The Yankees and the importance of marginal wins


(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Yankees have won at least 95 games in each of the past four seasons, but as of right now it’s hard to see them winning that many games again in 2013. They don’t have a starting catcher, a starting right fielder, a starting third baseman, a DH, or a bench. There’s still more than two months of offseason left to address those needs, but as of right now the Yankees look like an 85-win team. In fact, SG’s most recent CAIRO projections have New York winning 85 games in 2013, good enough for third place in the AL East but not a playoff spot.

So far this offseason both the Red Sox and Blue Jays have improved their teams quite a bit while the Rays have taken a step back (by trading James Shields) and the Orioles have done absolutely nothing other than cut ties Mark Reynolds. Isn’t that weird? That a surprise, upstart team like the Orioles has done nothing to improve in an effort to make another run? Anyway, the AL East again figures to be a very tight race — SG’s projections have four of the five teams winning 84-86 games — next year and therefore the value of every win added this offseason means that much more.

That’s the concept of marginal wins. With four of the five AL East teams currently projected to win between 84-86 games, the team that adds say, three wins through a free agent signing (Kevin Youkilis?) will improve their chances that much more. Furthermore, a 75-win team adding a three-win player doesn’t have the same impact as an 85-win team adding a three-win player because only one of those teams is realistically improving their shot at a playoff berth. A playoff berth brings playoff revenue and all sorts of neat stuff. Grabbing those three (an arbitrary number I pulled out of the air to use as an example) wins is a significant move in the AL East right now.

The new playoff system has shifted the marginal win spectrum a bit. Going from those 85 wins to 88 wins improved your chances of getting a wildcard spot, and under the old rules a wildcard team had as much of a chance as the three division winners. Now it’s so much more important to win the division in an effort to avoid that one-game, winner-take-all wildcard scenario (which might not even be a revenue-generating home game), and 88 wins won’t be enough for the AL East crown. It’s going to take something like 93-96 wins, maybe more. Going from 85 to 88 helps a bit, but making a series of moves to go from 85 to 93 wins would help a lot more.

Without doing an in-depth and literal WAR analysis, the losses of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and Alex Rodriguez will cost the Yankees something like seven games in the standings assuming replacement level replacements. Figure four for Swisher and two each for Martin and Rodriguez. They’ll get some of those wins back by replacing 2012′s left field conglomerate with Brett Gardner and some more by replacing Freddy Garcia with Andy Pettitte. Derek Jeter is unlikely to replicate his 2012 production though, so that’s another hit. Replacing those seven wins won’t be easy, especially since there really isn’t a way to replace Martin. Maybe Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki sign and each put up a surprising three-win season, but they Yankees would still need more to break their way to make up for the production they’re losing.

The Orioles were a surprise contender this year and even if they take a step back without the benefit of a historically good record in one-run games, the Blue Jays should step in to take their spot among AL East contenders. The Rays are always tough, with or without Shields, and the Red Sox will be better than they showed last year. The division race will again be very tight next season and grabbing those marginal wins this offseason, even by overpaying for them, greatly improves each team’s chances to win the AL East. The Yankees are actually in a position to add a number of wins to their current roster given the opportunity to upgrade in multiple positions, which isn’t something you can’t really say about the other four teams in the division.

Categories : Musings


  1. emac2 says:

    There are still moves to make but I think we should be in really good shape this year assuming Youk and Ichiro. Arod and Pineda in time for the playoffs. Full seasons from Gardner, Ichiro and Youk would more than replace what we’ve lost.




    I think we’ll survive if Romaine doesn’t quite mach Martins numbers this year and other than that we look better while the division is weaker. Baltimore might be a little better but the record won’t exceed the run differential as much

  2. Jayfoot says:

    Just a quick check of WAR from last year…youk, ichiro, Gardner (2011) versus Arod, swish, Ibanez (lf) is a virtual wash.

  3. emac2 says:

    Does anyone know if CC has thrown to Romaine and if he had any comments?

  4. Kosmo says:

    I heard Ichiro will sign in the next 48 hours. If NY signs Youk then it boils down to DH and the bench. I still firmly believe NY has one major trade up it´s sleeve.

    • jjyank says:

      I’ve had that same feeling all offseason. Just a hunch I’ve had.

    • Jersey Joe says:

      I think if NYY signs Youk, they will get a bounce back DH candidate to play DH until ARod returns. Then ARod and Youk split time there.

      I could see Jack Cust fitting this mold; he could hit well at YS3 at beginning of season, when ARod returns trade him for cash/prospect.

  5. Ray says:

    If we can trade Grandy and pick up some bench help , sign Ichiro and Youkilas, we can now afford Hamilton. That would give us power , speed and defense as well as the bench help we need.

  6. entonces says:

    May not show up in WAR but if Yanks find way to get Nunez 300 ABs that would help too. At very least, I’d make him part of DH solution. Actually, having Gardner, Nunez and Ichiro back to back to back in lineup could go long way towrds making up for lost power. 38 SBs in 46 attempts — that’s elite production.

  7. Kevin Schappert says:

    Early to say how Yanks will do–pitching could be better if Pettitte stays healthy–keep hearing about Yanks losing HRs but where were those HRs at the end of the season? Rather see a team that can perform in October rather than May

  8. MannyGeee (Youk's #1 fan...) says:

    And Marginal Winz is why:

    1) The Yankees Suck
    2) The Yankees should fire Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, Randy LEvine and both Steinbrothers (those fat toads)
    3) The Yankees should sign Josh Hamilton, BJ Upton, Kevin Youkiliz and AJ Pearzinskey
    4) The Yankees should trade for King Felix of Albatross, Adam Dunn and Justin Upton
    5) The Yankees should trade Cano and Granderson for Trout and Harper, respectively, and
    6) The Yankees should publicly cut ties and stone Alex Rodriguez

    OK, now that we have that all out on the table… I am having a hard time believing that Toronto and Boston really made the leap, and Baltimore has to prove they are not a flash in the pan.

    Tampa, meanwhile, didn’t lose as much in Shields and Upton as one would believe. They are LITERALLY a pitching factory, and Upton was good not great in 2012. They are in the thick of it more than this article would have you believe…

    • entonces says:

      All your suggestions seem purposefully frivolous and undoable. Except for #6.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Remains to be seen how much Tampa lost. Their young guys have to take a step forward not to have lost anything in the rotation, otherwise it’s probably about 3 “wins” they lost there. One can make a good case for someone like Moore stepping forward to be a top of the rotation starer, but Ps are very volatile. Especially young ones.

      Likewise, we don’t even know who is replacing Upton in their OF let alone how good he’ll be.

  9. emac2 says:

    What’s with the catcher concern?

    Elite catchers make a huge difference but a few facts come into play that should shut everyone up.

    1. There aren’t any good ones available
    2. a small upgrade isn’t significant or worth paying for.
    3. Our future starter is 2-3 years away.
    4. We have several guys that can hit as poorly as Martin.
    5. We can help the team just as much by improving another position

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I think the fear is of what the possible floor is with the current options. I agree with every one of your points, though.

    • bingo bango says:

      #3 had been beat to death for years. Can we come up with a TINSTAPP for catchers?

    • jjyank says:

      I disagree with #4. Cervelli, Stewart, and Romine could all easily be worse than Martin offensively.

    • Ethan says:

      There’s more to hitting than Avg.

    • mitch says:

      2-3 years is a pretty long time. Maybe that makes it less likely they make a huge trade for a guy like santana, but a stewart/cervelli platoon isn’t going to last for 3 seasons. Hopefully Romine emerges as a part-time option at some point in the season, but I doubt he’ll be the game 1 starter.

      I’d like to see them sign Kelly Shoppach. Stewart and Cervelli can battle for the other catching spot. Romine can get full time reps in AAA until he’s ready to steal somebody’s innings.

    • Havok9120 says:

      We said that the future starter was 2-3 years away for every one of the last, what, 5 seasons? What’s more, we know that those guys can perform less capably than Martin on offense since we have, after all, seen them do it.

      Not to mention that your second point seems to have missed almost the entirety of what the article was trying to point out.

      • G says:

        Difference being that the last future starter was a guy that no scouts said could stay behind the plate, while they say that the current one actually has the potential to stay.

        • Havok9120 says:

          Plenty of scouts saw Montero as having the “potential” to stick back there, especially when he was lower down in the system. Which is roughly the same language we’ve heard regarding Sanchez up to this point. Every couple months we hear about some huge “improvement” that may or may not be permanent. I’m hoping we hear more about his defense this season now that he’s starting to climb the ladder a bit.

    • Joey from Jersey says:

      Because, you know, the goal of participating in these message boards is to “shut everyone up”.


  10. Get Phelps Down says:

    Article Title : The Yankees and importance of Marginal Wins.
    Article Comment : A small upgrade isn’t significant or worth paying for.

  11. Ted Nelson says:

    7 wins lost assumes about the worst. And while you mention it, I think you under-emphasize how much off-season is left: something like 6 of the top 10 FA according to MLBTradeRumors are unsigned and 13 of the top 25. A lot of teams have a lot of moves left to make. The landscape could look a lot different in a week or a month for the Yankees and their competitors.

    ARod is out 1-3 months of the season as far as I know. 2 wins in a month or two is very, very generous to ARod. It’s not 2007 anymore.

    Jeter might get worse, but Granderson might also get better (especially defensively by moving positions). Nova might regain 2011 form. On top of Mo replacing Soriano, Joba should be back.

    Gardner has been worth 5+ wins as a starter, and Ibanez + Jones were at 1.5.

    Pettitte probably adds at least a win over Garcia.

    CC had his worst season as a Yankee.

    Tex played under 156 games for the first time since 2007 (he was replaced by Pearce and the like).

    Even Chris Dickerson has had two seasons where he was worth 1.5+ wins and even Cervelli contributed a bit for a couple of years… so assuming that the Yankees are just going to get replacement level filling their holes even with spare parts is somewhat pessimistic.

    (All those wins are referring to fWAR.)

    • bingo bango says:

      Man that first part is a colossal failure in reading comprehension.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        How so smart guy?

        • bingo bango says:

          This whole thing is full of fail. He specifically states that the Yankees are in a better position than the other teams to improve before the start of the season. You try to insinuate that he thinks A-Rod is a 2 WAR player a month too. That just leaves me too insinuate that you think Youk is a 3 WAR player a month. You are silly.

          • MannyGeee (Youk's #1 fan...) says:

            actually, he’s saying the opposite.

            He’s telling you that there is ALOTTTTTT of off-season left, and that the initial estimations of losing A-Rod until June is not a full 2 WAR.

            Thinking about who’s silly, might be the guy with no reading comprehension. Jus sayin

            • bingo bango says:

              I’m saying that Mike is saying the same thing. Wow did everyone take stupid pills this morning?

              • MannyGeee (2 WAR a month Playa!) says:

                “Without doing an in-depth and literal WAR analysis, the losses of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and Alex Rodriguez will cost the Yankees something like seven games in the standings assuming replacement level replacements. Figure four for Swisher and two each for Martin and Rodriguez.”

                Soooooo, what am I missing?

                • bingo bango says:

                  “2 wins in a month or two is very, very generous to ARod.”

                  He’s basically making fun of Mike at this point for no reason.

                  • Rocky Road Redemption says:

                    No, he’s raising a very valid and reasonable point of contention that was stated factually, with no sarcasm or malice whatsoever.

                    Get your reading comprehension checked, dude.

          • Ethan says:

            He doesn’t assume that Arod is a 2 win per month player. He’s assuming that if Arod is out for 1 months you won’t lose 2 wins, as mike argues.

            If Arod loses 1 month and 2 WAR then Mike is assuming he’s a 2 WAR per month player. Even if Arod loses 2 months that’s still assuming he’s a 6 WAR per season player which isn’t the case anymore. Realistically, losing Arod for the amount of time expected won’t be a loss of 2 WAR.

            Maybe you should check your reading comprehension.

            • bingo bango says:

              The point is that it’s a zero sum game at 3rd. You can’t say A-Rod loses less or more time without also calculating for Youk’s value. Maybe this board is too stupid for me if the original guy is your idol.

              • Ethan says:

                Well seeing as Youkilis is not signed as a yankee yet I don’t think you can factor him in. As it stands, not having Arod for 2 months means Nix, who’s around a replacement level player. Thus, no Arod = replacement level for 2-3 months of the season. If you are assuming the loss of arod for 2-3 months is a loss of 2 wins then you’re assuming that around is a 4-6 win player over the season. The OP is simply pointing out that assuming this is giving arod too much credit as he’s closer to a 2 WAR player per season these days. Thus, losing him for half the season is only a loss of 1 WAR, not two.

              • MannyGeee (2 WAR a month Playa!) says:

                glad to see you go. Ironically, guys who run around calling people stupid while providing no actual intelligent thoughts are my idols, so I will miss your input most of all…

              • Joey from Jersey says:

                Yeah, that’s it. You are really smart too bad everyone else around you is too stupid to recognize it. That is the type of thinking that will get you far in life, both personally and professionally.

                Good luck!!!!

            • bingo bango says:

              A 2 WAR player is basically a replacement level player. Meaning A-Rod losing time wouldn’t matter if you get a replacement level player to replace him. I have no problem in assuming that. I don’t think he’s saying that though.

              • Ethan says:

                By definition a 0 WAR player is a replacement level player. That’s how WAR is defined.

                Losing Arod is still a loss of an above replacement player. ALL the OP is saying is that Mike is overestimating Arod’s value assuming that we will lose 2 wins from him being gone for 2 or 3 months.

              • Mike Axisa says:

                2 WAR is approximately league average, 0 WAR is replacement level.

              • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

                I think you mean a league average player at any given position is about a 1.8-2.0 WAR player if I remember correctly.

                A text book replacement level player is a 0 WAR player.

              • Jim Is Bored says:

                I’m trying to avoid responding to people who don’t know what they’re talking about, but this comment was hysterical.

                A 2 (Wins Above Replacement Level) player is basically a replacement level player. 2 = 0!

          • Ted Nelson says:

            I basically agreed with his points, so I’m not sure how I didn’t understand them.

    • Ethan says:

      Gardner’s value is really overestimated in WAR. He’s not a 5 fWAR player. That stat overestimates the value of fielding. Also, it will go down with a move to Center.

      I don’t think we can expect Mo to be any better than Soriano was last year. If he simply duplicates that performance we should all be thrilled. More likely he’ll be worse.

      • Ethan says:

        With reference to Gardner it should have been a 5 win player. He is a 5 fWAR player.

        • bingo bango says:

          I think fWAR will be more accurate if he moves to CF in 2013. I agree though. Replacement level defense at LF is atrocious.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

        Gardner’s value is really overestimated in WAR.

        Maybe. Maybe not. Any evidence to back that up? Is a run prevented not worth as much as a run scored?

        • Ethan says:

          Well it often seems that people say fielding is overestimated in value in WAR because of the ineffectiveness of fielding metrics. Just out of curiousity (not sure where to find it) how many runs does Gardner save per year?

          Just to make sure I’m correct here fWAR incorporates fielding + hitting right? Is bWAR just batting WAR? so fWAR-bWAR= WAR just from fielding?

          My guess that Gardners WAR from just fielding is something around 3 or 4 (not sure how to get actual numbers but that seems reasonable given that Gardner is nothing special with the bat). Thus to have a WAR of just fielding at 3 or 4 requires that Gardner prevents 12-16 runs per year more than a replacement level player, that just seems high to me.

          • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

            bWAR and fWAR both incorporate fielding, hitting, and baserunning. They just use different measures for fielding (and slight differences in some of the other components of WAR). fWAR uses UZR, bWAR uses DRS.
            By UZR, Gardner saved 24.9 runs above average in 2010 and 25.8 runs above average in 2011.
            By DRS, Gardner saved 35 runs above average in 2010 and 23 runs above average in 2011.
            It’s entirely possible those run values aren’t completely accurate. Most likely they aren’t. But about 25 runs/year works out to about 1 run above average per week. Given the sad state of some LF defense, I think that’s possible.

            That said, I would expect his WAR to go down a bit with a switch to CF, as his fielding values will probably go down further than his positional value goes up.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            No. People say that fielding stats are not as accurate as offensive stats. That doesn’t mean they overestimate every players’ defensive value. It is as likely that they underestimate his value as overestimate it.

            People who don’t want to believe Gardner is a very good player then use that to say, “well maybe he’s not actually that good.”

        • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod says:

          Hey, all’s fair in love and WAR.


          I’ll see myself out…

  12. Steve (different one) says:

    If Kevin Youkilis was Devin Soupilips and had come up through, say, the Rangers system and had the exact same career, I think many of us would be pretty stoked to sign the guy. He’s a very good fit. Plays 3B, hits RHed, gets on base and hits for power. He’s an injury risk, but if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be available as his option would have been picked up. He’s only one season removed from an all-star season.

    He’s a risk, but carries tremendous upside as well. Even if he just replicates his Chicago numbers, the Yanks would be in decent shape.

    I hated, hated, hated the guy when he was in Boston, but I am glad Cashman doesn’t care about that. If he produces, Yankee fans will accept him.

    If they sign Youkilis, Ichiro, and a RHed OF bat, you can start to see a playoff team, and none of those moves seem outlandish.

  13. paul a says:

    The fact that Youk hasn’t made his mind up yet has me wondering if he really wants to come to the bronx,also I would not give out the type of contract that Ross and Hairstone want. We might have to trade Grandy for a right handed bat. If the Yanks really will let him walk next year I would deal him foe Winningham, even if it means eating some of Grandys contract.

    • mitch says:

      I really don’t get why everyone wants to trade Granderson. He’s probably the second best hitter on the team. Even the best possible trade would be a lateral move in terms of fielding a competitive team in 2013.

      If the yankees are somehow 10 games out in July then maybe you consider moving Grandy for prospects.

      • Havok9120 says:

        Most people are pitching Granderson trades as a “look to the future” kind of thing. The OP sure does seem to be saying that trading Granderson for someone to help the team in 2013 is the way to go, but I’m almost certain that that kind of player is not available in a trade where Granderson is the centerpiece.

        All that said, I’m with you. Keep him and try to win something this year rather than punting the season.

      • Steve (different one) says:

        I don’t want to trade Granderson, but I probably would trade him for Willingham simply because the contract is so much better and RF then would be set for 2014. The Twins, however, prob wouldn’t.

        • Andrew Brotherton says:

          You could still see a trade for Josh Willingham. I think Nova or Hughes plus Jose Ramirez would be a good trade, solid decent young major league starter plus a very high ceiling prospect.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        General lack of patience for his strikeouts, as well as feeling that the team isn’t going to/shouldn’t re-sign him, and Austin Jackson being king of “We should keep all the prospects/trade all the prospects/why did we trade x prospect,” which alternates every other day.

        Also a general fantasy as to, if you’re not the outright favorites in December, you should just blow it up and rebuild.

        Not opposed to trading him if the team can come up with an alternate plan for a productive outfield, as I’m not sure I’d be all in on bringing him back. Price dependent, of course.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Reading too much into it. Guys sit on contract offers all the time. We want our TSJC burrito and we want it now.

  14. Artis says:

    “and the Red Sox will be better than they showed last year.”

    Without Beckett(odd year), A-Gon, and Crawford(he was due for at least one really good year)?

    They simply replaced those players with crappy versions. While paying them good money.

    • dkidd says:

      unless lester and buchholz are permanently broken, they should be better

      full year of middlebrooks
      full year of ellsbury
      healthy papi and pedroia
      better bullpen
      non assclown manager

  15. paul a says:

    R.E; I meant Willingham not Winnigham

  16. Andrew Brotherton says:

    I still think a 3yr offer to Hamilton would be the best course of action for this offseason. We could then possibly try and trade Granderson to I think the Phillies for something along the lines of Frandsen, Biddle, Ruf, and Franco.

    • Leo says:

      Hamilton to the Yankees is looking doubtful. As it stands, the Yankees are at $168 MM for for 2013 luxury tax purposes (I think this is where they are at – if different, post in comments). If they do go ahead an sign Youkilis, they won’t have enough room to get in Hamilton and keep under that $189 MM line.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

        The $189M budget doesn’t start until 2014. The luxury tax threshold for 2013 is only $178M anyways.
        As it stands now, with the current roster and no additions or subtractions, using projected arbitration raises, I believe their 2013 luxury tax payroll would end up in the $195-$200M range (and potentially higher with earned bonuses).

  17. dkidd says:

    when was the last time the al east was this wide open?

    also, never bet against dan duquette

  18. Tom Merritt says:

    Can anyone tell me why Nunez is not taking a million ground balls a day at short and third for months during the off season? It would seem that he has a path to being a vital cog in the NYY machine and to make a ton of money. Just wondering where his mind is if he is not busting ass to take advantage of the opportunity.

  19. Yogiism says:

    Before I even made it through the entire post and it’s probably been said already in the comments, but I entirely disagree with much of this and the Cairo projections. The Red Sox have made improvements, but none are all that significant and they still have yet to address their pitching. I mean who is really pitching after Lester, Buchholz and Lackey? The Jays? Yeah, they made that huge deal, but let’s see how it works out. Johnson still need to prove some consistency. The Rays? They just traded away two of their major rotation cogs. They still have a fairly poor offense. For the Rays, you always base their wins on pitching projections and they just took a pretty serious short-term blow to that area.

    Anyway, I think this fails to consider that you have two major players (Cano and Granderson) in a contract year. As long as they don’t press too hard, there should be a lot of baseballs going home as souvenirs this season. Youk on a 1 year deal and at age 33 should have a little to prove. I imagine he’d like to land himself a 2-3 year deal after 2013, which is certainly possibly since he’ll still be young enough. ARod, our likely DH come June/July should have a little to prove. Kuroda perhaps pitching for his last time in the US. Mariano ever. Pettitte ever (pt.2) and Ichiro (if signed) rocking out and having a blast.

    It will be a pretty cool team. If Pineda comes back in June and can actually pitch, I find myself questioning the Yanks only winning 85 games. I’d think they should definitely be in the 92-95 range again.

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.