The ’98 Empire Strikes Back

His production far outstrips what even the most optimistic Yankee fan could hope to expect from Curtis Granderson, even when we factor in Bernie’s defensive shortcomings.  Sean Smith and BR.com agree that Bernie was roughly 14 runs below average that year.  But Smith’s version of WAR factors this in when it pegs Bernie as a 6 win player in ’98.  Granderson has topped that just once, and has (according to FanGraphs) never topped 3.7 wins in any other season, even with his defense factored in.

Like Williams, Paul O’Neill decisively played better than Nick Swisher ever has before, let alone what he is projected to do in ’10.  And while we need to dock Bernie points for his defense, Paul O’Neill was a terrific RF in ’98, according to BR.com’s Fielding Runs Above Average, saving the Yankees 11 runs.  Swisher, meanwhile, saved the Yankees just 5 with his glove.  Curtis and Gardner look like a wash, as both provide middling offense but stellar defense in LF.  And at Designated Hitter, the trio of Daryl Strawberry, Chili Davis, and Tim Raines collectively outshone what Nick Johnson is likely to do, even if he manages to stay on the field for the full year.

So who had the better offense?  Well, it seems that, actually, the teams are relatively well matched.  Look at the following chart, that examines at all of all the wOBP totals added together:

Pos 1998 / 2010
C .351 .358
1B .369 .395
2B .345 .353
3B .367 .403
SS .385 .359
LF .329 .333
CF .423 .360
RF .384 .357
DH ~.365 .363
Total 3.318 / 3.281

Now, I realize this is somewhat troublesome, in that wOBP is a ratio stat.  But given that the numerators and denominators all match one another, I figure this is a rough way to guestimate at the level that each team can play at.  And it seems like they come off awfully similar.  Indeed, the mean difference is just four points of wOBP per postion.  But if anything, it’s clear that the ’98 Yankees come out on top, and we’re not even counting their superior bench, which boasted Shane Spencer (wOBP .531) and whichever of Raines (wOBP .356) and Strawberry (wOBP .375) happened to not be in the lineup that day.  Also, we’re not looking at defense, which helped the Yankees significantly in ’98, and will be included in our discussion of the pitching and run prevention.

Let the debate continue…

2 thoughts on “The ’98 Empire Strikes Back

  1. Serge V

    You miscalculated Tim Raines's OPS.  It should be .778 which significantly brings down the DH's overall numbers for that year.

  2. TCM, I'm listening to opening day at Target Field over MLB radio.  Sounds like a great day to be a Twins fan.  Especially given that today, the Twins are the second favorite team of most Yankees fans (me particularly).

    Just a quick point that it may not be fair to compare the 1998 and 2010 Yankees benches.  Wasn't it the case that teams carried one or two fewer pitchers back then?  If so, then of course the 1998 bench would have been deeper.  I cannot find a 25-man opening day roster for the 1998 Yanks, but I think they carried 10 pitchers.  The 2010 version carries 12.

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