our beloved pinstripers look on paper. Loyal readers will recall I did this last year, as well.

Below you’ll see each player’s final 2011 line, along with their average 2012 projected line. In this instance, the average has been compiled from the eight major projection systems — Bill James, CAIRO, Oliver, Rotochamp, PECOTA, ZiPS, Steamer and Tango’s Marcel. Despite the variations in calculation method with each system along with the fact that they’re not all park- and league-adjusted, I’ve found that a straight average of the systems’ projections generally winds up being a fairly reasonable benchmark.

Additionally, I’ll repeat the immortal words of SG one last time: “Projections are inherently limited, so remember to take these for what they are. They are rough estimates of a player’s current talent level, and are not predictions.”

Offense

The Yankees will, for the umpteenth year in a row, feature a robust offensive attack in 2012, with no starter projected to have a below-league average (.316 in 2011, for your reference) wOBA. Derek Jeter looks to be the weakest component of the offensive attack, though he’ll outhit that .324 average projected wOBA if he comes anywhere close to replicating his second-half surge last summer. Derek’s high-water projection is James’ .333 wOBA, while ZiPS thinks Derek is essentially cooked, with a .309 projection.

After a bit of a disappointing campaign with the stick in 2011, Brett Gardner should get on base more frequently assuming he gets his IFFB% closer to his career figure of a still-worse-than-league-average 14%, rather than last year’s 19.6% (which nearly lead the league). Rotochamp loves itself some Gardner, with a .343 projection, while Oliver is unimpressed and thinks Gardner will continue to hit the skids with a .320 wOBA.

Russell Martin projects for more OBP and less power than he showed in 2011, though I think we’ll see a stronger campaign from Russell in 2012, due in part to a presumed increased comfort level along with a desire for a substantial free-agent pact. James likes Martin for a high-water .355 wOBA — a level he’s only exceeded once — while Marcel has Martin falling to .311.

Both Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are projected for significantly less-potent seasons, though in my opinion those are pretty conservative estimates and I feel comfortable expecting at least a .375 wOBA out of the Yankees’ two most potent offensive forces. Rotochamp likes Granderson at .379, while Marcel and Oliver are each at a much more bearish .351; Rotochamp also has the high-water projection got Cano at .369, while Steamer is at .355.

The Yankees’ two former heavyweights, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, are also expected to help continue to carry the offense. At .370, Tex actually has the most significantly improved average projected wOBA on the team, representing a .009 increase from his actual 2011 production. James likes Tex for a .382 wOBA; while Marcel has him at a non-park-adjusted .357 for the low-water mark. A-Rod‘s average .361 projected wOBA is exactly what he put up in 2011, although component-wise the systems see slightly more power for Alex and slightly less OBP. While at this point I don’t know that it’s reasonable to be disappointed with Alex posting another .361 wOBA year in his age 36 season, if he can stay healthy it also doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a wOBA somewhere in the .370s or higher. Strangely enough, PECOTA — which doesn’t really like anyone, and generally saves most of its venom for aging veterans — actually boasts the most optimistic A-Rod forecast, pegging him for a .509 SLG and making him one of only 15 players in all of MLB the system even projects to SLG above .500 (Tex is in there, too). On the flip side, the ever-negative Oliver sees Alex regressing to a non-park-adjusted .350 wOBA.

If we plug each player’s projected OBP and SLG into Dave Pinto’s Lineup Analysis tool, we get a lineup projected to average roughly 5.3 runs per game against lefties (with Andruw Jones at DH), and the same against righties (with Ibanez at DH). The Yankees’ runs-per-game averages for the last five seasons starting with 2011 are 5.4, 5.3, 5.7, 4.9 and 6.0, so 5.3 for the starting lineup should be just fine.

Starting Pitching

Though Sweaty Freddy is expected to begin the year in the bullpen I’ve thrown him in for comparison’s sake. Unsurprisingly Freddy also projects as the least-effective of the six starting candidates. Despite a horrid season, most projection systems still love Phil Hughes, with Bill James going so far as to project a 3.71 ERA/3.82 FIP (albeit in 102 innings), while the ever-pessimistic PECOTA also appears to still be a Hughes fanboy, projecting a 3.84 ERA over 135 innings.

None of the systems think Ivan Nova can reproduce his 2011, although Marcel’s non-park-adjusted 3.88 ERA/3.89 FIP is the most optimistic. On the flip side, PECOTA thinks Nova’s a joke, with 156 innings of 5.03 ERA ball.

Both Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda‘s average projections seem eminently reasonable to me in the AL East; truly, if the Yanks can record a second straight season of three starters giving 100-plus innings of sub-4.00 ERAs (thanks to CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia) — something that hasn’t happened for the Yankees in back-to-back seasons since 2001-2002 — needless to say they will be in excellent shape.

For those interested in simulations, the most recent iteration of CAIRO (run over a month ago) had the 2012 Yankees as the best team in baseball, at 97-65 (five games ahead of Tampa Bay); Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA also has the Yankees with the best record in baseball, at 95-67 (five games ahead of Boston); and even THT’s get-off-my-lawn Oliver forecasting system has the Yankees with the best record in baseball, at 95-67 (three games ahead of Boston).

While, as per usual, many things will need to go the Yankees’ way for the team to reach these projections, it’s tough to quibble with a roster universally projected to be the best in baseball heading into the season.

Categories : Analysis

36 Comments»

  1. will says:

    If ibanez hits .254 i’ll donate a full week of my vacation picking up trash on the side of the highway in the 2013 summer when it’s 90 out and 90% humidity. This guy will be lucky to hit .200

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I never knew Ibanez killed so many puppies on here.

    • gageagainstthemachine says:

      I hope that isn’t the case, but I was watching the game yesterday and he was swinging late on 90-91 mph fastballs that were thrown by the opponent from the day before! It was plain-old ugly. What’s he going to do against a GOOD MLB fastball? And the only reason his at-bats were lengthy was that his bat kept accidentally making contact with the ball and fouling them off. They weren’t even good cuts. I hope he’s just knocking some serious rust off, but it does have me wondering why the Yankees were so focused on signing him.

      • Monterowasdinero says:

        They had 1M reasons.

        Sincerely,
        Johnny (the businessman) Damon

        • gageagainstthemachine says:

          If what Johnny Damon says is correct, the Yankees were in on Ibanez (over Johnny Damon)regardless of $$$. Of course, Johnny is also the guy that said “Detroit is where I wanted to be” after the Yankees called his bluff on the asking price. It really doesn’t matter how Ibanez was chosen, the guy just needs to start coming to life here pretty quick or he’s going to be on the first subway out of the Bronx.

      • RetroRob says:

        He historically has not been a good hitter in Spring Training, so there is that.

        My concern, though, is exactly what you noticed. I saw him in about a half a dozen games last year and he had trouble handling fastballs. He’s streaky, so I can write it off as SSS, but the reports on him when he signed was that he had lost bat speed and could be beat consistently by a good fastball. Piniella and O’Neill were dicussing this topic last night, although not in relation to Ibanez. Once a player can’t catch up to a fastball, he’s done.

        Just think of Ibanez as a poor man’s Posada from the leftside, who lacks the on-base skills and without the ability to hit a good fastball. Guess that’s what a million dollars gets you. But, hey, he can play the OF for a couple weeks if needed.

        • RetroRob says:

          BTW I’ll add, for perspective and a point in favor of Ibanez, is that a year ago all the concerns about Ibanez (mainly, lost bat speed; can’t handle a fastball) were said about Lance Berkman.

          Berkman, however, did have a known physical issue and was rehabbing. Ibanez’s injury appears to be age, a condition that gets progressively worse, leading ultimately to death!

          • gageagainstthemachine says:

            I’m not sure who we traded for was Lance “Big Puma” Berkman at all. I think it was his evil-twin Lance “Fat Elvis” Berkman. I think the real Lance “Big Puma” Berkman was on the Atkins diet, working out in Houston, waiting to sign with an NL team closer to home the next season and resurrect his career. Either way, he sure didn’t work out in pinstripes, whichever “Fat Elvis” or “Big Puma” Berkman it really was.

        • gageagainstthemachine says:

          I was thinking that exact thought when Lou and O’Neill were talking about not being able to catch up with the fastball. The downside about being a streaky hitter for Ibanez is that he’s looking at part-time DHing with Jones. From all my baseball watching experience, it seems tough for part-time players to get streaky and stay hot if they’re not in every day. There’s a whole lot of Ibanez dislike on here, and that’s not what this is about for me. The guy wears pinstripes, I’m rooting for him. But, so far his ability to produce sure scares me. The Yankees thought highly enough of him for a reason, I just hope that reason comes to fruition.

    • Needed Pitching says:

      he hit .256 vs. RHP last season. Almost all of his AB’s will be vs. RHP this year. .254 is probably a bit optimistic, but not totally unrealistic.

    • CJ says:

      No worries, he can be replaced by the projected .226 Andruw jones

  2. JFish says:

    I’m a little surprised by the “low” projections for Cano. I really think he’ll easily out-hit that average projected line.

    • Don W says:

      It seems like these projections always project Cano to have a lesser season. I wonder if he’s an outlier like Mo where the raw #’s just aren’t telling the story or possibly his aberration season in 2008 drag the numbers down.

  3. TanyonS says:

    Anyone know what happened to Russell Branyan? I’d like to see how he projects vs. Ibanez (and I was hoping for an open competition between RI and RB this spring).

  4. The Guns of Navarone says:

    Wow. I thought, overall, those were some pretty pessimistic projections. It doesn’t seem realistic to have every player, save for Teix and Hughes, either get worse or stay the same. There’s always that one breakout player that has an awesome season and it’s tough to predict.

    But, of course, it projects the Yankees as the best team in baseball. So other teams must have a few players with projections a bit on the “low” side.

    I agree with will above. I’ll be doing backflips if Ibanez is hitting enough to still be on the team by June. I really have very little confidence in that guy.

    • thenamestsam says:

      This is where it’s critical to understand exactly what a projection means. The reason they look pessimistic is because every one of those projections systems includes a component of regression to the mean. When you have all excellent players the regression to the mean is going to ding all of them somewhat. Additionally, when you average a bunch of systems together you’re going to be de-emphasizing the stuff each one does differently, and emphasizing the stuff they do the same. That same stuff is probably primarily regression to the mean and some form of aging. Both of those things are negatives for almost all the Yankees.

      Finally, the nature of projections is basically that 50% of players are expected to do worse than them, and 50% better. Someone will probably have that breakout season, but projection systems (for the most part) aren’t really set up to try to guess that player, and even when they are, averaging them out is going to kill most of that.

      A good projection system is almost never going to project any player for 20 wins, or an ERA under 2.5, or 40 HR even though there’s almost certainly going to be players in the league who reach those marks. So looking at them as a group they tend to look pessimistic unless you have a good understanding of how they work.

      • Guest says:

        This is one of the most cogently written and informative comments I have seen on the internet ever. Anywhere.

        Thanks, thenamestsam.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Agreed.

          Quick…..someone incorrectly use a small sample size to indicate why someone sucks.

        • RetroRob says:

          I was just about to attempt to write something similar, but thenamestsam did a much better job.

          The aggregate projection for a team is more interesting to me than the individual projections.

      • The Guns of Navarone says:

        So, essentially, the goal of projections is to try and project the average production of a certain kind of player at a certain age. Does that sound right? Not to predict any kind of outliers.

        They are rough estimates of a player’s current talent level, and are not predictions.

        I always took that as more of a disclaimer but now I think I understand it a lot better. And thanks for the response!

  5. Ethan says:

    If all of the Yankees hit their exact predictions, how many games is the team expected to win? We’d still need to know the ‘pen numbers.

  6. Kosmo says:

    has anyone done a study on how accurate these “projections“ are, say over the last 5-10 years ?? How are these projections arrived at ?
    I visualize a bunch of serious nerds sitting around ´´well CC might not throw 230 innings this year but 224 ya, let´s go with it“.
    If I´m not mistaken there is not one projection that is predicting a noticable upswing in performance. Hughes and Martin ever so slightly better than last year.

    • Bavarian Yankee says:

      I think most of these projections are based on 3-year-averages and then adjusted on age etc. so there isn’t too much science behind it. Players are human beings and luck is also a big part of baseball so I never take those projections too serious. In baseball anything can happen. I guess we all would agree that Jeter, A-Rod and Teixeira could all hit .300 if everything goes right or below .240 if everything goes wrong.

    • thenamestsam says:

      Here’s a review of accuracy for 2007-2010 for a number of the systems mentioned:

      http://www.insidethebook.com/e.....l_results/

      Basically they’re all extremely accurate on average, to the point that trying to do any better seems to be yielding almost no benefits to current researchers. However on an individual player level there’s going to be a lot of variance around these forecasts and you have to keep that in mind. If I projected every Yankee for exactly their stats from last year I am NOT saying that I don’t think any Yankee will have better stats than last year. I expect that 50% of players will beat their projections, so I’d be saying that I expect 50% of players to have better stats than last year. Keep that in mind when viewing these numbers.

  7. Havok9120 says:

    “…it’s tough to quibble with a roster universally projected to be the best in baseball heading into the season.”

    Is that a challenge or something? It sounds like a challenge.

  8. thenamestsam says:

    Thanks for adding all these up Larry, very interesting. I thought it was notable that the only two projections that seem off the wall to me are from PECOTA. Alex being top 15 in slugging seems way out there, and similarly Nova basically pitching his way out of the league. I know they overhauled PECOTA this offseason and I’m wondering if looking at all the forecasts together it looks to you like the PECOTA ones are a little nutty, shall we say, overall, or if these are just two cases where it’s taking a pretty strong stand on a player.

  9. Remember, folks, that the projections are generally not split adjusted so Ibanez’s line may end up looking better since he’ll be facing mostly RHP.

    • Larry Koestler says:

      Thanks Matt. I did indeed forget to note that the projections for Jones and Ibanez are not split.

      The only system that runs splits is CAIRO, and as I noted in my last post regarding the DH, CAIRO has Jones with a .337 wOBA vs. LHP and Ibanez with a .349 wOBA vs. RHP.

      If you wanted to guesstimate Jones’ OBP/SLG vs. LHP at .330/.440 based on that projected wOBA and plug those numbers into the Lineup Analysis, you improve by 1/100th of a run per game, a.k.a. nothing.

      However, if you bump Ibanez’s OBP/SLG to roughly .340/.470 vs. RHP, the runs-per-game average goes from 5.296 to 5.383, so if Ibanez does what he’s supposed to against righties — and only plays against righties — the team should be fine.

  10. FIn says:

    Is it just my imagination or is Ibanez getting a ton of at bats compared to the rest of the guys that are already on the team? If that is the case, I wonder if its because hes a slow starter and they are trying to get him ready faster or if they have their doubts and they are trying to see as much of him as possible before bringing him with them to NYC. If he keeps up what hes been doing, I have to think the Yankees consider making another move. For some guys ST is a time to warm up for the regular season but for a guy like Ibanez on a small 1yr deal, who showed signs of being done last year, I think ST means more.

  11. Jarrod says:

    I know projections are generally pessimistic but to think that CC, as an example, will regress in every possible category just proves that they are not even worth discussing (yet here I am discussing them??).

    A load of BS if you ask me. Just get the real baseball started already!

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