The 2012 Oliver Projections: Yankee Offense and Pitching

(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

Hooray for Fridays. Believe it or not, there are no questions in this week’s mailbag about potential pitching acquisitions. It’s refreshing, to be honest. Anyway, the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the place to go is you want to send in a question.

(Photo via SIKids.com)

Matt asks: Does anyone have any idea when the Yankees will start retiring numbers from the 90’s? One would have to think 51, 6 and 20 are no brainers.

I’m not sure when it’ll happen, but it should happens sooner rather than later. Now that Jorge Posada has called it a career, they can have a big ceremony for him and Bernie Williams at the same time. Six or ten or however many years down the line, they can have a big ceremony for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Then again, these ceremonies are about making money, and the team will make more by breaking it up into four separate ceremonies rather than one or two or whatever.

I expect those four to have their numbers retired and Andy Pettitte as well. I don’t think they’ll retire Joe Torre’s number but I do think they should. All five of those players are homegrown champions and no worse than borderline Hall of Fame candidates, and I do think the homegrown aspect is important. Only three of the team’s 12 retired numbers* belong to players that did not grow up Yankees: Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, and Reggie Jackson. Those three earned their retired numbers by being historically great. So yeah, I don’t see #21 getting retired.

* I’m not counting the two managers (Casey Stengel and Billy Martin) or Jackie Robinson.

Evan asks: In honor of the Hall of Fame announcing a new class [on Monday], I was hoping you could do a post of current Yankees and their odds of inductions.

Jeter and Mo are mortal locks; they’ll sail into Cooperstown on the first ballot without a problem. Alex Rodriguez should cruise right in on the first ballot as well, but some voters might give him the cold shoulder because he took performance-enhancing drugs once upon a time, and we all know those are scientifically proven to make baseball players better. Either way, I expect Alex to eventually get in just because his career is so long and so great. He’ll definitely wear a Yankees hat into the HoF as well.

After those three, the next best candidate is CC Sabathia, who is very likely to win his 200th career game before his 33rd birthday. He’s got the best shot at 300 wins of any active pitcher, and he’s also got a very good chance at 3,000 career strikeouts (2,017 right now). Even if Sabathia falls short of those two milestones — say 280 wins and 2,800 strikeouts instead of 300 and 3,000 — that’s still a HoF caliber career. If the big man stays healthy and the Yankees remain good enough to help him pad that win total, he’ll have himself a pretty damn good case for Cooperstown.

With 314 career homers, Mark Teixeira has an outside chance at 500 for his career, which would be a bit more meaningful for him because he’s a switch-hitter. Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504) are the only switch-hitters over 500, and Chipper Jones (454) is the only other one over 400. Like I said though, outside chance at that and also the HoF. Robinson Cano basically needs to have another five or six years like the last two to get serious HoF consideration, and that’s pretty much it on the active roster. Ask me again in five years and we’ll see what Jesus Montero is up too.

Nick asks: What’s your opinion on Rob Lyerly. Could he be the Yankees next Brandon Laird?

Let’s start with the easy stuff and compare the two using their basic career minor league stats…

The differences are obvious. Laird has hit for substantially more power while striking out less, and he has a much lower BABIP. Keep in mind that the minor league baselines for BABIP, LD%, LOB%, etc. are much different than what we’re used to seeing in the majors, so a .386 BABIP isn’t out of this world insane. Montero’s minor league BABIP is .341, and that’s pretty normal. Laird’s is a bit low while Lyerly’s a bit high.

The two are basically the same age (Laird is less than two months younger) but Laird is way ahead of Lyerly developmentally. He’s also a righty whereas Lyerly is a lefty, and he’s better defensively at the hot corner (and has outfield experience to boot). I’m actually kind of surprised that Lyerly has hit for so little power as a pro — 15 HR in 283 games after hitting 27 HR in 100 games his last two years in college — but I suppose wood bats will do that to guys tucked away in non-elite college conferences.

Ultimately, Lyerly is just another guy in the system, a fringe prospect at best unless he finds his power stroke with wood bats. He’ll start next year back at Double-A Trenton and likely serve as the regular third baseman, but he’ll have to add some power and make some more contact if he wants to carve out his career as a left-handed corner infield bench bat at the big league level.

Patrick asks: Not a Yankees question, per se, but an RAB question. I’m in permanent exile on the West Coast, having abandoned New Jersey for the sunny shores of California. I see the Yanks when I can at the Coliseum (7 games coming up this year!), and am a rabid devotee of both the team, and your site. I’m wondering if you have any data about readership- how many of your readers are in the TriState area around NYC? How many are from farther afield? Is there a significant California contingent? The Coliseum sure looks pretty blue when the Boys come to town…

We don’t have the data handy, but what you can do is look at the World Map feature in SiteMeter. The link is in the right-most sidebar at all times, right under the Work With Pete banner. The last 100 visitors is microcosm of the site’s readership, with most readers coming from New York and the rest of the East Coast, some from further west, and then a handful from overseas. Most of the overseas readers come from Asia, specifically Japan and South Korea, where they actually play organized baseball at a high level. Every so often there will be a hit from South America or Europe or Australia, and that’s pretty neat. If I ever come across some actual percentages, I’ll be sure to let you know in a future mailbag.

Four years later, revisiting the winter of Johan

For the Yankees, the off-season of 2007-2008 was practically the polar opposite of this year’s. That year, a good number of fans were rooting for the Yanks to do nothing whereas this year we’re rooting for them to do anything (as long as it’s sensible and short term). We didn’t want the Yanks to trade a package of pitchers centered around Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes for Johan Santana, and on a blustery night in February of 2008, we learned that the Mets, and not the Yanks, had secured the rights to Santana.

We staked out a position against a Santana trade. There was no doubt that Johan, a lefty, would have fit the Yanks’ needs, but he had a year remaining on his contract. According to the rumors, the Twins had asked for a lot for that one remaining season of team control, and the Yanks would have had to sign Santana to a lengthy contract as well. With CC Sabathia‘s free agency on the horizon and promising arms moving up the ranks of the farm system, we wanted the Yanks to wait, and they obliged.

Santana went to the Mets for a package of not much. Deolis Guerra hasn’t broken out of the minors yet while Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey aren’t pieces the Mets are missing. The Twins, it seems, were either willing to take less if it meant sending Santana to the NL or weren’t asking for the sky in the first place. The Mets gave Santana $137.5 million, and it kinda, sorta worked out for a little bit.

Over the first three years of his contract, Santana made 88 starts and had a 2.85 ERA for the Mets. Alarmingly, his strike out rate dipped by nearly 2 per 9 innings, and he has not made a professional appearance since September 2, 2010. Just three seasons into a six-year deal, Santana had to undergo shoulder surgery similar to Chien-Ming Wang‘s, and he’s still trying to make it back to the Mets’ mound.

On Thursday, Santana took the mound at Sun Life Stadium in Miami where he threw for teammates and reporters. Anthony DiComo was on hand, and he spoke with the Mets afterwards. They still do not know what the future holds for Santana. “How close is he going to be to where he was? I don’t know if anyone can tell,” manager Terry Collins said of his erstwhile ace.

Doctors too are cautious in their assessments. Santana was supposed to return last year but suffered through some setbacks. After a winter of rest, his arm either is ready now or may never be. “The beginning of next season is going to be telltale,” Dr. Jonathan Glashow said to DiComo. “After a long winter’s rest, if he’s not back to his level by Spring Training or beyond, I would be somewhat more pessimistic that he’ll ever get it.”

The Mets still owe Santana at least $54.5 million over the next two seasons, and had the Yanks made the move for Johan, fans would be screaming bloody murder over the dollars. Instead, the Mets are treated as the Mets. It was an expensive move that turned into an injury, and outside of the dollars, they didn’t lose much in terms of prospects. As Ian Kennedy turned into Curtis Granderson and a very respectable Major League pitcher and Phil Hughes has turned into an enigma, I’m still glad the Yanks never made that Santana trade. The price was just too high.

Open Thread: Ivan Nova

(Photo by Steve Ruark/Getty Images North America)

For all the talk about the Yankees’ inability to develop starting pitching over the last decade or so, they churned out a pretty good one in 2011. After a 42 IP cameo in 2010, Ivan Nova was handed a rotation spot in Spring Training last year and wound up being the team’s second best starter. He took his brief demotion to Triple-A like a champ and came back a better pitcher, finishing the year with a shiny 3.70 ERA and 4.01 FIP in 165.1 IP. His peripheral stats improved as the season went on as well.

Nova turns 25 years old today, making him the third youngest player on the projected Opening Day roster behind only Eduardo Nunez and Jesus Montero. Age is just a number though, and he’s arguably one of the five most important players on the team at the moment. If he continues to get some strikeouts with that improved slider and maintains his ground ball rate, the Yankees are going to have one hell of a cheap arm on their hands for the next five years.

* * *

Here is your open thread for this chilly evening in New York. The Rangers, Islanders, and Knicks are playing, so non-Time Warner customers can enjoy that. If you’re still without MSG like me, tough luck. Talk about whatever you like here, the thread is yours.

Once again, YES tops regional spots network ratings list

For the ninth year in a row, the YES Network was the most-watched regional sports network in the country in terms of total day delivery in its home market. That’s a fancy way of saying more New Yorkers watched YES every day in 2011 than any other city watched its regional network(s). You can click through for all the stats, but I’ll save you time by saying they basically blew everyone out of the water. They were first overall by a wide margin.

And just for the record, we are taking full credit for that 52% increase in YESNetwork.com traffic. What’d you think that banner up there was for, aesthetics?

On Cespedes and Soler

It’s been more than two months since Yoenis Cespedes burst onto our radar with the first of his two highlight videos, and we’re all impatiently waiting for him to be declared a free agent. That’s expected to happen sometime this month, and in an effort to boost his stock, the outfielder will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic according to Kevin Goldstein and Enrique Rojas. He’ll make his debut tonight, and this will allow teams to see him in actual game situations rather than a bunch of workouts.

We know the Yankees have some level of interest in Cespedes, after all you can see bench coach Tony Pena and pro scouting director Billy Eppler watching his workout at the 4:17 mark of the second video. However, lost among the Yu Darvish hoopla last month was a report from Marc Carig indicating that the Yankees are likely to pass on the outfielder’s services. He says they came away from the workout thinking he can be an everyday center fielder, but again price appears to be an issue. Cespedes was reported seeking an eight-year deal worth upwards of $60M earlier this winter.

Cespedes is not the only Cuban outfielder on the market though. There’s also 19-year-old Jorge Soler, another player who has grabbed the Yankees’ attention. Here’s what Jim Callis said about the kid a month ago (no subs. req’d) …

Six-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Soler has explosive bat speed and power potential. He also has plus speed and arm strength and profiles as a classic right fielder, though he runs well enough to play center. Because of his youth, he’ll need some time to develop, but he should be worth the wait.

[snip]

Soler is four years younger and more talented than Leonys Martin, another Cuban outfielder who signed a $15.6 million major league contract with the Rangers in April. Once Soler is cleared to sign with a major league team, he’s expected to top Martin’s deal.

A year ago John Manuel quoted a scout who said he has “explosive power,” and Callis said he would have been a top five pick had he been eligible for the 2010 draft. As far as I know there isn’t any video of him publicly available, so this is basically all we know about the kid. It’s not much less than we know about Cespedes, frankly.

The spending cap implemented by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t take effect until July 2nd, so Soler will be able to sign for whatever he wants before then. Cespedes is not subject to the cap because of his age, so he can sign for whatever he wants, whenever he wants. I’m not totally in love with the idea of signing the guy though, but I am intrigued by Soler since he’s so young. Assuming the reports are legit and he has that kind of talent, getting him into the farm system at that age and allowing him develop normally can have some very real benefits, even if they have to wait a few more years for the return.