The bulk of my recent posts have criticized Baseball Prospectus‘ PECOTA projections for the 2010 season. In short, I don’t agree. But, to paraphrase my sister, anyone can hate but it takes a real (stupid?) man to put it on the line. So, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and putting my personal projections for the 2010 Yankees on your screen.
Except, I’m stopping short of making precise predictions. I won’t actually give exact number estimates of where I think a player will perform. Hence the title of this post, which took me a while to settle on.
There are many risks to making exact projections for anything, let alone baseball. Two come to mind quickly. First, it’s pointless. If I say Derek Jeter will hit .325 and he hits .315 odds are come this November I’ll brag that I nailed the projection, which brings me to the second risk. I would be correct in my assertion that because projections are never precise they are actually based on ranges. Statistics produce these ranges by design. PECOTA itself uses them. On the subscription portion of its site BP posts a full range of performance projections for a player and the corresponding probability they’ll put up that level of performance.
I’m taking a low-tech approach to these numerically informed opinions on what to expect from the 2010 Yankees. Three things are used to make these projections: 1) A player’s career performance, which is the best set of data anyone has to project a player’s future performance. 2) A player’s performance in the most recent season, which is the best indicator of whether a player is trending up or down. 3) Gut, which isn’t so dangerous if numbers 1 and 2 are given the weight they deserve.
Without further ado …
Rumors of Jorge’s demise have been greatly exaggerated over the years. Is he old? You bet he is. Does he play a physically demanding position? Not well, but yes, technically he does play that position badly 130 games a year or so. Has he shown any signs of slowing down? No, he hasn’t.
Jorge has posted the following OPS+’s in 2007 and 2009, his last full seasons: 153 and 133. Jorge did come down to Earth in 2008, but he was injured, played in only 51 games and still managed a .340 wOBA. Someday, perhaps soon, Jorge won’t be able to catch for the Yankees, but next season is not the year. Posada has shown no reason to believe he is due for a precipitous drop off in 2010.
I expect Jorge to post plus or minus 5% of the following line in 2010: .277/.363/.480. This is a conservative projection. Those are his career batting average and slugging (each of which is lower than what he produced in 2009) and his 2009 OBP, which is lower than his career OBP.
Tex is going to have a monster year. Much has been made of the monster year Mark had in 2009. That’s usually what happens when you lead the league in home runs (sorry, Carlos) and RBI. But a funny thing happened on the way to 39 bombs and 122 runners knocked in: Tex had his worst season since 2006.
A lot of this is splitting hairs. Tex has posted the following wOBAs in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively: .406, .410, .402. I’ll take any one of those seasons, and his drop off in ’09 is statistical noise at worst. But it happened. Tex exceeded all expectations in 2009 but still posted his lowest BA, OBP and slugging of his last three seasons.
Based on that information I’m willing to suggest that Mark will improve on the .292/.383/.565 he posted in 2009. I’ll stop short of trying to estimate the exact performance level, but I do believe he’ll approach a .300 BA and a .400 OBP. He’ll have a year in the Bronx under his belt, an entire season of A-Rod batting behind him and the pressure of winning a World Series lifted from his shoulders. If that’s not worth 17 OBP points then what is?
I don’t believe Robbie will be as good in 2010 as he was in 2009. These are his seasonal wOBAs, in order: .337, .377, .358, .307 (yuck), .370.
Until 2009, Cano had gotten progressively worse each season since 2006, when he hit .342. I like Robinson, but I can’t argue for the use of statistical trends when I feel a player on the Yankees is being sold short and then turn around and ignore those same arguments myself when they suggest a player on the Yankees will decline.
Here’s what we know about Robbie: He has the sweetest swing on the bombers. He does not like playing in the cold and is possibly the slowest starter in baseball. He turns it on every year in the second half. His aggregate splits pre- and post-All Star break from ’07-’09 are .276/.314/.426 and .329/.367/.534. Its like he’s two different players, and only one of them is any good.
Until Robbie proves that he won’t have a slow start to the season we have to assume he will. So long as he does have such volatility during the season he hurts his value and makes it difficult to project his performance. I’m comfortable arguing that he’ll post somewhere between his career line of .306/.339/.480 and 5% below it, which is still excellent. Anything better is gravy.
A-Rod’s projections on other sites are all strong, but his injuries in ’08 and ’09 appear to influence them negatively. Prior to 2008 he had played in at least 148 games every season since 2000. He missed games in both ’08 and ’09 with leg injuries. Now that his hip is healed I’m willing to suggest that A-Rod will be back to his durable old self in 2010.
But I’m actually going to go one further and say that A-Rod will be superhuman again in 2010. The numbers suggest it. He seems to alternate bad (for him — bad for him) to amazing season by season with the Yankees. In ’04 his wOBA was .385 and in ’05 it was .438. In ’06 it was .391 and in ’07 it was .449. If the trend had continued A-Rod would have competed for the MVP in ’09, except he got hurt (and was still impressive). Over a full season in 2010 I believe he’ll compete with Mauer for the MVP.
Numbers aren’t the only reason I believe this. From watching A-Rod play I’ve come to believe that he DOES respond poorly to pressure. His 500th homer is an excellent example. The only time he went into a slump in ’07 was when he was trying to get a hold of that one. Once it was in the rearview mirror he took off again.
The results are still amazing, but I do believe the pressure was diminishing his output. That pressure is gone. A-Rod has achieved the following:
1) He’s proven he’s clutch.
2) He’s finally won the admiration of the New York fans (something he should have always had, but hey).
3) The steroids issue is out in the open and seemingly behind him.
4) He’s dating A-listers and can hang with Jeter.
5) He won a ring.
Now that A-Rod doesn’t have anything to worry about I’m predicting something along the lines of his 2005 campaign: 45+ homers, a ton of RBI, and a line around .315/.410/.625. You read it here first.
Derek is another player on the Yankees whose demise has been incorrectly forecast, again and again. BP, for example, projects Derek to post a .298/.373/.432 on its website (it has published something different in its book), which would be better than 2008, but among his worst seasons ever.
I know many people who feel that Derek is going to put on another clinic in 2010 because it’s a contract year. I actually don’t believe this. For another player, sure, but not Jeter. He’s one of the few athletes who I genuinely believe is motivated every season by his legacy and championships. The money is a lesser way to keep score, and not something he needs.
With that in mind, I’ll take his career line of .317/.388/.459. He is a year older and unlikely to repeat his stellar 2009, but other projections seem to completely ignore the fact that other than 2008 he has hit at least .309 each season since 2005 and was injured in 2008. He’s showed no signs of slowing down when he’s healthy and could easily put up numbers that are better than his career averages.
No 9th hitter has received more attention in the history of baseball. If this were any other team in any other situation everyone would shrug and move on. But it’s the Yankees and Gardner is replacing Johnny Damon after Damon posted his best season in pinstripes.
No one knows what Gardner is going to do next season. He could hit .200. He could hit .300. This is his first full season as a starter. When Gardner did play last season he exceeded expectations, posting .270/.345/.379 and using his incredible speed to make up for his lack of power.
I happen to feel that Gardner will do just fine. For him, it’s all about OBP. I predict a range of .325 on the low end to .365 if he really excels. Until there is more data I’m sticking with the broad range.
Here’s one that BP gets right, although forecasting a comeback for Curtis Granderson in his first season in the Bronx is hardly going out on a limb. Here’s what BP says in its book, according to RAB: .268/.351/.491 with 28 bombs. In his career he’s averaged .272/.344/.484, so BP is doing something I hope they’d do more often: paying attention to what a player has done throughout his career.
Swisher has played five full seasons in MLB, and posted the following wOBAs, in order: .331, .368, .361, .325, .375. There are two ways to look at these data. One way is to argue that in two of the 5 seasons he hasn’t been very good. A better way to look at the data would be to argue that since his first season he’s been consistent, with the exception of 2008, when his BABIP fell from .301 to .249, before bouncing back to .272 last year.
Although Swisher may not hit 29 homers again, he still figures to be solid in 2010. I think he’ll post something between his career line of .245/.351/.460 and his 2009 line of .249/.371/.498. Along with Nick Johnson he’ll infuriate pitchers, driving up their counts, knocking one out on a regular basis, and always playing his heart out.
I’m far from the first prognosticator to say this, but the real question isn’t whether or not Johnson will perform back in the Boogie Down but how long he will be able to perform. When he’s healthy he’s a perennial threat to post a .400 OBP. If he can get into at least 125 games I think we can expect his career line of .273/.402/.447, with more upside potential if he can adequately use the short porch in right. Hopefully the team keeps him healthy.
CC’s season reminded me of Tex’s. Was it great? You bet it was. Was it also his worst season in the past few years? Well, yeah. Since 2006, CC posted the following ERA+’s: 139, 141, 157, 127. I’ll take any one of those four, but I’d still take them in an order and his 2009 127 ERA+ is my least favorite.