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.


Just a quick heads up, I’ll be batting lead off on Mike Silva’s New York Baseball Digest Show tonight at 8:00. Topics will include questions about the 2011 Yanks, the mutual lurking on Liriano, our crazy uncle Hank, Joba’s fastball and my take on the civil war in Libya. OK, maybe not that last one.  Two guys hanging out, talking baseball and you’re invited to listen or call in.  Click here to listen live or hear the segment as an archive.

TYA Trivia Open Thread For 2-27-11

Yesterday’s question: In 2010, Brett Gardner was tied (with Carl Crawford) for 3rd in the AL in Stolen Bases with 47. Give me the six Yankees who have led the American League in stolen bases a total of 11 times since 1914.

Answers: Fritz Maisel (1914) Ben Chapman (1931-1933) Frankie Crosetti (1938) Snuffy Sternweiss (1944-45) Ricky Henderson (1985, 86, 88) and Alfonso Soriano (2002)

Today’s Trivia Question: The Yankees have three rookie pitchers in camp (Brackman, Betances, Banuelos) that project as front of the rotation starters. Name the three Yankee pitchers that have won the American League Rookie of the Year award since its inception in 1949.

The 25th Man: Eric Chavez?

Joel Sherman checked in this morning with a blurb about the Yankees’ final roster spot:

You have the 12-man staff. You have a set nine-man lineup (again assuming no injuries) comprised of Russell Martin, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada. That gets you to 21 of the 25 players. Andruw Jones will be the main backup outfielder. That is 22. There will be a backup catcher, which almost certainly comes down to Francisco Cervelli vs. Jesus Montero. That is 23. One utility player must be able to play shortstop, which means Ramiro Pena vs. Eduardo Nunez. That is 24.

So that would give the Yankees one spot to essentially pick a skill they want. Eric Chavez could offer lefty power. Brandon Laird could offer righty power. Greg Golson or Justin Maxwell could offer an athletic, righty-hitting outfielder. The loser of the Pena vs. Nunez battle could stick for a combination of speed and multi-positional ability.

If I were a betting man, I would go with Chavez. Of course, that is tenuous since Chavez has been hurt so often in his career. But if he can survive in this camp, Chavez gives the Yankees the chance to have that left power, plus a strong defender at third, which would more comfortably allow Joe Girardi to give Alex Rodriguez rest days as the DH without having an empty bat at the position, such as Pena.

Chavez seems to be emerging as the favorite for the last roster spot, and I heard Sweeny Murti state on WFAN last week that the Yankees want Chavez to win the spot. When looking at both offense and defense, you can see that Chavez is likely the most balanced of the various candidates for the final roster slot. As Sherman notes, Chavez should be able to provide the Yankees with solid defense at 3rd base when starting in place of A-Rod, while other options such as Ronnie Belliard and Brandon Laird are suspect defensively. At the plate, Chavez should be able to provide more offense than Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez, which makes him a better fit than them for a spot that should be getting a start at least once a week.

The problem with Chavez, of course, is his inability to stay healthy. He has played in 64 games over the last 3 seasons, and only played in 90 in 2007. While he claims to be healthy now and the Yankees seem fairly optimistic about his ability to stay on the field, I would be far from shocked if he went down with an injury and the Yankees had to select another player as A-Rod’s caddy. If that did happen, I would expect Laird or Belliard to win that job, as it seems like the Yankees want a bit more offense from that position than they got from the Pena/Nunez duo last season. Only a poor showing by Chavez, Laird, and Belliard would allow the loser of the Pena/Nunez battle to make the team. Of course, if by some minor miracle Chavez makes it through camp in one piece, expect all of this to become moot, as it seems to be his job to lose.

The 2011 ZiPS Projections: Yankee Offense and Pitching

Mark Teixeira (Sabo/News)

This offseason I’ve taken you through every major projection system I could get my hands on: shortly after the World Series we looked at Bill James’ expectedly optimistic projections; SG’s pragmatic CAIRO projections; THT’s rather pessimistic non-park adjusted Oliver projections; Tango’s slightly-less-dire-than-Oliver non-park adjusted Marcel projections; and PECOTA’s reasonable, CAIRO-esque projections.

Today we finally tackle the last of the major projection systems; Dan Szymborski’s park-adjusted ZiPS. While no more or less accurate than any of the other forecasts, I do have a certain fondness for ZiPS as Fangraphs carries daily updated Rest-of-Season (RoS) and end-of-season ZiPS forecasts throughout the baseball season.

Here’s what Szymborski has to say about the 2011 Yankees:

“As anybody can see, the Yankees have a championship-caliber offense. There’s little question about the abilities of any of their starters and if Jesus Montero were a few years younger, ZiPS would be seized by the Robot Enforcement Authority and deleted as a sex crime offender. The Yankees will need the bats. To say the Yankee pitching, especially the starters, is top-heavy is a pretty big understatement. As top-heavy goes, it’s more ‘Joba Chamberlain wearing 10-gallon hat filled with gravy riding piggyback on David Samson’s shoulders on a unicycle’ type. If Sabathia is Citizen Kane, the prospective 4th and 5th starters are Meet the Spartans 2: The Lycians Go to Band Camp developed by your idiot cousin and his troglodytic moonshine-buddies and filmed in pitch black with a video phone from 2006. Don’t even think about what happens if Sabathia or Hughes or (!) Burnett go on the DL for any reason. It’s actually a little worse than the lines below given that Pettitte is retired and neither Banuelos or Betances, even if relatively competent to pitch in the majors now, shouldn’t be rushed. The Yankees do have enough firepower that they’ll be in the thick of things, but I think the Yankees, like the Rays, are a clear step behind the Red Sox right now.”

While Dan is probably overstating the Yankees’ back-end of the rotation problems just a tad, I don’t think anyone would disagree with the Rays and Yanks being a step behind Boston at the present time.

Here’s what ZiPS holds in store for the 2011 Yankee offense:

For the most part this table should be greeted with smiles. ZiPS — like just about every other system we’ve looked at this offseason — likes both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to bounce back from their down years, with A-Rod leading the team in slugging and Tex in on-base percentage. While this isn’t quite the elite level of offensive production we’ve come to expect from the Yankees during the last decade — if you scan through the last 10 years of Yankee rosters on Baseball-Ref, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more than one starter below an OPS+ of 100 — it’s still a robust heart of the order, and if Jeter can get his OBP above .360 (I know a lot of his OBP is tied up in his batting average, but is this really too much to ask of a hitter with a career .385 OBP, even one on the wrong side of 35?) and SLG above .400, he’ll at least be back above league average. The only two potential weak spots are Russell Martin and Brett Gardner, and while the former has a fair amount to prove after three straight years of declining performance, I think the latter has a decent chance to outperform his projection, especially now that he finally has a fully healed hand. Oh, and perhaps the most enjoyable component of this chart? Jesus Montero projects to be the fifth-best hitter on the team (at least by OPS+) in a robust 539 at-bats.

Pretty much about what we’d expect to see on the pitching side of the ledger. CC Sabathia is of course projected to be a beast, while ZiPS likes Phil Hughes to improve slightly on his 2010, but not overwhelmingly so. A.J. Burnett projects to be league average, and when you’re in league average territory by your third starter, that’s a bit of a scary sign. ZiPS hates Ivan Nova, which seems to be a recurring theme among projection systems, but there’s no way he’ll be allowed to throw 150 innings of 5.29 ERA ball, so I’m not terribly concerned. I’ve sorted the remainder of the hypothetical starting pitching candidates by projected ERA, although of course Dellin Betances — who ZiPS likes best among this particular grouping — won’t be starting the season in the big leagues, and is unlikely to see any action in the Bronx at all. ZiPS isn’t quite as high on Manny Banuelos as just about everyone else in the world is, although a projected 4.92 ERA (90 ERA+) for a kid a few weeks shy of turning 20 and who’s never pitched above AA seems pretty special, especially when you compare it to what ZiPS thinks about everyone else in that table.

The bullpen, as expected, looks beastly on paper, and could be even better if luck smiles on Joba Chamberlain in the form of a slightly lowered BABIP, which was the 6th-highest among AL relievers last season.

In any event, I basically echo Szymborski’s assessment of an elite offense with questionable pitching, but unlike Szymborski I think the Yankee pitching staff will get help from some unexpected places this season and will end up surprising a lot of the naysayers.

UPDATED: Montero, Betances, to Play Today

Brett Gardner LF

Nick Swisher RF

Curtis Granderson CF

Jorge Posada DH

Eric Chavez 1b

Jesus Montero C

Eduardo Nunez 2b

Ronnie Belliard 3b

Ramiro Pena SS

Ivan Nova SP

Also scheduled to pitch; Sergio Mitre, Boone Logan, Dellin Betances

Update: Belliard has apparently been scratched due to a calf issue. Brandon Laird will still at 3rd base.

Sunday Notes and Commentary

This time of year, there’s so many little items that don’t require a full post but are interesting nonetheless. For the items that catch my eye, I’ll fold them into one weekend post where I can weigh in on them and we can discuss them further in the comment section. With that being said, here the first installment of Sunday Notes:

-Joba was hitting 94 on the gun yesterday. That’s significant. If you recall the past few springs, Joba has been a notoriously slow starter, usually sitting in the high 80s-low 90s this time of year. I hope he’s not pushing himself too hard too soon, trying to prove something after all the weight reports this spring. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Joba credited the work he’s done with Larry Rothschild on his delivery, and said he hasn’t been that high on the gun this early in the past 5 years. While it looked like he was throwing the ball free and easy with his new delivery, Joba said “it felt like I was throwing bowling balls, to be honest with you”. If there’s a lot more there (and I suspect there is) as he gets his arm in shape, watch out.

Terrific piece by Steve Goldman over at PB where he debunks the idea that ‘rushing pitchers’ to MLB hurts their development. To be clear, I always think its best to let a player’s performance dictate when he’s promoted. But the idea that players get ruined by being rushed to the bigs is something that always struck me as unprovable, and simply an attempt to blame the organization for a guy who was most likely never good enough in the first place. Many great pitchers struggle early in their careers, its the exception to the rule that comes up and dominates right away. Failing at the big league level can drive home the idea that a pitcher may need to refine that 3rd pitch, work on holding runners/pitching from the stretch, commit to proper conditioning, clean up flaws in his delivery, etc etc. Part of getting to the show is having what it takes to come back from failure, and that’s on the player, not the team. As the old saying goes “the good ones will find their way back”. Baseball is a game of failure, if a player can’t handle it then he’s just not cut out for this game.

-Jesus Montero is in today’s lineup.

-Ex-Yank Gary Sheffield may be retired, but he’s keeping himself involved in the baseball. He’s started a player agency of sorts, where he’s representing free agents and giving players financial advice on how to handle their money. Jason Grilli, who pitched yesterday afternoon for the Phillies, is one of his clients.

-Today will be the first chance Yankee fans get to watch top prospect Dellin Betances pitch in a televised game, and personally I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve followed him since draft day in 2006, to those early glowing workout reports where as a raw teenager he picked things up very quickly. BA ranked him in the top 100 in 2007 based largely on those reports and a smattering of innings in the GCL, saying he had one of the highest ceilings in the game. He needed to get bigger and stronger and he has, he needed to learn how to repeat his mechanics and he showed that he did that last year. The only hurdle left for him is showing he can pitch a full season in the minors, and we could have a top of the rotation starter on our hands for the 2012 season.

TYA Trivia Open Thread For 2-26-11

Thursday’s question: Which team had the most hitters with 5 or more WAR in a single season? How many hitters was it? Who were they?

Answer: The 1939 yankees with Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Charlie Keller, Red Rolfe, and George Selkirk.

Today’s Trivia Question: In 2010, Brett Gardner was tied (with Carl Crawford) for 3rd in the AL for Stolen Bases with 47. Give me the six Yankees who have led the American League in stolen bases a total of 11 times since 1914.