I Guess My Best Wasn’t Good Enough

Posada ’98 .351 .268 .350 .475 .825
Posada ’10 .358 .272 .356 .465 .821
Tino .369 .281 .355 .505 .860
Teixeira .395 .290 .381 .542 .923
Knoblauch .345 .265 .361 .405 .766
Cano .353 .301 .340 .482 .822
Brosius .367 .300 .371 .472 .843
Arod .403 .284 .385 .548 .923
Jeter ’98 .385 .324 .384 .481 .871
Jeter ’10 .359 .304 .374 .432 .806

Some relevant notes:

Jeter in 1998 from the cover of GQ and Jeter in 2009 from the Daily Sports News
  • The difference between Posada in ’98 and ’10 projects to be almost nothing.  We’re talking about 7 points of wOBA and 4 points of OPS.  This is a negligible difference.
  • As Will points out, while Tino was a good player, there is no comparison between him and Mark Teixeira.  Tex is just far superior with the bat.

  • Knoblauch is helped significantly by his 21 point advantage in OBP over Cano’s projection.  But Cano’s outlier in 2008 is probably skewing these projections.  Asidefrom that season, Cano hasn’t had an OBP below .350 since his rookie campaign.  I would actually give Cano a bit of an edge here.  However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that, according to Baseball Prospectus, Knoblauch’s was worth 6 wins in ’98.  Cano’s career high is 6.0, and it’s from last year.

  • A moment of respect for Scott Brosius, who had some terrific years before age took its toll.  ARod blows him away on offense.

  • Derek Jeter’s ’98 easily beats his projection, and while I would love to trumpet that, I have a hard time believing Jeter will fall off that much from his .378 wOBA in 2010.  I think Jeter’s going to end up somewhere around .370. Still, it’s exceedingly likely that a 24 year old Derek Jeter is likely to perform better than a 36 year old Jeter.

Taking defense into account is difficult, given that our best metrics did not exist in 1998 and we don’t really have a reliable way to project defensive performance going forward.  That said, we can’t ignore defensive performance either.  I’ll get into this more with our next post, but for now, I want to make the following observations:

  • A-Rod has been trending downward as a 3B for years.  According Fielding Runs Above Average on both Fangraphs and BR.com, he was terrible in 2006 (BR.com says he was terrible in 2005 too, Fangraphs is lukewarm), rebounded in 2007, and has steadily dropped since (how much of that was due to his hip problems, I don’t know, but I don’t think we can cavalierly assume he’s going to get a lot better either). Meanwhile, Scott Brosius was an elite fielding 3B who was still in his prime in 1998.  According to BR.com, the difference between ARod in 2009 and Brosius is 22 runs over 150 games.
  • Jeter was, indeed, a good defensive SS last year, as his offseason conditioning program seemed to make a huge difference in Jeter’s range.  But I don’t think we can reasonably expect a 36 year old to outperform his 24 year old doppelganger.

Knoblauch as a Twin, because I’m still bitter.
  • Let’s not rag on Knoblauch’s defense too much for his throwing problems.  As Will mentioned, Knobby’s troubles didn’t show up until later.  In 1998, he was still the same, fundamentally sound, excellent defensive 2B he had been with the Twins the year earlier.  His fielding problems were mental, and they didn’t crop up until 1999.  According to UZR, Cano has been a liability at 2B every season except 2007.  Actually, I would give the advantage to Knoblauch here (note: ’99 and ’00, after Knoblauch developed the Yips, are a different story).

There is a significant difference between the 2010 Yankees infield and the 1998 squad, and as a whole the 2010 squad comes out on top (barring significant injury).  But, while decisive, the difference is not nearly as substantial as Will would like you to believe.  Offensively, yes, the Yankees are significantly better at 1B and 3B, and probably have a slight edge at 2B and SS, but that advantage is mitigated somewhat by the defensive prowess of Scotty Brosius and Chuck Knoblauch.  Because we can’t reliably compare defensive numbers, however, it’s impossible to quantify the difference between the teams, and we’re left to speculate.

You win this round, Will, but we’ve got a lot more to talk about.

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