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.