The 2011 New York Yankees All-Projection Team

Alex Rodriguez (AP)

Having taken a look at the 2011 ZiPS numbers for the Yankees’ hitters and pitchers, we’ve finally completed our tour of each of the major 2011 projection systems. What better way to encapsulate everything we’ve learned than by averaging out the results for the Yankees’ expected 2011 starting lineup and the pitchers vying for the starting rotation? I’ve excluded the bench and bullpen from this post, as I’ve generally found that projections for those players with less playing time aren’t particularly useful or informative.

The following tables show each player’s 2010 lines, followed by their 2011 projected line, which consists of the averages of the six major systems — Bill James, CAIRO, Oliver, Marcel, PECOTA and ZiPS. One thing that bears reiteration: I am fully aware that comparing each system is not apples-to-apples, given that neither Oliver nor Marcel are park-adjusted, and CAIRO’s wOBA doesn’t include baserunning; however, this exercise is primarily in good fun and not meant to be overly scientific or exact. Given the rather high projections from James’ system and the comically low projections from Oliver, I’ve found that the averages actually work out pretty much exactly where you’d expect them to be, although you can be the judge of that yourself. If you’re interested in taking a look at the complete worksheet that I created to compile the numbers for all six projection systems, please click here.

As I indicated above, for the most part, the average projections essentially mirror what I think a reasonable person would expect from these players. While I’m encouraged at Alex Rodriguez‘s strong showing in a couple of the systems, most notably CAIRO (.384 wOBA), which doesn’t tend to overrate anyone, I actually think the projection systems might be underrating Alex a tad. While we know baseball players historically don’t age well, we also know Alex is a rather special case, with few comparables. I see a player with a .387 career OBP and .571 SLG, and see that none of the projection systems expect him to get anywhere near those totals. After the down year he had in 2010, I don’t necessarily blame them, but as I pointed out earlier this offseason, I fully expect Alex to recover a decent portion of his missing OBP. Combined with the fact that shortly after Frankie Piliere’s fascinating piece on Alex’s mechanical problems A-Rod tore the cover off the ball from August 12 through the end of the season (.293/.361/.621 with 12 home runs over 133 PAs), along with the reports coming out of camp that Alex is finally 100% healthy — having shed 10 pounds and been able to get back to his usual rigorous offseason training routine — I expect we could see some additional power from ‘Rod as well.

I still think the various projection systems are penalizing Robinson Cano too severely for his poor 2008, and think he’s far more likely to repeat a .389 wOBA thank fall into the low-.360s, and I would also be surprised to see Nick Swisher fall out of the .370s after two straight superb seasons. Jorge Posada‘s average projected line seems about right, even though it’s weighed down by Oliver’s goofy .247/.335/.422 line. Curtis Granderson has an opportunity to make a lot of prognosticators look foolish if he’s able to build on the strides he made against lefthanded pitching in a small sample size at the end of the season last year. Additionally, while there are those that like to scoff at September numbers, Granderson still finished the season in impressive fashion, and given that the Yankees were fighting for their playoff lives for much of the season’s final month they can thank Curtis and his .411 September wOBA for bailing them out.

I also think most of the systems are underrating Brett Gardner, although I understand why, given that he only has one solid season under his belt. A fully healthy Gardy should do a reasonable job replicating the player that hit .321/.403/.418 through June 27 before getting hit on the hand against the Dodgers, rather than the one that hit .232/.363/.340 from that point through the rest of the season.

And what else is left to say about Jesus Montero? His most conservative projection by far comes from CAIRO (.261/.326/.446), and if you remove CAIRO his average SLG rises from .487 to .498. A seemingly unanimous top-five prospect, the only question remaining regarding Montero’s offensive game is not if he’s going to hit but when the Yankees are going to let him do so.

A quick run of the 2011 average projected numbers through Baseball Musings’ Lineup Analysis tool gives us a starting nine projected to average 5.438 runs per game. This is a tad lower than the 5.584 runs per game the Lineup Analysis spit out when using the Yankees’ 2011 CAIRO projections, but it’s still a robust number any way you slice it. If you sub Montero in for Martin you get 5.543 runs per game.

CC Sabathia is scheduled for another one of his typically beast performances, and could even outperform these high expectations after reporting to camp lighter and also with an eye on perhaps exercising that fateful opt-out clause to grab even more cash from a Yankee team that will basically have to hand him a blank check if he does in fact attempt to re-test the waters. If Phil Hughes can get both the ERA and FIP below 4.00 (not to mention slice his HR/9 by 0.20), it would certainly represent an improvement, although if Phil can finally develop the elusive third pitch, be it a more effective curveball or changeup, he could finally come closer to reaching the ace-level plateau many of us have been dreaming he’d get to ever since he was drafted in 2004. A.J. Burnett projects to be less bad by everyone, although his 4.50 average ERA isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring, and the rest of the presumed leading rotation candidates are a fairly motley-looking crew on paper. If Freddy Garcia can hit those numbers I suppose he’d be a serviceable fifth starter, although a 4.61 ERA to go with a matching 4.61 FIP is pretty blah. As I said the other day in the ZiPS projections post, I expect the Yankees will get some unexpected help from more than one arm this coming season, and I wouldn’t read too much into the numbers you see here.

After all is said and done, the conclusions are more or less the same. The Yankees probably have a top-two offense, but question marks abound regarding the starting pitching, while the bullpen will remain a string suit. The uncertainty in the rotation has been the primary source of consternation for Yankee fans all winter long, and understandably so, but I certainly wouldn’t count the 2011 Yankees out by any stretch of the imagination, and I think they’ll be right in the thick of the chase for the AL East crown down to the bitter end.

9 thoughts on “The 2011 New York Yankees All-Projection Team

  1. T.O Chris

    No one has yet been able to give me a legit answer as to why we “have to give (him) a blank check” if Sabthia opts out, in actuallity we get to take control of the situation and walk away from an aging Sabathia who’s best days are clearly behind him on what would be a 7 year deal.

    Yes the rotation will be bad, however that is only if everything stays as is which certainly is not likely to look the same come ST next year, a trade of some magnitude will take place in the middle of the season and if the Yankees are in some way able to snag a Liriano, Josh Johnson, Brett Anderson type of pitcher from somebody then it really means we have no reason to re-commit to a still 300 pound 31+ year old pitcher.

    Everyone acts like the Yankees simply can’t use a year as a bridge season when 2008 was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to our players, front office and coaching staff.

    Realisticly no team can give Sabathia the money we just gave him on his last deal, with the Red Sox and Phillies full and the Mets and Dodgers hurting it leaves only Texas and the Angels and I don’t see the Halo’s throwing that kind of money on an aging pitcher, Texas is someone you would have to watch out for but honestly I really wouldn’t be worried if CC went to Texas and I really doubt they would pay him as much as 24 a year.

    If he wants to opt out and take less to leave then fine he can make a dumb decison but no other team can give him a raise therefore we don’t have to bid against ourselves, in the end if he leaves he looks stupid and we look like a real front office.

    • Chris,

      In a vacuum, the idea of letting Sabathia walk assuming he opts out is definitely compelling. Why tie another $100 million-plus up into a pitcher into his late-30s? I can see the argument for trying to flesh the rotation out with some of the young pitchers the team has been developing, and on a personal level I’d be fine with it, but on a business level I just don’t not giving Sabathia whatever he wants making sense.

      Sabathia will still just be 30 after this season, arguably still in the prime of his career, and one of the surest things in baseball. There’s a lot to be said for knowing that you can essentially count on 7 innings of three-runs-or-less ball every five days. No one else in the Yankee organization can be counted on like that right now. The other aspect of the equation is that it’s only money. We all like to get up in arms when the Yankees ponder trading for an elite pitcher because of the cost in prospects, but re-signing Sabathia will only require cash, something the team has in abundance. Taking into consideration the way the Yankees organization runs on the business end of the equation, I just don’t think they can afford not to re-sign Sabathia

      • Tom Swift

        There are risks for both sides if CC opts out. In addition, CC will take a PR hit, even if he ends up re-signing with the Yanks. That makes me think that the optimal solution for both sides is CC relinquishing the opt out during the season for one or two additional years at the same AAV.

  2. It’s like our brains are connected, Larry. I also think Cano, Swish, C-Grand, and Gardner can and will outperform their projections. I don’t see Jeter quite living up to his, but even so, this should be a monster offense again this season if A-Rod and Teix even slightly improve on the 2010 numbers.

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