So What's Changed: Take 2

Bat Fld Rep Pos RAR WAR
3-season Fangraph Old Yanks 101.7 -5.5 113.2 -52.2 157.2 15.6
New Yanks 133.4 6.9 112.1 -17.5 235.0 23.3
Bat Fld Rep Pos RAR WAR
5-season Fangraph Old Yanks 167.5 -34.5 188.7 -60.0 261.7 26.0
New Yanks 164.3 22.3 168.5 -30.9 324.3 32.1

Note: for the purposes of this calculation, I zeroed the fielding component of both Matsui and Johnson. This hurts Johnson in the comparison, as he’s not a bad defender, while Matsui is absolutely awful, but given that we were looking at either of them as purely the DH, it gives us a clearer picture of value going forward. I also include an adjustment (discussed after the chart) of the “Rep” column, as it can bias the data pretty significantly if not accounted for.

So what does this show? Over the last five seasons, the new Yankee duo has been worth roughly 6.1 wins above average more than the old Yankee duo–about 1.2 wins per season. The old Yankee team is also significantly helped by playing time (“Rep”), which doesn’t help project going forward. I’d suggest that 2 wins should be removed from the old Yankees line in the five-year view (nothing in the three-year though), which would tick the new duo up to an improvement of 1.9 wins a season. I won’t kick this horse too hard, as we’ve already discussed how this shift (especially including change in contractual obligations) has tremendously advantaged the Yankees. Over the previous three years, this becomes even more clear, as Matsui and Damon began to slip and Johnson and Granderson got better–leading to a total of 7.7 win differential over that time period. That’s a marginal upgrade of 2.6 wins a season!

If you want to see how they did in their slash lines, just to compare to this, I’ll refer you to my previous post which can be found here.

So things look pretty rosey for the Yankees–but it’s all relative right? Let’s take a look at the statistical changes the Red Sox have made, as they’ve jettisoned Jason Bay and Alex Gonzalez in favor of Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro.

AVG OBP SLG OPS
3-season B-R Old Sox 0.262 0.338 0.457 0.795
New Sox 0.258 0.344 0.417 0.761
AVG OBP SLG OPS
5-season B-R Old Sox 0.267 0.344 0.466 0.810
New Sox 0.260 0.343 0.425 0.768

First the good old fashioned slash lines. [B-R stands for baseball-reference.com, simply because that’s where I pulled the numbers from.] From a slash line perspective, this move wasn’t great for the RedSox at all–as before, blue numbers are better and black numbers are worse. The lineup has taken a hit. Except these don’t take a number of things into account, including playing time (these are rate statistics, not counting statistics) and defense. When you add those into the equation, the RedSox future gets mighty shiny rather quickly:

Bat Fld Rep Pos RAR WAR
3 season Fangraph Old Sox 24.9 -18.5 81.2 -0.90 86.8 8.6
New Sox 33.1 16.4 114.5 18.5 182.3 18.1
Bat Fld Rep Pos RAR WAR
5 season Fangraph Old Sox 31.1 -38.5 154.2 -3.8 143.2 14.2
New Sox 62.3 11.4 175.2 25.8 274.5 27.1

And there we have it. The new Sox have been worth 9.5 wins more than the old Sox over the past three years, and 12.9 wins more than the old Sox over the past five years. This is delivered almost entirely on the strength of defense (turns out Jason Bay destroys a lot of his value in the field), and Alex Gonzalez’s playing time. To adjust for this, we can remove the added WAR created by the “Rep” column (which is a tick above two wins in the five-year pairing, and a tick above 3 wins in the three-year pairing). So what this really comes out to is that the Sox have improved to the tune of 2.3 wins per season (in the three-year lookback) and 2.2 wins per season (in the five-year lookback).

Now, some caveats: This isn’t a perfect analysis (though so few are). Issues include the forced move of Melky/Gardner/Ellsbury to LF which drops the value to both teams (roughly equally, though, as it’ll all show up equal in the “Pos” column); the “Rep” adjustment discussed above, which doesn’t take into account added value in the field or with the bat based on the added time (if we’d had a way to adjust for this, it would have made the Yankees look a bit better, as their new duo has had less playing time, compared to the RedSox’ new duo which has had more); we didn’t get into the Mike Lowell situation, as the outcome is so unclear; there was no discussion of the Lackey acquisition, which makes the Sox that much more dangerous; etc.

All this analysis is trying to do is to discuss the marginal wins added by the Yankees position player changes, relative to the RedSox position player changes. As I live in New York (and hang out with mostly Yankee fans, the riff-raff that we are), I’ve heard a lot of talk about how the Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron are garbage acquisitions by the Sox, and won’t make up for the loss of Bay.

While I’m not going to pencil either team in for those marginal win increases in 2010 just yet, this data suggests that the RedSox did indeed improve, and significantly so. And much like the Yankees, they managed to pair this improvement with getting both younger and cheaper. While the Yankees got the shinier name in Curtis Granderson, the RedSox picked up a relatively similar amount of value (and maybe this analysis shows why I had such a mancrush on Mike Cameron.)

The AL East just got that much better. Sorry, Tampa.

Will is a lifelong New Yorker and Yankees fan who splits his time between finance, music, and baseball. He was one of the early contributors to IIATMS, though life took him away for some time. He is very excited to be back.